With a little help from my friends…

While the Commons strongly reflects the DIY culture upon which it was built, part of the Commons Team’s mission is to support its members in ways that make their online experiences more meaningful. To that end, the Development Team has been hard at work over the past year adding new features and the Community Team has been working to redesign our old help system, turning it into a rich and dynamic area of the site.

Having previously developed student and faculty support materials for completely online, asynchronous programs I have to admit it’s quite challenging to develop materials that are easy-to-follow and comprehensive. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by a new technology or feature, let alone the handy 583 pg. manual that comes along with it. Well, that’s not how we do things here at the Commons! Instead we’ve created a robust support area  that pulls together all of our help resources in a more meaningful way. Using the Canvas 3.0.6 theme by WooThemes, Community Facilitator Scott Voth (@scottvoth) has done an amazing job of creating a site that closely mirrors the look and feel of the main Commons site, ensuring a more seamless experience for end users.

Scott has also done a tremendous job of building and maintaining the Commons Codex, a place where members and community facilitators collaboratively document the Commons. If you want to learn how to create a group or what types of plugins you should active on your blog you can read about them on the Codex. The Codex is just one of the many helpful resources available in the new help system, which also includes links to our frequently asked questions, video tour, new user orientation, and bug tracking system.

Another thing to consider when maintaining support materials is that things change — hairstyles change, people change, features change. After  upgrading WordPress from 3.2.1 to the latest, WP 3.3.1 back in January of this year, many of our help screenshots and screencasts became out-of-date, including our video tour. It has taken longer than expected (thanks to my technical deficiencies working with Camtasia on a Mac), but  I’ve finally finished a new video tour of the Commons. This video tour takes into account some of the newer features that were not available last year, such as group docs. Please feel free to view the new tour below, skim through, or bookmark for a later visit.

The Community Team also periodically goes through our wiki help pages and updates content and screenshots accordingly, but time and time again, member feedback has proven to be our most valuable resource. For example, when we create a new wiki page about a blog theme or plugin, it’s typically because a member has inquired about it, either through the WordPress Help!! Group Forum or via email.

Last year I wrote a blog post about our bug-tracking system, where I discussed the importance of member feedback, but I want to stress that the Community Team (below) is here to help. If you have a question and feel too shy to reach out through a public forum, please feel free to add us as a friend and send a private message, or email the team at commons@gc.cuny.edu. We look forward to working with you in ways that will add to your overall experience on the Commons!

Community Team:
Outreach Coordinator: Michael Smith
Community Facilitators: Brian Foote, Sarah Morgano, and Scott Voth
Community Advisor: Luke Waltzer



  1. Spring is in the Air | Ground Control - June 11, 2012

    […] Community Facilitator Sarah Morgano has a fantastic post this month about outreach as well, plus she’s included a great new update to our video […]

Skip to toolbar