It seems like as long as we’ve had the Web, we’ve had support forums, usually for software, probably because you can’t depend on software to work the same way twice in a row.
Sometimes the support forum is managed and moderated by the company that makes the product, and more often you can find one populated by people who just want to help (and/or call you a l0s3r). While there’s been no dearth of places to look, for the most part they seemed to me not very helpful.
I’ve been keeping my eye on GetSatisfaction.com for a few months now, and am very happy with the way it’s set up. So I’m recommending it to all of you.
Basically, GetSatisfaction is a third-party warehouse for consumer problems (of all sorts, not just software, not just computers. There’s an area for Whole Foods Market, for example). In addition to getting help from consumers with the same problem you have, you can get help from the company that caused (however inadvertently) the problem.
This way, you have the best chance of getting your question answered, and the company in question doesn’t need to spend the time and money building a support infrastructure. They just need to spend the time answering the calls for help. GetSatisfaction accounts aren’t free for companies, but trust me, it costs a lot less than building custom software.
There are also areas for asking questions about companies who haven’t signed up for official representative accounts. For example: the unofficial customer support forum for Netflix.
In my experience, it’s not the place to go if your hard drive crashes, and you need to recover files for the presentation in an hour. But if it’s not an emergency, it’s been just about perfect so far. See you there.