Author Archives: Cheng Wang

SUMO is down

Because of network issues, a number of Mozilla web properties are down, including support.mozilla.com. Our IT and networking teams are working around the clock to try to restore service. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.

If you want to hang out with your SUMO friends, IRC is still up: connect your IRC client to: irc.mozilla.com and join channel #sumo.

Thanks for your patience.

Update: We seem to be back up and running.  You can check the status of SUMO on our status page

Want to help Firefox 4 users? Here’s how!


Last week, we posted a blog post about the upcoming Support Firefox Day on Wednesday March 23rd. That day, we expect almost a million Firefox users to come to our support site with questions about Firefox 4.  We want them to have the best upgrade experience possible… with fast answers to all of their concerns.  And you are the perfect person to help! Here’s how to get started:

  1. Get an account on support.mozilla.com.  It takes a few seconds and means that you can post in our support forums and also help on live chat.  Got one already? Just log in. Then, please take a moment to let us know you’ll be joining us.
  2. Go browse our unsolved questions. There are dozens posted every hour by users around the world.  Some need a simple pointer to an article in our extensive knowledge base. Some may need a little more troubleshooting or a guiding hand.
  3. Feeling particularly lively? You can install the Spark client and help users in real time over our live chat service.  Read about how to set it up here.
  4. Feeling more social? Help point Firefox users on twitter to the right resources for their questions by joining our Army of Awesome.

Sometimes, you’ll find a question you may not be sure of the answer to.  Never fear! The first thing even the experienced helpers do is to search SUMO.  Almost everything is either already documented or already asked (and answered) before.  Still stuck? We’re in the #sumo IRC channel all day on Wednesday and pretty much all the time every other time.  There, you’ll find people experienced in all things Firefox support … just ask away! You can also find us in our contributor forum.

And don’t forget to check out Air Mozilla, where we’ll be broadcasting from Mountain View all day.

We’re glad you want to help out our millions of Firefox 4 users and we welcome you to the Firefox support community.  400 million users thank you!

The new Firefox Support forum

A couple weeks ago, we released the new Firefox Support forums. With a redesigned workflow and dozens of new features, bugfixes and tweaks it’s quite a change from the old forum . In this blog post, we’d like to share some of the history of this redesign and take you on a tour of all the things that we did to make user-to-user support easier for both users looking for help and our support community providing help.

At the start of this year, we decided that the tikiwiki based support site needed a complete overhaul and that we’d be migrating it component by component over the course of 2010 to a custom-built django-based system we’ve codenamed kitsune.

Seizing upon the chance to completely rewrite the forum functionality, we started in Q1 brainstorming a PRD for the new system. In particular, we wanted the forum to not feel like a forum but a proper support system. While a forum is very good for discussing topics between users who come back often and have similar interests, the goal of a support system is to answer a user’s question as quickly and efficiently as possible. We looked at a number of sites that had this goal such as Yahoo Answers, Stack Overflow and various systems like Apple’s support site and Amazon support. We then used ideas from these sites to build our new system. Without further ado:

The central idea is that rather than having threads with topics, the forum consists of a series of questions that can have answers. To make sure that the most commonly asked questions get the most visibility, users can vote up a question by clicking “I have this problem too”. The same applies to answers: the helpful answers are voted on and become more visible. This way, if a user has a top issue or if the question that he has already has a known good solution, he can find it right away and move on. Contributors also get credit for helping users who are reading through — not just the user who asked the original question.

Speaking of asking questions, with the expansion of Firefox to include mobile and sync, we’ve also expanded the question-asking process to include categories for these new products. By adding a tag system, we’ve made it easier to filter down the thousands of questions we get a week to look only at one particular category of issue (like crashes) or one particular product (like Firefox Home).

We’ve also made a number of changes that should make life easier for contributors. Since we’ve completely rewritten the backend systems, the new forums should be significantly faster and more performant than the old ones. We’re requiring users to confirm their questions via email before posting, which should cut down on spam and increase the chances that they’ll see notification emails when contributors answer their questions. As part of an ongoing migration, the new forums use mediawiki markup rather than tikimarkup. You can use our handy reference page to see the difference.

While this is just some of the features we’ve implemented for the new forums, the site is in constant development. The next few months will be focused on getting a new KB and localization system but we will be continually adding features and tweaking the new support forum to make it better and better.

Excited to try out these new forums? Great! Check it out here. Got feedback? Let us know in the Contributor forum.

Tracking Firefox complaints on Twitter

How do we spot trending support issues even faster?

With the rise of social networking, Twitter has become a common place for Firefox users to bring up issues with their browser. While we have ongoing projects for helping these users, we’ve also been working on a way to use this collection of tweets to let us know earlier if there are new and upcoming Firefox issues. This lets us move faster and get information into the knowledge base and out to our support community as quickly as possible.

Every day, we collect all the tweets that contain the word “Firefox” or “Mozilla” and negative words like “fail”, “sucks”, “hate”. This means we’re looking mainly at complaints rather than overall feedback. We also filter out retweets to make sure we’re looking at users complaining rather than users passing on links. This helps limit the number of tweets to track from thousands a day to a few hundred.

Even with this number of tweets, we don’t have the resources to read them all. What we do instead is to count how many of each word we’re seeing. This is a really crude metric (especially given the sample size), so we can’t use it see what the top Firefox issues are. However. if something suddenly spikes up in number of counts, we can spot it as a trending issue and take quick action.

For example, when Google made the PacMan Google doodle, there was a sharp uptick in the use of the words “sound”, “noise” and “siren” (from about one instance every few days to 15+ in just one day). Combining this sort of data with information from the Live Chat and forum communities lets us spot trends faster and get them in front of developers faster.

These are merely the first crucial steps to incorporating Twitter into our weekly support metrics. As always, we hope to make improvements to the way we present the insights based on feedback and suggestions. Look forward to those changes in upcoming months.

Check out mockups for the new Support Forums

The rewrite of the Firefox Support Forums is well underway. Chris Howse, UX designer for the Mozilla websites, has been working over the last couple weeks on making high-fidelity mockups to give us a taste of how the new forums will look and feel.

The first mockup shows how the questions and replies themselves will look. As you can see, users are now given the option to vote that they have a certain problem as well as vote on whether replies are helpful. To make sure that useful replies don’t get lost after other posts, they’re being summarized below the question. We’ve also moved stuff like System information to the sidebar, adding in tags and related questions to help improve navigation between forum questions. This way, if you’re looking for help with something, you can easily find similar threads if the one you’re looking at doesn’t help. Also, if you’re answering this thread, you may find that you also know the answer to a related question.

We’ll also color certain replies differently: The chosen solution is highlighted in green, posts by the original question-asker are blue and other threads are white.

The second mockup shows how the thread listing will look. To make it easier to browse the forum and find questions you can help with, we’ve added tags, the number of “I have this problem” votes and most importantly a short summary to this view. You’re also shown if you’ve contributed to the thread already and what its status is. We’ve kept the filter buttons at the top, letting you view common views (most recent, solved only etc).

Chris Howse has made many more detailed mockups showing various views and button states. You can check them all out in the following two bugs:

We hope you enjoyed this view into the future of the forums. What do you think? We’ll give another update as more development happens, so stay tuned.

Sign up for the Support Report: SUMO’s weekly report of Firefox issues and metrics

Every week, we get thousands of users asking questions on the support site and telling us about their Firefox issues. To better leverage that information across the Mozilla universe, we’re launching the Support Report. This is a weekly digest of user feedback about Firefox that we get on SUMO condensed into one easy-to-read email. In it, you’ll find summaries of the common issues we’re seeing as well as links to bugs, and various useful metrics.

To sign up for this mailing list, just go to this page and fill out the appropriate form.

Once you’ve tried it out, if you have comments about the report, format or the information we’re presenting, just let us know in the comments below.

Another Forum redesign mockup

Based on some feedback to the last design, we’ve come up with an alternative concept for the forum redesign. While it has many of the same features as the last one (users will still be able to vote on individual posts in a thread as well as have a button to say “I have this issue too” ), there are a few changes:

  • There are no longer two distinct areas for discussion vs solutions. Instead there is a chronological order of posts. (Like a traditional forum.)
  • The most useful post in a thread will be highlighted rather than shifted to the top to prevent breaking up discussions.
  • Posts by the original thread author will also be highlighted.

You can see these in the mockup below:

Here’s the rationale for these changes: When we looked at a sampling of solved threads, we found that the vast majority (30-to-1) were solved in one or two replies. This seemed to suggest that the benefit of bubbling up the top solutions was small since there weren’t many solutions for forum users to sort through. On the other hand, a chronological ordering would simplify the user interface and may promote discussion and community building between contributors.

Please give us your feedback on this design/mockup. What additional features would you like to see, what would you like to see done differently?

The mockup also shows a three-tiered voting system for posts with “this was helpful”, “this was helpful but didn’t fix my problem” and “this wasn’t helpful”. Please let us know what you think of it.

Redesigning the support forum

With the rewrite of the SUMO platform underway, this is a great time to rethink how we want to handle our support forum.  While the existing forum format is good for promoting discussions and interaction, it isn’t optimized for getting users to the answers to their problems.  Also, anyone who has been helping users in our forum know that it’s not exactly the fastest forum in the world…

A number of websites that have been set up specifically with the goal of answering questions actually don’t use the traditional forum format.  For example, Yahoo! Answers, Get Satisfaction and Stack Overflow all use a more problem-solution based approach. We’d like to take cues and ideas from these sites and redesign the way users and contributors interact on our support forums to make it more fun and engaging to help users.

We’ve started to draft up how this redesigned support forum would look and would like your input on how to make the final support forum best fit your needs as contributors as well as those of our users. Note that we are talking about the English Support forum on SUMO here — it will not apply to the Contributors or Off-topic forums, which have different needs.

Our proposal
The key objectives of this redesign are:

  • To make it easier for users to identify the solution to their problem.
  • To make it easier for contributors to focus on the questions that matter to them — for example, only questions asked by Linux users.
  • To make the forum much faster and more enjoyable to use.

The key element to the new design will be the ability for a user to vote up (or “me too”) threads which adds him to the notification list.  If a user sees a problem description that matches his own, he can vote it up, thereby giving it more attention and increasing the chances of good solutions.  We can then make sure that these questions are shown more prominently in the thread listing.

Answers to questions can also be voted on — not just by the original asker, but by everyone.  That way, the best solution for the majority of people will bubble up to the top.

Lastly, we want to provide an area of the page to get followup information from the original person with the question.  Asking for more information is a key part of the troubleshooting process, but it’s important that the information is readily available near the original question, and not buried somewhere in a lengthy discussion thread.

We’ve put together a rough mockup of how this may look to give you a better sense of what these mean.  Once we’ve finalized on the list of features, we’ll be redrafting it to actually look good, too. :)

Small-sized mockup

What do you think?  What kinds of features do you think are necessary in this kind of new support system?  We’ve got ideas like tagging, custom dashboards, as well as savable views.  However, we’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas to make sure we aren’t missing something here.

So, if you have feedback, please let us know.  You can edit the PRD or just comment in this blog.  Thanks!

Graphing the impact of Firefox releases on SUMO traffic

For a few days now, we’ve been noting that the Firefox 3.6 release went smoother than 3.5. Now we can quantify it. By looking at the amount of traffic to SUMO, we expect a spike every time there’s a release — especially if there are issues that affect a large number of users.

The following chart shows number of daily unique visitors for release day and 3 days after each release relative to the exact same figure for a week prior. The blue band represents the mean of the data for non-release days ±1 SD.

Support increase by release

As you can see, we got a large increase in traffic from the 2.0>3.0.1 major update and the 3.5 release. (Since 3.0 was the first Firefox version to link to SUMO for help, there was not much SUMO traffic prior to 3.0 and the spike around the 3.0 release was over 500%). However, the recent 3.6 release resulted in a significantly smaller traffic jump. This suggests that there were fewer major issues around the 3.6 release — Firefox 3.6 is definitely the best Firefox yet.

Of course, the baseline daily unique visitor count has increased from 180,000 after the 3.0 release to around 400,000 before 3.5 to over 750,000 before the 3.6 release. So while the Firefox developer, QA, release engineering and support teams have been doing a great job making sure these releases are smoother and smoother, we are still getting a lot of traffic and we can still use your help! Learn how here.