WPMU DEV Brain Drain Solution

I am half way into my second year with WPMU DEV. When searching the forum. I have noticed that some pretty smart and helpful wp developers/users are no longer members. Also I see a number of once helpful staff members are now inactive too.

An important question is how much of the community is now novice and intermediate users and why are experts dropping out?

There has to be value in keeping these high level wp folks in the membership. Even when they are asking questions they are adding expert conversations to the forum. They are also potentially a valuable resource for WPMU when you need help. They should also help take pressure off paid support by helping each other and other members. The longer they stay a member the more familiar they become with WPMU products and therefore even more helpful with WPMU specific questions.

Old staff is an immediate source of expert members that could be added. So consider offering any old staff that left on good terms membership for free.

I think it is important to determine why talented and helpful members might decide to leave.

Personally I have a little understanding as to why they might choose not to stay. Myself I was a computer programmer, and have a lot of experience with database design. I joined WPMU DEV as a wp novice but my level of expertise has grown to point where I myself am considering dropping my membership this June when my second year is up.

I think that part of the problem is that some of the brightest members eventually add more value then they are deriving. As they help and contribute they are not being rewarded for their contributions (as they make them). Yes they may eventually get a lifetime membership, but that can take a while. So unless they absolutely need WPMU products then there is little incentive to stay.

Part of WPMU DEV's value comes from belonging to an expert community. So if experts do not stay then WPMU DEV should take a better look how experts can be encouraged to stay. There is value in keeping them on as expert members in the community and this adds to WPMU DEV's overall value at little cost. It is worth evaluating who makes up most of the paying community. If most of the revenue is from a novice and intermediate user base, then having more experts stay should be a fairly high priority.

The point system is a good idea, but it flawed in that any user lowers their perceived member rank and status when they give points away. Novice, new and non lifetime members who need points are also less likely to give them up, and the majority of members probably fall into this category. Members have to hit 600 point before their own points are worthless toward a lifetime membership. Then we're back to the status problem.

A solution to the above would be to award 2 points for every post. One that counts toward the members points and one that does not count toward their own points, but can be given away. Then award helpful members extra time as they reach a certain number of points from other members. So members that have expertise and are helpful are rewarded and will have no reason because they maintain their membership just by staying helpful to other members. Eventually they will reach their lifetime membership but have already proven themselves to be an asset to WPMU DEV.

This system could even be offered to inactive members. Maybe they cannot initiate a question to get support or get updates for WPMU products until they have enough points. This way experts can answer questions for other members to acquire points towards becoming active again at no cost. When they earn enough points for being helpful their membership automatically reactivates and remains active if the keep hitting point milestones. As long as a member stays active as a helpful member they could be free until they eventually get a lifetime membership. This would greatly improve the community and raise the average expertise of the membership in general.

Another issue is that it is not easy for members to be helpful to each other unless you are regularly visiting the forum. I believe more members would help other members if there was an easy way for them to see new questions without having to go to the forum.

Personally I would enjoy seeing new forum posts unintrusively pop up, and have the ability to easily click and respond. Also having the ability to select the type of post to see would be good. An intermediate member might only want to see beginner posts, figuring that they might be able to help. An expert might only want to see the advanced questions and plugin questions but not themes and beginner questions etc.

Cheers,
Sean

    Patrick

    Heya @Sean

    Wow! Thanks for that very well thought out breakdown of issues that do need to be addressed.

    You'll be pleased to learn that we are currently in the process of overhauling the entire membership framework, and that some of the ideas and suggestions you have expressed above will be finding their way into the new way of doing things around DEV.

    There will also be some new areas of interest and exchange for members, new responsibilities and privileges for various levels, as well as a redesigned points system.

    Your idea of having a separate points "account" reserved for gifting sounds very interesting. That would definitely encourage grateful users to use that system more. I'll pass this along to the dev team to get their input.

    Thanks for taking the time to think this through, and for sharing your thoughts with us!

    HamRadioDude

    Very Good Post.

    You'll be pleased to learn that we are currently in the process of overhauling the entire membership framework, and that some of the ideas and suggestions you have expressed above will be finding their way into the new way of doing things around DEV.

    There will also be some new areas of interest and exchange for members, new responsibilities and privileges for various levels, as well as a redesigned points system.

    Wow I have worked hard to get the points I have now and hoping to reach 1,000 in the next few weeks, and your changing stuff around just my luck, lol

    Sean

    Hi Guys,

    Thanks for all your responses (and the points).

    My original post was getting a little long so stopped before it became a small book, but because there seems to be interest, I will keep going.

    #
    NOTE: The numbers, months, percentages, etc., that I used below are purely for the purpose of discussing the topics and explaining or illustrating ideas.
    #

    New members probably use far more resources and are a greater burden on support. Once they have done all their initial downloading and have become familiar with things their support needs and cost must drop off pretty sharply. They have also been learning so they themselves can start being helpful.

    Members that stay a while have already gone through the WPMU DEV product learning curve. So if helping others is encouraged and rewarded, then these members will eventually turn from being a greater burden on support to and asset to the support team.

    It might be interesting to look at the number of support questions relative to the number of months members have been members. I would suspect that each month you would see a steady drop in the need for support. Then if you look at the number of posts on other peoples questions I would expect you would see a steady incline after a member has been a member for a while.

    Giving 'give away points' for questions asked and 'reward/status points' for answers, suggestions and feedback might be something to consider.

    If you graphed the variable cost for members as their membership ages I would suspect that you may find that the initial support cost is the highest. Then there should be a steady and fairly rapid decrease down to a much lower plateau. That plateau might eventually increase to a slightly higher plateau as they manage more sites and grow their own memberships.

    Something like this:

    Support Burden Level (1-10)

    10 -1-
    09
    08
    07
    06 -----2-
    05
    04
    03--------3-
    02----------4-...............................-11--12--13-14-…-60-61-…
    01------------5--6--7--8--9--10-
    _____________________________________________
    Membership (Month)...

    Even if the support burden plateau does increase slightly with time, this would probably be more than offset by the help those members contribute as experienced WPMU DEV product users.

    WordPress expert or not, there is a learning curve for WPMU products. So the longer a member stays the more likely it is that they can answer other member's questions. Unfortunately as their expertise grows, this is probably when they start considering dropping their membership.

    It is worth looking at the member support costs for short term members. For example a new monthly membership member that stays for only 1 month probably has a very high associated overhead. Theoretically WPMU DEV could actually be losing money on this type of member. If that were the case, then strategically it makes sense to avoid having 1 month only members, or at least figure out how to reduce the cost of servicing them.

    Some possible strategies:

    1) Analyse the typical 1 month member's support questions. Then prepare answers to help the staff answer common ones quickly. Create a newbie section with tutorials that can be referred to to reduce staff having to answer certain questions over, and over again.

    2) Decrease pressure and demands on support staff by giving them some more community help. Create WPMU DEV "Ambassador's" made up of previous staff, wp experts, experienced WPMU DEV members, and helpful members that add more support value than they consume.

    An ambassador would be viewed by other members as a representative. So staff does not always need to respond if an ambassador solves the problem.

    A member's WordPress expertise level and a member's WPMU DEV product expertise level are two different things. A helpful intermediate level WordPress user with a lot of experience using WPMU DEV products has great value. A new member that is a wp expert has a lot of value too but until they pass through the WPMU DEV product learning curve, they are likely to be just as much of a burden on support as a novice. So regardless of a members initial expertise, a members overall membership time is an important gauge of their value as a member.

    3) Keep low cost high value members in, when they would otherwise typically drop out.

    Virtually all long term members should cost less to support. In addition, long term members that like to help other members or WPMU DEV, in a way become adjunctive staff. Thus at some point their value to WPMU DEV exceeds their cost.

    So if a typical 1 or 2 year member has more actual value than cost, then membership beyond that point is not a drain, even if it were free. In which case it is better to keep these long term members than it would be to not have them as a member at all. Again this would be true even if WPMU DEV never made another penny from them directly.

    If percentage wise very few members stay 2 or more years then the most WPMU DEV is giving up is the actual support cost. So if their contributions out way that cost, then it is worth keeping them by making them free or allowing them to stay at a fee that is close to their support cost.

    4) Give members credit for remaining members

    If experienced longterm members eventually have a greater value than it cost to keep them, then reward them for staying members. Give them 'reward/status points' for every month they are a member. Points that count towards a lifetime membership.

    If you determine at what point in time you actually want members to stay in purely for member value, then make sure that they can hit their lifetime points, at that time.

    5) Decrease the membership cost the longer a member stays in,

    If the average member stayed 3 months then the income to expense ratio for them would be low. If the member overhead at month 5 were substantially less, say 1/3 to 1/10 it would be better to reduce the membership cost and keep them then to lose them altogether, and get nothing.

    There loss is a loss for the community too. The longer a member is in, the more experienced they are compared to most of the new members that joined after they did. So having them drop out when they can start helping other members is a waste. Members that stay in are essentially learning more and more. It is as if they are going through training to eventually be able to help other members.

    Also there is virtually no acquisition cost to keeping members, and little cost to reactivating old members.

    Imagine if WPMU DEV sent previous members that had reached month 6, but later dropped out an invitation to join under a new policy. One that affords them say 25% off for 6 cumulative months on, 50% off for 12 months on, 75% off for 18 months on and lifetime for 24 cumulative months on.

    WPMU DEV could even look at the member's helpfulness ratio and only send the invites to the helpful members that have at least 6 months in. To be fair the policy might be the same for the less helpful members that made it 6 months. Just do not inform them unless they come back on their own.

    WPMU DEV expert members are an asset in another way too. They are a great talent resource. Not only for the community but for WPMU DEV too.

    WPMU DEV might not want to publicly ask for help in the regular member forum, but could certainly privately ask lifetime / wp expert members and ambassadors to help with testing and even possibly with further development of WPMU DEV products.

    In my previous post I mentioned that I would like to have an easy way to watch and participate in the forums. I imagine members with very high levels of wp expertise might also be excited to be included in a special private forum, email list or some other way in which they can be asked questions, or asked for help by WPMU DEV developers and support staff. It is certainly in all of our interest for WPMU DEV products and services to be as good as possible.

    This brings me to a related point. Where the membership is mixed it is important for staff to knows a member's level of expertise when they are communicating with a member. If staff knows the expertise level of the member they will know how to answer better. They will not have to guess whether a member will understand their response.

    I imagine a lot of staff time is wasted by either being more detailed or less detailed than required for a member's level of experience and expertise.

    I am pretty tired now, so I will continue that thought later. Good night all.

    Tom Eagles

    @Sean

    Awsome post, you bring up a great number of valid points here. There are some awsome plans in place that already cover some of the points you make, James is watching this as well and I know he is really interested in this.

    I am sure a lot of people will like the new parts and it will go a long way to addressing parts of what you mention.

    But this is really an awsome post.

    Cheers

    Tom

    Sean

    Hi Guys,

    It is nice hearing from all of you again. It is great to hear that WPMU DEV is working on this. An thank you for the points again.

    The purpose of the "WPMU DEV Brain Drain Solution" post is to help figure out how to get valuable and helpful community members to stay members.

    Summary:

    1) Point System

    • Split the point system into 'status/reward points' and 'giving points'.
    • Reward contributions more than questions.

    2) Reward members with loyalty points for every month they are a member.

    Members would know that if they accumulate some number of months, that they will eventually get a lifetime membership.

    At 10 points a month it would take 100 months.
    At 20 points a month it would take 50 months.
    At 30 points a month it would take 34 months.
    At 40 points a month it would take 24 months.
    At 50 points a month it would take 20 months.

    3) Lower the membership price gradually to reward time in.

    This is a way to reward loyalty in stages. It should help keep members in by giving them something to look forward to, and make them feel appreciated along the way.

    This could be tricky to implement with subscriptions. So they might need to receive a notification of the new price they are being given, and accept it so it can replace their current membership price.

    The price drops could be linked to time in, or points accumulated - assuming they are awarded loyalty points every month. Tying it to points would allow helpful members to hit price reductions sooner.

    4) Automatically Extend Exceptionally Helpful Members

    Keep helpful members in by granting extensions as they continue to be helpful to WPMU DEV and the community.

    If they are being very helpful then keep extending them until they reach their lifetime membership.

    Extensions could be granted based on achieving some number of award points each month.

    ______________

    All of the above rely heavily on some degree of automation. I myself am guilty of loving automation, and building systems that run without humans. As developers you probably also think in these terms. It is so easy to get caught up in creating an automated solutions for problems, and completely ignore simple human solutions.

    I am sure that the staff has seen plenty of great talent and helpful members come and go. Members that made the staff's days better and helped them be more productive. Members the staff wish had stayed.

    Most of the staff probably know which members are currently community assets. So why not allow staff to recommend specific members that they would like to see stay. Either formerly at staff meetings, or by adding the member to a list that is reviewed later, or both. —Staff should be allowed to recommend old members too.

    The way staff points are handled should be looked at also. Staff get points but just like members they lose their perceived rank or status by giving them away. One solution would be to re-credit staff for all the points that they have given away and convert their current remaining points into 'giving points'.

    This would allow staff to be recognised for their time in and helpfulness, while at the same time empowering them with the ability to vote for the members they want to keep.

    Staff should probably also discuss what things to reward. For example if staff sees that a member helped another member then giving points will encourage that member to continue helping other members. Which will make WPMU DEV a better community and reduce the burden on support staff.

    The creation of an Ambassador Program would allow staff to recommend ambassadors. This would be one of the the fastest ways to immediately identify current or old members that deserve the honor.

    Having more experts in the community will be intellectually stimulating for staff, and other expert members. So keeping expert members that are helpful and that the staff like will make their job more enjoyable.

    By encouraging the best, brightest and most helpful wp talent to stay in the community, the community's value increases for everyone.

    If the community value increases then more paying members should join, and stay longer. Win-win!

    Cheers to All,
    Sean

    Sean

    The other night I touched on the value of staff knowing a member's skill level during communication. That information would also give WPMU DEV more ways to analyse membership statistics. For example, knowing the attrition rate for members by various class of expertise would be nice. Knowing how long each type of member stays would be valuable information.

    It could also be used to determine user characteristics for different types of members including which resources are consumed most by which types of members.

    Asking too many questions at the time of sign-up, risks losing the sign-up. Therefore collecting this information after sign-up is better.

    Even now, WPMU DEV could ask all current and past users to update their profiles. Offering points or extending memberships could be used as an incentive. Giving inactive members a free month to answer the some questions would be a good way to possibly reactivate them. By allowing them the chance to experience the new WPMU DEV they may like it decide to stay.

    Old members could also be asked why they became inactive as part of the short questionnaire. The data collected can help provide valuable information about why members stay or leave.

    To collect information on member's skill level, you can just ask them. Although, getting an accurate picture of each members experience level might be tricky. The information collected will certainly be inaccurate if it is not collected properly.

    How the questions are asked, and the stated purpose for the questions, is very important. To minimise fabrication and exaggeration you need to consider any "secondary gain" motives.

    The validity of answers you receive depends heavily on who's answering them, and why they think you're asking. If it is thought that their answers might be made public, and they are a developer, then they will almost surely be tempted to exaggerate, and for logical reasons.

    To avoid getting inaccurate answers, the respondent has to see value in accurately answering. So the question needs to be asked with a logical stated purpose. One that encourages them to answer honestly for their own sake:

    "Not Public / Help us Help You Better / You Can Change Your Answers Anytime."

    Their answers will help WPMU DEV analyse member behaviour based on know characteristics. At the same time the answers will really help with support, so the statement above would actually completely be true.

    When asking a member to rate their own skill level it is best to give them a slider without any scale or reference. The position they set the slider to will give WPMU DEV a numeric value, but the respondent will have no numbers to relate to when answering. This will result in more accurate data.

    Ultimately staff knowing a members skill level during communication will help staff tailor their responses to the members experience. If a member is a novice they may not even know where the wp-content file is. So the response needs to be more step by step, or else staff will have to go back and forth with a very confused member. A step by step answer might be a total waste of time when communicating with experienced member. Also the best solution might be totally different depending on the members skill level.

    So collecting and having accurate data on member skill levels would be valuable for support, and for statistical analysis.

    elpino

    Great post! i think the separate points is one of really important, i used to help alot on the forums, even had a time frame for doing so, but most the regular users don't give you points when you helped then and the ones that need more help the 1 month subscriptions members go inactive so fast 1 minute you are helping then and then off, and no rep points, no biggie we understand they only wanna download all the plugins and run hehe, lately haven't have time to do a little help, but what keeps me coming back is the great staff members that give you points when they see you have helped, surely the separate point will solve this issue. Also im planing to translate all the plugins im using currently, hope there is some point rep for contributors, if there is not there should be some kind of points giving system for contributors.

    Regards
    Alex

    phillcoxon

    Really great thread with some awesome ideas here.

    I haven't been a member of WPMUdev for long and right from the start I set a goal of earning 1000 points for lifetime membership. I like helping other people so the idea of being rewarded by other members seemed like a good fit for me and I was quite excited about it.

    The reality has been somewhat different than I expected. I've found that members only rarely reward with points and if they do then then usually only a very small number (often just 1). Working for 30+ minutes to help a member find a solution and getting nothing or just 1 point can be a bummer at times.

    Fortunately the staff have been awesome and I immensely appreciate the points that various staff members have gifted to me for helping out. Those points make up 95% of what I've been gifted so far.

    One of the challenges is that members are either complacent about giving or are reluctant to give away points because it takes away from their own total. I've given away some points of my own and will continue to do so if I see awesome solutions or if someone helps me. However, I definitely feel the pressure of doing so knowing that giving away 10 points equates to another 1-2 hours of quality volunteer time in the forum to earn them back.

    Having a system where members don't lose points for rewarding others would be great but still needs somehow to be balanced with the lifetime membership offer.

    Lifetime membership should remain a challenging target that takes real time and effort to achieve. The current system of requiring at least 400 points of the 1000 to be contributed by other members or staff is good. The only issue I see with it is that members aren't empowered to reward others for help given.

    One suggestion might be to add some code that sends a member an email if they mark one of their own tickets as resolved. The email says something along the lines of:

    "Thanks for being part of the community. This community thrives on acknowledging the assistance members give each other. Would you like to gift some points to member(s) who helped you resolve your issue? Click here..."

    If the system was changed so members don't lose their own points when they gift to others then the lifetime membership would have to be changed to prevent people gaming the system - two users constantly rewarding each other points, for example.

    Suggestions might be to:

    * Set a minimum time period for that members have to contribute for - i.e.: lifetime membership can't be earned in less than 6 months.

    * Points have to be gifted by a minimum number of unique members (i.e.: points from at least 100 unique members)

    * Staff have the ability to override guidelines on a case by case basis if they find an exceptional member of the community contributing back but hampered by the minimum time limit.

    Overall though I'm actually pretty happy with the current points system. I just wished members would contribute more points in general.

    So as an alternative option how about this idea of modifying the current system:

    For every 50 points a member earns, allocate them 10 special gifting points that do not take away from their own points but also do not contribute to their points total.

    A member can then gift these 10 points as rewards to other members without fear of losing their own hard earned total. Because the special gifting points are limited it prevents users gaming the system - if they gift any more than that it starts to take away from their total.

    When the user hits 100 points they get 10 more special gifting points to give away without harming their total.

    This would encourage users on a high points total and / or working towards life membership to contribute rewards back into the community which in turn encourages the junior members they gift to do the same.

    Along with an increased encouragement for members to gift points for great help this would enable the community to interact and help each other even more.

    For example putting "Please consider gifting points to members who helped you find a great solution" above the "mark ticket as resolved" check-box would provide a good reminder to members to gift for great solutions.

    I hope that makes sense - I'm very tired today so not being as clear as normal.

    In closing I just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying being part of this community. The community culture here is awesome and I'm constantly impressed by the lengths staff will go (often beyond the call of duty) to help members find solutions.

    Sean

    Hi phillcoxon,

    Gaming the system is largely prevented by having separate gifting points and status/rep points. Once the 'gifting points' are given they go into the recipient's 'status/rep point' total. Where they cannot be gifted again, so there is no way to bounce points back and forth.

    Members would only be able to gift points that they have earned, not points given to them. Gifting points would only come from WPMU DEV's automatic pointing system for posting (and loyalty points if that's added to the reward system).

    There could be a choice for marking your post as a question or comment. Then the system policy would determine how points are allotted as gifting points and as status/rep points. Comments would get more rep points and questions less or no rep points. Both questions and comments would get giving points.

    Status/Rep Points Awarded for:
    • posting comments (starting thread)
    • posting on other peoples posts
    • giving feedback

    Giving Points Awarded for:
    • asking questions
    • posting comments on own post
    • posting comments (starting thread)
    • posting on other peoples posts
    • giving feedback

    So members ALWAYS get 'giving points', but only get 'rep points' for helping or contributing. OR at least the rewards should be skewed toward the ones helping. This way virtually all rep points would be linked to participating or helping.

    EXAMPLES

    A) A member finds a problem with a plugin. They resolve it themselves and post a comment under that plugin. This is be helpful to WPMU DEV and to other members, and it consumes little to no support time. So the comment is rewarded with some 'rep points' and some 'gifting points'.

    B) A member is having a problem with a plugin and asks for help. They post a question under that plugin. This will require help from WPMU DEV and or other members so the comment is rewarded with some 'gifting points' only.

    Phillcoxon, I like you suggested, adding a "Please consider gifting points…" reminder above the "mark ticket as resolved" check-box. That is a great idea.

    Any member asking a question will pick up 2 giving points for their question and 1 per post on the same topic. So even if they start with zero points before they post, they will have two or more giving point available by the time their issue is resolved. It would be pretty selfish to not give those to the people helping them.

    There should also be a link to an information page that outlines suggestions on when to gift points and appropriate amounts. Of course it is totally up to the member, but when a member is new and has very few points they may feel embarrassed to give only a small number of points. When in reality 2 to 5 points is always better than none.

    Because questions usually have higher degree of importance to members than their comments do. Having members specify whether their post is a question or comment allows staff prioritise the post they need to handle first.

    Cheers,
    Sean

    Tom Eagles

    Hi all,

    Great discussion here, the way i look at points and how i give them out is based on this.

    a)Did the member replying to a thread contribute something relevant to the problem, even if not a solution could be a link to a thread with a solution or a plugin for example.
    For example "try this or this etc." i give points based on the content added.

    b)Does the person appear to be posting on lots of threads with just comments etc not actually contributing (= zero points, they are just boosting the +1 for post points)

    c) If they provide the solution then i base it on the following

    i) How difficult was it to solve
    ii) How long did it take them
    iii) Did they offer some custom coding or css (depending on how complex i give points accordingly)

    d) Have they added anything to the community, for example a free addon, translation file, tutorial etc. (these get more than most)

    On average i give away anywhere between 5-20 when i give out points, i have on occasion gone much higher than that when warranted.

    All the staff work pretty much the same way, what would be nice for us would be to see if any points had been gifted in that thread so we could adjust the ones we give etc.

    Cheers

    tom

    Sean

    Hi Tom,

    Sounds like you have thought out a good system for personally granting points.

    The big issue that I see is that many valuable and helpful members are dropping out before reaching the 1000 point mark.

    Regularly rewarding helpful members extensions based on their current contributions would probably keep many of these members that are helpful to WPMU DEV and the staff.

    Solution: Every time a member hits X number of "gifting points' that is awarded to them by staff or other members, extend them a month until they finally become lifetime members.

    So if that number were say 30 points that would represent represent 3-6 hours of work. (Based on phillcoxon's 10 points equating to 1-2 hours of quality volunteer time in the forum.)

    Is three to six hours of working to assist staff in helping other members worth a one month extension? If so then why lose them as members by failing to reward them for what they are doing right now?

    The other big issue is that the current system does not encourage members to thank each other with points. All the helpful members in the community know this.

    So with about 22 staff members in the community it has to be difficult to fairly reward all the members that are helping out. Especially with a community size in the tens of thousands.

    I have given up 3 days of work on my own projects to help address this topic. Most likely I will fall by the wayside too.

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/forums/topic/my-thoughts-after-almost-a-year-of-membership

    I do not have any serious complaints myself, but I have pretty much determined that I am not dependent on any WPMU DEV product. I can easily do everything I am doing now with other products. I have also advanced enough in my WordPress skill that I can find a lot of what I do not know with Google. Even now, frequently I ask a question here, get pointed in the right direction and then Google for more details.

    So even though I really like WPMU DEV, after the two year mark this June I will probably not renew.

    Not saying I am close to one of the most helpful members here, but I do feel like I contribute more than I receive. Just like many others I have seen go.

    I wrote this post to point out the Brain Drain that I can clearly see. Even with WPMU DEV's products, site and interface all improving the rate of membership sign-ups as a percentage seemed to slow down last year. Only adding 5 new staff last year is not enough. I'm not even sure if that replaced staff that I know left.

    Adding staff is really not the best solution anyway. There is plenty of talent that comes and goes here. WPMU DEV needs a net that catches the big fish and lets the small ones pass through. Not that small fish do not count, because they help pay the bills. It's the big fish though that add more value to the community and will allow it to handle more members without needing more staff.

    Big fish do not need WPMU DEV, WPMU DEV needs big fish. Otherwise the little fish that stick around eventually outgrow WPMU DEV and will eventually also move on when they themselves become a big fish.

    If this happens long enough then WPMU DEV will really just become mostly about support for novices rather than what it should be—an expert community for experts and those willing to pay for a membership to associate with the expert staff and members.

    I have trained many years in martial arts and dance. Over the years I have seen instructors that successfully teach to a certain level. They themselves are experts. Yet they gear their training and classes to the 80% of the students who are at a novice or intermediate level. So their advanced students eventually leave because the training plateaus at the lowest common denominator.

    If the instructor tries to keep them as a paying student they virtually always leave. If the instructor makes them an instructor then they stay and multiply the number of students that the school can handle.

    Sometimes wp experts join WPMU DEV, and sometimes wp experts develop while they are WPMU DEV members. Trying to keep them a regular member, hoping they will stay and keep paying forever is illogical and just wishful thinking.

    The current Brain Drain is wasting the life blood of the community. The staff, and other experts are what members join for. That, and the products—which are very good but not indispensable.

    Cheers to All,
    Sean

    phillcoxon

    Hi Sean,

    I'm not sure I 100% agree with everything you've said. The 1000 point goal should always be a fairly significant challenge to achieve. It should always be a process of having to give more than is received back.

    If it's too easy then there will be a large rush of users rushing to get lifetime membership very quickly.

    Every lifetime membership has an associated cost in terms of still having to pay for the resources lifetime members use (answering questions, storage, bandwidth etc) while absorbing the (potentially significant) future revenue that has been lost.

    There is also no guarantee that anyone who achieves lifetime membership will continue to contribute back to the community. Making it easier to reach 1000 points may actually make the Brain Drain worse as members are inspired to reach lifetime membership and then drop out of the community except for the occasional question they ask.

    I can understand the frustration of watching points creep up very slow. A couple of weeks ago I was on around 300 points and getting quite frustrated that very few members were gifting points for solutions that took up a great deal of my time.

    Since then I've continued to focus on providing quality solutions to member problems and slowly but surely the points have been coming in. My aim is to post 10 quality detailed replies / solutions to help members each day. Some days I'll get 0 gifted points and other days I wake up to find 30-40 points have been gifted to me over night.

    My suggestion for users who want to get to lifetime membership fairly quickly is to decide on a number of quality posts they can make each day. 10 quality posts / replies / solutions a day means lifetime membership should be earned within about 3 months. In my experience that's about 2 hours / day effort.

    5 points a day would equate to around 6 months for 30-60 mins a day. I can certainly attest to the fact that the more in depth and helpful the reply (i.e.: provide a full solution before the staff gets to the post) the more points staff are likely to gift (thanks team!).

    While these are still challenging goals in terms of effort required I'm ok with that. We've got to remember that lifetime membership is valuable. If I'm involved for 5 years that's at least US$2,400 that I won't have to pay.

    So in summary I really don't think the the lifetime membership process needs to be made easier to achieve.

    I do feel the process can be tweaked to educate members to gift points to users who are providing solutions. That in itself encourages both more gratitude and interaction amongst the community members and will increase the points total of contributors.

    Overall I feel that WPMUdev serves its target market really well. My feeling is that the target member is the novice to medium level WordPress user. High end users won't find as much value in WPMUdev as they have gained a very high level of knowledge (rarely need to ask questions, often to busy to answer basic questions) and are often coding their own CSS, PHP, custom themes and plugins. As members grow in skill I would expect some of them to grow out of WPMUdev over time. Therefore the Brain Drain might be a fairly natural process for WPMUdev.

    Sean

    Actually I agree with phillcoxon the 1000 point goal should be a fairly significant challenge to achieve, and It should be a process of having to give more than is received back.

    Phillcoxon is a prime example of a valuable member. For anyone curious since joining on November 23, 2012 phillcoxon has you helped a lot of people. Just take a look at some of his posts:

    http://goo.gl/Y57zU

    I am here for expert help when I really need it. So I, like others want more members like phillcoxon.

    We may not lose phillcoxon, but WPMU DEV is certainly losing others like him. Most members probably don't put even one hour per month into helping. Nor should they have too, because they are paying to receive service not give it.

    By phillcoxon estimates providing 10 quality posts / replies / solutions results in earning 10 points. In his experience he says that he's found that it take on average about 2 hours to make 10 quality posts. This equates to 200 hours of expert help This does not account for the time it takes to develop the expertise to be able to provide expert help.

    Phillcoxon said he believes that the target member is the novice to medium level WordPress user. He also perceives, as I do, that high end users rarely need to ask questions. (lower support cost)

    I agree that high end users rarely need to ask questions and won't find as much value in WPMUdev. I also agree with phillcoxon's statement, "As members grow in skill I would expect some of them to grow out of WPMUdev over time. Therefore the Brain Drain might be a fairly natural process for WPMUdev."

    High end users not staying, and regular members becoming high end users and eventually leaving is why I decided to post the Brain Drain Solution.

    Phillcoxon's reminder ideas that encourage members to gift points were really good. Tom's idea of having a way for staff to see what points have already gifted in a thread to help adjust for that was excellent too.

    Hopefully some of the ideas here will be incorporated into the upcoming changes.

    phillcoxon

    We're not quite on the same page about this. I see WPMUdev's target market as the novice to mid-level WordPress user and feel it fits that demographic very well.

    While it's great to have high end WP users staying active in the community I can fully understand why some will choose to move on to other peer communities where discussions are at a level far beyond the average WordPress user.

    I don't really feel that giving them lifetime membership would make all that much difference. While it's great having high end experts interacting with the community WPMUdev is still backed by amazing staff and a wealth of knowledge in the forum history.

    For now I'm going to stop commenting on this discussion and leave it up to the WPMUdev management to run with the thoughts and ideas put forward in this thread.

    Sean

    Making an effort to keep high end users will take pressure off WPMU DEV Staff, and it allow the community to grow better. Helpful high end users really function like unpaid staff for WPMU DEV.

    It is easier to cultivate and keep helpful members than it is to try and match the community's growth by hiring more staff. Relying mainly on staff is an unnecessarily and limiting business model.

    From what you are saying WPMU DEV is for, and should be for novice to mid-level WordPress users. You know the community this way because you have been here for only 2 months.

    I have been here for almost two years. So I see what the community is becoming and it is becoming what you think it is. I really do not think that is what WPMU DEV management wants, or set out to create.

    I know I joined what I believe to be an expert community, and a place for serious novices and intermediates to interact with these experts and maybe become and expert themselves.

    Tom Eagles

    @Sean

    One of the other issues we face is some people once reaching lifetime membership just disappear off the radar and that's the last we see of them they have their free membership and really have no interest in contributing to the community further. (this luckily is a minority).

    Most of the staff myself included were actually all members before joining the team. A few of us actually got to lifetime membership in a month or even less. Granted this is also not the normal.

    The community has changed a lot since i joined the staff some months ago, and as you mentioned its shifting from advanced users and developers towards more lower level experienced users. But at the same time more and more complex questions are being asked.

    One of the biggest issues facing businesses like dev and others is now people assume web design, whether it be traditional custom designed sites coded from the ground up or wordpress / joomla etc, to be a plug and play industry,

    This is simply not the case, the amount of questions we see on a daily basis where users don't know html/css/php or even how to use wordpress in some cases and expect to deliver a commercial site for a client is growing at an unbelievable rate.
    But that is our job as support to help them, however its not our job to develop the site for them but to help them to achieve it with regards to our plugins.

    I joined because i wanted to learn and pick the brains of the experts here and on the team. Now i could count on maybe two hands at most the ultra high level members here that still participate on a regular basis. Its these people that we need to encourage to stay as you said.

    Anyway just my thoughts.

    JosephLee1179

    When a person posts a question on the forum, they should be able to allocate a number of points they are going to reward to the person that answers their question best. They are required to chose one of the answers as the person that gets the points, they can't take them back.

    Someone finish my line of thought. I think if people that have the skills can see places to get more points, that would encourage them to get lifetime membership by helping people that really want help.

    Sometimes I would be willing to give a lot more points if I knew it would get me a lot of answers/solutions quickly.

    Sean

    Hi Tom,

    The change is definitely noticeable.

    On one hand it is exciting to have crops of newbies joining, on the other hand it poses new challenges.

    One of the goals should certainly be keeping as many talented and helpful members in the community as possible. They do not need to be ultra high level members. Just high enough to be helpful to enough less experienced members.

    Keeping ultra high level members involved really requires thinking about what interests them. Some possibilities:

    • Having more ultra high level members to interact with.
    • A place for them to collaborate on projects.
    • An opportunity to participate in WPMU DEV product development.
    • Joint venture opportunities with each other,
    • Joint venture opportunities with WPMU DEV.
    • Ability to filter posts by other members community rank.
    • A special forum that appears only for members that have a certain number of points, or community rank.

    Always happy to help.

    Cheers,
    Sean