Apple plans online support changes

Dumps Discussions, will unveil Support Communities 'very soon'

Apple has announced plans to revamp its support forums to add a personalized start page where users can collate their questions and track potential answers.

In a post to the Apple Discussions support forums last week, Apple spelled out the changes it plans to make when it launches Apple Support Communities.

Among them, the company said, will be a personalized start page dubbed "Your View" that lets users follow specific support groups, monitor answers to their questions, and display the posts to which they have responded.

Also on the slate for Support Communities is a reputation system that will enable people to recognize helpful answers by increasing the status of the user who posted the solution. It's not clear how the reputation system will be different, if at all, from the current tools in Apple Discussions that let users vote on answers.

Apple did not set a timeline for the change, saying Saturday in another post that it would take place "very soon."

The Cupertino, Calif., company isn't the first major vendor to refresh user-to-user consumer support.

Microsoft ditched its long-running support newsgroups in 2008 for what it calls Microsoft Answers, which features some of the same tools that Apple plans to add, including a personalized support page and a reputation system where points are assigned for answering questions.

Windows 7 also includes support tools Mac OS X lacks, including the Action Center, which offers automated troubleshooting for common problems.

Apple Discussions can be found on the company's site, where presumably the new Support Communities will appear in the near future.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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