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Fedora Support channels Improvement ideas


First of all, I am not sure this is the best place to discuss this, but
I figured I would start here. If someone can think of a better venue I
am happy to move discussion there. (Also, see the end of this mail
where I suggest a brainstorming session on IRC). 

This weekend at Paul's State of Fedora talk at the end of the sessions
on Saturday, he mentioned several areas where Fedora really could
improve. One of these areas was the help that people get on the #fedora
irc channel. I've been hanging out in that channel for the last year
and a half, and I agree we could do a lot better than we have been, so
I jotted some ideas down while waiting for my 5 hour delayed flight
leaving boston. 

Lets look at where we are now first. End users can seek peer provided
support from: 

- #fedora on irc.freenode.net
- #fedora-XX (for lang specific support) on irc.freenode.net
- The web based Fedora forum at http://fedoraforum.org
- The fedora-list email list at:

Currently as far as I know, all these efforts are managed by interested
folks in each area, largely without any guidance from the Fedora
Project itself. 

I'm going to focus now on the #fedora channel, because I know it. 
Perhaps some interested folks who are involved in the forum and/or the
fedora-list can chime in here and talk about them?

On the IRC channel I think there are a number of issues that we should
address, here's just a few I came up with in a few minutes: 

- It's impossible for a user seeking help to know who they should
listen to. Anyone can provide incorrect or bad advice, but it should be
easier for them to identify that someone is representing Fedora and/or
has helped lots of others and knows what they are talking about. 

- Sometimes no ops are around, so abusive or disruptive people aren't
kicked out soon enough. 

- Sometimes no helpers are around, so questions just go unanswered. 

- Sometimes users are abused by folks that seem to be helping them.
Always taking their questions very literally, pointing them to
unhelpful sites, leading them on with a bunch of statements that don't
help to get the users question figured out or problem solved. 

- Support is uneven. It would be good if there were clear guidelines
what things were off topic and/or not supported. Most folks will tell
users that Fedora versions without updates anymore (anything before f8
currently) aren't supported, but some people still try and assist them. 

- Sometimes users are upset with the way they have been treated, and
they have no recourse to improve things or find out what they did

Some possible solutions I think would be worth considering: 

- Form a 'Fedora Support' SIG to gather all the support channels under
one org and start up some communication channels between them. 
Perhaps call it "Fedora HelpDesk" or "Fedora Helpers" or something to
prevent people from confusing it with paid support. One possible
problem with this is the legal aspect: Can folks who are in a SIG
ofically representing Fedora talk about things like the livna repo or
point people to those sources. (Many many many folks coming to #fedora
for help ask about those). 

- Some way of showing who has been helpful on the IRC channel would be
great. Perhaps some kind of karma system where users could add karma to
people who are assisting and remove from those who are not, then a
periodic report to the channel about the active users and their
standing, or a pointer to a website with current stats. Perhaps
freenode cloaks for the folks in the SIG/group. 

- Some guidelines people could look at for the channel. What is
specifically supported. What is not. A list of items that will get you
removed from the channel. A way to address a complaint to the SIG that
will get mediated and checked. Specific HOWTO's or docs that should be
used to help users. 

- Scheduled Shifts for SIG members, listed somewhere people could look.
Ideally we could get enough people to always have someone available to
help. If not, we could clearly show that it was "after hours" and come
back when helpers are around. 

- Scheduled Shifts for OP's. Ideally we would always have an active OP
around who could take care of abusive or disruptive people, based on
the guidelines. 

- Training for helpers and/or open to the Fedora community. 
Get a rotating group of people to do a class on irc once a week on some
topic or SIG. Regular meetings of the SIG could help show other support
channels what questions are "hot" and the best answers to them. 

- A bot might be useful to implement some of these things, allowing
users to check karma, get pointers to guidelines or resources, etc. 

Thats just a few ideas to get things going. 

I propose that any interested parties meet on #fedora-meeting later
this week and brainstorm ideas. Anyone interested in attending, please
send me an email what times you are available on thursday or friday of
this week and we see what we can come up with. 

Hopefully the idea isn't all bad. ;) 


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