The Volunteers’ Debate

Posted on: January 27, 2009

Reading the latest forum debate and also this, as someone who’s been around the forums longer than most of the volunteers (but who have probably contributed much more than I have), this is my two cents: be detached.

The previous messy, controversial dramas that happened between WordPress.com staff and volunteers began along the lines of volunteers disagreeing with how staff is running the forums and policing other volunteers.

On one hand, I understand – having volunteered before – that volunteers can have really good suggestions on how to improve the forums and the efficiency of solving bloggers’ problems. It’s natural that the people who contributed and hung out at the forums for a long time to care and want to make a bigger difference in improving the forums other than their present contributions. Besides, if their suggestions were implemented it would also make their lives a lot easier when answering questions.

On the other hand, having seen two of the biggest volunteers eliminated from the forums just like *snaps fingers* that, I learnt that WordPress.com will not make the forums to suit the community of volunteers. Volunteers have to suit themselves around the system. The staff probably have their own reasons why they do not implement excellent suggestions offered by the volunteers, but whether there are good or lame reasons for not doing so, volunteers do not have the power to change their minds. Keep harping about it, and you may suffer the fates of DrMike and Timethief.

The spirit of volunteerism is that you don’t expect anything from your contribution. The spirit of volunteerism is to be detached. Give and don’t expect anything (even if it is for the betterment of the forums).

I once e-mailed Support, asking if they actually want volunteers around the forums after they removed DrMike and Timethief. There was also a rumour saying that they plan to eliminate the volunteers one by one. They responded, saying something along the lines of appreciating the efforts of volunteers and welcome them. I deleted that e-mail, but this is how I see it: WordPress.com welcomes volunteers helping bloggers, but not their well-meant intentions of suggesting to staff how to better run it.

ps. Since when Teck is no longer part of this blog? 😦

7 Responses to "The Volunteers’ Debate"

Teck removed himself about a month after he started this blog.

Definitely agree with you. You can’t walk into someone else’s house and start acting like you own the place. Recipe for instant ill-will, not to mention being met by the bouncer at the door. Regardless there needs to be some general coordination between the volunteers and staff, but where is the correct place to discuss? Certainly not the forum itself.

The whole point of my thead was if the mods had asked us to modlook threads for their attention, where were they? Nothing more. I was astonished to see where my thread had gone, and am still quite upset about it.

but it was him who started this blog…

problem is that wp.com refuse to have anything to do with any sort of coordination between volunteers and staff. they would not have any avenues whatsoever, save your own initiative contacting them. they like to keep things entirely separate, except for things that can make their lives easier, such as the modlook idea. (then again, it is their house after all.) this is just my observation, of course.

i don’t think you started anything, but rather people saw your thread as an opportunity to bring up issues they have with the forums. personally, i think it’s a good thing it happened. sometimes a good disagreement is needed to clear the bad air. 🙂 and it was inevitable too; if you didn’t start this thread someone else would with another question and the ball would have rolled from there.

Conclusion, we need a Prologue blog too! 🙂

The main reason I backed off from contributing my time
in the forum as a volunteer is because I got a bad taste
from staff with all the wp.org posts that have been springing
up in the forums & staff not helping out to come up with a
solution for this problematic issue.

I agree and for the most part am stepping back from ORG posts when they happen. On that point, I think devblog hit the nail on the head.

But does the change in the New Topic form to make you select your COM blog not help at all? It seems to me that the number of ORG posters per day dropped after they initiated it. (Of course I could be hallucinating, need more coffee.)

Thanks for this post, sulz. And apologies to all for my having been part of the “drama”. I had the unfortunate idea of following up on a previous observation in that thread… (I don’t care what staff will think about me, but I didn’t like it that I upset tsp so much; fortunately it seems we’ve sorted that out between us.)

Re staff, I think part of the problem is their mixed stance: sometimes they play the role of official supervisor, but sometimes they drop by to give replies the way we do (occasionally incorrect, hehe), and sometimes they even engage in joking conversation with us. I would say either let us kids play and you watch the playground, or join us in playing: you can’t do the second then remember the first when you don’t like the way another kid fiddles with his toys.

Re the org problem, things are definitely better now. Jennifer says we have fewer visits already. I’m not sure yet if it’s so, but the auto-response is doing at least some of the job instead of us. Seeing “sambauers” under “Last Poster” also helps, as we can ignore the thread. But the way they designed it, the problem is only half-solved – see here.

pana: thanks for your comment. i felt compelled to write it because i thought some people were taking the issue a little too personally. i’m glad to hear the both of you settled your differences as you are both good people to have in the community.

good point. i like it though when they play with us. 🙂

so something good did come out of the threads! even though just half-solved – well, as they say, rome wasn’t built in 24 hours. a few more dramatic threads like this and you just see if you can count dot org posts in the forums with the fingers on your hand. 😉

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