2015 WordPress Community Summit Notes

Six members of the Support team attended the 2015 Community Summit, converging on Philadelphia from Singapore, the Netherlands, Norway, Canada, and the US. We covered the following agenda:

Upgrading the Forum Software

The current support forums are powered by a very outdated bbPress 1.x install. We’d like to upgrade to bbPress 2.x — which came out in 2011 — to take advantage of its greater flexibility and ease of plugin creation. Upgrading isn’t a simple process, and requires us to update old bbPress plugins to be compatible with bbPress 2.x.

We’ve compiled a list of old bbPress plugins and functionality and have labeled plugins that must be converted before bbPress 2.0 is feasible.

If you decide to help, follow the instructions below and we’ll send you a file — likely just a bunch of PHP functions — which need to be rewritten into an updated WordPress plugin.

If you can help:

  1. Inform @Clorith you want to work on the specific file
  2. Setup a WordPress site (latest)
  3. Install the bbPress plugin (latest)
  4. Rewrite the code as a WordPress plugin

The plugins needs to be:

  1. Open Source (GPL 2+ or compatible), and
  2. Rewritten to today’s coding standards

Each of these plugins will be open sourced once they are successfully ported.

HelpHub Participation

Part of the support team’s contribution to HelpHub is to define the Frequently Asked Questions in the forums. We categorized the main groups of users, and came up with the following questions.

The four categories of users who post new topics are as follows:

  1. I am new to WordPress and probably installed WordPress via my host’s one-click install
  2. I can edit my files and likely have had some experience with WordPress
  3. I am comfortable with directly editing the database via phpMyAdmin
  4. I have setup my own server

1. New to WordPress, installed WordPress via one-click install — approx. 70% of users posting new topics in the forums.

Categories of Frequently Asked Questions

  • Locked out of their account (password resets)
  • My web site was hacked
  • Plugin and theme conflicts (how to disable plugins and themes manually and in the dashboard)
  • Incomplete updates i.e. .maintenance file or re-installing WordPress
  • Modify style, text, colors in your theme
  • PHP memory issues
  • Max upload size
  • File permission problems — cannot upload theme or plugin (WordPress asking for FTP credentials)
  • My site does not look like the theme demo
  • Windows server questions/problems
  • I am not receiving mail from my WordPress install
  • Mail is from wordpress@mydomain.com — how do I change it?

2. I can edit my files. Installed manually or one-click but leveled up — 15% of new topics.

Categories of Frequently Asked Questions

  • Modifying plugins
  • Display excerpt instead of full post or vice versa
  • Modifying theme layout, fonts, and functions (dequeue fonts)
  • Featured images (adding or subtracting)
  • Caching problems, changes not showing up live
  • .htaccess issues
  • Permalink issues
  • wp-config.php constants WP_DEBUG

3. I am comfortable editing my database via phpMyAdmin or MySQL CLI — 10% of new topics.

Categories of Frequently Asked Questions

  • DB query questions
  • Search and replace in the database
  • Repair tables
  • Character sets

4. I have set up my own server — 5% of new topics.

Categories of Frequently Asked Questions

  • DNS questions
  • Apache, Nginx, PHP upgrade/config questions
  • nginx reverse proxy or Varnish question.

The support team will provide FAQs and answers for each of these categories and topic ideas.

Annual Support Handbook Audit

The Support Handbook was reviewed by @Clorith and @MacManX and minor adjustments were made. The handbook is frequently looked at throughout the year and there weren’t many changes needed.

Clearing Out Admin and Moderator Accounts

As part of the annual account entitlement review the admin and moderator accounts were audited. If an admin or moderator had not posted in the forums for one year, their account was downgraded one level. So, an inactive admin was made moderator and a moderator went to member.

If there was an account that was downgraded by mistake, please inform the moderators in #forums Slack channel.

How to Invite and Support Volunteers — aka Volunteer Wrangling

Helping out in support can often sound unappealing when it’s perceived as just repetitive replying to questions in the support forums. It can seem tedious and draining, constantly facing the challenges of dealing with unhappy people. The role can also be prone to burnout.

We feel it’s important to reframe the support role to counter these stereotypes and bring in fresh volunteers.

Sharing Support Experience with Developers

We need to remember that support people are often the first ones users deal with in their WordPress journeys. Asking a question in the forums is the beginning of that user’s relationship with WordPress and sets the tone for what’s to come.

WordPress developers need feedback from users. As the front-line crew, the support team has a unique opportunity to not only help people, but also to spot trends and consolidate issues that core, theme, and plugin developers, or other contributor teams may need to address.

Being a part of the support team isn’t just about support. We also have a responsibility to be users’ advocate and represent their interests in the wider WordPress community. Bringing new focus to this key collaborative role is something the support team needs to work on.

We discussed the following ways we can accomplish this:

Document how the support team can create good Trac tickets

One complaint from users is that they feel that their suggestions and requests are ignored. One way we can address this is by documenting their issues in Trac.

Not every user request should be made into a Trac ticket. For example, requests that are too narrow in focus and don’t serve the wider WordPress community. But if a user identifies a bug or potential enhancement in the admin interface, that could be made into a Trac ticket, and we can provide the user with a link to the ticket so they can follow its progress.

Keep an eye out for trends in the user experience that should be brought to the core team’s attention

When we notice a trend, a support rep should attend the #core team meetup, bring it to their attention, and represent the concern to that team.

Don’t Just Solve the Problem, Help People Solve Problems

For example, it’s tempting to just give the forum member the exact CSS needed to solve their problem. Instead, it’s better to also provide the method and resources you used to arrive at the solution, which gives them the opportunity to become more self-sufficient.

While a more in-depth reply can take longer to formulate, spending that extra time not only helps the user solve their own problems in the future, it also helps other users searching the forums down the road.

Get the Word Out There About Support

Document your experience in support through public channels like blog posts. Emphasize the positives, like how being a part of the support team has improved your skills and performance in your day job.

The support team is friendly and welcomes new people to give it a try. We have a make.wordpress.org site and Slack channel (#forums) where conversations about support take place.

The support team has a low barrier to entry and is a great way to learn about using and developing for WordPress. Approach people and invite them to join the support team. Recruit them into the team; if they’ve ever helped a WordPress user, then they are already part of the support team.

Once they realize and feel that they’re part of a team, it’s likely we’ll see more of them in the future.

Wrap-Up

At the Community Summit the support team was able to address our agenda and determine things to work on in 2016. By working on the bbPress plugins, providing feedback regarding HelpHub, and recruiting new volunteers, we will achieve our goal: to help users and continue to promote the growth of WordPress.

#community-summit, #wcus