Saturday, 13 February 2010

Forum Follies

In the last post, I mentioned that the BTCare Community Forum had changed. Whilst there were some encouraging signs that the new forum format might be an improvement on the old, there were also some worrying developments that did not bode well for the future.

My particular concern was the somewhat heavy-handed and immoderate approach being taken to moderation, of what is meant to be a peer community. Two weeks on and it seems clear that those early concerns were well-founded. Dissent and controversy are frowned upon, criticism of BT, however legitimate, is regarded as little short of a capital crime.

This has all been brought to a head by the emergence of several fairly complex issues surrounding the BT HomeHub and its firmware. Whilst these somewhat esoteric points may be beyond the average forum user, they are of considerable interest to those who know a little more about broadband - particularly those issues that relate to security and safety online. Sadly, the knee-jerk responses to a lively and robust debates have been very unfortunate.

A fair number of the longest serving forum members have become disillusioned with the way things are going. It seems that at least one may have been banned for expressing his views on a subject that had clearly gone way above the heads of the forum moderation team. Others have been warned. Still others are preparing to turn their backs on the forum for good. Remember, these are folks who are kind enough to offer their time and know-how to help out other BT customers, whose problems, by and large, BT have failed to diagnose or solve. What is happening amounts to little more than censorship of which Henry Steele Commager, the famous American historian once wrote: "The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion...".

Until the BTCare Community Forum puts its house in order, I no longer feel I have much to contribute there. Nor can I, in all conscience, recommend that BT customers try to use the forum to solve their broadband or telephony problems. Better, perhaps, to go to forums such as that run by Kitz and the FileSaveAs Forum, where the advice given will be independent and non-partisan.

I hope that BT will look again at the forum and how it is run - it has the potential to fill a real customer need and save BT a not insignificant sum of money. The haemorrhage of talent and expertise away from the forum can be staunched, but a lot of goodwill has already been lost or driven away - mine included. It can be won back - with sensitivity and common sense. But it will need winning!

Sunday, 31 January 2010

BT Community Care Forums

Last Wednesday, BT launched its revamped peer to peer support forum as the BT Care Community Forums.

Aside from a few minor teething problems and a growing wish-list of features that need adding or revising, first impressions are rather pretty good. I'm sure many of the niggles will be sorted out and, given a few weeks or months, the forums will be much more usable than their predecessors. So BT are to be congratulated on something of a success.

If you've never visited the Forums before, you might want to do so now. If ever you've had a question about your BT Broadband, it might be the place to find the answer - there are some very sharp folks around with a wealth of experience.

Less pleasing have been the early responses on the Forums to some very legitimate customer concerns about unwanted targeted advertising, tracking, back-doors being left in the BT HomeHub firmware and privacy issues in general. The locking of threads and constant references back to the forum's Terms and Conditions has a horrible resonance of the Phorm debacle that ran from 2007 until last year.

I really, really hope we are not going back to the bad-old-days. I suppose the next week or so will tell.
Having had some major problems with my own broadband service, I understand how others struggle to get help from BT.

There is a lot of good information out there, but it can be hard to find. So this blog is an attempt to pull some of it together, in one place.

It's a blog that really shouldn't be needed - if only BT and possibly other ISP's in the UK, provided useful customer support.