I feel like I keep bringing up the comparison with Framework’s approach to communicating with users, but having bought a Fairphone after being so pleased with my Framework, and especially with the interactions with the community and company, the experience has been enormously disappointing. Framework have some dedicated community managers, and some employees providing support in specific areas of expertise (eg, Linux), but they also have a culture of encouraging employees more generally to participate in the forum, and a culture of letting employees communicate directly with users about topics they know about.
And so questions actually get answered, with authoritative answers, not speculation. Discussions progress, and end, even when they end with an employee explaining why something can’t be done, or can’t be fixed. Users coming to the forum with already-answered questions can be pointed to those authoritative answers by users, saving support and employees time. As it appears that in many cases, the employees responsible for dealing with particular aspects of the product are also the ones answering questions about those aspects, the answers can be confident and likely take less time overall than answers by a community liaison or support person who would need to look up information, or ask someone else.
And while, certainly, asking about whether a used screen module might be able to be used as an external display, and having the CEO start posting links to aliexpress of potentially compatible boards he’s found, might be a bit much to expect of most companies, a more contemporary model of employee-user communication should be possible.
They also seem to have some of their support staff on the forums, and trust them to handle information from their support system and the forum together. That means that when users come with problems that need to be handled by support, support can directly intervene to get them in contact, and let them (and others reading the thread later) know what to expect. It means that when users come to the forum after a bad experience with a support person, support employees on the forum can notice, review the situation, and make clear to anyone reading the thread in their response that they’ve reviewed it, particularly in correcting anything wrong the initial support person may have said that the user repeated. And in cases when users come to the forum with potentially skewed descriptions of bad experiences with support, support can defend themselves and offer their side of the story.
Of course, it’s not clear how much of this Fairphone would actually be able to do. As far as I can tell, their development is now outsourced, their repair is outsourced to a generic board-replacement-under-warranty company, and their support may well be outsourced. That makes it quite a bit harder for them to have direct communication with users, and it may be why they no longer have a public issue tracker.
For local assistance, the Fairphone Angel program might make sense, and is at least somewhat disconnected from FP staff forum involvement, though I do wonder what vetting is involved, considering some of the posts I’ve seen by some of them here and on Framework’s forum. But from the perspective of users coming to the forum with questions, regardless of what forum posts might say to the contrary, the vacuum created by Fairphone’s lack of communication means that Fairphone Angels are at risk of being seen as filling that vacuum, especially when, even if a user has seen an actual employee post, employees have ‘Fairphone Employee’ and a blue and white badge, while angels have ‘Fairphone Angel’ and a blue and white badge.
Yet instead, those angels, on the forum, have the thankless job of largely trying to answer questions, to users who likely think they have some special knowledge, with guesswork, vague experience, and no information from Framework, or with answers they must know, from experience, are very unlikely to be helpful to the users in many instances (eg, contacting support about basic functionality deficiencies, perhaps to be tallied up, perhaps to be ignored, but in any case to enter an opaque process that will almost certainly leave the user disappointed).
If Fairphone actually communicated openly with users, Fairphone Angels could actually have more authoritative knowledge, and could point users with questions to actual answers, making the task very different. But as it is, there is usually nothing to point to, save for endless questions answered with speculation or frustration, and often moved by moderators into enormous, disordered threads about very wide topics, making it very difficult for users to even search for those speculative answers before posting questions.