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For amusement only…

http://wpbtips.wordpress.com/

Some time ago WP imposed a perverse 30-minute block on volunteers in the forum, [see Update at end of post] so that staff could answer questions first. They claimed they were “considering focusing more staff support on the forums”. Hasn’t happened (in fact, staff presence in the forum has decreased now that they’re busy dealing with the Live Space users Microsoft dumped to WP); but the block has stayed – only made more sneaky (new threads don’t show up at all till the 30 minutes have passed).

When some of us complained, we got yet another inimitable response by Matt (owner of WP):

“I think you guys value less what you can’t see, which is the vast quantity of issues that are brought up and resolved through the ticket system.” “The truth is people get better help in tickets than they do in the forums right now.”

Matt could have remembered that staff can easily find out things we volunteers cannot, as they have access to users’ dashboards; he could also have remembered that in the forums you generally get a reply a lot faster (tickets are usually answered after a day or two, while questions in the forums are usually answered within hours if not minutes). He should also learn to tell his apples from his oranges: forum means public peer-to-peer discussion, by bloggers who learn from one another and try to help each other if and when they can, just because and as long as they enjoy it; the ticket system means private answers to customer inquiries, by full-time employees who are obliged to do the job they’re paid for. Two different things, not two similar services you can compare.

Irrelevant and unfair arguments seem to be a habit with Matt when he tries to defend unreasonable decisions. So I thought I’d return the compliment and post some examples to show that staff don’t always perform better than volunteers. I hope my dear fellow volunteers and my dear readers will excuse me for two things: a) this small collection is limited to cases where a staff response was actually wrong or inadequate; experienced volunteers like 1tess or thesacredpath or timethief often also give detailed and illuminating replies of the sort that staff usually doesn’t have the time or the patience to write, but these are too numerous to record (two examples out of countless ones here and here); b) there’s a heavy slant towards cases that involve yours truly: of course I’m not the only one who can occasionally correct a staff response, but I cannot possibly keep track of all threads and replies; links to other such cases welcome.

• Forum thread Apr 7, 2010

User wants to know if it’s possible to move comments over to a different page.

Staff member says: “Comments cannot be moved from one post or page to another.”

Wrong. Comments can be moved from one post or page to another, only it has to be done manually. You copy the comments and the commenters’ data (nick, mail, etc.), log out, submit them yourself as new comments, log in, edit the comments to restore original date and data.

• Forum thread Apr 8, 2010

User wants to know how to link out of wordpress on the navigation bar.

Staff member says: “You can’t add a link to the top navigation area”.

That was before the introduction of custom header menus. Still, you could add such links:
http://wpbtips.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/page-tabs-as-external-links/

• Forum thread Apr 23, 2010

User asks about number of tags and categories per post.

Staff member says: “If you would like to appear in the global tags pages at http://wordpress.com/tags/ then you should stick to 10-12 combined categories and tags.”

That circulates a lot in the forum, but it’s not true.
“The more tags you use, the less likely it is that your post will be selected for inclusion in the global tag listings.” (Support doc)
There is no hard limit. You can use as many tags as you’d like. Somewhere around 10 is a fair number, but that’s just a suggestion. The more tags you use, the less relevant it is to each of them, and thus less likely to appear on some of those tag pages.” (tellyworth)

• Forum thread Jul 24, 2010

User wants to know if there’s any way to insert several full-size images at once.

Staff member says: “Sorry, inserting multiple full-size images all at once is not possible. Each one has to be inserted individually.”

Wrong. You upload all the images at once, then switch the editor to HTML and write:
[gallery columns=”1″ size=”full”]

• Forum thread Aug 8, 2010

User wants to know how to customize the footer in Twenty Ten (remove the WP icon and change the text).

Head of WP Support says: “I’m sorry but the footer text cannot be altered. I would suggest using a text widget at the bottom of your other widgets.”

Wrong. Volunteer provides the CSS you need to do what staff says cannot be done.

• Forum thread Aug 10, 2010

User complains about his posts being out of order, pointing to specific examples.

Staff member fails to see them, confuses the user’s 2010 example with a 2009 post, and suggests: “You might check the timestamp in wordpress or on your computer as it might think your still in the last decade.”

And fails to think of the obvious: messed up order is always the result of multiple stickies. (This was a plague when the sticky option was more prominent: many inexperienced users misunderstood what “Stick this post to the front page” meant and erroneously marked all their posts as stickies; and this was the reason why WP has buried the option where it currently is.)

• Forum thread Aug 11, 2010

User has a problem with a table in Coraline, as well as with the CSS selector for the blog title.

Ex staff member gives wrong suggestions, accompanied by “I’m not sure what you can do here”, “you[r] best bet would be”, “or maybe”…

Volunteer explains what’s wrong with the table and provides the correct solutions.

• Forum thread Aug 17, 2010

User is trying out CSS but cannot find how to change the color of post titles.

Staff member is too busy to check the CSS of the theme and throws this:
“It will depend on the page’s html markup. For example, if the page was using h2 for titles, then you could use something like this:
h2 { color: blue; }
You need to check your theme to see what markup is used for the titles and make sure to match it in the CSS.”

Thanks a lot… Volunteer provides the right code for the theme in question.

• Forum thread Aug 17, 2010

User wants to know what themes have dropdowns in the top nav menu.

Staff member gives link to Support doc on custom menus, and relevant list of themes.

Both correct. But there are also themes that feature dropdowns in their standard menu if you create child pages:
http://wpbtips.wordpress.com/2009/03/24/parent-page-links-to-child/

• Forum thread Sep 2, 2010

User wants to know if category pages in Twenty Ten can include images (even just a thumbnail).

Staff member says: “There isn’t a way to change whether images show up in category pages in Twenty Ten on WordPress.com”.

Wrong. Possible if you use custom Excerpts.

Then staff member says “there are other themes that will show the images”, and suggests a mere five.

Actually the themes that display images by default on category pages are more than 60 were more than 60 at the time this was written, most of the rest can be made to display images if you use custom excerpts, plus Bueno and Modularity Lite display thumbnails on category pages if you set “featured images” to your posts.

• Forum threads Sep 18, 2010 and Dec 22, 2010

Users want to know if you can insert a flash movie and a countdown widget, respectively.

Staff members say that flash embed code will not work on a WordPress.com blog, and link to Support docs on allowed HTML tags and accepted upload file types.

As usually, the shortcode that does the job is ignored:
http://wpbtips.wordpress.com/category/gigya/
Second query was about this very widget:
http://wpbtips.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/widgets-for-wpcom-8-countdown-timers/3/

• Forum thread Sep 19, 2010

User wants to know how to add a copyright notice into the footer.

Staff member suggests using a text widget after selecting a theme with footer widget areas, otherwise adding the notice to the bottom of the sidebar.

Volunteer gives the CSS solution for the actual question and the theme in question.

• Forum thread Oct 1, 2010

User complains about not being able to display a set of photos in a post, with a slideshow displaying only some of them.

Staff member says: “Currently the slideshow will only display all photos attached to a post. If you’d like to exclude certain photos you may be interested in using the gallery feature instead.”

The second part of the response is irrelevant: a gallery isn’t an alternative to a slideshow. The first part is the clue to one of the solutions, but staff member couldn’t pause to think: you upload the slideshow images via the Add an Image button of the post editor, you upload the rest via Media > Add New and use their URLs to insert them in the post. Alternative solution: 3rd-party slideshow.

• Forum thread Oct 1, 2010

User complains that in one browser the WP audio player won’t play an mp3 uploaded to Altervista.

Staff (in Support tickets) first claim that the flash player won’t play copyrighted material, then they claim that in some browsers the flash player will only load content hosted in the same place as the Flash embed itself.

Two contradictory replies, both wrong, both disregarding pieces of info already provided: that the mp3 wouldn’t work in one browser but would work in another one, that the same mp3 would work with the flash player in MySpace, that the same mp3 would work when uploaded to Fileden instead of Altervista.

• Forum thread Oct 13, 2010

User cannot change the tagline in his Depo Masthead blog: Settings > General > Tagline > Save Changes doesn’t work.

Staff member claims he “just checked and it works perfectly fine”, and suggests clearing browser cache and cookies.

Obviously he didn’t bother to check after switching to Depo Masthead first. This theme doesn’t display the standard tagline: you need to go to Appearance > Theme Options and change the “Author Box Text”.

• Forum thread Nov 16, 2010

User complains that his Modularity Lite slideshow doesn’t work.

Staff (in Support ticket) don’t bother to check user’s blog, give a generalized response re the WordPress slideshow.

Volunteer solves problem.

• Forum thread Nov 30, 2010

User complains about wrong gallery thumbnails in Modularity Lite.

Staff (in Support ticket) don’t understand what the problem is.

Volunteer does…

• Forum threads Dec 29, 2010 and Dec 31, 2010

Users want to know how to add swf audio files uploaded to Box.net and videos from Gloria.tv, respectively.

Staff member gives the usual wrong reply re both.

Volunteers run to the rescue…

• Forum thread Dec 30, 2010

User has lost some text widgets.

Staff member apologizes for the inconvenience, and incredibly claims there’s no way to restore the widgets although user has linked to a cached version of the page, with all the widgets there.

• Forum thread Jan 11, 2011

User wants his category pages to display pictures.

Staff member claims they can’t (unless you change theme), ignoring the Excerpt function.

• Forum threads Jan 11, 2011 and Apr 2, 2011

Users want to know if and how they can insert Issuu docs, Prezi presentations, and Yellowbird interactive videos.

As usual, staff member claims they cannot.

Yeah right:
http://wpbtips.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/inserting-issuu-docs/
http://wpbtips.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/inserting-prezi-docs/
http://panosdemos.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/yellowbird-interactive-video/

• Forum thread Jan 18-19, 2011

User doesn’t understand how the read-more tag in Inuit Types works.

Staff member (in Support ticket) doesn’t either.

• Forum thread May 26, 2011

User wants to know if a series of Youtube videos can be played in sequence.

Staff member claims Youtube doesn’t support this.

Apparently staff member doesn’t know what a playlist is.
http://wpbtips.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/inserting-a-series-of-youtube-videos/

• Forum thread Jun 1, 2011

Staff member claims you can’t remove page titles unless you buy the CSS upgrade.

Volunteer has a different opinion.

• Forum thread Jun 1, 2011

User wants to embed a google form.

Staff member (in Support ticket) says you cannot because iframes are removed, ignoring this:
http://en.support.wordpress.com/google-docs/

• Forum thread Jun 4, 2011

User wants to delete page tab from custom menu.

Staff member suggests deleting it “from the Pages section of your blog’s Dashboard.”

Wrong. Deleting the actual page will delete the corresponding tab from the regular menu of a theme, not from a custom menu; to remove a tab from a custom menu, you need to edit the menu in Appearance>Menus.

• Forum thread Jun 15, 2011

User complains about wrong image size on attachment pages.

Staff member gives an absurd reply.

Volunteer has to tell her twice before she realizes what the problem is.

• Forum thread Aug 18, 2011

User wants to place a logo beside the blog title in Titan.

Staff member replies: “to answer your question, you probably only have the option to *replace* your text with your logo, not to include both.”

Does that answer the question in any way? Volunteer explains that Titan doesn’t natively support a header image, and suggests a workaround. Other volunteer gives the CSS solution to the user’s problem, blowing staff’s “probably” away.

• Forum thread Sep 6, 2011

User complains about a flaw in Blogum: comments show up below the sidebar instead of directly below the post.

Theme Wrangler tries to explain away the issue by claiming it’s intentional: Blogum has a relatively narrow main column, so threaded comments more than a few levels deep wouldn’t fit if directly below the post, she says.

Volunteer explains that the claim doesn’t hold water, as more than half of the available themes have a narrower main column than Blogum, yet in all of them the comments appear where they should.

• Forum thread Nov 9, 2011

User has a problem with the sidebar. Staff member fumbles.

Volunteer bothers to check the actual content of the user’s widgets, gives definitive answer.

• Forum thread Nov 13, 2011

User wants no page titles in the header area of The Morning After.

Staff member replies: “There does not seem to be a way to hide the page titles on static pages. I’ve been able to verify this issue and have submitted a ticket to the themes department.”

Three blunders in two lines of text: staff considers this an issue while it’s not (when you publish a page its title is supposed to show), doesn’t seem to understand how The Morning After works, doesn’t seem to know how you can use a sustom menu to achieve what the user wants.

• Forum thread Nov 28, 2011

Hard-to-please user doesn’t seem to like any theme; among other things, user says: “Duotone has to be one of the most distracting and clumsy-looking themes ever devised for art / photography. I am particularly repelled by the idea of a theme that changes colours based upon the photographs.”

Staff member suggests Monotone as an alternative “that doesn’t change colors to match the photos” (while this chameleon behavior is precisely the one of the two distinguishing features of both Duotone and Monotone). And when corrected, staff member tries to say he didn’t say what he said.

• Forum thread Nov 30, 2011

User complains that his thumbnails suddenly blew up to full-size images.

Staff member incorrectly tries to correct the user on how to add images, ignoring the avalanche of similar complaints from other users: WP had messed things up trying to fix a bug.

• Forum threads Nov 29, 2011 and Oct 23 / Nov 30, 2011

Two different users complain about disappearing links.

Two different staff members fail to think of the most likely cause: curly instead of straight quotation marks. In the second case you didn’t even have to guess, you could see the issue, as the user had provided an example.

Update May 2011: 30-minute block finally removed…

… and replaced by another strange idea: the new Staff Questions section of the forum (public answers to privately sent Support tickets). Posting in those threads is “limited to staff members and the user who made the support request at the moment”.

Note: the post does not and will not include staff replies from that section of the forum; I’m sure I would find many wrong or inadequate replies there, but I don’t enter that ghetto.

http://wpbtips.wordpress.com/

Discussion

22 thoughts on “For amusement only…

  1. Interesting
    (I remember some of those answers enlightened me…)

    Posted by Tess | October 2, 2010, 20:29
  2. First I heard about this 30-minute block on answering questions on the forum. What unbelievable bullshi*t. How they think staff can give better answers than you guys who have been doing this for years is beyond me.

    Posted by Dave Bonta | October 2, 2010, 23:30
  3. @Tess: And I remember the correct answer to the first example was the result of an accident between our avatars here!

    @Dave: To be fair, the specimens I’ve gathered are isolated cases. Staff responses are usually ok. But often they’re rather cursory – good volunteers tend to care more.

    The block is a different story: unbelievable, as you said. Originally each new thread was accompanied by the notice “post under review by staff”, and you couldn’t post until after staff had replied or until 30 minutes had passed. The current “improved” version is that all new threads are invisible for 30 minutes unless answered by staff.

    Posted by Panos | October 3, 2010, 02:32
  4. My responses listed above are all regarding CSS which, in their defence, is stated as being unsupported by staff. However, you’re right, if you can’t help then there isn’t too much point replying to a question in the forum.

    A little bit of additional information: it should be possible for everyone (although I haven’t checked every single theme) to repurpose a text widget for the regular footer if you have the CSS upgrade. It isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely not impossible and that’s exactly why the forums exist!

    Posted by Luke Hall | November 25, 2010, 05:04
  5. Hi Luke! Yes, if they say there’s no staff support for CSS, then they should refrain from answering CSS questions. In addition, you would at least expect that the head of WP Support would know what he’s talking about (to me the case with Mark and you is the gem of this collection). And anyway the whole point is that when there are volunteers who can and do give better advice than staff, then Matt’s remark is unfair and insulting, and so is the absurdity of the 30-minute block.

    Posted by Panos | November 25, 2010, 16:02
  6. I certainly don’t feel qualified to respond to any of the technical aspects of your post, but I owe everything I know about customizing my blog to the help I’ve received on the WP forums and to the outside references I got from folks on the forums. You all are owed an enormous THANK YOU. More power to you all!

    Posted by IzaakMak | November 25, 2010, 23:10
  7. Thanks IzaakMak! Same with me: I learned much from the forum, and I kept learning because of my involvement in it. WP actually advertises the forum as one of their pluses, so you’d think they’d also have something nice to say about the volunteers instead of trying their best to piss us off every now and then. (Oh, but I forget: whenever they want us to help them with something, they suddenly become very polite…)

    Posted by Panos | November 26, 2010, 02:15
  8. Hi Panos.

    Thanks for offering to help with my spam question from the forums.

    Here’s the WP forum link to jog your memory on the question:

    http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/is-this-spam-attempt-two?replies=2

    And here are the links for what might be spam:

    [Links removed – P.]

    BTW: My blog has been up for just under a week, so it was more than a little surprising to see someone linking to my stuff already.

    Posted by Lou Tafisk | June 25, 2011, 23:40
  9. Hi,

    I replied in the forum a little while ago. It’s just a scrape site, reposting whatever content their bot finds (probably based on searching for certain tags).

    Posted by Panos | June 26, 2011, 01:49
  10. Wow! A lot to digest here. Took me a while to figure out how to post to Forum and then going back for the answers. Since I can’t get help from Support staff very readily, I just do without, or ask my hubby for help even though he has no clue about WordPress. Luckily I’ve gotten help from blogging buddies. But it’s good to know there’s someone like you who might help a 61-year-old like me who is passionate about writing, but often clueless about the intricacies of WordPress.

    By the way…how can I get a copyright onto my blog? I like the one English Thoughts has because it’s not heavy-handed like others I’ve seen. I know it may not do a lot of good, but it might be a helpful deterrent. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with others.

    Posted by hugmamma | July 11, 2011, 22:04
  11. If you like Isabelle’s copyright notice, you go here:

    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/

    Choose the license that best suits you, click “Use.. etc”, copy the code, then go to Appearance>Widgets in your blog’s dashboard and paste the code into a Text widget.

    Posted by Panos | July 13, 2011, 11:44
  12. Panos, apologies, but I wasn’t sure where to post a new question, so I put it here. I got an email that seems to be regarding WordPress from m1brambill​a@aol.com, and the body of the email is just a link:

    http://dirtydozen.id.au/wp-content/plugins/fckeditor-for-wordpress-plugin/xxldp.htm

    What is that?

    Posted by djeddieo | September 18, 2011, 23:01
  13. I don’t know how you got the mail, but it’s just spam for Viagra etc. Nuke it!

    Posted by Panos | September 19, 2011, 01:20
  14. Here I am again checking my avatar as you suggested!

    Posted by Julia Matcham | November 26, 2011, 20:44
  15. Hi, username link works fine (so just a temporary glitch in the forum).

    Posted by Panos | November 26, 2011, 20:56
  16. And I just saw your latest post in the Carousel thread: it’s the username we’re interested in, not the avatar.

    Posted by Panos | November 26, 2011, 21:04
  17. So does that mean I just leave it? I am perplexed! I don’t understand how you know the username works fine…has it changed in the last few minutes? Yes and of course I thought the avatar and the username were linked…but there we are !

    Posted by Julia Matcham | November 26, 2011, 21:27
  18. Yes you just leave it. Click “JULIA MATCHAM” above: doesn’t it link to your blog front, just like “PANOS” links to mine?

    Posted by Panos | November 26, 2011, 21:36
  19. No…it doesn’t…that was always the problem surely? Just checked!

    Posted by Julia Matcham | November 26, 2011, 22:34
  20. Oh sorry, I see what you mean…I was talking about when you asked me to link to my blog …and why didn’t I … what I mean is, yours does on the WP forum…and mine doesn’t and obviously it should.

    Posted by Julia Matcham | November 26, 2011, 23:02
  21. On the forum it doesn’t while it should, and eventually it will: I have seen this glitch several times. Also, a user may occasionally get blacklisted, on purpose or by mistake. So if your username remains unclickable in the next thread you’ll open or post into, we’ll tell staff to correct it.

    Posted by Panos | November 27, 2011, 04:51
  22. Thanks Panos, will watch out for problems.

    Posted by Julia Matcham | November 29, 2011, 17:57

Author

author's avatar panos (justpi)

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