Developers Outsource Support to Google Groups: Fail

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Yesterday, I bought TaskPaper, a simple to-do list manage from the Mac App Store. I had a reproducible crashing issue, and wanted to contact support. But support is only available via Google Groups. So, I had to post this review on the Mac App Store, in hopes I would get a reply.

I shouldn’t have to write a review to get support, but more and more developers are “outsourcing” their support to Google Groups these days.

I bought the app yesterday, seeing that it was on sale for $5. It’s well worth that, even more, but not $30. It’s a practical, simple tool, which, for me to-do list needs, is ideal. (I have OmniFocus, but only use it for big projects where lots of people are involved.)

But I have a problem: whenever I press Command-Shift-Return, the program crashes. So I went to the “Support” page and found that I could post a message to Google Groups. But that message was rejected, because, apparently, I have to be a member of that group. I don’t want to be a member of any Google group, so this means that, essentially, I can’t get support.

I’ve had this problem with other apps, and, while I can understand developers using free (well, “suck up user data and monetize it” support solutions, I think it’s a serious failure in serving customers. I won’t use apps if I know they only offer support like this, because it isn’t the way I expect to get support.

Hence this review. I’m sure the developer reads the reviews here, and may even attempt to contact me; he’ll have no trouble finding me if he does so. But developers should be aware that the free Google system doesn’t always work.




17 replies
  1. Guillaume says:

    I’m not sure the developper is reading the Mac Store review, some developpers choose to not read them. Did you contact him on Twitter? I bought the app after reading your tweet on it, and I have the same crash. I agree with you about the need of a Google Account to have support, it’s bad.

    Reply
  2. Chucky says:

    Don’t support the Mac App Store.

    There is a perfectly good way around these issues.

    Buy apps from developers who have direct sales. That way, you can download the app use the 15 or 30 day trial window, and then buy the app if your concerns are satisfied.

    While the Mac App Store is a great idea for Apple shareholders, it’s not a particularly good idea for Mac App consumers.

    Reply
  3. Guillaume says:

    Well Chucky, I want Mac App Store to success as much I want coming OS X versions to nil the need for files (see this post, Marco is right in my opinion: http://www.marco.org/4366331059). But I’m agree about the need to have demo versions on the Mac App Store.

    Reply
    • kirk says:

      In this case, it’s not a problem of demo versions (which is certainly a big issue), but rather of support. I’ve had the same problem with NetNewsWire, who only offers support via Google Groups. (And I have the paid version of the program.)

      Reply
  4. Chucky says:

    “Well Chucky, I want Mac App Store to success”

    Well then, you might either be an Apple shareholder, or you might not be fully thinking through the implications for consumers.

    “as much I want coming OS X versions to nil the need for files”

    Another wrong track current management at Cupertino seems to blindly be heading down. Good versioning is a great idea. But losing the core concept of “files” would be a massive loss for users if Apple persists in their misguided ‘one OS to rule them all’ philosophy.

    OS X has fundamentally different needs than iOS. There is a lot of blindness about that fact at the moment, and the bad implications will become obvious to all over time if the short-sighted are truly leading the parade.

    Reply
  5. Jesse Grosjean says:

    Hi, I’m the developer. I generally don’t read or respond to all Mac Store reviews. The big problem is there is no threading, and you can only post on message… if you post another your original is erased.

    Also, I do sell in both my own website and the Mac Store. If you’d rather buy from my website you can here:

    http://www.hogbaysoftware.com/store

    Last, I think I’ve fixed the crashing issue. You can find a download near the end of this thread (I don’t think you need an account to read only to post)

    http://groups.google.com/group/taskpaper/browse_thread/thread/90b0259af81175e5

    Reply
    • kirk says:

      Thanks for the reply. I hate to say, but my mistrust of Google goes further than just Google groups; I refuse to use Google checkout. The crashing bug is indeed fixed in that build, but it’s asking for a serial number. Sigh. I’ll just stick with the App Store version until the update is approved.

      BTW, that’s the biggest issue I have with the MAS; it takes a long time to get updates approved, and users can be stuck with software that doesn’t work while waiting.

      Reply
      • Guillaume says:

        Yes, and it proves that the MAS QA team is not perfect : such a crash should not pass the validation process.

        Reply
        • kirk says:

          Interesting point. I’m not sure the validation actually tests every feature. I can think of some programs that have so many features that this would be a very complex process, and make approval very long.

          Reply
  6. Aaron Meurer says:

    Really? You refuse to join the support group and so you’re complaining that there is no support available? Honestly, what do you think will happen if you join a Google Groups group?

    Reply
      • Aaron Meurer says:

        But what are you afraid is going to happen? Using Google Groups is a lot different from using Google Checkout.

        Also, I wouldn’t call this “outsourcing”. The developer is still the one providing support (with possible help from the community, since it is a public group).

        Reply
        • kirk says:

          It’s just giving Google more data about me that they will sell and use to market to me. When I log out, sure, I won’t be affected (but I have to delete cookies), but if I log back in, there they are, tracking me again…

          In a similar vein, I’m very disappointed that most new RSS readers don’t even manage subscriptions normally; they only access a Google Reader account.

          Reply

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