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Author Topic: Avoid bad software versions by reading their forums  (Read 4970 times)

zridling

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Avoid bad software versions by reading their forums
« on: May 25, 2005, 02:35:44 AM »
A piece of advice I persistently give to users is to peruse a software company's forums before purchasing anything. There's a nasty trend going around where every other version is so bad as to be a criminal offense to users. But if you study their forums, you'll quickly get a sense of their support commitment, along with any unusually high user discontent. ACDSee 6.x was an unmitigated disaster, but their version 7 removed many features and bloat to become their best and fastest version yet. ZoneAlarm 5.x was another disaster that took the company an entire year to repair, but by then the company had lost most of its loyal customers. I'm sure you know of at least one or two from personal experience.

For the latest software implosion, check out the PGP Forum for their just released 9.0 version.

mouser

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Re: Avoid bad software versions by reading their forums
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2005, 03:32:13 AM »
i agree, visiting the forum for a program can be a great way to see how it treats its customers.
and of course the lack of a forum is a bad sign.

the only thing you have to remember is that for many programs, the only people who post on the forum are those having trouble; so a forum which is mostly empty except for some people with problems should not nesc. dissuade you from purchasing a program.

Scott

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Re: Avoid bad software versions by reading their forums
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2005, 09:55:50 PM »
This is a generally good idea, but people need to keep in mind that a lot of forums are moderated, whether the forum is hosted by the author directly, or by a "third-party" host.  I have seen negative posts deleted and edited many times, and users lambasted for posting honest (but negative) constructive criticism.
« Next Edit: Tomorrow at 12:13:47 AM by Scott »

zridling

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Re: Avoid bad software versions by reading their forums
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2005, 05:07:21 AM »
That's an excellent point Scott, as I have been kicked off of numerous forums for posting a criticism of the software, or griping about an unfixed bug across several versions. Many forums' TOS state that you must email support with any gripes and must not use the forum to post anything negative (in more vague and vacuous terminology), or you CAN and WILL BE banned.

If you ask me, a company should produce a beta version of the software, throw up a forum for all suggestions and gripes, and then fashion the initial release around what the company knows customers want. But that doesn't happen with many apps!

And mouser, you're right. That's why one should distinguish between "unusually high user discontent" and just the normal forum noise of users demanding features. By the way, in the EssentialPIM forum today, someone actually recommended that they add a Checkbook feature to the program so that they wouldn't have to bother with Excel or Quicken anymore. Holy snickes!!
« Last Edit: May 26, 2005, 05:10:52 AM by zridling »

mouser

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Re: Avoid bad software versions by reading their forums
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2005, 08:59:26 PM »
another thing i always look for, to get an early indication of quality of company is: a version history list.

a nice detailed, dated version history list is always a very good sign.

jpfx

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Re: Avoid bad software versions by reading their forums
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2005, 07:58:59 AM »
I would have to stipulate that the forums are not moderated to the point that they just sing praises.
If you want to see the good and the bad then you probably need to view an independent support forum.

To pick an example program known to many here. There is a huge well of discontent regarding ritlabs (the bat!), mainly complaints about unfulfilled promises of what would be eventually included in a particular version and the cost to upgrade. I state here that I am one of those discontented. Their forums (such as they are) have no mention of anything like that.

Reading the reviews, it's a great program but is the support of the same standard? When you part with the cash, your're buying into the whole thing but you aren't necesarily aware of the whole picture through the forums.
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mouser

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Re: Avoid bad software versions by reading their forums
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2005, 08:20:29 AM »
thebat definitely has a significant number of disgruntled users. i linked to two such sites in the review, which are all the more damning for the fact that they are sites run by people who used to write plugins for thebat(!).

their forum is quite new, that may partially explain the lack of critical posts - rit labs has long run a very busy set of usenet newsgroups that are not, to my knowledge, censored at all.  the newsgroups have been quite helpful to me.  having an open forum is quite important, especially for programs which have support problems.

a good example is agnitum outpost firewall, whose *official* customer service has been horrible; but the forum has become a fantastic resource for users to help each other.  a good forum can go a long way to making up for support problems.

when agnitum pr people asked me how to improve their support problem, i told them to do one thing:  support the forum - give them what they need and hire people to help out their officially.

Scott

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Re: Avoid bad software versions by reading their forums
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2005, 09:13:43 AM »
OMFG--they asked you how they could improve their support problem?  How about responding to customers who ask for help via email?  Sounds like a good start to me.  Or maybe fixing bugs without forcing users to pay for the bug fix in an upgrade?

Which may lead to another tip...  Sometimes it's telling if you send an email to support during your trial of the software, with an honest support question.
« Next Edit: Tomorrow at 12:13:47 AM by Scott »

mouser

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Re: Avoid bad software versions by reading their forums
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2005, 10:27:05 AM »
contacting an author/company before you buy the program is something i would highly recommend, if only to ask a simple question, etc.  or if you are a student, ask if a discount would be possible.

you can get a good first impression about the company/author based on if/when they reply and in what manner.

iorange28880

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Re: Avoid bad software versions by reading their forums
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2005, 07:44:08 PM »
zridling, great advice. I note this thread on the PGP forum with dismay, however. That really takes the cake.

zridling

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Re: Avoid bad software versions by reading their forums
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2005, 02:48:18 PM »
PGP is part of a trend I've noticed where every other version of most programs are just outright bad news. And as much as software costs these days, it's really worth finding out as much as you can before throwing down the money. (Thank goodness for DCC, I say!)

tinyvillager

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Re: Avoid bad software versions by reading their forums
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2005, 02:06:23 AM »
 I was just about to purchase the new Divx upgrade,check out their forums,i've never seen such a unanimous dislike
of an upgrade. 


 A forum is everything,i'm an  Agnitum Outpost firewall user,and if their "userbased" forum didn't exist Outpost would
lose alot of business.