Meet a Forum Volunteer: Mike Brough
If you’ve 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. While our Happiness Engineers help out in these forums, WordPress.com enthusiasts — people who are passionate about WordPress.com and helping fellow users — provide the majority of answers.
Last month, we interviewed forum volunteer Sergio Ortega (airodyssey). Today, we’re excited to introduce another prolific volunteer: Mike Brough (auxclass, also known as captnmike). We asked him a bit about himself, how he got involved in the forums, and his tips for getting and providing great support.
My site about boating safety tips, captnmike.com, dates back to August 2008, when the previous owner did not renew the domain name. (Editor’s note: we strongly urge our users to renew their domains in a timely fashion, because once they expire, it can be difficult to regain use of them!) I bought the domain name on a whim, not knowing what I was going to do with it, but it was too good to pass up. I created a very basic HTML site and installed WordPress software because it came free with the hosting account. At the time, I had no idea what a blog was, and I knew nothing about WordPress.
I put some content onto my WordPress install, but only started adding things seriously after I saw that my new post was crawled by Google in just two-and-a-half hours after being published, while a new HTML article hadn’t been crawled in three days. In October 2010, I moved my entire site to WordPress.com and mapped the captnmike.com domain name.
The biggest reason for the move was that on WordPress.com, all the “under the hood” stuff was taken care of. It was a lot easier, and I saved some money, even with the upgrades and keeping my email with my old host. I also like WordPress.com because of its many free features, support forums, solid hosting, ability to handle more traffic, and because I can use it for a site, not just a blog.
How did you first get involved in the WordPress.com forums?
I helped in the WordPress.org forums before moving here (see the modest 600 or so assists from Saildude), so I kept helping, just in a different forum. I used the WordPress.com forums to figure out how to do a few things when I first moved my blog. I found that most of the questions had been asked and answered before, so I learned a lot by reading the previously posted threads. I was able to find answers simply by reading, which was quicker than posting my own question. So I started helping, with no real big plan.
You’ve posted over 12,000 replies in the WordPress.com forums since 2010. We thank you for your awesome support! What kinds of questions do you like answering, and what do you find the most rewarding about contributing to the forums?
Recently, I’ve been answering mostly domain mapping and renewal questions. Many of these questions require some research to figure out what the real problem is: for example, doing a whois lookup to see the domain name’s status, or reviewing the Domain Helper to check on mapping.
What’s been the most rewarding? Finding the two words in a question that everyone else misses and providing a helpful answer. Or deciphering a confusing question and reading between the lines to provide the right answer, even when the person asking the question isn’t sure what help they need.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from volunteering in the forums?
I’ve been doing field service work and engineering support jobs for most of my life, so I’ve already learned to do research when required and to not reply to a question if I don’t have the answer.
In many of the jobs I’ve had, human error could have led to serious injury, so I’ve had lifelong experience in being extra careful about my work. In comparison, messing up the look of a blog is not much pressure, but I still understand the importance of being knowledgable before tackling an issue.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved in the support forums?
Read the forums for a while to see how they work. Give complete and accurate answers. Links to the proper support documents help.
If you don’t have the answer, consider not replying and instead seeing how another community member handles the issue. You can learn a lot from reading past threads.
Thank you, Mike, for your WordPress.com community support and for taking the time 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.