I don’t remember the exact details of how I first got involved with supporting Firefox. I know I started in #firefox (that’s an IRC channel, for those of you not familiar with the syntax) but I don’t remember if I’d just been hanging out in the channel, or if I’d actually had an issue myself that I got help with there. In either case, whether it started with a specific solution or not, I found myself able to answer some common questions that I’d seen answered before. That’s all it took.
When I answered the easy questions, it left the more experienced helpers – who were usually developers or extension authors pulling double duty to make sure users got support – free to take the harder questions or to spend more time working directly on projects. As myself and some other community members were around more often to help, some even took the opportunity to stop giving support regularly and quite wisely spent their time on tasks they were better suited for, like writing patches and creating new features.
The great thing about supporting Firefox is that if nothing else, either a new profile or a fresh install will solve the problem, or it’s caused by a third party app (there may be a few uncommon exceptions I’m forgetting here). A new install leaves all the user information intact, and settings can easily be moved between profiles. Eventually you start to get a feeling for which symptoms are going to be caused by a bad install and which are caused a broken profile simply by troubleshooting issues yourself. A while after that you’ll start to get a feel for which files specifically can cause which symptoms. So even though the old helpers were still around and available to help us if we got stuck, we were pretty well able to handle most issues and only ping them when we thought we’d found a bug that they’d want to check out.
For the most part, helping out on SUMO is going to be quite similar to my experience, users will learn from each other, and from reading the knowledge base, and some will even move on to contributing code and developing. However, Live Chat is one to one by nature. While users can always invite other helpers into a chat, or ask in the workgroup for help on issues they don’t know about, it’s harder for more experienced users to cut in if they know the answer to a problem. Because helpers aren’t watching each other help as much, it’s harder for them to get a head of the learning curve by learning from others’ experiences.
How to replicate this accelerated learning is going to be an interesting and very important problem for me to solve. I’ve already put some tools in place which I will blog about separately. This week I’m going to focus on monitoring chats and being around for helpers to ask me questions. I’ll take what I learn and figure out what areas our helpers could use the most help with, then work with our room monitors to figure out the best ways to give our helpers what they need. Of course we’ll constantly re-evaluate what we can do to help our helpers, and any suggestions are always welcome.
For those of you not yet familiar with the new Live Chat software, we have it set that while everyone can sign up for an account to help, only people who have been approved can actually take questions from users. Last week we didn’t do any new approvals, and we apologize for the delay to those of you who have been signed up and waiting patiently. The software is new to us as well and we took the time to familiarize ourselves with the user control options that are available (and which ones aren’t). This helps give us an idea of how many approvals we can do at once, while still making sure we’re providing a quality service to our users.
We’ll be doing new approvals this week, starting today after the SUMO conference call, so that’s around 11am PST (GMT -8). We’ll only be doing a few at a time so that we can monitor new helpers, and guide them. If you have any questions you can find us either via the conference feature in the product, or drop by #sumo on irc.mozilla.org
I’ve finally sat down to process the emails I asked for in regards to times people can commit to help. With the responses I’ve received so far, we can extend our hours during weekday afternoons. However, I didn’t receive many emails committing to the later hours, though I know we have plenty of helpers on during the evenings.
If you haven’t already, please email majken at gmail dot com with the hours you are willing to commit to being around. If you’re available 12 hours of the day, that’s great, but unless you’re saying you will be on and helping 12 hours a day, that’s not what I’m after. Also, if the time you can be around is less than an hour at a time, don’t worry about mentioning it.
Again, you’re free to help whenever you feel like it, but this is for the purposes of making sure we have the coverage to advertise being open. Also, if your times change, don’t sweat it, just drop me another email.
As it stands I’ll be extending the hours to:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 9am – 3pm PST (GMT-8)
Tuesday, Thursday: 12pm – 4pm PST (GMT-8)
Please email me ASAP if you can help extend the hours further!
As many people who know me might already know, I’ve been leading the effort to bring real time text support to Firefox users. We’re live now, it’s going really well, and I’m doing some really cool things with some really cool people. I’ve been remiss about blogging things as they’ve been happening, though probably in large part to the fact that I haven’t done something like this before. I’ve found myself doing a lot of assessing in the moment, and then dealing with whatever that assessment meant should happen next. I think I’m ahead of that curve now, in no small part thanks to the community that sprouted up over night to help share the load!
It’s been really interesting for me, finding myself on the other side of contributing to Mozilla. While I understood how rapidly things move, and how busy it can keep you, I didn’t quite understand how much effort it really took to make sure other, less attention demanding, tasks got done. I’ve never been one to decide something shouldn’t be done just because it’s hard. In fact I’m a firm believer that some of the things most worth doing take a fair amount of thought and effort.
I was reading planet a few weeks ago and noticing how a few users and projects would simply put what they’d done in the week in simple bullet form. I found myself finding posts like these incredibly helpful and informative. In some cases, more helpful than the detailed posts about one particular task.
Again, now on the other side, I’m realizing how many people don’t know what I’m up to even though I think I’m mentioning everything I do somewhere where people can see. Of course, if I talk about it in IRC and someone isn’t there, they don’t know about it. Then figure that not everyone will see what I post on the newsgroups, or the bugs I file in bugzilla and I’ve realized that to keep people (including myself – especially myself?) informed of the tasks I’m working on and have completed I should really be blogging.
So, here’s my commitment to try and blog at least once a week what I’m doing, what I’ve accomplished, what I’m trying to accomplish and anything else interesting that comes up. Maybe I’ll even manage to blog about things that have already happened. I’ve even picked out a shiny new WordPress theme! Actually I’m going back and forth between two, I may or may not switch periodically.