Service desks and spontaneous user combustion

There is much talk about users spontaneously creating their own communities for mutual technical support. This phenomenon of spontaneous user support is presented as a threat to IT. We're told that if we don't do something to engage these communities then they will render IT redundant. The absurdity of this shouldn't need explanation but apparently it does. I'll deal with that separately (I started here). Never mind the absurdity of the predicted consequences, does it ever happen?

I suspect this is yet another case of projecting our personal digital experience onto corporate IT. In retail, most vendors of software, gadgets, connectivity, or online services - or shoes, cars, or fish for that matter - choose to drive users to mutual self-support by making their own support poor and inaccessible. This is a deliberate business strategy, so spontaneous user support occurs.

But when organisations provide a full-service support infrastructure - where they aspire to serve all the users' needs - how often does spontaneous user support really happen? In particular, when the users and the IT service desk are within the same organisation does it ever happen?

"Support" and "service desk" don't really mean anything any more without context, because the world is breaking up into several very different models of service and support. We need to be careful about what kind of support and service desk we are referring to.

For now the majority of service desks are in-house (or outsourced in such a way that they are supposed to behave as if in-house). What's the reality of users generating their own independent support communities in this situation? How often does it happen? Can anyone give us an example? I'd love to look at case studies. Anyone?

I'm starting to feel that spontaneous support is like spontaneous human combustion: it may happen but it is very rare and the few cases get talked about a lot. If we do find examples, I'm curious as to what proportion of traffic gets resolved independently, what the impact on the service desk was, whether it a passing phenomenon or it sticks, and what the users felt. This is Lazy Web - I haven't researched this. Can anyone save me the trouble?

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