If you’d visited this blog over the weekend, you’d have received a WordPress error message. I only discovered it on Sunday evening when I checked the site for feedback. Google Analytics revealed the outage started from about 1am on Saturday morning.
I tried fixing the problem. I tried everything I could to fix it. One limitation I faced was that I have been brought up on Microsoft technologies (.net and SQL Server) and not php and MySQL – the technology that this blog runs on.
Frustrated, I went to sleep on Sunday night knowing the site was still unavailable.
After work on Monday I returned home and tried a few more things. I reached out to a WordPress guru I know. He offered some advice but I’d already tried everything suggested.
And then I came across one of the new types of one to one support websites where specific experts help other users.
I’ve always been interested in this area of consumer support. Graduating in Computer Science a couple(!!) of years ago earned me the natural honour of fixing anything within my extended family that had electricity flowing through it. Since my degree I’ve been asked to ‘programme’ the clocks in various cars, fix a microwave, tune in a TV and set up speakers – my university course appears to have been highly practical from an external perspective.
When family or friends call for help with real computer issues such as domain names, broken hard drive, email configuration, or Google Apps, I wonder who people call if they don’t have access to a friend or family member with a technical computer background.
So there I was on Monday evening, urgently wanting my site fixed, on Wizpert.com. I thought I’d give it a try. The sign up process was fast, and within a few seconds I was talking to a friendly chap from Romania (yes… I wondered whether there was an Endava link too, but no there wasn’t) who was one of their WordPress experts. At first we were chatting on Wizpert’s chat screen, and then I offered for him to remote on to my screen using Chrome Remote Desktop.
Naturally I was sceptical, and thought at some stage he might try to install some spyware somewhere, or change some passwords for access at a later stage. I watched carefully as he moved around my virtual server.
Just under two hours later he had fixed the issue and after thoroughly testing the solution I was a happier man.
The issue wasn’t straightforward, and required two types of solutions. We were still puzzled at the end about how the problem had started on the Saturday night at 1am – our assumption is that one of the WordPress components ‘auto-updated’ and broke the MySQL installation.
Wizpert is one of a number of new support models arising in the peer Internet age such as Amazon have with the Mayday button.
On Wizpert, payment to the expert is discretionary.
If you do decide to pay, users buy ‘coins’ using a credit card or PayPal, and then send these coins to the expert who helped. There are recommendations during the chat process “Most users who this expert helped gave x coins to thank them”.
I doubt these support models will be used for enterprise clients, but as devices and applications become more complex – and certainly more essential to our daily lives, end-user support will transform from the current model of phoning anyone you know with a Computer Science degree, to being able to ask someone sitting a few thousand miles away for some help and advice.