There’s a bit of a tsunami taking over the WordPress.com support forums as a new policy is slowly being rolled out that new questions are locked for 30 minutes or so — so a paid staff member will have the first shot at answering the question instead of forum volunteers.  I wholly support that new policy and I’ll tell you why.

I was one of the first 500 people or so to get a WordPress.com account. Today, there are now almost 12 million blogs on WordPress.com.

I have provided online tech support as a volunteer in several different online arenas.

I still remember the prick of the first time I posted a question for help in the WordPress.com support forum.  It was not a good experience.

A self-anointed female volunteer was telling me off.  I hadn’t posted in the right section or something and she decided it was her duty to police me and put me in my place.  Her tone was nasty and mean and cruel.  Years later, she was still doing the same telling-off and policing job while still managing to force compliments from those she pretended to “serve.”

I replied to each of her points.

I was later attacked for “being mean” to a forum regular who was only trying her best to help me.

Huh?

I was stopped.  What?  Were people unable to see how she replied to me?

As I paged back through the thread, I was horrified to discover that the woman who had attacked me, had then gone back and edited her reply to me to make her look innocent and sweet and helpful.

My reply — to her now nonexistent rant — did make me look like I was a thankless maniac.

I was infuriated that a volunteer did that to me — but I was a longtime pioneer on the internet and I had saved her original evisceration of me — and in my reply to my accuser, I quoted back precisely what she had rudely said to me.

My reply, in that real, historic, context, made complete sense.

There was no apology from the original offender or from the other regulars who had accused me of “attacking” her when I had done no such thing.  The attacker would then work behind-the-scenes later to try to have my blog removed for being “business” or “mature” or “Spam” or whatever — when my blog was never any of that — and that didn’t work, either.

Because of that bad behavior from a “forum regular,” I learned to wait at least 15 minutes before replying to anyone — because after that time limit, a reply was locked and could not be edited.

I don’t know why any online forum allows one to edit a comment.  If you need to add to or correct a comment, just reply to it.  Editing allows for malice.  If you send a public reply, it should be cemented, as is, forever.

When I read this week that WordPress.com staff would start taking the lead in replying to those seeking help in the support forum, I was overjoyed.  Finally, Automattic were going to give the WordPress.com the professional forum support sheen it deserves.

Many forum volunteers are, of course, furious with this change.  Their kingdom is rightfully being taken away.  Even those volunteers who profess to do good in answering the inquiries of others still list the benefits and the swag they get and expect from staff:  “I’m up here; you’re down there.  I’ve been here longer than you.  I answer more questions than you.”

It’s a fiefdom mess.

I say if you’re a volunteer — use your real name and don’t link your blog — then we’ll see real kindness in that forum because people will begin to own their words and people will truly be serving others and not their hit counts.

When you see one or two people answering every single forum message with copy and pasted replies — they are hits fishing hoping the newbies will click on their blog link to spike their perceived readership.

There are some really great people in the WordPress.com forum — and they understand the need for this professional change and they are not complaining.

Four days ago, I decided to send a private letter of support to WordPress.com support.  Here is the public text of that message and I share it now because I cannot contain my joy:

I just happened across this discussion in the support forum:

http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/under-review-by-staff-is-annoying

I love the idea of locking threads until official staff answers.  I don’t think there should be any time limit at all:  The thread should stay locked until the official response is provided.  That guarantees the right answer will be given.  I realize that ideal will take more peoplepower and time to ramp up, but that’s the only way to go once the toe has been officially dipped into that proper pool.

It is quite telling how the “cool kids clique” in the forum — who call themselves “slaves” in the most tasteless labeling I have seen from a gangrenous bunch of willing volunteers — have violently revolted against the new policy in the forum discussion.  Their tone and control is being rightfully mitigated exchange for a professional and proper, authenticated, reply.

It has been so disconcerting over the years to see people asking for help in the forum get brushed off by the Cool Kid Regulars whose contempt and disdain the for question and questioner is often palpable and real and often rude — and when those regulars then “correct” the questioner’s incredulous response with their own beliefs and theories about posting in that open forum, one only feels the deep and hollow pang of self-importance overruling the necessity of providing a kind and helpful answer.

Over the last week or so, I saw a support reply or two from Mark in the forum — and he was so respectful and genuine in his want to help — and he so outshone what the non-pros provide that you want that golden standard as the forever new default support system that touches the WordPress.com forum and everywhere else.

I won’t post this letter of support in that thread — because I will be shouted down and eviscerated for going against the thugs — and so I’m sending it to you via the feedback interface.  It was great to see staff and Matt take on the gang in public in the forum — and I wish you all the best in this new push for excellence, and if there’s anything I can do to help move the mission forward, please don’t pause to ask.

Best,

db

“Mark” — aka “Podz” — was the lead forum support guruji  for WordPress.com for a long time.  He has helped me a lot over the years and he was, and is, most excellent.  Mark is the standard of sublimity in support.

I have publicly said in the past that I would pay for access to a WordPress.com support forum that only allowed replies from paid staff — and now that wish appears to be within granting for gratis — and the unwashed WordPress.com community is immediately made better in the being.

2 Comments

    1. That forum has a history of being a cliquey place, Gordon. I’ve answered a few questions there and posted some links, but I don’t post there much.

      Having paid staff in there and digging around — with access to the questioner’s blog — means real and sufficient help will soon be on the way.

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