Why I Don't Give Personal Tech Support

I don’t give personal, one-to-one technical support for open source software I’ve created, nor do I help people with SQL or other questions. The reasons are not obvious to many people, and this blog is meant to document them.

What do I mean by personal tech support? I mean I don’t use private email or other means to answer questions about software I’ve created. I don’t troubleshoot bugs or answer how-to questions individually.

The reasons are simple:

  • I don’t have time to solve everyone’s issues.
  • If I solve your problem, it will recur for someone else, who will ask me again.
  • Your problem is probably shared by other people. They can help you find the solution.
  • When you find a solution, if it’s done in public, it will answer many other peoples’ questions. They will not ask anyone for help, they will only need to ask Google.

Although I tell people to use forums and mailing lists, they still regularly ask me for individual, private technical help on email. I understand why, and I don’t mind.

What I don’t understand is why they won’t follow through when I respond and ask them to use a public forum. It’s as if the question is not important enough to bother posting publicly, but if I happened to be in the mood to answer it personally they’d find that valuable.

In some cases I can tell that people have read the documentation directing them to use the mailing list, and have instead gone to some trouble to seek me out and ask me a personal favor one-on-one. It’s as if they’re even more determined to get individual help after I tell them I won’t give it!

This blog post is an effort to save time in the future: I have gotten tired of saying no in a personal, individual way. I’ll just respond with the URL of this blog post. If you have gotten an email from me containing only the URL of this blog post, please consider your motives and whether you have been respectful to yourself and others.

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I'm Baron Schwartz, the founder and CEO of VividCortex. I am the author of High Performance MySQL and lots of open-source software for performance analysis, monitoring, and system administration. I contribute to various database communities such as Oracle, PostgreSQL, Redis and MongoDB. More about me.