Friday, June 29, 2012
Storybook 4 A Sad Story in Software Support
It's a sad day when you find a piece of software that looks like it will make organizing your writing easier and more efficient...and learn that the support behind that software is not only unhelpful, but downright rude.
Storybook 4 seemed like a dream come true. It would help me organize my characters, my scenes, and the other bits of information in my story (objects, relationships between characters, the dates on which something happened and more) so that I could focus on the work of writing and plotting rather than trying to juggle the enormous pile of details. "Now, did that clerk in...(what chapter was that?) have green eyes or brown?" Besides that, it would make moving my scenes around as easy as drag and drop.
And once I bought the full program--a potential bargain at $35--I could import my notes or my writing straight to OpenOffice or Word.
So naturally, I was excited.
I played around with the program for a few hours, read the documentation twice, and realized I had a problem. The documentation was based on an older version and I could see that even for an older version (based on what I'd read were the changes in the new one) there were huge gaps in what they explained and what they needed to explain.
Then I noticed a button on their site: "Community on Facebook". Yipee! I could find other users and together we'd figure out how this program worked and how to use it best.
Or so I thought.
Going into their FB forum the first thing I noticed is that there were only a couple of posts. The next thing I noticed is that the forum was not searchable. So both now and in the future, I wouldn't be able to look up a particular issue and find a quick answer without hoping that the posts would be relevant to their subject. (How often have you been in a forum and found a post labeled simply, "Help" without a clue as to what the poster wanted help with or whether it would be relevant to the question you yourself had.?)
So I posted a query saying that I was very excited about the project, asked if there would be new documentation anytime soon and if they planned a better forum. Also, would they be updating their one and only example file, which had been written in German?
I should have seen it coming when the rep posted back a very terse and irritated note saying that they "couldn't work miracles" and that this WAS the forum.
Please note that suggesting a better, more searchable forum wasn't my idea alone. Another person asked if there was a Wiki. Silly me, I actually applauded the idea and asked if us users could help. Now what company doesn't want a dedicated and knowledgeable and UNPAID staff of users helping their customers? It cuts down on user frustration, gives the company time off from putting their own resources to answering those questions and builds the kind of community that can be invaluable to a company. "Not only do we have a great product, but we've got all these folks who like it enough to dedicate their time and energy to helping each other use it."
Well I guess these folks don't think that way.
Having received their rep's snobbish and obviously irritated reply, I wrote saying that I was so happy to find out that their project was actively being worked on.
So many times you find a program on the web and later realize that the last time it was updated or that anybody from the company who made it even READ their own website was back in 2004 or so. And it's not like anybody gives you a warning about that, unless you happen to notice file dates and such. Companies usually don't tell you when their latest updates are happening. And like most, this one didn't. (Okay they noted the date of the new release on the FB page, but remember, I didn't originally find them on FB and was going by their main website.
So this wasn't another internet dustbunny. More good news!
A day or two later, I went to their FB site and found that they actually had new documentation! Already! Wow that was fast and thrilling.
Well except the fact that the documentation itself was about as helpful as the original one. In other words, not. There were huge, even gargantuan, omissions that left me scratching my head and wondering how on earth I could use this program.
Chatty Cathy that I am, and figuring that this was, after all, the purpose of a forum, I pointed out one or two challenges I was having. I made (what was probably a vast mistake) of also updating one of those problems (once only) with new information I'd found in my experimentation, and the report that I still couldn't figure it out. Could someone please make a suggestion of what I was doing wrong?
I also joined in on a discussion of some other features I'd love to see implemented (especially a custom calendar) . Why? Because I loved the project and was excited about how it could be used. In the words of Steve Martin, "excuuuusssse ME!"
Now I want to be clear that I never once was disrespectful of either the program or the company. I never once represented myself in any manner as a representative of their company (and in fact cleared it up when someone made that mistake). I was positive to the max. I even pointed out to one person that "if you get the paid version" (the regular version is free) of this program, you'll get all these nifty extras. And yes, according to this it'll do exactly what you're wanting."
So imagine how I feel when I go to their forum this morning and see the message, "You Have Been Banned From This Forum."
So I guess they don't like excited customers who like their program and want to help. I guess they don't want their users to be part of their support staff. Oh well. As much as I thought this program would do what I wanted, I'll keep looking. If I have to pay more (and I HAD planned to purchase their Pro version) that's fine. In the end, support trumps product. What good is a great product that you can't use because the folks behind it have a bad attitude?
Great software is nifty. Great customer support seems to be a loftier goal, and it saddens me when the two aren't combined.