Why would you pay $12.95 per month for free information ?

Posted On 2013-04-14 by dwirch
Tags: Blog General Tip 
Views: 1084

There are sites out there that charge folks for answers. Yup hard to believe, right? This is incredible to me, since most of the information they provide is free, if you simple use your favorite search engine to find the answer.

What if I were to tell you that there is a not-so-top-secret place where you could find just about any answer you'd want, and any subject, and it's free for you to use, twenty four hours per day, 365 days per year? Oh, did I mention it was free?

The first thing I am going to tell you is to use this site, naturally. As the owner and webmaster, I would be remiss in not pimping my own site. That being said and done, lets move on to some ranting, shall we ?

I am currently an infrastructure architect for a large firm based in Tacoma, WA. As such, we have agreements with software and hardware vendors from which we have purchased products from.

For example, we have a Premier support agreement with Microsoft. What this means, in a nutshell, is that anyone on the team can pick up the phone and call Microsoft Support, at any time, and get support for products that we own. The case will be triaged, given a severity level, etc. I won't go into the details, but suffice to say, we pay for support for products we have purchased, and the vendor (MS) sees those support tickets through to proper resolution.

Did you know that anyone can call and get this type of support MS? Yup, for a per-case fee, you can get the same great treatment as a big enterprise. Depending on the problem, it may not be cost effective, though, so weigh your options carefully.

Any application support or system administration type person worth his salt is going to scour the internet for an answer first. They'll phone a friend, consult hardcopy manuals, etc., before placing that all important call. Basically, any sound information technology worker is going to exhaust the resources available before making the call to tech support.

So you might think, "Hey, what is this guys problem with paying for support?"

The problem as I see it is that certain websites out there (who shall remain nameless), will charge unsuspecting newbies the sum of $12.95 per month for access to information that is available free on the internet. In my eyes, this is preying on the uninformed. It's like having a telemarketer call you up and trying to sell you an extended warranty for your vehicle. (yes, I have received this call). Ninety percent of the time, it's a straight out scam (I hadn't even owned the vehicle for 3 years).

How do I know their "experts" are simply regurgitating information that is free? Let's just say that I know how to read the logs of my web server, and I notice that there is a growing number of referrals from this not-to-be-named site. In speaking with a few other webmasters of similar sites, and they have found the similar activity in their logs.

Besides fortypoundhead.com, there are literally bushels of sites were hard-working folks are willing help you find the solution to your problem. Lets run some numbers shall we ? I did some looking around, and here is what I found when comparing the not-to-be-named site with one of my favorite answers sites:

Site: not going to name here
Topics: 900+
Questions: unknown
Answers: 3 million
Users: unknown
Cost: $12.95 per month, unless you are an "Expert"
Comments: good site for folks who don't know how to work a search engine.

Site: StackExchange.com
Topics: 101 sub-sites, focused on targeted subjects
Questions: 6 million
Answers: 11+ million
Users: 3+ million
Cost: free
Comments: Heavy tech content, but covers such things as philosophy, gardening, and martial arts as well.

Wow. I had no idea that Stack Exchange was so huge! Hats off to Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood! Like me, these two guys are in IT to help people, not make a quick buck by shystering noobs.

This is only one comparison. There are thousands of web sites and tons of documentation out there on the internets, all neatly indexed by your favorite search engine. Most browsers available don't even require you to open a search engine - just type your keyword-laden question into the address bar, and whoosh! answers galore.

Heck, while fortypoundhead.com is no competitor to some other sites out there, we have available 6,068 tech articles and tutorials available, a Q&A section, and even forums on the way. Can't find it here? Ask for it.

So why pay for support when you don't need to? Why are you lining the pockets of someone who is just going to give you information that is free to begin with? Sounds fishy to me.

Disagree? Got something to say? Let me know in the (also free) comments section below.

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