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delirium happy

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I really need to shut up about this already
delirium happy
rho
OK, this will be my last word on this subject. Probably. Unless I think of something else about it that I feel compelled to write about.

I've seen several LJ support volunteers state that they hope that iff Six Apart hire more people to deal with abuse/support/whatever on LiveJournal that the people will be hired from the current pool of volunteers. I've even seen at least one person put forward a specific name that they would like to see hired.

I think that this would be a really bad idea. I hold this belief for several different reasons.

For starters, I think that the ability to work out of company offices in San Francisco is very import. One of the historic problem that LiveJournal has faced is that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. Having people able to work together and actually communicate is an excellent way to curtail this.

Then comes the issue of who among the current crop of volunteers should be offered a job. There is currently nobody who stands out as being the best, or as being vital for the survival of support. Ultimately, this is because the job really isn't that difficult; beyond a certain point, effectiveness is less and less influenced by competence and more and more by free time. If certain existing volunteers start getting paid then I can guarantee that it will breed resentment amongst (some of the) current volunteers: "What? why did you hire them? I'm at least as good as they are!" Which is fair enough, really. I'd much rather be passed over for a job because I lived in the wrong place than because someone else was deemed better.

Then there's the real kicker. If you start giving jobs to volunteers then people will stop seeing it as volunteer work and start seeing it as a gateway to paid employment. In a purely business sense, this might be a good thing because people would start doing more work, but morally I think that it's horrible and exploitative. I think that some volunteers do far too much work as is, but it's their decission and they know what they're getting out of it and there's no imaginary carrot dangling in front of their nose. Even in terms of actual amoral getting-things-done I don't think that it would be helpful, because then people would start trying to be seen to get stuff done rather than to actually get things done -- which are very different beasts indeed.

Now, I don't know if there are any plans to hire more employees to deal with parts of the site currently done by volunteers, and if there are I'd be extremely surprised if there were plans to hire from within the volunteer pool. I just figured that there are some people out there who could really do with hearing why (I think that) this would be a really bad idea.

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I don't really have much to say on the subject, but I will say that the potential drama this could cause reminds me somewhat of the drama that surrounds every new admin. ("Why them? I've been here longer! Rah, how could you do that?") Except that it would be even worse, since money would be involved instead of just new privs.

Having said that, current volunteers do know the system better, so unless the system is going to be changed, maybe hiring from within wouldn't be such a bad idea. I guess it really depends on how it's done, and how frequently.

Enh, I'm deliberately not speculating or giving that issue much thought. But it was done twice before - with Jesse and Rah - and neither time caused much in the way of problems.

Jesse and Rah were both different because in both cases, them no longer working on the site would have caused extremely bad circumstances for the status of the board. Rah basically did all of support that other people didn't do (and still does.) There is no single non-employee who, if they dissapeared tomorrow, would cause the board to stop working. I think that was the case with Jesse + Rah.

(Also, like most employees of LiveJournal, Jesse was pretty close to Brad. I believe that's how all hiring has worked out for LJ, other than possibly Rah, who Jesse considered a close friend, but that may be a result of working on a website that generates close relationships.)

That may be - but it's not like Ascii and Supersat haven't done massively vital things that kept Support going, and some other people. So, while from a business perspective that may be the case, from a volunteer perspective, I think if problems were going to come up, they already would have.

it's not like Ascii and Supersat haven't done massively vital things that kept Support going

Um... like what? Supportoffice is handy, but hardly vital to support and it wouldn't take much to implement a replacement on LJ's servers. They've both done a lot for LJ, but nothing that wouldn't have been done without them.

Interim privs, for a start, are a direct result of Ascii's work. There was another big one, but I forget offhand... probably the ability to do summary changes. She also admins a lot of categories and does a huge amount of work and always has.

Subject changes were really not all that difficult in the big scheme of things. The code to do implement it was relatively small. Interim privs were bigger, but even so, it wouldn't take more than a couple days of coding to completely rewrite support as it is.

What people have done is constantly explain and reexplain the needs for these things. However, given proper management, this shouldn't be needed: if a tool is needed or desired, someone should take the code that's offered to them and be done with it. To say that anyone has been "effective" at getting things done because they have complained the loudest hardly seems accurate.

Unfortunately, in the present development atmosphere, this *is* the case. I'm hoping that in the future, for the sake of volunteers, that this won't be the case. This isn't a slam on anyone, because I think that the way support has worked up until now is impressive, especially given, at times, the lack of developer support for tools in the support arena. However, I hope that with a move towards a more business-like approach, support for the volunteers on the site will improve as well, which will mean that someone who can explain the best may not be the best person: rather, someone who can manage better might be a better hire.

All of this is, of course, just my humble opinion.

I agree with you that many aspects of how things have gotten done in Support would not have been necessary with better management. But it doesn't matter how large or hard or easy the code was. The point is that Ascii did something that nobody else at that time could get done. Not that nobody else in the world could do it. Just that without her, it wouldn't have gotten done. The same is true of Rahaeli. Other people could do the things she's done, but nobody else was going to.

Nobody in Support and probably nobody in staff is truly irreplaceable. But some people have done things that had they not done them, they would not have gotten done until much, much later. And had interim privs not gotten done until much later, Support would have been in much worse shape.

There have been, at times, a few key contributions that having them at the right time (or way too late but no later than we did) has helped significantly. And sometimes only one person had both the ability and comprehension to get it done.

Exactly. Hopefully, one day, someone will see that 'maintaining the morale and dedication of support' is an essential function that none of the current paid employees know how to do.

Not commenting on the remainder of the post, but I will say that all of 6A's support function so far -- including now me and Ferrell, and David as well -- is done remotely.

Okay, I will comment on the remainder of the post: Obviously I cannot say anything conclusive/final/etc, but I will say that I personally would much rather hire someone whose work habits and abilities I am already aware of than hire someone new, risk getting a dud, and have to train them. Then again ... no, anything else I say will get me in trouble.

I definitely get what you mean in the second last paragraph.

Personally, I'd be happy to see new people come in because they /wouldn't/ know the system, wouldn't be satisfied with the current standard of support and might turn it more professional (like it was before pickiness became the highest sin imaginable and simply "grunting at the FAQ" became fine. It is /not/ hard to reference an FAQ politely and grammatically and word it relevantly). I'd love if Six Apart buying LJ would mean that support would have higher standards again (presuming that the 'golden age' I half-remember was actual and not imagined). Not going to rant on this right now, though, and it's better lately.

If certain existing volunteers start getting paid then I can guarantee that it will breed resentment amongst (some of the) current volunteers

I'm taking a wild guess that most people who would feel that way are not at all qualified for the job, or don't have enough time to do it. (Personally, at the time that I was active in Support I would have harbored much more resentment towards someone new coming in and being hired than I would have towards any existing volunteer.)

I'd much rather be passed over for a job because I lived in the wrong place than because someone else was deemed better.

Really? I'd rather be passed over for a job because someone else had better qualifications. At least that's something I can work on, whereas for me, moving is really not an option. And I don't think it's vital to the job to be sitting in an office with your coworkers. Failure to communicate can happen just as easily in person as in telephone/internet conversations.

Someone new coming in would have to learn a lot of things: how the Support tools work, who all of the existing volunteers are and what their strengths and weaknesses are, what options have been tried in the past and were unsuccessful. Putting someone into a management position without any prior experience working in that department is a bad idea, in my opinion, and pretty much unheard of in any other business.

Yes, the hiring of existing volunteers would lead to some people volunteering solely in hopes of getting hired. But, as with people who already do Support only for recognition or to get more privs, it would be pretty obvious when someone is doing that. Plus I wouldn't expect any volunteer to be approached and offered a job...but they should get at least some special consideration in going through the application process.

Really? I'd rather be passed over for a job because someone else had better qualifications. At least that's something I can work on, whereas for me, moving is really not an option.

Personally, I'd see it as more like "well, you never actually had a chance here in the first place, so don't feel bad" as opposed to "well, you could have got this job if you were better, but you aren't so it sucks to be you" though I guess that that may just be me. And of course, I'm not looking for a job in the first place.

Someone new coming in would have to learn a lot of things

Well, yes and no. I really don't think that there's all that much to learn. How support actually works certainly isn't tricky to learn. And I also think that someone from outside might be able to offer a idfferent set of ideas. One of the problems with support at the moment is that it strongly encourgaes conformity, so there really aren't that many new ideas coming in.

And I don't think it's vital to the job to be sitting in an office with your coworkers. Failure to communicate can happen just as easily in person as in telephone/internet conversations.


I used to think this too, until I actually worked in an office environment. Having done so, I can assure you that although miscommunications can happen either way, having the ability to watch over someone's shoulder and make sure they don't is extremely useful. If I ever start a business, I will accept telecommuting type workers only if they're the *only* option available: Having physical proximity changes many many things that you just can't get any other way.

Putting someone into a management position without any prior experience working in that department is a bad idea, in my opinion, and pretty much unheard of in any other business.

I'm not so sure about this; it seems to me (based purely on anecdotal evidence, and not much of that) that there are enough managers out there who do not understand the systems they are managing. I suppose that in many cases, they may have MBAs or be great at people skills, but knowing what it is that your underlings do, at least in rough terms, seems to me to be something useful yet not always present.

Re: I really need to shut up about this already

i don't really care about LJ support drama, i just want to make some general comments:

I think that the ability to work out of company offices in San Francisco is very import[ant].

i don't. especially for support it's less necessary than for some other jobs, and many companies seem to think it doesn't even matter that support staff live in the same country, since they're outsourcing to india and elsewhere. i am doing almost all my work remotely, and it's worked out extremely well in general. it does require better than average communication skills on the part of employees and managers, and i think that should affect hiring decisions. but support people already need to have those skills in order to effectively handle clients. i see this as a natural match.

whether the right hand knows what the left is doing depends on management skills, not on physical location of employees.

If you start giving jobs to volunteers then people will stop seeing it as volunteer work and start seeing it as a gateway to paid employment.

well, yeah, some will. :) some do now, since obviously it's happened before, both at LJ and at six apart (several of their new hires are former volunteer plugin developers). and if i were in a hiring position, i would prefer to hire somebody i already know, whose strengths and weaknesses i've seen in action. i am a big fan of promoting from within if that is possible. i also think it encourages some people to apply themselves professionally in a volunteer position. as long as nobody counts on it (which they shouldn't, if there are many volunteers and only a few hires), i don't see this as a drawback. at the very least, it'll look good on a volunteer's resume if they applied themselves well.

you're right, it will leave some other people disgruntled. there are how many support volunteers? let's say there were 2 jobs available -- there is simply no way to hire all that might be qualified. well, that happens when support volunteers apply for abuse positions too. it's always an issue when supply vastly outstrips demand, and people shouldn't nurture strong illusions. how they behave afterwards is IMO a pretty good indicator as to whether they should ever be considered as a hire in the future.

I'd much rather be passed over for a job because I lived in the wrong place than because someone else was deemed better.

*nod*. yes, i understand that. i used to feel like it too.

but now i'd rather not have to move from a place i love. :) and i've learned that it's a good idea not to take hiring decisions (and romantic choices!) too personally. "better" can be such a subjective assessment -- it's often not about actual qualifications, especially in a job that can easily be trained for by anyone applying themselves a bit; it might as well be about dynamics between the existing team and the applicants. if i don't fit as well with an existing team, it doesn't do the team or me any favours to hire me instead of the person everyone takes to immediately. yup, that first impression might not work out. who knows. this does not make me less good at my job. and it leaves me free to look for one that is a better fit.

Re: I really need to shut up about this already

How on Earth do you manage not to take romantic choices personally? I really haven't managed that.

Re: I really need to shut up about this already

practice. :) which is true, but there is the rationale:

romantic attraction is so idiosyncratic, how could it really mean anything significant about me? maybe if i really were an all-around despicable and ugly (inside) person, but i know i am not; i am somewhat weird, but there are plenty of people who like those weird things about me, and hey, i like them myself. i am fairly happy with who i am. if somebody does not feel attracted to the things i have to offer, that says something about their choices (not necessarily anything negative either, just that they are different from mine), but not about whether or not i have worth as a person.

i used to feel a lot better about being turned down for being the wrong sex, because that felt less personal. but now i generally extend that to anything else i might be turned down for -- if the person even knows. does it really make me worth less if they get turned on by natural blondes? what if they like to argue vigourously and then have kinky sex, and i hate that? if they want somebody who's fit enough to climb the matterhorn, and i prefer sitting in my comfy chair on my ample butt playing GTA:VC, does that make me an inferior person? if they want children, and i know i am not parent material, am i defective? if they're christian, and i am buddhist, is one of us wrong?

naw. i just need to find the people who like what matters to me, and where i like what matters to them, instead of getting hung up on people who are looking for something different. i am not willing to make myself over in their image, and i don't want anyone to do that for me, so my current attitude was pretty much a natural outcome once i really thought this through (which took years).

this isn't quite as painless as it sounds, but it has become considerably more so as the years have passed and i've formed great relationships with people where romance was not an emotional rollercoaster. i started out with the usual crappy toolkit for romantic involvements, and my first attempts left me feeling miserable. but once things went right, i knew what that felt like, and i decided i didn't want to ever have anything that didn't feel that way.

oh yeah, and i don't listen much to my hormones. this is probably one of the weirder things about me, but it really helps. hormones don't care about a happy life together; they care about making babies to continue the species. well, i don't give a damn for that, so i carry a large bat to hit my hormones over the head when they want to jump somebody, and pretty much listen to my mind over my glands. they get some input -- the person can't make them go "euw!", but they do not run the show.

Re: I really need to shut up about this already

Ah. Yeah, still don't see how it helps much. But then, I haven't been turned down much, and it was by someone who was attracted to me, which I feel made it much harder.

Re: I really need to shut up about this already

do you know why the person turned you down? (i don't mean to pry; just that i remember one in particular who seemed to like me very much, but i suspected zie turned me down because i was fat, and that really hurt at the time, and i did take it personally at first.)

Re: I really need to shut up about this already

Yup, totally classic case of - but there's someone else and I'm deciding to not be with you as it might hurt her. Which sounds mainly decent, except in this case, it really wasn't.

Re: I really need to shut up about this already

*ugh*. sorry to hear that it wasn't decent. so the real reason was something that struck you as more personal, i gather, since "there's someone else who might be hurt" is pretty impersonal, sort of like "sorry but i'm only interested in the other sex".

see, if somebody lies to me, i'll pretty much immediately conclude that it's not my personality that's lacking, but theirs.

Re: I really need to shut up about this already

Oh no. Never any lies or betrayal. I don't want to go into details here. No, the reason it hurt was because he had told me he was poly - so saying, but now I can't be with you because there's someone else is a really, really sucky reason. I am very poly and was already at my point in life where I didn't want to get too close to anyone who wasn't or willing to accept it and live that way.

Re: I really need to shut up about this already

Not commenting on the majority of this but: you're right that many companies outsource to India, but it's also true that this generates a lot of complaints both from workers within the company and from users who have to deal with them.

but now i'd rather not have to move from a place i love

Well, this was all hypothetical anyway, since I'm not actually looking for a job. Possibly I'd feel differently if I actually was doing.

Re: I really need to shut up about this already

yeah, certain types of outsourcing do generate complaints, and i think it's often a cultural problem; i saw somebody above comment on that, and i think that's a lousy situation.

just saying that it can also work out very well, certainly where management isn't just concerned with the bottom line, and actually listens to their employees.

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