OTRS/Admin meeting 2014

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The OTRS administrators met at the Wikimedia Foundation office in San Francisco from September 10–12. Present were Daniel, Keegan, Mailer diablo, Pajz and Raymond. Rjd0060 also joined via Google Hangout for large portions of the program. Jredmond was able to attend on the 10th.

The purpose of the visit was to reflect on OTRS operational practices and procedures including both the technological and cultural sides of the team.

We were fortunate to have sessions with several members of Wikimedia staff, who shared their experience and special knowledge as it related to the OTRS admins and their role. During two sessions with Deputy General Counsel Luis Villa and Legal Fellow Manprit Brar we were able to discuss legal training documents, the current escalation process for legal issues, and permissions procedures. It was agreed that there is a need for additional and improved documentation, as well as for appropriate introductory materials for new agents that will allow them to get a better sense of identifying potential legal issues and dealing with them appropriately.

Some sessions were held without the presence of staff members. Recognizing that our annual reports are insufficient in a number of ways, we talked about improved ways to report out to the public and at the same time gain important insights about trends in our activities. A major deliverable of the meeting—based on these discussions—is a detailed plan of action for the implementation of a reporting strategy that will feature more frequent and more detailed reports on the current state of OTRS. We decided to produce monthly reports on various key metrics, including changes to the agent base, ticket workload and queue-specific response times. These will go live in Q4 2014, as soon we have finalized the necessary technical preparations.

With Operations Engineer Jeff Green and Director of Community Advocacy Philippe Beaudette we talked about possibilities to query the database for relevant information, future technological upgrades and tools to aid agents moving forward. A year ago, we saw the first major upgrade of our software in years; while things have gone mostly well, there have been a few technical issues that agents have pointed out to us since. In our discussions with staff we have articulated the need for technical support for fixing these issues and others that may arise. This would help agents focus on their work without being distracted by software issues.

We also brainstormed with Philippe about future challenges for the volunteer response team, such as changed communication preferences of those who need our help, specifically how much our work actually relies on email as the means of communication as opposed to other methods (Facebook, chat …) that might gain in popularity.

A significant amount of time across a number of sessions was spent with LCA Senior Community Advocate Maggie Dennis as well as Community Advocate James Alexander discussing internal governance, progression and culture. Discussion was reflective on both which parts of the OTRS system and team are running satisfactorily and which are not, and also progressive in planning for the future. Plans were established surrounding more consistent reporting of news and focuses to the team, the handling of ad hoc communication with agents, as well as the management and empowerment of smaller language queues and their communities.

Indeed, the integration of smaller language queues was a recurring theme of the workshop. The metrics project should help us gain better statistical insight (with regards to response times, work breakdowns, etc.) within these queues. We decided that we want to complement this with an increased effort to directly reach out to local team members from these particular communities and talk to them about what does and what does not work in their queues. Right now, most smaller queues are unfortunately below the radar in many respects, and we are working hard to change that.

With Senior Learning and Organization Development Lead Anna Stillwell, discussions surrounded the topics of motivation and appreciation, both for our work as administrators and that of agents. A theme across most sessions, and a focus for immediate action going forward, was that there is a gap with regards to agent training, primarily for new agents. Additionally, we realize that documentation for existing agents is also in need of improvement. Preparations for a new guide to OTRS are already underway, and we will make sure the final document will be ready in Q4 2014. In the future we will be considering other methods of training such as introductory video tutorials for agents to enhance the onboarding process.

We would like to thank Philippe and Maggie for both organizing the workshop and their continued support. Additionally, we extend thanks to all of the Wikimedia staff who were able to meet with us, in particular Jeff whose help with technical matters throughout the year is crucial to the effectiveness of the email response team. Since the workshop, we now have a clearer direction to develop and implement plans related to a wide array of issues, with continued coordination with the appropriate communities and Foundation staff. Both the administrators and the Foundation believe that this experience was a great step in improving a number of OTRS-related aspects—and we’ve already began to make changes a result.


This document was jointly written by the OTRS admins. If you are interested in supporting us in the admin team, please take a moment to review our current call for new members at OTRS/Call for administrators. As always, we are continuously looking for new agents as well. Please see OTRS/Recruiting for more information.

Response from the WMF[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation was pleased to host this gathering, and looks forward to additional gatherings of this type in the future. The LCA team believes strongly in the value of face-to-face contact, and I think that meetings like this one are enormously helpful in breaking through existing barriers and taking dedicated time out to stop and re-imagine how we work. We remain thankful for the work of the OTRS admins, the OTRS agents, and all editors, and are grateful for the time that they give to the projects, and to the world. Philippe Beaudette, Wikimedia Foundation (talk) 10:19, 13 October 2014 (UTC)