Meet a Forum Volunteer: Tess Warn
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.
We have previously interviewed forum volunteers Sergio Ortega (airodyssey) and Mike Brough (auxclass). Today, we’re excited to introduce another prolific volunteer: Tess Warn (1tess). We asked her a bit about herself, how she got involved in the forums, and her tips for getting and providing great support.
You’ve been blogging at Tess’s Japanese Kitchen since 2007. Tell us about your blog, how you got started, and why you chose WordPress.com.
My blogging hobby began in a forum connected to Taunton Press’ Fine Cooking magazine. Here is a secret: people who cook collect cookbooks, but most of us don’t use them for the recipes. Cookbooks are beautiful pictures illustrating the possibility of perfection; others bring insights into world cultures, history, language, and psychology; and reading them evokes fantasies and memories about sharing food and love. That “Cooks Talk” forum discussion evolved into a proposal for a year-long project to prepare and post about every recipe from one cookbook. I’d recently purchased Hiroko Shimbo’s The Japanese Kitchen so I began posting about my cooking adventures. Since childhood I’ve admired haiku, ukiyo-e, origami, and all arts Japanese.
As for the reason I chose WordPress as a blogging platform, it was a matter of chance. I googled “blogging” and a few sites came up. At the time, my internet connection was slow, and the one that came up quickest was WordPress. My daughter used LiveJournal, and I’d read lots of blogs on Blogger, but WordPress looked welcoming, professional, yet fun with lots of possibilities even back in 2007. I really appreciated that there was an active support forum.
How did you first get involved with the WordPress.com support forums?
I was a complete newbie when I started blogging, so I loved having the support forum and documents to browse. My earliest forum posts were very basic questions. All the “big girls and boys” there had such useful advice. There was a friendly tone I sensed as I read through older forum topics. Another forum volunteer, thesacredpath, very kindly reassured me (and many others) there are no “stupid” questions: everyone was a beginner once. Those regular volunteers were so helpful that when I was finally able to answer a question I was thrilled to “give back” some of the benefits of experience I’d enjoyed.
You’ve posted over 12,000 replies in the forums since 2008. 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?
I like best to help people with solving a puzzle: formatting an HTML table, aligning a picture to text, adding an image or color to the background on a blog, centering a title or forcing (or preventing) a line break in a title, and answering questions about the many latest themes introduced on WordPress.com in the past few months. While I don’t always have time to experiment with every new theme, I enjoy checking them out. And it’s great that so many other volunteers step in to explain the various features: I always learn so much from them.
Most of my forum questions tend to be the easy kind, which have been asked many times. The Learn WordPress.com guide has been very useful for folks who are just beginning. As a volunteer moderator, I also help with behind-the-scenes tasks, like monitoring forum spam reports.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from volunteering in the forums?
While looking at forum questions I (almost) always look at the blog the person is asking about. It is amazing to see the variety of topics on this platform. Sometimes I forget the question the forum poster needed help with and just continue reading their blog!
I enjoy the friends I have met through the forums and have thought about why I continue to help there. Volunteering with and working for a local not-for-profit company in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for the past 25 years has made me appreciate the old saying “what goes around, comes around.” Caring volunteers can and do provide value to an organization, but each one is paid back with satisfaction in a job well done, continuing learning experiences, and even friendships. Perhaps, while WordPress.com is a commercial operation meant to be profitable, the altruism provided by us volunteers is a form of personal gratification, an intrinsic reward for the advice we share.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved with the support forums?
If you want to volunteer in the WordPress.com support forums, be friendly and be helpful. Set up a private test blog so you can experiment: often, the answer depends on the theme the original poster is using.
Take a look at any relevant links the original poster provided and their forum profile, in case their other posts contain further clues. If you don’t have a definite answer, subscribe to the forum thread to learn from the subsequent discussion, so you know the answer and can help someone next time. I also recommend searching the support documents and previous forum threads to see if a question has been answered before.
Link to relevant support documents (you can also link to a specific section or a screenshot) because they allow the person wanting help to study details. And remember that as a forum user, you can link to the forum tags: lots of the same questions have been answered many times before. If you have an opinion, or are making a guess about a question, be sure to say so.
Thank you, Tess, 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.