Got a problem with your Gmails? Question about your AdWords? Google does not want to talk to you about that! Instead, Google has cleverly designed the IT support for its free services as a user-powered help forum where the little users can help each other. The Google Help Forum is a crowdsourced FAQ. Gmail is getting the most action, with 483,215 discussions, followed by YouTube with 270,471, and search engine optimization with 126,621 threads.
The crowdsourcing works well enough. Answers get outdated quickly as Google refreshes its various products. Answers on the new Analytics are sparse, as we noticed recently; even the Gmail forum itself just had a redesign. But Google’s users are actually pretty good about answering questions. Though Google employees often post on the forum, the bulk of the work is left up to power users like Brett Carver, a software engineer and “top contributor” as per Google’s reputation system. Google recently hosted Brett, a.k.a. bkc56, for lunch and a day with the Gmail team in Mountain View to commemorate his 100,000th post on the Gmail forum.
Mr. Carver takes his duties quite seriously. “In my activities as a Gmail TC, I see too many people devastated by the lost of their e-mail history (often through no fault of their own) who could have easily been saved if they’d used one of the free tools/services available,” he wrote in a recent Google+ post about Gmail backup.
While at Mountain View, Mr. Carver met with support specialists, engineers and junior executives. “Brett is one of our Top Contributors, the forum volunteers who are especially knowledgeable and helpful,” Gmail’s community manager wrote on the Gmail blog. “Remember to say ‘thanks’ if you see them around the forum. Want to lend a hand yourself? Brett suggests ‘Find a question where you know the answer and post it. Everyone starts with just one helpful post. Perhaps you’ll enjoy it and do another, and another, and…'” Oh, so many things could fill in that ellipsis. How about, “and you could help save Google the cost of a call center in the Philippines.”