When people ask me how much time I spend supporting UMW Blogs, I say it’s about an hour of my week, which is true. Now, to be clear, I think of support along the lines of “I lost by password” or “How do I change my theme?” and questions like that. More along the lines of basic, functional questions rather than the conceptual re-imagining for teaching and learning, which is where I spend most of my time—and rightly so. The support DTLT has had to give for the day-to-day user operations of UMW Blogs has been absolutely scalable, particularly given we now have more than 2300 users on the system…boooyah!
So, how do we do it? Well, I’m really not certain, maybe WordPress is just that easy, or maybe 2200 of the 2300 users set up a blog and then say this is far too hard and go admin a Drupal site—who knows? However, if the stats for the UMW Blogs Support pages tell a story, I think that story is that a whole lot of people are using them.
Here are the support page stats for the first full year of UMW Blogs (2007/2008):
Frequently Asked Questions (for WP 2.5x) 29,309 views
WordPress Guide (for WP 2.5x) 3,144 views
Now, check out the stats for UMW Blogs updated support pages for 2008/2009 (which is a whole new set of tutorials given the changes in the user interface from 2.5x —> 2.6x)
Frequently Asked Questions (for WP 2.6x) 82,341 views
WordPress Guide (for WP 2.6x) 1,539 views
Crazy, right? More than 82,000 hits for the FAQ this academic year alone! I am on record saying that I enjoyed writing this documentation, but never in my wildest imagination would I have guessed it would be viewed so widely and extensively. Now I know for a fact a number of other schools are using it extensively, and that’s awesome because it was part of the plan. But I also have to believe that a good number of people here at UMW are actually using the FAQs, which saves us a ton of time and energy on the straightforward support issues.
And to add to the support page love, last April Shannon Hauser and Joe McMahon (where am I linking to you now, Joe? You’re all over the place!—you need a stable domain, a domain of your own) added “10 Ways to Use UMW Blogs,” over the course of a year that has gotten 4,448 views.
Additionally, Andy Rush and I created a screencast blog with a whole series of screencasts about using UMW Blogs, and that site has gotten 5,802 views.
So, to re-cap, something as unsexy as documentation has gotten 126,583 views as of 11:06 this evening! I guess it doesn’t feel so boring and painful to write when you know so many people are using it, and you better believe that when we upgrade to WPMu 2.7 this Summer I will spare no expense to pimp the documentation out like it’s nobody’s business, for the people have spoken 🙂
What are the common locations for viewers of those pages? Are they local (ie students/faculty/staff) or are they fed via Google searches? How about referrer URLs? Are they coming from links within UMWBlogs, or from links on other sites, or searches on The Goog?
And I agree – support for the mechanics of WPMU is essentially zero. I spend most of my “support” time talking with faculty about how to use it, working with students to build stuff, etc… Not so much “where do I click? what’s my password?” stuff.
Those are all good questions to which I have no answers. I am going of the very basic MediaWiki view counter, and I haven’t run this through Google Analytics—as martha had suggested—but that is all going to change after this comment 🙂
Once hack always a hack, because your questions deserve more than I got…..sorry.
As for the support, I think that may be one of the most compelling cases in all of this, the time you can actually dedicate to teaching and learning is far greater than support issues. Not to mention there may be 100s of other sites out there with far better support that people are using because they know how to use Google.
I have to say that I love well written documentation, to the point that my efforts in improving education starts and focuses around the stuff. The other thing I’m a major fan of is easy to use tools. Based off this information, I’d say that WordPress has a good reason to be used in education. The less time on tech, the more on task.
Slowly, you are making me regret using Blogger for my blogging.
i’d say it’s less about Blogger vs WordPress, and more about the possibilities WP provides in this context as an open source tool. I like the idea that anyone use any blog or service, and we find a way to seamlessly bring into the community. My dig on Drupal in the post was just a reflex reaction, it happens every so often 🙂
Really useful, Jim. Support is one of my main concerns and one of the questions that always comes up when discussing our WPMU set up with the IT dept. Quite rightly, they’ve pointed out that I need to think about what I personally want to be working on in five years time and whether I want to be supporting WPMU and several thousand sites.
I’m an advocate of users helping users (works for wordpress.com, right!) with good documentation to support everyone, just as you’ve provided. It’s a different way of supporting IT in a university though, where people are used to calling the Help Desk when they don’t understand something.
Oddly enough we aren’t seeing a ton of support needs at PSU either — and we use the far less superior MoveableType platform 😉 The support questions we get fall into a few basic categories — typically questions are about how to set up their webspace … our setup is a bit different here as we leverage our existing investment in personal webspace, so we’ve added a little complexity into the mix. That is all set to change in the fall when we will integrate everything into a much smoother experience — essentially students will say “I want webspace” and in the background their space will be setup and their first MT powered site will be auto-published into the root of their space. We are excited about this change!
We are now servicing about 10,000 users and we haven’t seen a major jump in support questions. As a matter of fact our help site has only seen 2,500 visits in the last 30 days. Interestingly enough the article that has gotten the majority views is titled, “Add Share on Facebook link to your blog posts.” Sort of interesting … thanks google!
The possibilities WP offers is why I said that. Blogger is wonderful for a first dabbling into blogging, but I’m finding several of the things I read about WP to be intriguing. You’re doing some really cool stuff with WP.
I’m reading James Gee on video games right now and he says some wonderfully suggestive things about manuals, textbooks, and documentation that might be relevant here. He argues that documentation makes sense only when it follows an experience of the domain itself. Gamers read manuals only after they’re playing the game, and only when they get stuck. I guess this is a variation on just-in-time help, but that’s not really the point I want to make. I observe that these blogging platforms are great because they’re easy to get started on, after which if one wishes to go farther the documentation will be more useful *because* one is already in the domain. Low entry threshold, but as much more complexity down the line as one wants to engage with. A wonderfully iterative bootstrapping environment that makes the whole question of “support” more like the question of effective teaching-and-learning. At least so it seems to me, even though I can’t find a good answer for the mystery of the disappearing ‘incoming links’ in WP 2.7.1…. But that’s another problem.
@Gardner … this is very similar to a topic of one of our Faculty Fellows here at PSU this summer. I’ll be interested in seeing how it plays out … Dr. Selber’s project is listed at the ETS wiki.
@Cole Great and greatly fascinating stuff–thanks for that link. Interesting how quickly all roads lead back to core issues of shared expertise–and dare I say it? school.