[tor-project] State of helpdesk?

Colin Childs colin at torproject.org
Wed Mar 9 03:52:00 UTC 2016

Hash: SHA512

Roger Dingledine:
> Hi Colin,
Hi Roger / all,

> I had a good chat last week with one of the volunteers that you recrui
> some months ago to help with the helpdesk. He told me that he wasn't
> answering tickets anymore, since it is just a deluge of tickets, mostl
> the same over and over, and without any feedback mechanisms from the
> helpdesk to the other support pieces (faq, stackexchange, etc) and dev
> teams, there isn't really an end in sight.
This is currently accurate. Outside of reporting UX issues on Trac, and
possibly adding items to the FAQ, there is no mechanism for support
staff to spread the help-desk information more widely.

A lot of the tickets we see are what I would consider "basics", and
things that would be covered by the user manual (if it was available to
users in an updated / usable way). This is a big part of why I think
getting that finished would be a useful step forward for providing
support to users, especially if it could be presented in some way that
users encountered it without much hunting.

> I suspect I agree with him -- taking a step back, it seems wise for us
> to enumerate our support mechanisms, and try to prioritize and triage
> so we do what is most scalable and most sustainable.
I generally agree here. Currently for support mechanisms, these are what
I am aware of:

1: Help-Desks (RequestTracker)
2. Mailing lists (tor-talk, etc..)
3. IRC (#tor)
4. StackExchange
5. FAQ
6. General documentation on the website
7. Man pages

> That said, I don't think many of us have a good handle on where the
> helpdesk is right now. So it's hard for us to know where it should fit
> in this triaging.
> Can you summarize for us how many tickets it's getting, how many (and
> which) people are active, whether most tickets are getting answered
> (and after how long), what languages they're in, and whatever other
> questions I ought to be asking?
I will put out more precise numbers tomorrow and update the list,
however I am fairly certain at this point I am the only person answering
tickets in English, however its possible that Alison may still be
answering tickets as well (will check on this when I retrieve the
numbers). This is obviously not sustainable / ideal, regardless of if
its 1 or 2 of us.

We still have semi-active people answering tickets in Farsi, French and

I believe the volunteers that were recruited a few months ago were
quickly overwhelmed with the number of tickets we receive; which in
hindsight, is not surprising.

Unfortunately, based on how the previous recruitment went, I do not
think the same type of plan will be successful in the long-term. I've
been working on a plan to make the support team more sustainable,
however figuring out the best way to offer direct user support has been
proving tricky. I believe its an important service, and one that cannot
be replaced by public mechanisms like IRC and open mailing lists. My
hope, is that there may be ways that we can make users reliance on the
help-desk less, so that the help-desk can go back to being used for when
users require the 1-on-1 support it can provide, when operating normally

Tomorrow I will clean up the portions of the plan that I think I have
figured out, and send it to this list for review. Currently, this plan
includes cleaning up certain pieces of documentation (like the manual,
and relay / HS guides), as well as trying to turn many of the template
responses we use on RT into FAQ entries, or perhaps their own type of
"support portal". I will also bump this thread with more exact numbers
on tickets.

> Then we will be in a better position to try to help you.
That would be great! Any suggestions are greatly appreciated / welcomed.


- -- 
Colin Childs
Tor Project
Twitter: @Phoul


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