Apple Support Communities to replace Apple Discussions forums
By Stephen WITHERS
One of the problems with the Apple Discussions pages on the company's web site is that too many people miss the point that the forums are for mutual support (one user asks a question, other users offer answers), not for obtaining support from Apple or for whinging about the company or its products.
Apple has other channels if you want support from the company or if you wish to make a complaint or report a bug.
That's perhaps the reason why Apple is rebranding the forums as Apple Support Communities. The revamped forums will make it easier for active participants to spot unanswered questions that fall into their areas of expertise.
Those asking questions will be able to reward respondents with 10 points for answering the question or five points for a helpful but incomplete answer. Accrued points will therefore provide a guide to the reliability of a participant's answers.
Apple will also provide benefits to users reaching various thresholds - a little like a frequent flyer scheme. For example, after racking up 150 points you'll be able to create an avatar. 1000 points gets you an invitation to MVP conference calls. 8000 points brings a t-shirt, and 50,000 points results in invitations to MVP meet ups.
I know people don't do this sort of thing for tangible rewards (the help I have given to fellow Mac users in a certain online community would have cost them tens of thousands of dollars from consultants or other commercial providers, although it must be said that hardly any of them would consider that option), but that t-shirt is probably worth $20.
On that basis, 8000 points at 10 points per answer means each answer is worth 2.5c. Even if it only takes a minute to type the answer, that's $1.50 per hour.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not knocking Apple. At least the company is providing some benefits to people that help the community. But is there any other field where people are as generous with their time and expertise to others that they don't even know?
Some open source projects run on a similar level of generosity, although my understanding is that many of the major contributors to the big projects are employed by companies that have a direct interest in the results.
But perhaps I'm doing a disservice to those engaged in other areas of activity. Maybe there are online communities where I could (hypothetically) seek and receive expert advice about an oven that cooks food unevenly, the noise coming from the front wheel of a car, a thump in the plumbing when a washing machine finishes filling, a baby that won't sleep, and so on.
Back in the 1950s and 60s, people probably turned to their neighbours for this sort of advice. By the 90s, it seemed most of us hardly knew our neighbours well enough do to exchange nods of recognition. If nothing else, the Internet has provided a venue for the renaissance of community, even if the relationships are comparatively shallow.
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Is this maybe a security thing, setting of firewall, allowing cookies or so?