Thanks for bringing this up. We have actually been discussing this already previously and have tweaked things a little to improve the site.
First off, we have a banner that new users see which explicitly states that the site is not for support. However, it appears this either isn’t prominent enough, or people just flat out don’t read it, or do read it, but are frustrated and feel this is the best place to vent and get their problem aired.
The site also pings a notification to new users, letting them know - again - that the site is not for support. Again, people don’t seem to read this.
Now, you’re probably seeing more support requests in the last couple of weeks because we changed how we process them. What we used to do is:-
- Move the topic to the Support Requests category
- Reply, linking the user to the page which details all the ways they can find help
- Close the thread, so they don’t continue to ask questions in that thread
- Hide the thread so it doesn’t appear on the front page
We had one person who asked a support question and we went through the above process. When they came back to the site they couldn’t see the support request (for some reason), possibly because we’d “hidden” the thread. So as an experiment what we’ve been doing is all of the above, but not hide the thread.
The net result is that the user can more easily re-find their thread, but the downside is that those threads are surfaced on the front page, so all of you see them. We could go back to hiding them, or we could hide the entire Support Category from the home page. That won’t stop people starting threads in other categories, but it will mean when we move them to the Support category, they’ll disappear from the front page.
On the subject of why people come here for support. There’s a few reasons. The Ubuntu installer sends people to this site to find out where to then get support. When the site was static, it was impossible to ask support requests so people had to follow the subsequent links on the static site to take them to a viable support platform (be that askubuntu, forums, irc or mailing lists).
Now this is a dynamic site which to all intents and purposes looks and acts like a support forum, people could be forgiven for thinking it is a support forum.
I’d be interested in hearing practical suggestions for improving this, obviously. But we have to respect that the people looking for help are likely frustrated users who have issues with their system, and while this isn’t the best place to get support, we need to figure out what to do with these people in a respectful and thoughtful way.