(This is a post that I’ve been considering for some time, but has been pushed to the front of my ideas stack based on the increasing levels of attitude I’m encountering)
Help me Bob Buzzard. You’re my Only Hope
I’m typically asked for one to one help several times a day, especially weekends! Sometimes its on the Developer Force forums, where a poster asks for my email address so that they can contact my directly with some related questions, other times its direct emails with a lengthy code sample asking for me to write the test case. Lately its direct messages when I login to Facebook, asking me to get in touch when I’m free to answer some questions on web services, Visualforce, Apex in general, as there's an urgent customer requirement.
Regardless of the mechanism chosen, I don’t respond (in fact, this used to be in my signature on the original Lithium Developerforce Discussion boards, although it didn’t stop anyone). There is a very good reason for this:
I’m a Consultant
I’m a consultant by profession, for BrightGen, a UK-based Salesforce Platinum Cloud Alliance partner. When you are a consultant, you sell your time at a rate based on your experience and expertise. As I’m a Certified Salesforce Technical Architect (along with all the other certifications), I’m charged out at the highest rate, so when a customer wants one to one assistance from me, they have to pay a not inconsiderable sum. It would therefore be extremely unfair on both my customers and my company if I started handing out my time for free, simply because people contacted me directly through social media or personal channels.
Unfair on my customers, as they would be the only ones that had to pay for the privilege and unfair on my company as I’d be depriving them of potential revenue. This is particularly unfair on those parties when someone is asking for help on their customer engagement - they are expecting me to fix their problems for free, so that they can complete the work that they are charging their customer for. You wouldn’t charge to fix someone’s car, then take it to another garage and expect them to do the work for free as you are a "newcomer to car maintenance".
Its Nothing Personal
If you ask me for one to one help, I won’t respond. Don’t take this as a personal slight - I don’t have a secret club of those that I do help, everyone is treated the same. If I accept your LinkedIn connection or Facebook friend request, that doesn’t mean I’m now your point of escalation for any and all Salesforce problems, your personal career counsellor, or your private support service.
I used to respond saying I only did this as a paid gig, but that started taking up too much of my time, so now I treat these requests as unsolicited contacts and ignore them. I’m sure that all these requests are super-urgent and its absolutely vital that the problem is fixed, but remember that’s a subjective view - there’s no urgency from my side and it makes no difference to me if the problem remains in place for years. .
Post it to the Forums
Post your request on the Developerforce forums and I’ll help if I can - even better, lots of other people will also see the post and will do their best to help as well. This way the knowledge is spread throughout the community as a whole. If you post a question and then ask for direct contact details, what you are effectively saying is that you’d like to tap into the community knowledge, but keep the solution to yourself, which is pretty un-community minded.
I Know its a Minority
This post isn’t an attempt to drum up more business - I’m really not that interested in single day engagements to debug code or write unit tests these days. Its also not a cry for validation. I know that the vast majority of people that I interact with in the community don’t behave like this, so there’s no need for any “I appreciate you, Bob” style comments!
If nothing else, this post gives me a URL to point people at when I’m not replying and they don’t understand why.