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Virtual Volunteerism

Virtue may be its own reward, but a pat on the back and a simple thanks is pretty great, too.

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”

Author Cynthia Ozick’s words ring a resounding bell for me. Since reading them, I’ve made it a priority to show appreciation for the people that positively impact my life.

I am a Happiness Engineer on the Community Team. It is our job to staff the forums, but we aren’t alone out there. We have volunteers who spend invaluable time and energy assisting users of all experience levels. They don’t do it for a paycheck. They do it because they’re passionate about WordPress.com, and because they have an innate drive to support the people who create, manage, and contribute to blogs and websites. Although they work with little concern for accolades, I wanted to publicly thank the volunteers in the WordPress.com forums for their assistance. 

“Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him.”
Albert Schweitzer

Maureen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maureen’s work can be seen at:

Low Hanging Fruit
Mach 30 Discussions
Mo’s Musings
National Robotics League

One of our prolific volunteers is Maureen Carruthers, whom frequent forums visitors might recognize by the user handle, lizthefair. Maureen joined WordPress.com in 2008 to help a friend start a blog about fun stuff to do in Orlando. Shortly after that, she started her own site, Low Hanging Fruit.

I had the opportunity to ask Maureen some questions that have been on my mind about e-volunteering. She graciously answered, then went back to assisting folks in the forums. Isn’t she something else?

Why do you spend your free time assisting WordPress.com users with their sites?

First because it’s fun. I like solving the tricky problems and seeing the light go on in people’s (virtual) eyes when they start to understand how all the pieces work together. I also learned the basics of CSS recently and I love how just a little bit of well-placed code can make such a difference in the look of a website.

The deeper reason I do it is that I’m passionate about how WordPress.com makes having a fully functional, “grown-up” website possible for people who don’t know any code at all. I strongly believe every person has something to offer, and that having a website is an essential platform for getting that offering into the world. If spending time in the forums cheerfully answering the same 5-6 questions every day means the people I help don’t abandon their idea for a new business, or their blog about their life’s passion, then my time was well spent.

What is the most common question you answer on the forums?

If spending time in the forums cheerfully answering the same 5-6 questions every day means the people I help don’t abandon their idea for a new business, or their blog about their life’s passion, then my time was well spent.

The most common answer I give is some variation of explaining the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

If there were one piece of advice you wish you had gotten when you started using WordPress.com, what would it have been?

I’d have encouraged my past self to go to the forums and ask for help, rather than struggling to figure everything out on my own. Not only would I have saved myself a bit of pain and suffering, I also would have met the great people in the WordPress.com community a lot earlier in my blogging career.

For those struggling to keep up their blogs on a regular basis, do you have any helpful hints?

Be kinder to yourself. The energy you spend beating yourself up for not writing can be much better spent living your life or working on your business. 

…the pressure you put on yourself…to do it perfectly can hamper the creative process.

It’s important to spend time on your blog, and to share your ideas in writing, but the pressure you put on yourself to do that on a rigid schedule or to do it perfectly can hamper the creative process. If you give yourself permission to publish only when you have something you really want to say,  you might find you have better, and maybe even more frequent posts.

The balance to that advice is write every day. Not great stuff that you are willing to publish.  Just sit down and write whatever comes out. There is something about this process that clears all kinds of mental blocks and makes it easier to access the good stuff.

What is your favorite type of blog to read?

I love blogs by women who capture the deep wisdom (and hilarity) of everyday life through their words. The two that come to mind right now are the Art of Practice by my dear friend Lesley, and mimi smartypants by a lovely seeming woman in Chicago that I don’t know.


Maureen is terrific, right? Let the standing ovation begin. Her sense of humor and kindness show through in her responses online. If you haven’t yet interacted with her, it’s a real treat. 

If you have a moment, please leave a comment for Maureen, or let me know how you give back to your own communities, virtual or otherwise.

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  1. Thank you Maureen! Thank you to all of the incredibly helpful staff and volunteers at WordPress for making my first few weeks as a blogger fun and uplifting. Just knowing there are people to help, and actually respond to requests for help, is amazing!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Maureen! You’re wonderful, and I am eternally grateful for all that you do for WordPress. My blog is kind of a lifestyle blog, from the perspective of a college freshman student. I want to write the type of blog that you would look forward to read. Do you have any tips?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you Maureen, and all the rest of the wordpress volunteers! So many people have been so helpful to me here. I can barely use a computer for email but they’ve helped me create a pretty neat blog!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. A very wise and beautiful lady. Thank you for your generous spirit! I am going right now to check out your assistance on my ever pressing question…what is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? I know the content part of a blog is up to me, but I am always trying to improve how my words and images look in the delivery. Thank you again!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you Maureen! I haven’t had the benefit of your advice, but it’s obvious you are passionate about helping, and that is so wonderful and I soooo appreciate folks who do that!!! (I was just thinking about the ways in which people say ‘thank you’ this morning, and how a personalized message is so much better than a blanket one, and this is such a nice thank you!)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for all your work, Maureen! One of the reasons I love the Community Pool is that people are doing the same virtual volunteerism of giving advice and critiques to other bloggers in the community. I’ve never been to the forums but it sounds like a great place too!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hear! Hear! To Volunteers! One of the best ways to “get out of a dumpy-sad place” is to volunteer. The good-vibes you get when you reach out to the world is a total buzz-kill to the Negative Nellie or Nelson who tells us stupid stuff, like we don’t matter. We DO!!!! And one spiritual tenet that is floating around these days is – BE the love you want to receive! And extending care, kindness, and consideration to strangers is the major component of this.
    And just to sneak in a question – HOW does one volunteer for WordPress?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Volunteering for WordPress.com is quite easy. All you do is go to the forums (http://en.forums.wordpress.com/) find a question you know the answer to and answer it. 🙂

      It’s helpful if you can link to the support document where you found the answer (or if you already knew the answer, where the answer can be found) so the person asking the question can learn a bit more about the process.

      There are also experienced volunteers (some of whom have been helping for over 8 years!) who help new volunteers get their feet wet by checking their answers and making sure they don’t miss anything. We’d love to have you come help out!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It is an absolute certainty that what we take for granted most often deserves our greatest gratitude. Fortunately I learned this lesson well. My gratitude for my life and my salvation are the two greatest things for which I am grateful and which I no longer take for granted. For whatever gifts I may have to offer, I seek those to whom I may give them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Maureen: Thank you so much for your tireless optimism and sweet spirit as a volunteer staff member at WordPress. You make our life as bloggers a joyful experience. Its nice to know that someone is looking out for us. Have a blessed day!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Great writeup Robyn – so happy to see a forum volunteer highlighted here on The Daily Post 🙂 Thanks for your hard work Maureen! I also think it’s awesome that Maureen and I share a mutual friend and favorite blog (Lesley and the Art of Practice). Major kudos to all the folks in the community who help out because they love WordPress.com 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks Robyn and everyone for the kind words. You’ve really made my day! I also wanted to take a moment to give a shout out to all of the other forum volunteers, many of whom have been serving for YEARS. They make a huge difference in how quickly questions get answered over there (sometimes the wait is measured in seconds) and make it possible for staff to focus on the questions only they can answer. So, if you find yourself in the forums, be sure to go out of your way to thank a volunteer!

    Liked by 4 people

  12. I really enjoyed reading this post. Thank you, Maureen, for helping out other users. Although I haven’t asked for any advice about blogging (yet!) I feel reassured that there are people like you who would answer any questions I have about WordPress or about blogging in general.

    P.S. I absolutely agree with you about not putting any pressure on yourself to publish. I am starting to realize that and I will try to write everyday with your advice in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. We’re a gaggle of volunteers andd opening a new scheme in our community.

    Yoour web site provided us wth valuable info to work on. You’ve done a
    formidable activity and oour whole community can be grateful
    to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for featuring Maureen, Robyn. She has helped others so effectively on the support forums these last 3 months clearly demonstrating that she is a excellent prospect for a Happiness Engineer position. My fingers are crossed in the hope that she will be on Staff soon.

    Liked by 1 person