Trenza: an operations proposal for Q1 2022

Trenza

Trenza is the nickname for this project proposal I’ve been working on. This project would highlight operations, education, and moderation – braiding them together into a core for the co-op.

Context

During my time holding down moderation and operations tasks at Resonate for over a year, I’ve experienced how demanding the workload can be. I believe that unless we collectively prioritize operations work and empowering our members to teach themselves and others, we will be unprepared to fulfill our basic business and co-op requirements as we grow.

Summary

To unite our core operations tasks in one working group in which:

  • all members of the group aim to learn how to do all its tasks
  • the group creates resources for the co-op’s users & members to educate themselves and others
  • resonate members who take initiative to educate themselves and help others are recognized, rewarded, and empowered to lead

After the Trenza project achieves its goals, we’ll be left with a small, focused working group which will carry on its responsibilities.

Timeline

January - clarifying goals, budget, organizing crew
February - working
March - working
End of March - open project retrospective among co-op members

What are Resonate’s essential operations tasks? What must we do?

  • Regular software updates to tools we depend on, such as Discourse
  • Upload (or coordinate publishing of) music
  • Coordinate promptly to fix platform-breaking bugs or outages
  • Provide a path for developers to contribute on our codebase
  • Onboard listeners, artists, labels, workers, volunteers
  • Create user guides and co-op documentation
  • Efficiently respond to user questions and needs
  • Send payouts to artists and labels
  • Send refunds
  • Send earnings/plays reports (until Dashboard dev project)
  • …and more

Vision

This project would unite forum moderation, handbook upkeep, basic customer service, payouts, essential platform maintenance, member onboarding, and publicizing project updates as one working group with clear responsibilities.

Regardless of our future resources, we must minimize our essential operations cost and labor, making it as lightweight and cost-efficient as possible. All work that can be delegated back to users or members to do themselves will be. All work that can or should be automated will be added as #new-proposals in the Forum, to be organized into future development projects.

An open-source platform is a commons. We have a responsibility and practical incentive to share regular news inside and outside the co-op about how to contribute work or ideas, begin your own initiatives on the Resonate codebase, and support our current projects. This news will always be paired with:

  • invites to members to apply to be project advisors
  • invites to folks to become funders for our projects
  • invites to folks to become work contributors on our projects

Funders will recieve regular emails updating them on project progress and thanking them.

Our roadmap will be organized as a live kanban board in our forum, listing projects in various states: #organizing-projects, #current-projects, #completed-projects. When each card in the kanban is clicked, it will link to the corresponding project Topic in the forum, where folks can read updates on the project. Links to these projects will be placed on a new Roadmap page on the Resonate website, which shows live tracking and funding of all projects, including Trenza itself.

With our roadmap organized in this way, it will always be up-to-date.

Workflow

All Trenza contributors will have Moderator roles in forum.

All typical faq inbox inquiries and requests will be directed to Help Desk so that all users can learn from them.

Example of how users can find their own answers and improve our knowledge when we use the forum this way: Login issue on Website since I've created an account

Questions or requests dealing with private user data will be handled directly in the inbox or in a private category of the forum.

On a case-by-case basis, emails will be forwarded to the appropriate party at Trenza’s discretion.

Solved issues in Help Desk will be marked as solved using Discourse’s plugin.

All answers provided in Help Desk will be refined into Manuals in the Handbook. Links to these pages will be the first place we send folks with questions, whether on social media, inbox, forum, etc.

All Manuals will begin with a tweet-length summary of the info, so that folks can copy/paste quick FAQ answers to social media.

Common requests for features or platform improvements will be tagged on their respecting forum topics so that product owners can organize requests into development projects. Trenza will prioritize improvements which minimize the operational workload.

The goal for Trenza’s crew isn’t that they personally be available at all times to provide help or answers. Their goal is to be teachers and facilitators, enabling and incentivizing the co-op’s members to have the education they need in order to provide help or answers themselves.

Resources

Upon successful completion of Trenza’s outcomes, each member in the crew will be eligible to become a Worker-Member. A budget will be sought to fund Trenza’s contributors.

Skills

  • uses simple, non-ambiguous grammar
  • knows markdown
  • technical writing skills
  • preferred: multilingual
  • email/inbox processing: organization, filtering, forwarding, deleting
  • dependable and punctual
  • at least one contributor in the Americas and one in African-European timezones
  • basic how-to video production skills are a plus
  • experience with Discourse forum software

Project outcomes

  • Three Moderators, who form an ongoing, stipended operational core, organizing forum posts, facilitating assemblies, and catalyzing proposals into projects

  • With case-by-case exceptions, all FAQs from social media, inbox, and forum will be directed to Help Desk category of forum to find answers

  • Clear links in our onboarding, user interface, and Dashboard will direct users to Help Desk rather than inboxes (delegated to corresponding Platform Project)

  • Every Handbook page has a tweet-length summary at the top with a button to quickly copy/paste.

  • Monthly sessions will invite co-op members to educate themselves on how the platform works, what current projects are, and where to direct users to answer FAQs. Session starts with overview of how to use forum, make topics, start proposals, join projects, find events.

  • Co-op Guide Badge: Members can ask to meet with the Trenza crew to be quizzed on common questions and to receive a forum badge as recognition of their training and dedication to learning. Those with the badge will be encouraged to help users in Help Desk. Those who earn the badge are granted supporter shares.

  • At least one Resonate member will have been trained by the Trenza crew on how to contribute at the Help Desk and receiving the Co-op Guide badge

  • 2 Trenza contributors will be able to update the Discourse forum’s software independent of the Platform Team

  • 2 Trenza contributors will know how to: Uploading music submissions

  • 2 Trenza contributors will have facilitated #community-assemblies and will know how to organize forum posts by tagging them as #new-proposals, #explored-proposals, #supported-proposals

  • The members inbox will aim to have less than 30 emails in it at any given time.

8 Likes

Really great/thorough work here. Execution on initiatives like this will get us to a place where we’re more flexible and self-sustained, in my view. And we’re going to need that flexibility if we wish to scale things up.

6 Likes

How about having on login - “Are you having trouble logging in?” then a link to #login-issues (or whatever tag) to go to the forum?

Same with the search bar - “Can’t find anything?” → #how-do-i-search

It might backfire since who wants to go to a forum to figure out how to log in, but maybe it would work?

2 Likes

I like how this resonates with recently reading the DisCO manifesto stuff. I see much of what is proposed above in line with accounting for and ascribing value to various forms of reproductive/care work (the work that fuels and replenishes the platform’s ability to stream music to a community of listeners, on behalf of a community of artists etc.) :+1:

2 Likes

my first attempt at adding a guide (though I don’t have the power to add it to the handbook)

6 Likes

@jackhajb linked me to this article about how Discourse (the company) uses Discourse (the forum software) for team coordination, project management, task management, support ticketing, and knowledge base. Similarities to the general vision being pitched for Trenza.

1 Like

This seems like an unnecessarily high standard.

Yes, there should be redundancy (a back-up or understudy) for every task, but why should everyone be required to know everything? Suppose in the near future there were 500 tasks or 1000 tasks related to operations. Should everyone really be expected to learn every role? What about areas of sensitivity regarding privacy and security?

Might not provision of documentation, training opportunities, redundancy and succession for every key operational function be sufficient?

Perhaps this could coexist with an ethos of cross-training, encouragement to learn other tasks and roles, but I would push back against making this standard compulsory.

1 Like

The project outcomes are the deliverables for the project. The upper sections are more about the spirit of the crew. Members should aim to learn all the tasks, but it’s not a requirement.

I pitched 3 folks as the core part of Trenza (outcome: 3 moderators), so expecting them or an operations team to have 500 or 1000 unique, recurring tasks to keep track of seems unimaginable.

The spirit of this project is that Trenza would focus on facilitation, education, moderation and recognizing new contributors for stepping up those areas, not to set up a team with an extreme workload.

There are a variety of tasks at Resonate where only one person knows how to do them. It’s risky and quite a challenge. Spreading out that knowledge and rewarding initiative is the goal.

2 Likes

Ah, cool… I see I was making a very poor and hasty reading. Thought this was a general pitch regarding all operational functions.

Pitching for 3 crew members. Now I get it. Awesome. Thank you.

I understand the confusion. I do state near the top that the project would unite a large group of areas:

I’ll reflect on how to clarify the proposal a bit. There are different ways to approach this. The core vision is about utilizing Discourse well as a tool for “customer service and education”, establishing moderators who facilitate and create a path for others to step up and guide others.

Since the pitch is to handle a lot of operations via the forum, these things overlap. I do feel that we need unity in the operations area – honing in on what our essential, recurring tasks are and making sure that a crew with clear responsibilities is assigned to them. These are spread out among various folks at Resonate right now, and we need those tasks to be united and more clearly accounted for.

Nevertheless, based upon my own experience of the work, to unite all the areas above in one working group would be doable.

1 Like
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