I receive a lot of email from the community. Much of it is from frustrated users who are trying to make something work. Here’s a recent example:
The problem was that I didn’t realise that the [project] comes ON TOP of Eclipse…I thought that the [project] was something separate and that there’d be no need to install Eclipse. Perhaps a change could be made to the website so that it is made clearer that the [project] (and other similar elements) come on top of Eclipse and they are not separate.
I’ve hidden the identity of the project, because it’s not relevant. I think it’s fair to say that many of our projects suffer similar problems.
Based on the tone, it should be pretty obvious that this comment came after a couple of iterations back and forth between the sender and me.
One of the bigger challenges that we face is that we already know how all of this stuff works. I fell into this trap in my first response to the sender: I told them how to use the “Help > Install new software…” option to connect to the repository and pull in the features he needed. I neglected to include one vital bit of information: it never occurred to me that this person had no idea that they had to install an Eclipse package first.
Community development is an important part of life as an Eclipse project. Project teams must plan to spend some significant amount of their time courting and informing the community. At least part of that effort involves keeping the project web site up-to-date. Put yourself into the mindset of your target community. You must plan to iterate; you’re not going to get it right the first time. Too many of our project sites are old, contain stale information, and assume too much prior knowledge to be useful tools for growing a vibrant community of users, adopters, and developers.
I think that–at least in this case–we’ve managed to keep this person in our user community. But for every confused user that decides to contact me to get help, I wonder how many others just give up and find some other solution to their problem?