WordPress.com Forums: Jumping Into The Deep End

Being Involved With WP.com Forums

The original title for this post was “WordPress.com Forums 101.” After working on the post for a while, I realized the original title implied the reader would learn some basics of the forums, something useful in learning how to use WordPress.com. It quickly became clear that was very presumptuous or misleading, or both.

Next I tried on the title “WordPress.com Forums v.0.1,” but from a geek viewpoint, that seemed to imply the post would be about the software used to run forums on WordPress.com (WP.com).Kathryns deck, May 26, 2016

As I sat on the deck of my sister’s house in Traverse City, Michigan, on an unseasonably warm 85 degree day in May, I mulled over what I wanted to address in this post, and what I realistically could talk about, based on the limited extent of my knowledge about the WP.com forums.

Today wasn’t my first visit to the WP.com forums. My first WP.com blog was launched in 2007 or earlier (can’t remember if I registered more than one WP.com account). But my previous visits to the forums had a different motivation. I was just looking for answers to specific questions regarding my websites.

There were many more reasons for today’s forums’ visit, as outlined below, the most important of which is that it’s part of my Journey to become an Automattic Events Wrangler.

Traverse City, both baysInitially, today’s visit felt like I was dipping my toes in Lake WPKnowledge, instead of using them to test the temperature of the slightly cold, deep blue waters of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. But dipping my toes in the forums won’t get me where I want to go — a newly hired Events Wrangler who is successfully navigating the challenging Automattic onboarding role of Happiness Engineer for three weeks. I realized I need to jump into the deep end and learn to swim.

That realization gave me my title — “WordPress.com Forums: Jumping Into The Deep End.”

This post isn’t intended to teach the reader how to find useful information in the WP.com forums. It probably won’t teach you anything particularly useful. What the post primarily does is begin the chronicling of My Adventures There And Back.

Why Be In WP.com Forums

So, without further ado, here are my primary reasons for spending time in the WP.com forums.

  1. Being knowledgeable about and active in the forums are an important part of becoming an Events Wrangler and doing well when I am in the role of a Happiness Engineer.
  2. I want to learn my way around the forums and start to understand their culture.
  3. Working to answer questions posted in the forums will help me become familiar with the best resources for finding helpful WP.com information.
  4. Knowing more about WP.com will enable me to improve the functionality or appearance of the “Events Wrangling” blog and other WP.com websites I create or maintain in the future.

Regarding my top priority in the above list, many posts which talk about the Automattic hiring process and the onboarding three weeks as a Happiness Engineer stress the value of and need for participating in the forums. Tish Briseno said:

“…My initial goal was to try and participate more in the WordPress.com forums. I wish I could say that I was super active there. I wasn’t. If I could go back, I would’ve definately [sic] done more in the forums. It’s great experience and helps prepare you if you make it far in the interview process….”

In his post which mentions the value of forum experience, Darnell Dibbles put it like this:

“…my friend David Cole told me about a position he was applying for called a Happiness Engineer. He was about to begin his trial contract with the company…I of course knew of WordPress, but had never heard of Automattic..I was so excited about the company that I applied immediately…I didn’t make it to the interview round…

David recommended me to spend time in the forums, so I went there to volunteer. What I found was a community of WordPress volunteers that were very passionate about the product and about serving people who used the product. I became addicted. I met other volunteers like Timethief who dedicated years to helping people out of the kindness of her heart.

Over a 4 month period, I volunteered in the forums about 5-10 hours a week. I learned more about WordPress in those 4 months than I had known in the last 5 years…”

Lastly, in the book about working at Automattic, “The Year Without Pants,” Matt Mullenweg told Scott Berkun he needed to become more dedicated to and skilled at Happiness Engineering, aka resolving tickets in WordPress.com customer support. In the meritocracy which is Automattic, Matt said Automatticians would develop expectations for Scott’s future performance based partly on how well he did resolving customer support tickets. Resolving those tickets is in many ways like answering questions in the WP.com forums.

Forum Baby Steps

So… today I spent a few hours in the forums. Mostly I poked around, starting to become familiar with the nooks and crannies of forums, learning just a smidge about how to find things of interest and observing how different people participate there.

I expect I’ll spend time lurking and becoming familiar with the world that is WP.com forums before I start interacting and trying to provide helpful answers to forum questions. After achieving my first milestone of feeling comfortable poking about in the different parts of the forums, my next two tasks will be (1) figuring out what the best resources are for answering forum questions, and (2) writing up answers to questions (but not post my answers) and comparing my answers to what others on the forum offer as answers.

When I get to the point that my answers seem likely to be helpful, I’ll start posting them and interacting with the WordPress user who posted the question and with other forum members. My first post will mark the spot where I jumped into the Deep End! 🙂

Today’s Forum Thread

Here’s one example of a forum thread I looked at today.

WP forum threadThe initial question from krsextonart was:

“…I just signed up for the free account on WordPress a few days ago and I’m trying to map my GoDaddy domain. When originally signing up, I saw that there was an option to add your own domain for $13 but I’m not seeing that option anymore. Do I have to sign up for premium at $99/year just to have my own outside domain?…”

After one well-intentioned but not-helpful suggestion from a forum member which gave a link to the support.wordpress.com official support page for domain mapping, krsextonart’s question was tagged for a WordPress.com staff member to assist. That staff member told krsextonart:

Domains are no longer available for purchase or mapping individually. They are included with WordPress.com Premium…”

Yikes!! Sounds like you can’t just buy a domain through Automattic anymore. I wonder what that will mean regarding the .blog domains I mentioned in a recent post. I don’t have to decide until October, but I doubt I’ll pay $99/year for domain registration unless I expect it to generate at least that much revenue for me.

Reading through the rest of the domain-mapping thread left me with questions and didn’t answer krsextonart’s questions about why the WP.com domain mapping process still says you can domain-map for $13 and why their friend was able to successfully domain-map for $13 in the previous week, but krsextonart could not do it on May 21, 2016. The staff person (Happiness Engineer?) didn’t answer those two questions, and they closed the topic to end that forum discussion.

I tried mapping a registered domain to a WordPress.com website and, similar to krsextonart, the ecommerce form that popped up said it would cost $13/yr to “Map this domain to use it as your site’s address.” I didn’t really want to map one of my registered domains to a WP.com website, so I didn’t try to carry the domain-mapping process all the way through, but it seems likely that I’d run into the same black hole that krsextonart found.WP domain mapping

Lesson Learned

I guess the lesson for me, when I’m doing the three weeks as a Happiness Engineer for new employee onboarding, or the annual week-long stint as a temporary Happiness Engineer, is to go through the same steps the user did and try to recreate the problem experienced by the user. Just because a Happiness Engineer has read that the domain-mapping policy has been changed so users can no longer do that for $13/yr doesn’t necessarily mean the ecommerce system was revised so it would no longer appear to offer that option to the user. If the Happiness Engineer had tried to simulate what the user did, it looks like they would have seen the $13/yr option, and would have followed up on the issue. And if the domain mapping policy was changed, it would be helpful to say what the date of the change was. Instead, it feels like the user was essentially told they were “wrong” and was left hanging, wondering why their friend was able to map a domain for $13/yr the previous week, and why they still see the $13/yr option in the ecommerce form on WordPress.com.

Who knows. The staff member could be a new employee in their first week as an Automattician. Wonder how many people I’ll leave unsatisfied with my answers during my three-week onboarding experience.

I’d better spend LOTS of time in the WP.com forums…


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