Some proposed improvements for 2024

Hi folks – over the New Year period I was reflecting a little on the Support Team and the legacy of work we have there supporting the community in the Forums. I’ve also detected (and outright been told as well) that there’s the potential of some burnout within the team – which is something that (from a personal point of view) I don’t want any folks to go through.

I also think that there’s lots to learn from the Plugins Team and their work over the last 12 months in building a new team, documenting the way they work, and ultimately setting the team up to be sustainable for the long term.

TLDR: I’d like to propose that in 2024 the Support Team looks to set ourselves up for long term success and sustainability by taking stock of where we are today, expanding the team in a scalable way, and fostering more of a community amongst contributors who volunteer in the forums.

I’ve expanded that thinking into a few different areas that I’d like to raise for consideration in upcoming Team Meetings:

Taking Stock of current state of the team and documenting our work
One of the massive ongoing successes of the team is that the ‘work’ is continuously getting done in a timely fashion. We have no backlog, few complaints, nor any pressure to improve ‘performance’ of any kind – because of the great work y’all do.

But at the same time there is much of the work that is done which is unknown or undocumented. There’s plenty of great (and important) work which is done to keep the forums clean and tidy – which isn’t documented in the handbook. Speaking from personal experience I can say this makes it tricky to know exactly what work I can help out with – beyond the basics in the handbook. It also makes it hard to know what size the team needs to be to handle that workload sustainably.

One thing I’d propose is that we properly document these kind of things – to make decisions about team size easier, and to aid onboarding of potential new team members.

Team Size and Members

  • Team size (including Rosetta Forum mods)
  • An estimation of the amount of time spent on moderator tasks

Team Tasks: What is it the team actually does (and how)

  • Responding in #Forums
  • Pending, Spam, and Modlook queues of Forums
  • Proactively looking for Spam? (how?)
  • Proactively looking for sock puppets? (how?)
  • Password Reset queue (We could definitely do with better documentation of this)

Team Mission and Goals

  • What does success look like? What are we aiming for?

Expanding the team in a sustainable and scalable way
Having a better understanding of the tasks needed, and the bandwidth of the team will allow us to know when adding new team members is needed. As a step to reduce burnout and have a sustainability plan for the team – I propose a need to add a number of new team members within the next 3 months as a starting point.

Some things we will need to consider in order to do that:

Hiring and Recruitment process

  • Take learnings from the PluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the Plugin Directory or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party Review Team and their recruitment
  • Design and implement recruitment and vetting (if needed) processes

Onboarding for new members

  • Review existing handbook and documentation.
  • Addition of Onboarding items to cover security, data management, and conflict resolution.

Introducing/participating in Mentoring opportunities

  • Have team members take part in the existing Mentor programs – providing a pathway for contributors towards joining the team.
  • Identify candidates amongst existing Forum contributors to invite to ‘officially’ join the team via a mentorship program.

Fostering a Community of Contributors in the Forums
At times the work of the Support Team could be considered to be in something of a ‘defensive’ stance – reacting to activity in order to keep bad actors away and maintain the integrity of the forums. This is important work – but I think we also have an opportunity to take a more proactive role in encouraging the contributors who give their time to answer questions in the general forums.

There’s even an opportunity to help them form something of a community around their work supporting users, and a potential funnel into Support Team membership if desired.

I don’t have any specific proposal for this – but I do have a few random ideas. And I’d love the team to consider if these kinds of initiatives could be helpful in taking an ‘offensive’ approach to improving the quality and usefulness of the forums.

  • We could look at having different ‘format’ meetings which encouraged contributors in the forums to be involved in a more social setting (the Learn Team is a great example of how they manage this whilst still having functional/practical meetings too).
  • We could produce a The community site where WordPress code is created and shared by the users. This is where you can download the source code for WordPress core, plugins and themes as well as the central location for community conversations and organization. course which guides contributors through some learning about ‘soft’ support skills like empathy and tone.
  • We could utilise the mentorship program to encourage and equip those contributors to do better (and more) work answering questions in the forums.
  • Investigate reaching out to those who are listed with pledged time towards support in an effort to activate them.

Supporting the Support team for another 20 years
All these ideas are towards the idea of having systems in place which mean the team will outlive the tenure of any of us in the team – in a way where it will continue to flourish, grow, and make the forums a safe and useful space for those needing support with WordPress.

I’m really excited to hear from y’all on the overall idea, but also the specifics that are proposed.

I’ll leave this post open for Comment for us to discuss and make some decisions at the Team meeting on 22nd Feb.