Author Archives: Cheng Wang

Firefox 3.6 releases Thursday 21 Jan 2010

Firefox 3.6 is coming out tomorrow, which means it is going to be a very busy time for support. As with every major launch, we see a spike in support requests as users get used to features and discover the changes that were made. We would like to get your help giving users of 3.6 the best possible support experience.

You can help in a few different ways.

1) Help users real time over live chat. Live Chat hours will be extended to 6 hours a day. On Thursday the hours will be: 9-11am, 12-2pm, 3-5pm and 8-9pm PST We’ll have lots of support requests and users questions especially during these times.

2) Help users on our support forums. The forums are always open. To find recently asked forum questions that need your help, use our new search engine. Select the Forum tab, change the status to Needs help or Has no replies and select the Firefox forum. For example this search gives recent questions that mention 3.6.

3) Report any popular issues. We will be meeting with the Firefox team everyday to report and discuss any common issues users are having with 3.6. You can report issues as well as stay informed about recent issues in the Contributors forum.

If you have any questions, just ask in the Contributors forum or in the #sumo IRC channel. Thanks in advance for helping out, Firefox 3.6 is going to be a great release!

PS: If you’re helping out, don’t forget to use the BRAND NEW Help > Troubleshooting Information menu item to get info about extensions and stuff from users. This should really make doing support a whole lot easier.

Forum survey results

A month ago, we asked you to fill out a survey regarding the improvements to the SUMO forums that we made in the 1.4 – 1.4.2 releases. Overall, the features we pushed were very well received.

Among what people said were their favorite features: the new bar that allows you quickly filter the forum threads and the new detailed ask a question form.

We also got some great suggestions, including: “Bring back the forum’s version of the Top 10 list”, “Word filters” and letting anonymous posters mark threads as solved without having to go via email. We’ll be looking to make sure features like this are implemented as we consider a forum redesign in 2010.

We also asked you to rank some of the major new features on a 1-5 scale:
(Note that we only got 7 responses so these numbers aren’t that statistically useful but it’s good to know that what we do is well-liked.)

How have each of the changes below affected how you use the forums? (1 = a lot worse, 5 = a lot better).

Feature score
Ability to log in while posting a response 5.0
New question form 4.7
Collecting the full useragent 4.7
Thread list has a link to the last post 4.6
Ability to link directly to a post with the # 4.6
Short URLs 4.2
Ability to filter forum list 4.1
Ability to sort forum list 4.0
RSS feed 3.8

Thanks a bunch for filling out the survey.

SUMO 1.5: Even better searching

Last Thursday, we released SUMO 1.5 which implements a significant upgrade to our site search engine.

In addition to having a much more powerful back-end search where we can now index the full database every 15 minutes rather than once a day, we’ve added a bunch of new search options and features available through an advanced search interface.

There are two tabs available in the advanced search interface:

The Knowledge Base tab has options specific to the knowledge base such as language and category and tags. While the default search only looks for articles in the KB category, the advanced search also allows you to find articles that are in the staging area or are awaiting approval.

KB advanced search

The Forum tab has options to search unsolved forum threads or various other statuses in addition to the solved-only threads available in the default. You can also search for threads with posts by a given author or threads created or updated in certain time ranges. This lets you quickly get back to specific threads where you’ve posted or look for recent threads with given keywords.

SUMO 1.5 had a total of 70 bugs fixed. Congrats and thanks to the entire SUMO developer team and the webQA team for pushing this great release!

Help the Firefox team

There are a few bugs that the Firefox team is asking for help with. If you’re experiencing any of these bugs or are helping users with these bugs on SUMO, they’d love to get in contact so we can get more information or try workarounds.

  • Crashes with the @_woutput_l signature that have FFTMUFEHelper.dll in the crash stack or the module list. These are probably the TrendMicro Toolbar. We’d like some specific information about the users’ TrendMicro install and put them in touch with TrendMicro so they can figure out what’s causing the crashes. See bug 511756.
  • Crashes for users in Turkey. If any users would like to help in debugging these crashes (the current thinking is they’re related to DNS servers in Turkey, please have them post in bug 508292.
  • Lost or missing downloads. We saw a few reports of downloads in Firefox being deleted as soon as they finished downloading. Now we’re looking for more information. This is most likely do to some kind of security software — we’re just not sure which. Try to get the users’ antivirus software, version and if they’re still getting updates. Please comment in the Contributors’ forum if you find out anything.
  • Firefox closes/quits (no Crash reporter) when closing AOL mail windows. We’re looking in particular for steps to reproduce and also their Firefox version and window/tab settings. Again post in the Contributors’ forum or pass along any contact information. Bug 515679 has more information.
  • Firefox 3.6 has two changes just pushed in beta 3 that affect some users: 1) Third party software in the components directory of the install folder will need to register itself 2) Users who tweaked a preference to disable extension compatibility checking in Firefox will find that it now needs to be set for every version of Firefox.  If you come across legitimate software that is using the components install pathway or websites giving the old compatibility checking advice for 3.6 please let us know in this Contributors’ forum thread.

Getting help on these bugs would go a long way towards improving Firefox and fixing issues. If you’re passing along information from a Firefox user who comes to support, please make sure that you ask their permission and be sure to convey along our thanks for all their help.

Forum improvements

Over the past couple months, we’ve made a number of improvements to the Firefox support forums. Here’s a quick overview of the many changes we’ve made. We’d like you to try them out and then tell us what you think.

New Ask a Question form:

The Ask a Question form for the forum got a complete new overhaul with categories and more detailed questions. We also added better instructions for listing extensions and a more user-friendly step-by-step workflow. Hopefully this will greatly improve the information that users provide in the beginning — making it easier to come up with a solution.
New ask a question form

Forum list:

We made a number of changes to make the forum listing easier to use.

Other changes:

  • We’ve made forum URLs easier use and easier to understand.  Instead of, you can simply type
  • Want to link directly to a post in a long thread? Now you can, just hover over the post, right click on the # and select Copy Link Location.
    Link to post
  • There’s now an RSS feed of all threads so you can follow everything in the forums from the news reader of your choice.
    Address bar
  • We’ve added buttons for a couple common moderator actions such as detaching a post to its own thread (Detach) and unsolving a solved thread (Screen shot 2009-11-12 at 11.10.47 AM).
  • You can now log in when you post a reply.  Just click registered contributor and fill in your details.logging while posting

We’d like to know what you think of these changes and what else we can do to make the forums easier to use.  It’d especially help if you could take this quick survey.

Support and You — a case study

Over the past quarter, there has been an effort with Firefox Support around working closer with everyone in the Mozilla community and acting as a bridge between the Mozilla community and the more mainstream segment of Firefox users.  We blogged earlier about some of the ways that we can provide feedback to Firefox developers, QA and other members of the Mozilla community. This blog post will focus on some concrete examples of how this close relationship worked in the wake of Firefox 3.5.

Norton toolbar disabled in Firefox 3.5

Flow of information for Norton Toolbar issue

Symantec did not have the Norton toolbar updated in advance of the Firefox 3.5 push so many users who updated found themselves without a key part of their browser.  This understandably upset many Firefox users who interpreted the “Norton toolbar is disabled” message as that they were no longer safe online.

In this instance, a close collaboration with the QA, Add-ons and Firefox team alerted us that this may be a big deal so we got a knowledge base article written right away in advance of the push.  Furthermore, with a downloadable patch from Norton, we were able to give these Firefox users a workaround and help make sure that their Firefox 3.5 upgrade went as smoothly as possible.

Lost bookmarks when upgrading

Flow of information for the Lost bookmarks case from users via SUMO to the Firefox team and back to users by way of a Firefox release

When the upgrade to 3.5 offer was popped up to all 3.0 users, we suddenly noticed a significant increase in the number of users reporting that some or all of their bookmarks were missing.  In addition to helping users restore their bookmarks and updating KB articles, we worked closely with the Firefox team to figure out the cause.  After collecting files from willing users and doing some detective work in conjunction with affected users, we managed to figure out that these users were actually getting reverted to bookmarks from Firefox 2.  This led to a quick patch that rolled out in the next update of Firefox.

What’s really great is how quickly we went from discovering a problem through our forums and live chat into putting out a patch that potentially helped millions of Firefox users who’ve updated since.  This loop of getting information from users and turning that into fixes for users is what makes collaboration with the greater Mozilla community so rewarding and why it’s so important.

Problems caused by extensions, plugins and third party software

Being able to work with users experiencing a problem, SUMO also plays a role in identifying extensions, plugins and third party programs that can issues for users.  For example, when a number of users complained about not being able to use the right mouse button in Firefox 3.5, we narrowed down that Yahoo Toolbar versions older than 2.0 were the cause.  Just this week, SUMO was one of the first places that users reported that AVG was marking Firefox as a trojan.  Very quickly, we got a KB article up and within 24 hours, Tomcat in Mozilla’s QA group was able to work with AVG and get updated virus definitions pushed.


In addition to the above, we’ve been working on incorporating information about top crashes into the knowledge base and helping connect the developers working on crashes with users experiencing them.  As part of that we had a recent sprint to write KB articles for the 30 top crashes and are constantly monitoring new topcrashes.  In the upcoming quarter, we hope to really ramp up this effort and make it even faster to get crashed diagnosed or reproduced so they can be fixed.

In general, working closely with support, not only benefits the 4 million SUMO visitors a week, it can also make the Firefox experience better for the 300 million Firefox users out there.

What you can do to help

As a member of the Mozilla community, there are a couple things that you can do to help us work better together.

  1. Work on, triage or help reproduce common-issue+ bugs. We’re using the common-issue+ keyword to mark issues that we see a lot on support.  Getting activity on those bugs helps complete the loop from user via SUMO back to improving the experience for users.
  2. Mark commonly-duped bugs with the common-issue? keyword. We may not spot every issue or in some cases, the symptoms of a bug are generic and we may not realize they’re distinct from another bug.  Marking a bug with the common-issue? keyword lets us know to pay specific attention to an issue and see if it’s actually happening to users who show up on SUMO.
  3. Help with user support.  Working with users relies on having community members answer questions on our support forums and live chat service.  It’s really easy to get started and the more user questions we answer, the more information we can feed back to the larger Mozilla community.

The full slides for a brownbag Cheng hosted on this topic can be found here.  If you have more ideas for how SUMO can work better with you or other feedback, please let us know in the comments below, in the #sumo IRC channel or via email.

Using SUMO to help understand our users

Support is one of the top and most discoverable ways that Firefox users can give feedback about their experiences with Firefox. While the primary focus of Firefox Support will always be make sure users have the best possible experience with Firefox (and the web), the SUMO project tracks trends and provides insights about our user base to the greater Mozilla community.

Common user questions

The primary thing we track at SUMO is commonly asked questions and commonly encountered issues. Not only does this help guide the support community, it also helps Firefox developers know what are some of the major pain points for our users. A bug that may not seem like a big deal can actually be a top support issue because it causes confusion or “feels wrong” to our users. Because support works so closely with users in the forum and on live chat, we’re often able to troubleshoot a problem, working with the user to identify the extension, plugin or setting responsible. This can help get traction on bugs where the development or QA teams are unable to reproduce. There will be a followup blog post discussing the feedback that SUMO has provided around common issues during the 3.5 launch.

Improving messaging and websites

Visitors to support are often not the most technically savvy, and in many cases are new to Firefox or the web. Since support volunteers work daily with these users, we often have a good feel for what kinds of messaging works and what can be confusing for these users. Over the past quarter, we’ve been providing feedback to the marketing team at Mozilla working on education efforts. This has helped them figure out which Firefox features to explain or clarify, for example.

A number of Mozilla webpages also link to SUMO. By tracking where these users go on SUMO, we can help figure out what questions people visiting those pages may have and provide feedback about how to improve those pages for better user retention. In particular, we’ve been tracking traffic from the Firefox download page to see if we can help remove roadblocks that new Firefox users may face that may prevent them from getting started successfully with their new browser.

Giving feedback on usage patterns and interface

Whenever there are changes to the Firefox interface, people who are used to a feature working in a certain way or looking like a certain thing get confused and come to support. For example, while most people familiar with computers will use keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste, many visitors to SUMO have trouble with that and will instead use the context menu or the menu bar. Similarly, the Send Link feature is widely used and people often come to SUMO when it doesn’t work as expected rather than just copying and pasting a URL to an email. On the other hand, there are features we don’t hear much about. For example, the Delete option in the Edit menu isn’t much used. SUMO has been able to provide some initial feedback to the developers working on user interface in Firefox 3.7 as they make decisions about how to streamline the future of Firefox.

These are just some of the ways that SUMO can help you learn about the Firefox user base. As we move forward, we’ll be looking for more ways we can use our insights to facilitate a closer working relationship between developers and teams at Mozilla and our users which everyone in the community can benefit from.

More importantly, as a resource for the community, we can help you get answers to any user and usage questions you might have about Firefox. Whether you’re localizing support articles on SUMO, running an independently hosted local support site, or if you work with QA, engineering or anywhere else, we’d love to help you. Just let us know what you need and we’ll do our best to provide answers.

Knowledge base sprint followup

This past Thursday, we had a knowledge base sprint to write articles for the top Firefox crashes. It was a resounding success with 20 articles written on the day, covering the most common crashes experienced by Firefox users. Not only will this help Firefox users searching the knowledge base, this will also help contributors coming across an unfamiliar crash signature in the forums or live chat.

The main sprint wiki page links to all the articles that were written.

A special thanks goes to Jesse Ruderman, a Firefox developer, who took the whole day to work on this sprint, writing articles, analyzing bugs and helping pinpoint the causes of any crashes so we could give up-to-date suggestions in the knowledge base. We also had help from SUMO contributors and people from around the Mozilla project who read drafts and discussed crash reports.

Thank you!

One-day sprint to write crash articles for the knowledge base

One of the most frustrating thing for users is to have Firefox crash on them. As we’ve discussed before, we’ve been writing a series of articles to document the top crashes and get them searchable by crash signature.

Just documenting the top 50 crash signatures will greatly improve the experience of users coming to SUMO. It will also help give us somewhere to point users to from the forums or live chat. Towards that end, we’ll be having a one-day sprint to write these articles and get them into the knowledge base and we could use your help!

On September 3rd, we’re going to get together to write as many of these crash articles as we can. We’ll have members from Mozilla’s QA team as well as platform and branch development teams on hand over IRC to help with understanding crash bugs or stacks and answer any questions you may have about the crashes. We’ll be tracking our progress on this page.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Coming soon: a brand new support forum interface

Thousands of questions are asked on the support forum each week, making it one of our primary ways to help Firefox users around the world. For contributors, we can significantly ease workflow and make helping on the forums a lot simpler by improving the interface. In September, we have a milestone scheduled (SUMO 1.4) to address some of the primary issues with usability on the forums. These are based off of suggestions we got in our survey from last quarter (full results) as well as discussions in the contributors forum and over IRC. Here are some of the things we’re looking forward to:

  • Thread filters that help you answer questions. We’ll be adding the ability (for registered and logged in contributors) to filter for questions with no replies, with no proposed solution or where the original contributor has come back asking for more help. This lets contributors focus on just the threads that need help rather than having to flip through threads that other people have already replied in.
  • Advanced search. With new search features, you’ll be able to search for threads based on users who posted in them, date, status as well as sort your results in a variety of ways. Finding threads you answered previously just got a lot easier!
  • Better guidance for users asking questions. One of the most frustrating things about helping on the forums is that users will ask questions with very little information and you have to take guesses on what they’re trying to say or give broad all-encompassing answers. With a clearer, guided question form, questions asked by users will contain more detail and be easier to answer in a straightforward way. Also, once users finish asking their question, we’ll be making it much clearer how to get their answers via email or by bookmarking the thread.
  • New and improved thread statuses. Now when you scan through the list of forum threads, you’ll be able to quickly see the threads which have a solution proposed and which need more information from the question asker. We’re also adding a status for questions that aren’t related to Firefox. If you’re a moderator and you come across a thread about Thunderbird, Windows, Office or general web development, marking it as not being about Firefox means that other contributors will know to skip over it.

These are just four of the dozens of improvements we’ll be making to the forum experience. We’ll be blogging again with some more features to expect in this release as well as ways you can help out testing these changes.