Software, Development, and WordPress

From WooThemes: The Importance of Focus

Early last week, WooThemes announced that they were shutting down their Twitter support channel. You can read the entire post here, but there were a few quotes in the article that I really liked.

WooThemes Support


And a lot to say. And that pretty quickly, questions get technical and DMs and 140 characters are not ideal facilitators of such things.


Everyone with a smart phone has a soap box.

With our users being of the techie variety most are on Twitter and it’s a space where we frequently get questions about products, potluck inquiries, reports of glitches, panicked alerts about problems, shout-outs, suggestions et al. It’s a mixed bag!

And finally:

But after letting @WooSupport run for a while realised what it was actually doing was creating an expectation that we never intended to meet which was that we were able to actually give support over Twitter.

The article also goes on to discuss interesting things such as how support requests are unique, individual problems are unique, and managing support via Twitter versus a dedicated ticket (like in ZenDesk) can be problematic.

Props to them for doing this.

But this raises the question:

Is there anything that we, as developers, designers, and business owners can learn from this on a personal level?

Obviously, I can only speak for myself, but I think so.

The Importance of Focus

In reading this, I also took some time to think about the processes that I have in place both for Pressware and for myself and thought it might be worth sharing if for no other reason than to hear how you all also handle similar situations.

When I go heads down on something, I want to make sure that I’m 100% focused one exactly what I’m working on. This means that I’ll be closing Airmail, TweetBot, Slack, any everything except notifications (since there are times where family texts me that I don’t want to ignore). In fairness, I don’t always close email since that’s how clients get in touch with us, but you get the idea.

Ultimately, the goal is to silo myself off from everything that’s distracting me from, or that’s not contributing to completing whatever task is at hand as it’s the number one priority.

And I see support, general questions, blog comments, and so on in a similar way. I want to channel every question and comment into a single funnel through which I can respond in batches when I have the time. This one thing has been a major component in helping me really zero in on the importance of focus.

I don’t want to have to have things scattered throughout social media, chat rooms, email, and more. It creates this disparate experience no only for me but for everyone else involved, as well. How are we supposed to efficiently organize all of these inputs when they’re coming in at different rates through different channels?

I’d rather have a single place that I can get to and then process the information as fast as I can, when I can.

Naturally, we all work differently so whatever methodologies you find that work for you are the ones that you need to be using, but don’t hesitate to experiment with alternatives that may increase your productivity.

For a while, I was trying a number of different programs and methodologies in order to get things done before I really settled into what I’m using right now. Even still, I’m not opposed to trying something new to see if it helps streamline what I’m doing on a daily basis.

I think the same goes just as much at a small business level as it does at a personal level.


  1. Kelly

    Oh to shut off email.

    Maybe it’s a matter of the size of your team. When you run a small company, I agree, email alone is a big commitment.

    On the other hand, when we’re checking out new companies and their products we sometimes look at how they handle stuff on Twitter and it can be a selling point. In the end, disgruntled peeps gonna tweet!

  2. Jason Lemieux

    I have always found Twitter useful for a quick question about a product or service. And, I respect companies that reply to an overly-complicated question with a automatically created support ticket (via email). 

    37signals has done this well for a few years now. The kindly let you know that they got your question and will follow up over email. Then, right away, you get notice of the support ticket. Nice solution. We try to do the same.

    I always thought Woo was a bit ambitious to try to pull off support via twitter. I can’t imagine being their size and doing that. Yikes.

  3. Aaron Snowberger

    I agree that a dedicated support channel on Twitter is overly ambitious and would be a pain for anybody (even a small single plugin developer) to maintain. But I’m personally thrilled when companies or individuals take the time to respond to my problems.

    For example, I was recently looking for a solution to an issue I was having with Foundation’s off-canvas menu, so I tweeted the issue to @ZURBFoundation:

    They responded within 24-hours with a link to their forums which was exactly what I needed.

    Another time I tweeted a question to @mor10 and he also responded with a link.

    Actually, this is the kind of thing I prefer. 140 characters is definitely way too short to sufficiently answer support questions. Buy it isn’t too short to share a link whether that be to a forum, a blog, or a resource.

    (I think it would be a great idea to combine the 37 Signals idea that Jason wrote about above with user forums. Rather than just issuing a support ticket via email to a single individual, the company could respond to a tweet for help with a link to the support forum where they opened a new thread with the inquiry. This would ultimately benefit more people as shared knowledge and “crowd-sourcing” support in this way would open the issue up to a wider audience who may have already fixed something similar. After all, everyone is an expert in something and it’s the sharing of information that ultimately makes us all richer.)

    I feel like nobody knows their own products and services (even the forums) than the owners, so asking for help via Twitter isn’t a necessarily bad thing if people simply respond with a link. But Twitter should not be used for dedicated support due to the wide variety of use cases they may receive and the different technical abilities of their users.

    I also feel like, as a developer, I’m a problem-solver and would rather be pointed to a resource with extensive background information so that I can ingest the knowledge myself and put it to use than have someone else work via Twitter’s 140 character limit to solve my problem for me.

    Bottom line: Twitter is a superb way to request and provide links to useful information and resources.


    • Jason Lemieux

      Hey Aaron… Kudos to your point about pointing the user to a support forum thread rather than a ticket. But… there must be a reason folks like 37signals do not operative support forums.

      I have had mostly negative experiences in managing support forums for my business. It’s just wayyyyyy too much overhead. Trolls. Flame wars. Ugh. 

      But, whatever the method for the actual guts of a problem, I agree that Twitter is an incredible tool for quickly sharing a link, a ticket, or an article. Indeed.

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