Meet a Forum Volunteer: Lorraine Murphy
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’ve interviewed forum volunteers Sergio Ortega (airodyssey), Mike Brough (auxclass), and Tess Warn (1tess). Today, we’re excited to introduce another prolific volunteer: Lorraine Murphy (raincoaster). We chatted with her about how she got involved in the forums, as well as her tips for getting and providing great support.
You’ve been blogging at raincoaster.com since 2006 and write for many other blogs. Tell us how you got started on the web, your blogging, and why you chose WordPress.com.
At the turn of the century, I was at home — unemployed — trying to build a freelance business writing and desktop publishing career, while struggling with an undiagnosed illness. I couldn’t go out much, yet wanted to socialize. I knew there were forums and a social life to be found online, so I went to find them. And boy, did I ever.
I joined actor Viggo Mortensen’s fan base, and six weeks later the other members pooled their funds to fly me out to New York to meet him. These women had no idea who I was, but they wanted me to have that experience, which I couldn’t afford. I couldn’t help but be moved by that. Suddenly, it seemed to me that yes, the world may be full of strangers, but no, not all of them are hostile. Getting online changed my worldview.
I delved deeper into the online life, learning how to use a blog as practice for my writing career. I realized everything I owned had come to me thanks to my engagement online, and if the web could do that for me, I could do that for other people.
I launched my business raincoaster media, using transformative social media to bring about positive change in individuals and organizations. One of my students, a man who has lived at homeless shelters for 17 years and uses his blog as a portfolio for his poetry, was recently published in Geist, Canada’s premier literary magazine. Another, April Smith of AHAMedia.ca, has started a media business in Vancouver. She’s been profiled on the BBC three times, and is more famous than I’ll ever be. That’s how you know you’ve really empowered your students — when they surpass you.
I came to WordPress.com after I lost 400,000 words on my first blog, when the Diary-X service went down with no backups. I searched for the most secure, turnkey system I could find; everyone I trusted suggested WordPress, and WordPress.com in particular — they knew I didn’t want to get “under the hood” and tinker.
I got my first big break from Manolo, a famous shoe blogger and hilarious fashion writer at Shoeblogs.com. I started writing for his parenting blog years ago, and I still make fun of celebrities on Ayyyy.com and occasionally blog at Manolofood.com.
I’m also writing for the DailyDot.com, focusing on Anonymous, WikiLeaks, and hacktivism in general. I love shining a light on people working to make the world a better place. It’s important to keep writing and raising awareness.
What’s the story behind the “raincoaster” nickname and the “49 degrees latitude, 360 degrees attitude” motto?
Until recently, I lived on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, pretty much the roughest place in Canada: the average life expectancy is 42 years and change. It rains all the time there — it’s a very noir place — and raincoaster just came to me one day. It also makes a nice nickname for someone named Lorraine. As for my motto? I’m a smartass, and I love poetry and puns, so it sort of came to me one day. It fits.
How did you first get involved in WordPress.com forums?
I was confused about the difference between WordPress.com and .org, between the forum and the support docs, and between staff (Happiness Engineers) and volunteers. I thought I could do a solid job volunteering in the forums and explaining the features of WordPress.com to users. Volunteers Timethief and Doctor Mike were kind enough to guide me back to the shallows when I got in over my depth, but very soon I found that I could answer people’s questions.
You’ve posted over 60,000 replies in the WordPress.com forums since 2006. Thank you for your support! What types of questions do you like helping users with, and what do you find the most rewarding about contributing?
I like answering someone’s first question the most. People are often shocked by how fast they get an answer, how clear it is, and how they can put the solution to work right away; they’re very grateful, and it’s wonderful to see. The next best thing is when people who’ve asked questions in the past come to the forums and start answering questions themselves.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your volunteer experience in the forums?
Meaningful, strong relationships can be forged over mundane, repetitive questions about domain mapping. Really, my forum experience at WordPress.com shows that humans are, even in the midst of technology, fundamentally human.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved in the forums?
READ. Read everything. Once you think you know everything, go to the forums every day and scroll down the thread titles. If one issue stands out as having too many replies, or is a topic you don’t know the answer to, read it. Once you can scroll down an entire page and know all the answers without opening the threads, you can start answering things.
Thank you, Lorraine, 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.