Saturday, October 27, 2007

When should you ask for help

Typical thread in a forum:

A. "I can't make Product XYZ work"
B. "Have you looked at the FAQ and the Manual? Can you give us more info."
A. "What's your problem? I ask for help and you tell me too look in the manual?"

We have a wonderful example of someone who values his time much more than the time of other people.

There is a mailing list at work that is used for miscellaneous stuff and has a lots of subscriber. People often send emails that make no sense when you consider the huge amount of readers. Let's use TCS to try to figure out when to ask for help.

There are about 3400 people subscribed to this mailing list. Let's assume that half of those people read it. That makes say 1700 people reading messages sent to it.
Let's say employees costs my company an average of 40$/h. That comes down to approximately 0.01$/s.

Whenever you send a message, it costs the company approximately 17$ for every second that message takes to read.
TCS = 1700person * 0.01$/person*s = 17$/s
If you send a message that takes an average of 10 seconds to read, then that message just cost the company 170$ in lost productivity.
TCS = 17$/s * 10s = 170$

Lets' say I send an email saying "Can someone give me a ride to xyz". If you expect that message to take 5 seconds to read, then it's only a good idea if the taxi ride to xyz cost more than
TCS = 17$/s*5s = 85$
Especially if you reply afterward saying "Thanks everyone, I've got someone", which might takes another 5s to process and raise the total cost to 170$.

Of course this implies that people would be working instead of reading your email, which isn't true in most cases. Most people tend to look at those messages in their downtime, which destroy my case, but it's still interesting to look objectively at it.

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