According to an announcement at Apple Discussions, “very soon” we can expect more easily accessible and friendly “Apple Support Communities” for all our free troubleshooting needs. Expect to get what you pay for.
While I’ve been able to troubleshoot problems with products using Discussions, it’s seldom been easy. Besides the antiquated search engine, the quality of answers for a given question can vary widely. The Introductory FAQ for the new Apple Support Communities doesn’t give the impression that will change much.
However, change will begin with the new customizable homepage. Current and new members will be able to access expanded profiles that will include photos and avatars, and will also be able to “invite your friends to join in the discussion.”
Less social and more relevant to the concept of technical support, members will be able to customize their “View.” The View appears to be a means of tracking discussions of interest, like discussions you are participating in. While browsing products is still possible, there’s an emphasis on asking questions, which will be possible from every page, and sorting information accordingly.
To that end, widgets are member-created filters for your View that will no doubt be shiny, but also (hopefully) helpful for finding answers. For example, one could create a widget for questions on the iPhone, perhaps focusing specifically on the iPhone 4 antenna. When an answer appears, such as “you’re holding it wrong,” problem solved, next question.
That brings us to the topic of the sometimes heavy hand of moderation at Apple Support. When Consumer Reports recently declined to recommend the iPhone 4 because of the antenna issue, some discussions regarding that article disappeared. Of course, whether Apple lets people rant or not isn’t the real problem.
There’s enough uncorrected misinformation in Apple Support Discussions that it’s probably better to pick up your phone and call AppleCare unless you’re knowledgeable about the topic you’re researching. What Apple Support Communities really needs is an investment from Apple, not a soliciting of customers to provide support. At the very least, Apple technical support representatives should be regularly answering questions and correcting misinformation, but that would take a bite out of AppleCare, so instead welcome to the technical support social.