Meet a Forum Volunteer: Sergio Ortega
If you ever had a question about WordPress.com, chances are you’ve visited our Community Support Forums. Forums are a great place to search for solutions and get answers to your questions. One cool thing about the forums is that while Happiness Engineers help out there, WordPress.com enthusiasts — people who have a strong interest in WordPress.com and helping other people — provide the majority of answers.
Sergio Ortega (airodyssey) is a prolific forum contributor. We asked him a bit about himself, how he got involved in the forums, and his tips for getting and providing great support.
You’ve been blogging about your passion — aviation — since 1998, and moved your website to WordPress.com in 2010. Tell us about your site and how you decided to move to WordPress.com.
I had always wanted to write about aviation and share my passion with the world, but could not find a way to do it until I discovered the World Wide Web in the mid-1990s. At first, the website was simply called Sergio Ortega’s Hangar and was structured more or less like a magazine with feature articles, except that it was online. A few months later, I renamed it airOdyssey, and airodyssey.net in 2001. Some features, such as the quizzes, have been there from the very beginning. Others, such as the monthly Guess The Airline challenge, have been suggested by visitors. I actually made a few friends through the site over the years! I moved to WordPress.com in 2010 primarily for financial reasons. Domain mapping through WordPress.com costs me a fraction of what I used to pay for hosting alone. Then I discovered how easy it was to use and what a nice community it has. Sure, I had to give up a few comforts, such as placing advertisements and running my own scripts, but it was worth it.
You started contributing to the Community Support Forums about two years ago, about the same time that you joined WordPress.com. How did you get involved, and what made you stay?
I discovered the forums a couple of months after joining and realized that it was made of users like me. At the time, I watched a few regular volunteers (timethief, thesacredpath, justpi, auxclass, raincoaster, to name a few) and noticed that hey, I could do that too. After all, in my previous jobs, I’ve often been a “go-to person” for technical questions because I like to read support documents. And that’s exactly what I did prior to transferring my site to WordPress.com. So, with what I had learned so far, I started answering easy questions, then moved on to more challenging ones. I continued because of the friendly atmosphere among fellow volunteers and because I felt that what I was doing made a difference.
In the past two years, you’ve posted over 15,000 replies in four languages: English, French, Spanish, and German. That’s pretty impressive! How do you keep up with the different forums, and where do you like to hang out most?
Over 15,000 replies? Really? Wow. I used to post only on the English forums. Nowadays, I spend most of my time in the French forum, where I’m the only moderator, followed by the Spanish one, where I share moderating duties with another user (galois). I peruse the German forum every blue moon in order to not get too rusty with that language. Unfortunately, my life is pretty busy nowadays, so I don’t have much time for the English forums anymore.
What kind of questions do you like helping users with, and what do you find the most rewarding about contributing to the forums?
I like answering questions that involve more research than usual. In other words, cases where the user appears to have done all of their homework (has read the support documents, searched previous threads, etc.). What I find the most rewarding is to feel useful and to get compliments about my level of knowledge. If only they knew that I was a beginner too before. . . . I also learned tons of things by answering questions and by reading answers from other volunteers. That kind of knowledge personally helped me build my website.
What’s the one thing you wish users knew before they posted to the forums?
The difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved with the support forums?
Don’t be afraid to answer a question for which you know the answer. Just because there is a set of regular volunteers doesn’t mean you can’t pop in and help too! But if you don’t know the answer or if you’re not sure, you might want to wait and see how a more experienced volunteer answers the question later on. Then you’ll know what to say if that question comes up next time. This way, you’ll also avoid misleading or confusing anyone and you’ll earn the respect of your fellow volunteers.
Thank you, Sergio, for everything you’ve been doing for the WordPress.com community and for the time you took to answer our questions.
Remember, forums are there for the community — this means you. If you have a question, search the forums to find the answer. If you’re knowledgeable about WordPress.com, find an unreplied thread — maybe you’ll be able to help a fellow user.