As part of WordCamp London last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Contributors Day at Mozilla Spaces.
The day was a chance for WordPress enthusiasts of all stripes to pitch in and make the open source project better, whether it’s by testing bugs, coding patches, translating text, writing documentation, contributing to BuddyPress, or making WordPress more accessible.
In one corner of the main room, many of my colleagues from the theme team at Automattic were busily collaborating with community members to get the next default theme, Twenty Fourteen – already available on WordPress.com – ready for shipping with WordPress 3.8.
I decided to spend time with folks like me who have a passion for helping other WordPress users, so I went into the room adorned with a sign that said Support. Tucked away at a conference table, Michael Atkins (cubecolour in the WordPress.org support forums) led a lively band of folks who wanted to get more involved in the forums. We were later joined by my Automattic colleagues Jackie and Fabiana and collectively got pretty geeky about the ins and outs of WordPress support.
Michael had created a handy site full of tips and links. We shared our favourite tools and tricks, from time-saving text expansion apps (my fave is TextExpander), to essential screenshot and screensharing tools. One thing I forgot to mention that day is the Lazarus browser extension, a super-handy add-on which restores the content of a form field if you accidentally lose it. We discussed how to keep on top of the threads you’ve answered and how to handle challenging forum situations.
Aside from the nuts and bolt of support, we talked a lot about keeping a friendly and approachable tone in forum replies and being empathetic. While we may have been using WordPress for years and know all its ins and outs, it may be someone else’s very first time trying to make a post. If they’re not tech-savvy, they might be feeling completely overwhelmed and frustrated. One negative experience in the support forums can really turn off a new user, and they may never give WordPress another shot! As support-forum helpers we have the valuable opportunity to make sure that doesn’t happen.