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expanding support options/needs as the fx user base grows

Talk about stuff specific to the site -- bugs, suggestions, and of course praise welcome.
BenoitRen

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Post Posted May 4th, 2007, 8:58 am

Maybe they need to get closer to users.

This goes for many developers, really.

VanillaMozilla
 
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Post Posted May 7th, 2007, 1:01 pm

I don't think I can make the meeting. Nevertheless, maybe these thoughts will be helpful if someone actually sees them.

Frank Lion wrote:Perhaps then, the time has come for Mozilla to directly take a much larger responsibility for providing Support of Mozilla products and rely much less of the MozillaZine forums to provide this service for them.

Absolutely, and what better place to start the conversation than the Knowledge Base.

Suggestion: Hire a Mac person to approve KB articles (or whatever the official support is). Even PC support stuff. They have come to expect simplicity. There are two crucial criteria:

1. In case of trouble, can Granny read this stuff and use it?
2. In case the problem is hard, does it present all the essential information in detail, so technically proficient users can solve hard problems? (Remember that <i>everything</i> on a computer is hard.)

Hendikins

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Post Posted May 7th, 2007, 11:53 pm

I'm going to belatedly crawl out from under my rock and post my thoughts on what is required. I fully expect to get moderated for this as well, in which case so be it. Keep in mind that I'm posting this as somebody who has been involved with enduser support for Mozilla products since before this forum existed, who has moderated this forum, who currently still moderates a large forum, who suggested the idea of a knowledge base in the first place (albeit not the implementation), who writes documentation, and who still does user support on IRC. I'd like to think that gives me a reasonable depth of experience upon which I can draw.

Engaging rant mode...

The #1 Problem
The #1 thing that needs addressing is that all our support resources - forums, IRC, mailing list, documentation (including the knowledge base and plugindoc), etc. all need to be under a single umbrella - a MoFo/MoCo one at that. Right now we don't have much in the way of official support resources at all, and that is in dire need of addressing.

The fragmentation of our best helpers does not make things any better. As it is, many forum regulars won't even pay lip service to those who do support on IRC, and many of the IRC users won't go anywhere near the forums. This means that users don't always have the best support options available to them, because we're not working together to provide a unified support experience.

I strongly believe that the forums, knowledge base and IRC should be official resources under official control.

The Knowledge Base
The Knowledge Base, whilst a useful resource in its own right, still has further potential. There has been suggestion of having a set of specially selected knowledge base editors and applying the KISS principle. Whilst it is not always possible to keep things completely simple due to the range of material the knowledge base can cover, the idea is certainly not without merit. Consistent style is also important. Whilst I think of it, how do we handle archived content that doesn't apply to newer versions?

Other Documentation
As a writer of other documentation, ideally there should be provision for merging such documentation with any new, official knowledge base - possibly with editing access restricted. This should in turn reduce duplication and fragmentation of said documentation.

These Forums
These forums are a rather tender subject with me, and if I'm ranting, I'm not going to be particularly nice about it as a result. However, at the end of the day, this stuff needs to be said (and moderating another large forum has been a real eye opener!).

* Good helpers do not always make good moderators!
Nor, conversely, do people who are not technically proficient make bad moderators. The #1 concern I've read about with moderation around here of late is impartiality. If you can't moderate something impartially, you shouldn't be moderating it. End of story.

Short version: Whatever forum is used for support needs better moderators than this forum has at present, be it this one or a hypothetical MoCo one.

* Good forums need active administrators!
Active administrators are vital for three main reasons - code changes, staff control and escalation. Any forum without active administrators will at best limp at a fraction of its potential, and at worst full in to utter disrepair. We're somewhere between the two. (Yes, I've seen this from the moderator standpoint, and it is why I am inactive on here...)

Active administrators also result in a much greater level of accountability, which is something that seems to be lacking at the moment.

* Well managed forums need moderation teams!
Jason, I know you want a group of individual moderators rather than a team of moderators. Meanwhile, back in the real world, it doesn't work. The main benefits of having a team are:
- Consistency. If the moderators work as a unit it is easier to apply whatever rules exist in a consistent manner. It also makes it much more difficult to play moderators off one another.
- Escalation. With a tiered moderation team, escalation should never have to make it to the administrators. Not that it matters around here...

* Anonymous posting has to go
Whilst it has some merits, on the whole is has proven to be a failed experiment. The sooner it gets scrapped the better. Other methods of support, such as IRC, are better suited towards anonymous users who just want an answer.

Forums as a whole
On the whole, the purpose of both this forum and Spread Firefox should be merged in to a single official MoFo/MoCo forum, without carrying over the organisational baggage from this one. This could be used as an official support resource. Implementation details are beyond the scope of this rant, but basically include not repeating the mistakes made here.

We already have a realtime chat mechanism - IRC
My main rant about IRC is simply that it is not part of a system as a whole. It can be used effectively as an extension of forum based support - this does not have to be using the current #firefox channel, although it would be ideal.

Newsgroups, mailing lists
Not really within the scope of this rant, although they should be under the same umbrella.

Any effort to change is doomed unless we work together
This is simple enough. Unless everyone gets behind it, from the ground up, any effort to change things is going to fail. Simple as that. Of course, I don't hold out any hope that we'll all do so, and we're only going to hurt our users if we don't.

(End rant mode, rant saved elsewhere)

James
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Post Posted May 8th, 2007, 1:21 am

Hendikins wrote:These Forums
These forums are a rather tender subject with me, ...(and moderating another large forum has been a real eye opener!).)

No kidding... .
The large forum is related to the particular ISP right, no need to say here.

Hendikins wrote:Whatever forum is used for support needs better moderators than this forum has at present, be it this one or a hypothetical MoCo one.

All or just that you did not want to name names...

Hendikins wrote:* Good forums need active administrators!
Active administrators are vital for three main reasons - code changes, staff control and escalation. Any forum without active administrators will at best limp at a fraction of its potential, and at worst full in to utter disrepair. We're somewhere between the two. (Yes, I've seen this from the moderator standpoint, and it is why I am inactive on here...)

Sure Jason and Alex is not around often but who could the additional admin(s) be in having the time, trust, is responsible...

Hendikins wrote:* Anonymous posting has to go
Whilst it has some merits, on the whole is has proven to be a failed experiment. The sooner it gets scrapped the better. Other methods of support, such as IRC, are better suited towards anonymous users who just want an answer.

Ok, I am not the biggest fan of Guest posting either ever since it started in what August 2003 in "Miscellaneous Support", especially when it comes to trolls, spammers. I do think there should still be a limited amount allowed for reasons like member account issues for example perhaps.

Hendikins wrote:...official MoFo/MoCo forum...

Hard to say whether the mention of "End-user forums" at http://samuelsidler.com/2007/05/further ... pport.html is referring to a possible official Mozilla forum or this forum or end user forums in general.

Hendikins

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Post Posted May 8th, 2007, 1:28 am

James wrote:
Hendikins wrote:These Forums
These forums are a rather tender subject with me, ...(and moderating another large forum has been a real eye opener!).)

No kidding... .
The large forum is related to the particular ISP right, no need to say here.


Actually it isn't related to any specific ISP, it is the industry in general. You're thinking of the right one though.

James wrote:
Hendikins wrote:Whatever forum is used for support needs better moderators than this forum has at present, be it this one or a hypothetical MoCo one.

All or just that you did not want to name names...


I'd simply rather not mention names, lest this be taken as a personal attack on any given individuals.

James wrote:
Hendikins wrote:* Good forums need active administrators!
Active administrators are vital for three main reasons - code changes, staff control and escalation. Any forum without active administrators will at best limp at a fraction of its potential, and at worst full in to utter disrepair. We're somewhere between the two. (Yes, I've seen this from the moderator standpoint, and it is why I am inactive on here...)

Sure Jason and Alex is not around often but who could the additional admin(s) be in having the time, trust, is responsible...


I don't know, to be honest. Of course the answer depends on whether it is this forum or a hypothetical MoCo/MoFo one.

James wrote:
Hendikins wrote:* Anonymous posting has to go
Whilst it has some merits, on the whole is has proven to be a failed experiment. The sooner it gets scrapped the better. Other methods of support, such as IRC, are better suited towards anonymous users who just want an answer.

Ok, I am not the biggest fan of Guest posting either ever since it started in what August 2003 in "Miscellaneous Support", especially when it comes to trolls, spammers. I do think there should still be a limited amount allowed for reasons like member account issues for example perhaps.


That is separate to the issue of guest posting in the support sections, and indeed outside of the scope of the rant.

James wrote:
Hendikins wrote:...official MoFo/MoCo forum...

Hard to say whether the mention of "End-user forums" at http://samuelsidler.com/2007/05/further ... pport.html is referring to a possible official Mozilla forum or this forum or end user forums in general.


I don't have particularly much idea of what the plans are, all I know is that I stand fully behind any effort to improve the support experience for the users.

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Post Posted May 8th, 2007, 4:34 am

It is probably not reasonable to ask unpaid moderators to be completely impartial, when their only reward is to take place in conversations. As soon as they have taken part in conversations, they are partisan to a point of view just like everyone else. Any special mellow personality traits notwithstanding, I'm sure this automatically places them under some strain.

trolly
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Post Posted May 8th, 2007, 5:06 am

Even paid moderators will not be impartial. How impartial a mod can be depends on his/her personality.
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Alice

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Post Posted May 8th, 2007, 5:23 am

http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?t=545425 Furthering Customer / End-user Support
Samuel Sidler wrote:I've posted more information to the newsgroup and my blog. In the future, follow-ups will happen on the newsgroups almost exclusively.

http://groups.google.com/group/mozilla. ... 6b07a5ae95

Since discussion of the planned meetings regarding end-user support has moved away from this forum I'm posting the following, for the record, from the newsgroup post at
news://news.mozilla.org:119/mozilla.support.planning (also available via google groups)
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: First End-User Support Meeting Tomorrow!
Date: 7 May 2007 19:36:12 -0700
From: majken@gmail.com
Organization: http://groups.google.com
Newsgroups: mozilla.support.planning
References: <1178582298>

On May 7, 7:58 pm, Samuel Sidler <samuel> wrote:
> (Posting from Google Groups since my past two posts to the newsgroup
> weren't picked up by Google...)
>
> Tomorrow is the first of our End-User Support meetings, which I
> blogged and posted about last week. Below is more information for the
> call-in. We'll be discussing the knowledge base; the current state,
> its role and needs, and other related items. Further below is a basic
> agenda for the meeting.
>
> We'll be posting minutes of the meeting to the newsgroup so if you're
> unable to call in, feel free to reply to that post with any comments
> you might have.
>
> * Tuesday, May 8, 10:00 am PDT
> * 650-903-0800 x91 Conf #284
> * 1-800-707-2533 (pin 369) Conf #284 (US)
> * Join #customersupport on irc.mozilla.org for the IRC back-
> channel
>
> Agenda
>
> 1. General overview of Firefox support efforts
> 2. Current state of knowledge base (mozillazine)
> * Process for adding content, any learnings, any
> shortcomings
> 3. New Ideas and Solution Brainstorm
> 4. Action Items/Next Steps
> * Take inventory of KB (plus analyzing data)
> * Organizing KB (tagging, etc)
> * Who can post/edit (change control)
> * KB best practices and style guide
> * Discussion of module owner; who resolves questions?
> * Vendors and Infrastructure research

Should 3 and 4 be reversed? or some of the things in 4 maybe moved to
3 (or even 2?) to get the brainstorming started. It seems to me at
least 3 of them would come up in 2 and therefore solutions to them
would be discussed in 3, not 4. Or is the idea that 2 and 3 discuss
them and 4 is deciding on what to do about those specific points based
on the discussion in 2 and 3?

I don't think I'm going to make the meeting either.
Alice Wyman

malliz
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Post Posted May 8th, 2007, 5:30 am

Thanks Alice, yes it's unfortunate some rather dull axes seem to be being ground at the moment. As the need to move forward in order to facilitate improvement should be paramount.
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Alice

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Post Posted May 8th, 2007, 6:12 am

I agree that we need to move forward. Hopefully all this discussion will result in the KB getting an infusion of much-needed new blood. ......... and maybe even quality review and feedback mechanisms, as I mentioned here:
http://kb.mozillazine.org/Knowledge_Base_changes
Alice Wyman

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Post Posted May 8th, 2007, 6:35 am

I may try and brush off my rusty proofreading skills and have a look :D
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Hendikins

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Post Posted May 8th, 2007, 8:10 pm

VanillaMozilla wrote:It is probably not reasonable to ask unpaid moderators to be completely impartial, when their only reward is to take place in conversations. As soon as they have taken part in conversations, they are partisan to a point of view just like everyone else. Any special mellow personality traits notwithstanding, I'm sure this automatically places them under some strain.


As somebody who is moderating a technical forum that is now much more active than this one, I'm well aware of the difficulties associated with impartial moderating. It doesn't stop you from being able to have an opinion (indeed, moderators are not robots, thus having an opinion is a good thing), but you do have to detach that opinion from any moderation activities - and know when to leave things for another moderator when you can't.

trolly wrote:How impartial a mod can be depends on his/her personality.


Bingo - we don't have the right people doing the job, and technical expertise has nothing to do with it.

malliz wrote:it's unfortunate some rather dull axes seem to be being ground at the moment. As the need to move forward in order to facilitate improvement should be paramount.


Yes, I'm well aware that I'm doing axe griding, but at least it is relevant axe grinding. MoCo wants to move forward. I've always wished we would move forward. Hence contributing to the feedback and pledging to sink my time in to anything that comes out of it is really the best thing I can do - and I hope everyone else does (whether they agree with me or not).

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Post Posted May 8th, 2007, 8:44 pm

Hendikins wrote:
trolly wrote:How impartial a mod can be depends on his/her personality.


Bingo - we don't have the right people doing the job, and technical expertise has nothing to do with it.


I've been involved in a couple controversial/argumentative threads and have heard comments that moderators (some or all?) on this forum are not liked. Hendikins, I see where you stand on the opinions of the moderators here. Perhaps I have missed it, but is there a thread, or conversation that states who doesn't like the moderators and for what reasons?

What I am trying to determine is if it's everybody/many, or just a few who don't like the moderating here.

[Often you will here a comment (in the news, or elsewhere) like "many people", or "everybody" dislikes the way something is being handled. You later find out that the "many people" or "everybody" is just a group of ten people.
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Hendikins

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Post Posted May 8th, 2007, 9:01 pm

Dartman wrote:
Hendikins wrote:
trolly wrote:How impartial a mod can be depends on his/her personality.


Bingo - we don't have the right people doing the job, and technical expertise has nothing to do with it.


I've been involved in a couple controversial/argumentative threads and have heard comments that moderators (some or all?) on this forum are not liked. Hendikins, I see where you stand on the opinions of the moderators here. Perhaps I have missed it, but is there a thread, or conversation that states who doesn't like the moderators and for what reasons?


Unfortunately I would doubt there is a nice searchable database of who dislikes who for what reasons. I get a limited amount filtered back through to IRC, and even the amount I do is of concern.

Dartman wrote:What I am trying to determine is if it's everybody/many, or just a few who don't like the moderating here.


As I now primarily use IRC, I wouldn't be able to tell you.

Dartman wrote:[Often you will here a comment (in the news, or elsewhere) like "many people", or "everybody" dislikes the way something is being handled. You later find out that the "many people" or "everybody" is just a group of ten people.


Of course, but I haven't said anywhere that I'm talking about a large number of people, nor everyone. I'm speaking only of my personal experiences (which are now starting to get somewhat dated, but still have valid organisational suggestions), what gets back to IRC and wherever else I may read.

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Post Posted May 8th, 2007, 9:23 pm

Hendikins wrote:
Dartman wrote:[Often you will here a comment (in the news, or elsewhere) like "many people", or "everybody" dislikes the way something is being handled. You later find out that the "many people" or "everybody" is just a group of ten people.


Of course, but I haven't said anywhere that I'm talking about a large number of people, nor everyone. I'm speaking only of my personal experiences (which are now starting to get somewhat dated, but still have valid organisational suggestions), what gets back to IRC and wherever else I may read.


I understand that you are only talking of you own personal experiences. The topic of how the moderators act here at mozillZine, seems to be at least a partial reason for the potential changes that are being discussed. That's the reason I was trying to determine if it's just a selected few, or a good percentage of people who feel that way. Once that's known, one can make an informed and reasonable decsion. If that's not known, then it would be a wrong decision to make a change. (regardless of the topic at hand).
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