Question 7: What would you say to IB about tech issues?

Old Nov 5, 09, 2:25 pm
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Question 7: What would you say to IB about tech issues?

submitted by wharvey
Many of us have experienced technical issues with Flyertalk after the sale to Internet Brands. If you had the chance to sit down with IB leaders, what would you tell them they need to do to improve the Flyertalk experience for its members?
Mikel at Webflyer is offline  
Old Nov 5, 09, 3:16 pm
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Originally Posted by Mikel at Webflyer View Post
submitted by wharvey
Many of us have experienced technical issues with Flyertalk after the sale to Internet Brands. If you had the chance to sit down with IB leaders, what would you tell them they need to do to improve the Flyertalk experience for its members?
I've addressed this in another question.

Someone needs to step up and be a liasion between IB and FT members. While in theory this would be Randy, I've seen too many instances lately where Randy isn't aware of issues or changes and I'm convinced it's because Randy already has a lot on his plate. I do not know if this would be someone from TalkBoard, although I think this would be a great role for one of the elected representatives.

If that person was me, I would sit down with a list of concerns brought to me by members and would ask, mainly, for one thing -- a lurker who could have his/her own forum to address questions like this directly. I would suggest as the model the very excellent William Sanders, the Starwood Lurker, who does not always have pleasant or popular news for people and is not afraid to tell people when they are being a bit unreasonable, but is pretty much universally respected.

Whether IB would be willing to do that is another question only they can answer, but it's time someone steps up and tries to get them to the table to talk directly to the customers.
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Old Nov 5, 09, 3:18 pm
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Originally Posted by Mikel at Webflyer View Post
submitted by wharvey
Many of us have experienced technical issues with Flyertalk after the sale to Internet Brands. If you had the chance to sit down with IB leaders, what would you tell them they need to do to improve the Flyertalk experience for its members?
I would love the opportunity to sit down with IB leaders. I'm not clear on how many web properties they have, but I sometimes feel like FT is left out. As a moderator, I read the internal discussions of technical issues, and have noted that resolution of even serious issues with easy fixes can take far too long to get resolved. Then there are serious issues without easy fixes (like various search problems) that get some devoted attention for a little while, and then (when the fix doesn't work), get forgotten for a long period of time.

I would like to hear from IB what we can do as a site to make it more important for them to take a more active role in solving our technical issues. Perhaps the answer is "nothing", and that they have more important things to do. But I'd like to personally hear that from them.
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Old Nov 5, 09, 7:42 pm
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Originally Posted by Mikel at Webflyer View Post
submitted by wharveyMany of us have experienced technical issues with Flyertalk after the sale to Internet Brands. If you had the chance to sit down with IB leaders, what would you tell them they need to do to improve the Flyertalk experience for its members?
First, I wouldn't be going in there telling them what to do. After presenting the FlyerTalk side of what's going on, I'd like to hear what they think and what they have to say.

Second, I would like to hear what their plan is on fixing things, and hold them accountable with a plan and a timeline for that plan.
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Old Nov 5, 09, 9:37 pm
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I'm not much of a tech guy, so I'd probably be the wrong person to sit down with them. Heck, the only cookies I know of are the ones in my kitchen.

Anyway, there definitely are issues, even for a technologically unsavvy guy like me, relating to the reliability and at times functionality of FlyerTalk. But I'm sure they know of those problems as well as I do, yet they seem not to care.

I like Rich's idea. While I doubt they'd be receptive to it, the best way to hold them accountable would be for them to have a dedicated forum for members to post their thoughts/comments/complaints in, and hopefully have an official lurker that would respond. It sounds nice, at least in theory...
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Old Nov 5, 09, 11:39 pm
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I feel that FT has been terribly let down by IB. I am not sure they understood our community when they first acquired the board. However, they do seem to 'get it' in person when they have sent reps to Moderator Meetings.

I think they need to find a way to pay back their investment, but some of that has been heavy handed.

I'd love to sit down with IT and discuss what makes FT special and possibly unique in the board they own. I'd like to be honest and accept that they have to make money from the board, and to work out ways that they can do this without having a negative impact. I'd like to encourage them to discuss things with TalkBoard in advance of making changes, so at least people can be told what's going to happen. Engagement usually generates light even if we don't agree!
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Old Nov 6, 09, 12:44 am
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I will be the first to admit that I don't have much knowledge in this area to help. The reason to have more than one person on Talk Board is the variety of abilities each member would have. This is one I would not pretend to know something about. Heck just because we are running for Talk Board doesn't mean we know everything about everything, I certainly don't. I am pleased we have some candidates, and present TB members that could deal with this issue.
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Old Nov 6, 09, 5:53 am
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I'm going to be honest here. I don't find any insurmountable technical problems with FlyerTalk. Yes, I even find the search function to be quite adequate for my normal use.

Does that mean that there are not legitimate concerns with the way IB handles things? No, I am sure that others with different perspectives and demands from the forum may find it inadequate for their needs.

The role of an elected representative, on FlyerTalk or elsewhere in the world, is to listen and give voice to their constituents. My candidacy stands on the tenet of giving a voice to what may not otherwise be heard. The TalkBoard can be more active in providing feedback to IB on the genuine concerns and feedback received from users. Indeed, the TalkBoard can serve as a filter to seperate the signal from the noise and focus IB on the issues that affect the userbase at large.
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Old Nov 6, 09, 6:44 am
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I've worked in IT, run my own servers, set up my own networks, provided tech support for my company, told our contracted IT guys how to do what we're paying them to do, built websites, and bunches of other stuff (albeit mostly on a hobbyist/amateur level).

All that said, I have to confess that I've only found a few technical issues that bug me, and none of them is too major. The prime one for me would be getting a more functional mobile site, although Randy has promised that an iPhone app has already been submitted to Apple and is pending review. I know the skimlinks issue is bugging many people, and there have been speed issues that have resulted in a lot of complaints, and those and other issues brought forth by a large number of FlyerTalk members do deserve to be pushed in front of IB as much as possible. Aside from that, there is the odd quirk or hiccup that is posted in Technical Issues, but they do seem (for the most part) to be temporary issues and/or are eventually fixed. Even relatively major ones, such as FT being down for a couple of hours or the disappearing-posts issue, do seem to get handled, and most frustration with that issue seems to be due to a lack of communication rather than actual ignorance of FlyerTalk's needs.

So, I don't know that I'd be able to sit down with a laundry list of items needing attention. What I would do, though, is talk about ways to improve communication between IB and FTers and set up working processes for reporting and tracking issues.

Right now, there is (sort of) a dedicated forum for technical issues--it's called Technical Issues. (The nearby Suggestions forum also covers ways to improve the FT experience.) While it's not a full-fledged support forum with the capability to generate help tickets and the like, it does serve as a place for FT users to let the FT and IB administration know about problems. I'm not sure I'd call it an "official presence," but occasionally, FT and/or IB representatives do post in there to answer questions, seek clarification, and report on the status of fixes.

Still, there seems to be a bit of animosity between some engaged members of the FT community and IB. I don't know if it's due to anything specific or just general frustration with our grassroots, home-grown community now being part of a vast capitalist empire or something, but clearly, to both keep the FT community happily engaged (and earning IB money), a communication channel needs to be opened. That may take the form of the installation of a support ticket tracking system (say, based on the ZenDesk Help Desk platform), assigning an official IB contact person to monitor and respond to issues posted in the Technical Issues and Suggestions forums (although IB-Dick and others do post now, I'm taking about vastly increasing their presence and role, within reason, given their other duties at IB--they do operate almost 100 independent websites), or establishing regular meetings between IB IT and/or IB management and either the TalkBoard, the moderators, or a representative focus group of engaged FlyerTalk members who can provide valuable input and assist IB in focusing their efforts to keep the FT userbase happy while also ensuring the bills are paid.

As always, my virtual door is open for anyone to bring up an issue, and I commit to making sure that every person I represent's point of view is brought up to the TalkBoard at large and that I will do everything I can to ensure the issue is resolved in the best manner possible.

This question has also reminded me to subscribe to the Technical Issues and Suggestions forums, and I'll most definitely be following them with interest and contributing where I can, regardless of whether I am elected.
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Old Nov 6, 09, 1:49 pm
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I agree that there has to be some better dialog with IB regarding the technical issues of the site. I think they have to hear our issues and requests, and have to be open with us as to what they can or cannot do, and when an issue or request is made, they need to give us a realistic time frame for resolution. There should be accountability and they should know exactly how we feel about these issues.

Perhaps a liaison is a good idea, but perhaps they should have the ability to communicate with a larger section of the membership-people with expertise in the technology.

While IB may own the board, we members are still "customers" or "clients", and IB should realize that and should be open to a dialog and providing accurate responses.
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Old Nov 6, 09, 1:51 pm
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I like the amount of honesty in this thread and I'm going to add to it.

I have no complaints about the way Flyertalk is right now. Sure, it's a bit slow at times, there are annoying ads and apparently the mobile site isn't very good (not that I'd know as I'm the last person on earth without a Blackberry) but it doesn't faze me. Furthermore, even if it didn't I'd be hopelessly out of my depth and wouldn't know what to say to IB guys.

Therefore, if I had the chance I'd appoint a proxy who had knowledge of technical issues to act on my behalf. One who had the capacity (as everything goes back to according to my old pre-law professor) to have a discussion with the IB people. His nomination to speak for me would have to be confirmed with the other Talkboard members obviously.
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Old Nov 7, 09, 12:00 pm
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I really would not presume to know what the real issues are, perhaps the TB could be informed of what the issues are once they are sworn in and then come up with an appropriate strategy. I say this partially because I must imagine that those at IB have already heard loud and clear from the membership as well as Randy's employees what the problems are, so I really do not know at this point what the TB could do.
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Old Nov 9, 09, 7:20 pm
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I have to agree with most that i do not think there are many technical issues with FT that are addressable by IB. As many have said the mobile site is in need of help, but despite working for a software company, i haven't a clue how you would actually fix it to make it more useable.

Having a liason, i agree, can be a good idea, but until i know more, i cannot say how to best implement this.
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