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.
May 8th at 4:32 pm
60 000 answers?! She is a saint! Thank you Lorraine.
May 8th at 5:40 pm
I loved meeting the person behind raincoaster – a moniker I’ve often noticed in the forums – was fun to know I share a raincoast – and to read about Lorraine’s “changed worldview” from being on line. Thank you Lorraine for sharing knowledge – and to Jenia!
May 8th at 6:40 pm
Lorraine : A.K.A. ” Raincoaster”,
You are and have been the BEST!!! You have been a tremendous blessing to me when other people would not answer my questions. As a traumatic brain injury survivor, I learn through your style of teaching. Patience and kindness. Thank you for being there for me and my blog, Second Chance to Live in the past 75 months — since I started my blog in February 2007.
Your kindness has undoubtedly helped people keep going — like myself — when giving up on blogging would have otherwise been an option. Thank you for what you have shared — above — with the WordPress community. I appreciate what you have shared with the WordPress community above Lorraine. I like your “Raincoaster” screen name. Very creative and descrip.
Thank you again for your time, kindness and willingness to be available to be of service. You have been a saving grace to me!
Have a great day my friend.
Godspeed to you!!!
May 8th at 7:13 pm
So nice to finally see your picture, Lorraine/Raincoaster. You’ve been such good help over the past 7 years.
May 8th at 7:52 pm
Lorraine’s wonderful story re-Viggo-rates the infinite possibilities that arise when we are “social” with our social media. Thank you for an inspiring, energizing post, Jenia!
May 8th at 8:06 pm
Thanks for all you do, raincoaster.
May 8th at 8:44 pm
Raincoaster is great! That is all! :))
May 8th at 9:12 pm
Instead of frustrating my daughter with endless questions, Lorraine’s easy going attitude via this interview will give me the courage to ask a question on WordPress!
My daughter will be thrilled that I am shifting to another source of HELP!
The fact that we are both Canadians has helped demistify the technical geniuses of WordPress…and BC residents too.
May 8th at 9:17 pm
Thank you for bringing my attention to the community forum. I didn’t know that such as service existed. I am new to blogging and new to WordPress.com. It’s good to know that we have such dedicated souls working hard in our behalf.
May 8th at 10:02 pm
Raincoaster rocks! That’s coming from another forum volunteer who has benefited from serving along side of her in the support forums and learning so much from her. We WordPress.com bloggers are fortunate that she chooses to help others in the support forums where I learn something new each and every day.
I recall my first visit to here blog and how my heart soared when I saw the weather pixie in the sidebar and read her tagline. I recognized we were both Canucks and both living on Canada’s west coast. Woo hoo! Gulf Islanders top the scale when it comes to eccentric Canadians and Lorraine is Gulf Island material so since that day over 7 years ago now I have been scheming up ways to get her to move to the islands.
Lorraine was social networking long before the term existed. She says: “Really, my forum experience at WordPress.com shows that humans are, even in the midst of technology, fundamentally human.” Well, that’s my experience too.
Truth be told, Lorraine and Lorelle are at the top of the list of WordPress.com bloggers I would love to meet in person one day but traveling presents a challenge for me so that may never happen.
May 8th at 10:36 pm
I’m really not nearly as sweet as this makes me appear: just read my blog to see! But thank you all for the nice comments and thank you Jenia for the interview!
May 8th at 10:57 pm
Thank you, Lorraine.
May 8th at 11:31 pm
Great post, Jenia! Nice to meet you, Lorraine!
May 9th at 2:01 am
Raincoaster/Lorraine, so nice to get to know you better!
May 9th at 4:51 am
Way to go, Lorraine!
May 9th at 6:24 am
wow, I just noticed these great interviews of forum volunteers! ALL of them and more (you too, timethief!) have helped me so much since I started my blog, I am really excited to see some of them recognized here, and to read more about the people behind those blogsaving forum posts! Thank you Raincoaster!!!! And no, I don’t necessarily think of you as ‘sweet’, but honest direct helpful and straightforward come to mind! I really enjoyed reading this interview, Thanks, Jenia!
May 9th at 8:26 am
I really enjoyed reading about you. Thank you.
May 9th at 1:24 pm
Great to get to know you a bit, Lorraine – I appreciate everything you do in the forums, so a big thank you to you from this Happiness Engineer!
May 9th at 9:41 pm
Hi Raincoaster. It’s good to hear that you are from Vancouver. I will be checking on the few links you’ve posted to get to know one of my neighbours. Glad to have met you on WordPress. (I wouldn’t know you should I bump into you downtown!)
May 17th at 4:21 am
Thanks for posting. Knowledge sharing is priceless! Definitely understand the importance of volunteering as well, I’m sure you are a great asset to the WordPress team! Cheers!
May 21st at 3:06 am
I am just across on Vancouver Island and elected to move from Google Blog to WordPress as I felt it had more abilities and was open to writing. My interest level is to play around with writing about our cruises and items of the Alaska cruise season as it support Victoria including any world information one comes across. My retirement hobby now/
Cheers / Rob