#23697 closed enhancement (implemented)

List frontdesk, not execdir, on the contact page

Reported by: arma Owned by:
Priority: Medium Milestone:
Component: Webpages/Website Version:
Severity: Normal Keywords:
Cc: phoul, alison, t0mmy Actual Points:
Parent ID: Points:
Reviewer: Sponsor:

Description

The current situation, which we inherited slowly over time, is that https://www.torproject.org/about/contact#email lists only donations@ and execdir@ as contact addresses. The result is that execdir gets 5-10 new mails each day from people who are trying to get support or otherwise trying to reach a real human. I have no idea what donations@ gets, but probably at least that many since it's listed first.

At the same time, we quietly created frontdesk@, with the goal of shifting traffic to it once the new support site is ready. Colin and Alison stepped in to be interim frontdesk people. For the past year or so I have been bouncing mails from execdir to frontdesk when I get around to doing it. But I haven't done that since July now, which means 300+ sad people who never even got an acknowledgement to their mail that they sent to (to be fair, from our perspective) the wrong place.

But why wait for the support page to be ready? I think we should list frontdesk on the contact page now. Shari also pointed out that we could remove execdir, and then the frontdesk folks could fwd mail that the execdir folks should see -- rather than the current backwards approach.

Now, another reason we had been delaying re-starting something like a helpdesk was because we had some psychotic behavior in the past where various people thought we needed to not purge incoming mails regularly. We still need to come up with a good data retention (well, more like enforced data deletion) policy, e.g. we scrub tickets after they've been in the system for 30 days. And we need to think through the safety aspects for our users of whether we have, or cause to exist, interesting metadata like network traces of people sending us email. Our reasoning so far has been "Well, we didn't encourage them to mail us, so it's not really our fault if they do. We hope they've thought it through", and I think we can do better.

But in the mean time, I think we should be able to get started by putting a nice clear warning next to the frontdesk address on the contact page, telling people that it's not for support, and if they need good privacy they should contact us some other way (should we give some suggestions? maybe not?), and whatever else we want to warn them about before they decide to send the mail. Then the mails will go directly to the people who volunteered to read and handle them. And then we can work to make that frontdesk experience a more sustainable one.

Child Tickets

Change History (17)

comment:1 Changed 21 months ago by arma

Here is my first iteration:

-      <li><i>execdir@torproject.org</i> is for questions and comments about
-      Tor the non-profit corporation: trademark questions, affiliation
-      and coordination, major gifts, contract inquiries, licensing and
-      certification, etc.</li>
+      <li><i>frontdesk@rt.torproject.org</i> is for questions and
+      comments about Tor the non-profit organization: trademark questions,
+      affiliation and coordination, major gifts, contract inquiries, etc.
+      Please note that email is not a great approach for safe
+      communication, so if you need privacy consider reaching us some
+      other way. Also note that the frontdesk is currently handled by
+      volunteers, so please be patient.
+      </li>

When we're done with this ticket, I think I will propose removing the donations@ address from this page next. :)

comment:2 Changed 21 months ago by arma

Also notice that I'm shifting it away from helpdesk and towards frontdesk. The text on the page already says (and should continue to say) "Please don't use these contact addresses for helpdesk or user requests".

Of course there will be people who misuse the address, but hopefully the rate shouldn't skyrocket, and once the support portal is up, maybe the rate will improve -- or in any case, maybe there will be an easy response to support questions of "there is a support portal, go there". :)

comment:3 Changed 21 months ago by arma

Here is another option, which folds in donations@ so only the frontdesk remains.

diff --git a/about/en/contact.wml b/about/en/contact.wml
index 132f82d..1104642 100644
--- a/about/en/contact.wml
+++ b/about/en/contact.wml
@@ -91,20 +91,20 @@
     <a id="email"></a>
     <h3><a class="anchor" href="#email">Email</a></h3>
     <p>If you have Tor questions, please try to help yourself via the
-    above support venues. Please don't use these contact addresses
+    above support venues. Please don't use this contact address
     for helpdesk or user requests &mdash; we all get too much mail and
     we won't be able to help you there.</p>
 
     <ul>
-      <li><i>donations@torproject.org</i> is for questions and comments about 
<a
-      href="https://donate.torproject.org">getting money to the developers</a>. More
-      donations means <a href="<page docs/faq>#Funding">more
-      Tor</a>. We're happy to help think about creative ways for you
-      to contribute.</li>
-      <li><i>execdir@torproject.org</i> is for questions and comments about
-      Tor the non-profit corporation: trademark questions, affiliation
-      and coordination, major gifts, contract inquiries, licensing and
-      certification, etc.</li>
+      <li><i>frontdesk@rt.torproject.org</i> is for questions and
+      comments about Tor the non-profit organization: funding and
+      donations, trademark questions,
+      affiliation and coordination, major gifts, contract inquiries, etc.
+      Please note that email is not a great approach for safe
+      communication, so if you need privacy consider reaching us some
+      other way. Also note that the frontdesk is currently handled by
+      volunteers, so please be patient.
+      </li>
     </ul>
 
     <a id="mail"></a>

comment:4 Changed 21 months ago by alison

Wait, I'm confused about the purpose of frontdesk@. Originally, we created it in order to field support requests. Now according to this language, it is not for that. What is it for? And if it's going to be the email address for all the things, we need more than just me and Phoul answering it. Even if it were only support, 5-10 more emails a day is a lot for just two people to be managing.

comment:5 in reply to:  4 Changed 21 months ago by arma

Replying to alison:

Wait, I'm confused about the purpose of frontdesk@. Originally, we created it in order to field support requests. Now according to this language, it is not for that. What is it for?

My hope is that it will turn into a funnel for people trying to reach "Tor" by email. I think it will continue to be a bunch of support requests in the short term, since resources to help people support themselves is a clear thing that's missing from our websites currently.

There really aren't that many actual execdir things that come in on execdir@ these days. Shari's idea there is that the frontdesk will get good at recognizing mails that need to get escalated, and doing so -- whether that's sending them towards execdir@, or press@, or accounting@, or reporting a bug to one of the dev teams, or telling somebody that this line in the documentation is misleading people, or what. And (I hope) the frontdesk people will get better and better at dealing with some of the things themselves, like if it's a support question they know the answer to, or a trademark question that looks just like the last one.

This idea has been built-in from the beginning: that's why it's called frontdesk rather than support.

And if it's going to be the email address for all the things, we need more than just me and Phoul answering it. Even if it were only support, 5-10 more emails a day is a lot for just two people to be managing.

This is absolutely correct.

I bet we could get Jon on it, especially if we fold in the donations@ part of the contact.

Long term, I would like to have a person whose job includes handling the frontdesk mails, and they use it to get up to speed on all things Tor, and once they're up to speed then they jump to another part of the org, like developer or advocate, or they go to some other company and now that company has a person who knows all about Tor... and then we refill from the pipeline. The background and skillset of the person working frontdesk at the time dictates which stuff they escalate vs which stuff they can just handle themselves.

Short-term, assuming many of the questions continue to be support questions, and given that we wrote in big letters "Please don't use this contact address for helpdesk or user requests", I think we could reduce the burden by having the answers to support questions that nobody has time for be "I'm very sorry, but we don't have the people to do support over email right now. Maybe you could try the following five resources." Remember that the bar is pretty low compared to what we're doing with them now, which is ignoring them for a month or two and then sending them in a batch to frontdesk. :)

I am explicitly *not* saying "hey, let's start offering support over email again, because the support portal is taking so long."

So, to recap: (1) short-term, we keep doing what we're doing now, except more of the mails go to frontdesk directly rather than being redirected from me a few months later. (2) medium-term, we get better at knowing how certain topics should be escalated so they reach the right people. (3) long-term, we recruit people with the goal of having them be good at doing this position.

comment:6 Changed 21 months ago by phoul

I'm happy to try having the frontdesk address listed, instead of execdir. This would help with the pace of the tickets, as currently we receive a few hundred at a time instead of a few per day.

I am less comfortable combining this address with the donations address. During donation campaigns, the donation address gets a very large number of emails. Having "frontdesk" emails mixed in with these would likely mean certain requests got missed.

comment:7 Changed 21 months ago by phoul

Cc: phoul added

comment:8 in reply to:  6 Changed 21 months ago by arma

Replying to phoul:

I am less comfortable combining this address with the donations address. During donation campaigns, the donation address gets a very large number of emails. Having "frontdesk" emails mixed in with these would likely mean certain requests got missed.

Ah, yes, I absolutely don't want to send all the mails addressed to donations@ to this frontdesk address.

The only change I'm proposing here is that we stop listing donations@ on the contact page, and on the description of frontdesk, we add the phrase "funding and donations" to the set of things we say it's for.

donations@ gets a bunch of automated emails from e.g. paypal, and all of those emails should stay on that list.

(That said, if the rate of mails related to donations skyrockets in Nov and Dec each year, maybe we do want to list another address on the contact page just for that. For example, there is the super-sekrit giving@ address that we hid in the donor-faq and list nowhere else. We should find out from Jon whether that gets any use, and whether it should get more.)

comment:9 Changed 21 months ago by arma

I asked Jon to take a look at the ticket. Hopefully he can give us an update on the donation related mails, so we can pick between patch 1 and patch 2 above.

I have no urgent need to do all of these changes at once, so I am happy to leave donations@ where it is on the contact page, if that's the best short term plan. I think it depends in part on whether that list is currently getting a stream of support requests too, and nobody knows about it.

comment:10 Changed 21 months ago by jselon

donations@ receives more support questions than donor related questions. It mostly receives a considerable amount of spam. I receive maybe 3 legitimate donor questions via donations@ per week. However, it is linked to all of our donation sites like paypal, benevity, bitpay etc... so I'm not sure if killing it is a good idea.
giving@ receives very few emails. If it helps, I would be fine with the giving@ address being in a more visible location on our site.

comment:11 Changed 21 months ago by alison

I think that a frontdesk@ group consisting of me, Jon, and Phoul is a good start. I think that there should be at least one other person in this group to start. I hate to assign people more work, but maybe Steph is a good person to add, since some of what will come through will be comms related and even if it isn't, it's probably a good idea for our comms person to learn about Tor by seeing what comes through this list.

I also would like to move the idea of a paid Tor receptionist to the medium-term. I think this could even be a part-time or paid internship position to start. We should discuss this more.

comment:12 Changed 21 months ago by alison

Cc: alison added

comment:13 in reply to:  11 Changed 21 months ago by steph

Ok to add me.

comment:14 Changed 21 months ago by t0mmy

Cc: t0mmy added

comment:15 Changed 21 months ago by t0mmy

Worth noting, as well, that donations@ is about to get 10x busier when we launch the end of year crowdfunding campaign.

comment:16 Changed 21 months ago by arma

Ok, I just made the 'option two' change from above: frontdesk is listed, and nothing else.

phoul, can you add jon and steph into the rt queue world?

Alison, can you raise with Shari the notion of getting a part-time person (or part of a person) who does this?

And all four of you, keep an eye out for whether the incoming mails make you think we should list some second address on the contact page too.

Thanks!

comment:17 Changed 21 months ago by arma

Resolution: implemented
Status: newclosed

This ticket is complete. If we change our mind later, we can open a new one. Thanks all.

Note: See TracTickets for help on using tickets.