i just asked this question and had an idea:

what if there were a person working for msi with a special stackoverflow-account who automatically gets all questions with the msi tag and could provide an official answer.

you could charge them a small ammount of money an give them a nice "Vendor" badge and they could do customer support here. i know most of the companies have their own support website but they often suck and often don't show up in google.

could this work? what do you think?

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    Why should it be a small amount of money? If a vendor is looking to use SOFU as an official support channel then it should be a LOT of money – Mark Henderson Aug 29 '09 at 22:56

Stack Overflow is driven by people (Bottoms-Up approach), I think your suggestion could turn it into a Top-Down approach where vendors use it as an official support forum - not sure if that really benefits the site.

  • people can always up/downvote the answers from a company but i often prefer and trust the offcial vendor answers. – Nick Aug 29 '09 at 23:00
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    I almost never trust vendor answers. The number of times I've seen a statement on a vendor website saying that XYZ cannot be done, and then I find a forum post where someone has done the exact XYZ, I'm far more interested in doing it, than being told I can't (especailly if my product is out of warranty). – Mark Henderson Aug 29 '09 at 23:02
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    As well as incorrect "X can't be done" answers, there are also incorrect "this does not happen", "this can not be a fault with out stuff" answers. Think Seagate's initial response to the firmware issues on some early 1Tb and 1.5Tb drives, for one of many examples. – David Spillett Aug 29 '09 at 23:15
  • Two things: First of all, why would I want to answer on a Question tagged with a Vendor if I know that the Vendor answer will be the accepted answer anyway? There is no incentive competing with people who have half a mile headstart. Also, can you imagine what pressure vendors may put on Jeff & Co. to have Content that does not fit their business model censored? SOFU is a place where I can talk to peers - we are all on the same level here, even the moderators are still "normal" people. In the moment you add a higher level, you may cause an imbalance that makes the site suffer. – Michael Stum Aug 30 '09 at 11:09
  • Also, people speak for themselves here. I can say whatever I want pretty much, because it's clear that everything I said is said by me, not by my current or any previous employers. Vendors don't have that luxury, they are always speaking in the name of the company, so they will need to have all of their answers go through PR and other censorship departments to make sure it is in line with the company politics - which means that the answer quality may be lower. Vendors are free to participate here, but as normal users without special sponsorship. – Michael Stum Aug 30 '09 at 11:11

It is a fine idea.

I see two problems:

  1. The SO family of websites isn't very well suited for troubleshooting, which tends to be what most support is about.
  2. What if non-vendor people answer better and faster than the vendor? That might be an image problem for some vendors.
  • Judging by my experiences with vendor support, #2 is faaarrr more likely. That said if they're stupid enough to pay money to someone and then neglect their investment, good luck to them. – Mark Henderson Aug 29 '09 at 22:55

As well as the potential "some semi-anonymous poster is faster and/or more helpful/accurate/correct/what-ever then us in supporting our own product" I see two other possible objections that could stop companies using such a feature:

  • Having an official representative on the site lends public credence to the site. While this in itself is probably not an issue, what would happen if incorrect information is posted elsewhere? If a company sees itself as lending credence to a site then they are going to want some sort of editing rights that are unlikely to fit with the way SO/SF/SU are intended to work.
  • Companies are likely to prefer to keep their own support feature, rather than take part in less official roots, partly because of the editing control that gives them and partly because they are not at the mercy of a third party site which could close or change in ways they don't like and are beyond their control. Also, maintaining multiple support routes (their own support features and here) may increase support workload.

I expect some companies would like the feature, and might use it if it were free, but I doubt any would want to pay for it.

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