There are a few separate issues here, so I'll answer them one at a time.
- What to do about poor quality questions
- Specific product support on GIS SE
- What to do if problems arise
What do to about poor quality questions
Putting aside the specific problems mentioned above — remember that most users are going to find this site through 3rd-party referrals. Whether it's through Google Search or content attributed to this site (or even a 3rd-party forum recommending us for support), users are rarely going to understand how this all works from day one. Remember the end goal — if you continue to provide great answers like you have in the past, you stand a good chance of attracting some great new users who will add value for years to come.
This is a great opportunity to build up a body of questions that establish yourself as the source authority over any other site out there.
Stack Exchange is well equipped to handle an influx of poorly-asked questions — voting, wiki-style editing, and community self-moderation are all there to help ultimately curate great content. But remember with new users, please make an extra effort to be welcoming, patient, and thoughtful to users acting in good faith. Provide gentle guidance when they get it wrong. But remember most of all that we are what's different on the Internet, and the purpose of building communities is to help guide new users so they can become constructive, contributing members of this strange place we call Stack Exchange.
Specific product support on GIS SE
For OpenGeo and companies like them — if these projects are a part of the GIS landscape, then absolutely we should encourage these communities to become part of the ecosystem of this site. The developers of these projects have communities of their own, and if someone is searching for answers about the products they use every day, I sure would like them to find this site.
But that doesn't mean that companies should outsource their entire customer support channel here (e.g. bug reports, feature requests, etc), or simply link into this site without context. GIS SE should be but one support option for these products.
We get a lot of requests from project teams about how they can use Stack Exchange to support their communities effectively. These special interest groups have become a huge source of excellent questions and avid, supporting communities on a lot of sites. I'm not sure why this isn't working in this case, but I see no reason why this site couldn't provide fantastic technical support for end-user products used by GIS experts! It takes just a bit of coordination and understanding between the communities.
What to do if problems arise
I'm not assuming ill intentions in any of these cases. Most of the time you can simply contact the site owner to clarify what type of support is welcome from their community (refer them to this post and the open letter I am quoting below).
GIS SE should be but one support option for these products (no bug reports, customer service issues, general discussion, etc). Take care of a well-meaning community, and handle their introduction as I outlined above.
But if a product provider is, essentially, misusing Stack Exchange, we have the means of restricting or banning their content outright. I can't imagine it should come to that. Most developers realize that their community is our community, and at the end of the day, any developer acting in good faith probably does not want to be labelled a spammer… or a nuisance to a community that comprises heavily of their customer base.
An Open Letter to GIS Project Teams
We get a lot of requests from project teams about how they can use Stack Exchange to support their communities. Stack Exchange works really well for technical support, as long as you're not trying to outsource your entire customer support channel to Stack Exchange. There's a good meta post covering the issue below; the top two answers are worth reading:
Is it okay to use Stack Overflow as the support forum for a product or project?
We've had the best results from following the model used by Google Android to support their developers (Android Developers: Hello Stack Overflow!). Following their example, we've put together a few guidelines about how to use Stack Exchange for community support:
- Start with a page on your site listing where members should go for various support-related tasks. Stack Exchange should only be ONE of the options available. Make sure you have other resources for support apart from Stack Exchange. Issues like bug reporting, feature requests, generalized discussions, and specific customer support issues do not fit into our Q&A model, and will be quickly closed by the community.
- Please don't try to "seed" common questions about your product on Stack Exchange. Our communities are very sensitive to this type of astroturfing, and they can react very negatively when a company seems to be posting staged questions simply to get them out there on Stack Exchange. You don't want to be labeled a spammer. Communities expect questions to represent actual problems asked in good faith from those who are actually seeking the help.
- While we have a very active community, there are some questions that can only be answered by one of your internal team members. Make sure you jump on these quickly to establish your tag as THE place to get help with the harder questions. Have someone on your team whose job it is to monitor the tag daily and respond to any unanswered questions. Monitor activity on your tag using tag filters and subscriptions. You can setup a subscription to notify you or your team whenever there is new activity on your tag at http://stackexchange.com/filters/.
- If you want to make your tag look more professional and complete, consider sponsoring your tag. Sponsoring tags adds your logo to the tag itself and lets you to control the content of the Tag Wiki. You can see what a tag sponsorship looks like by checking out the Android tag (https://stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/android).
- To attract more folks to your project, you may consider running ads on Stack Exchange. Targeting technologies and topics of interest to your community is a great way to reach people who wouldn't otherwise have known about your project. To discuss advertising and tag sponsorship options, please contact [email protected].
These suggestion may not all apply to your situation, but I hope you find them helpful to get started. If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to ask.
Director of Community Development
Stack Exchange Inc.