Unsung heroes of the Dropbox Community: Q&A with a Super User
Published on September 10, 2019
The Dropbox Community is a resource for quick answers to product questions. But as we learned in part one of this series, it offers more than peer-to-peer conversations and customer support. Here in part two, we'll continue to look at how the Dropbox Community helps keep our product team apprised about what matters most to our users.
The new Dropbox has evolved in many ways in recent years—adding team features, Smart Sync, Paper, and more. Through it all, our community of users come together to inspire, support, and learn from each other.
Mark is one of the earliest Super Users on the Dropbox Community (formerly known as the forum). He helps users troubleshoot issues, try new features, and get the most out of Dropbox. We sat down to hear about his Dropbox origin story, his experience as a moderator, and the most common question he comes across.
"You can email somebody directly and say, 'I'm not sure if I'm doing this wrong or I'm misunderstanding or if it’s a bug.' That was really helpful in the initial days, because it meant I learned better."
Could you tell us a bit about your career background and your current job?
I’m a teacher. I’ve worked in special ed for about 10 or 12 years, mainly with secondary students.
How do you use computers at work? What led you to Dropbox?
I've a memory like a sieve. I'm very forgetful. So anything I can do that makes things a little bit easier is great. I've used Dropbox from its beta days, even before the product was launched. It was at a meeting at work when somebody asked me for something and I had forgotten my USB pen. It was that age-old [apology], “I can't do it. I'm really sorry. I’ll have to email you that later.” And somebody in the room piped up and said, “Have you heard of Dropbox?” And it kind of snowballed from there. Dropbox came out a bit too late for my educational use. I have just used it in a personal/professional capacity. But it’s great because I know if I dump something in the folder, it's going to be where I need it when I need it later on.
What brought you to the Dropbox Community?
The first version I used was something like point five or point six, before Dropbox had even launched officially. There was no documentation. You literally got an install folder and that was it. I couldn't get my head around what you had to do. “Did you move the stuff around? Did it link to places on a drive?” Back then, the help pages were sparse, shall we say? You were basically directed to [the Dropbox Community], and somebody else had answered the question.
I remember having that light-bulb moment of, “Oh, that's actually really simple.” I just popped back on [the Dropbox Community] a couple of times when people replied to my posts. That automatic email chain just started things off. I noticed that people were having problems and started to see, “Actually, it is literally a case of: There's a folder, put things in it, they will sync.” It snowballed from there.
There was a group of about five of us at the time. Arash, one of the founders, was quite active on [the Dropbox Community]. He basically said, “This is getting too big now for me to watch. I need people to help.” Next thing you know, we were moderators. It's gone on since then.
How much of your time did it take in the beginning?
Bearing in mind, this was probably 10 years ago. [The Dropbox Community wasn’t] busy because nobody knew this little product. I suppose nobody knew what this little product was going to become down the line. So it wasn't a case of having to be vigilant. I just remember, I popped on one evening when work was over, and it sounds daft, but it was a nice distraction. You're in between marking a pile of books, [and then get pulled into] thinking about, “Hang on what is wrong here?” It was quite nice to look on and just spend 5 or 10 minutes sitting on there, answering some questions, pottering about, then going back to what you were doing. It was almost a bit of a respite if you're sitting on hold. I'll just sit around surfing and answering questions.
"It was quite the serious bug at the time because it was an emergency fix. It was Super Users who found it and said, 'This is something we need to look at.'"
What's the main appeal to you about being a moderator and Super User?
It's kind of a catch 22. The tiny bit was helping people and I suppose in a way, seeing the huge potential this product has and thinking it will be successful. It's not going to be successful if people open it and think, “I don't know what I’m doing, I'm going to delete it.” Because we've all done that with apps. But I could see how it was making my life a heck of a lot easier, so I wanted to say to people, “This does work: try this.”
But also, it became a nice sounding board to work out how to use it myself, and work out how to do things. If something wasn't working for you, and you couldn't quite work something out, it gave you that direct link to people. You can email somebody directly and say, “I'm not sure if I'm doing this wrong or I'm misunderstanding or if it’s a bug.” That was really helpful in the initial days, because it meant I learned better.
What is the most common question or issue that you see raised now?
I still think people misunderstand terminology. The fact that some of the terms are so very similar, but they do such different things, such as “shared link” and “shared folder” and how they work.
Is there a particular issue you helped resolve that you're most proud of?
I remember at one point, there was a little bug that was causing chaos for lots of users. It was nice to put together a case study of “This is an issue. This is impacting [users]” and talking with one of the guys in [the Dropbox Community], in the Slack channel, to work out that, yes, it was a fault and getting things like raw data. It's a very niche fault. It's impacting a tiny percentage. But then he was saying, “But that actually is impacting hundreds of thousands of people of which we are seeing about 15% of them on [the Dropbox Community].” It was quite the serious bug at the time because it was an emergency fix. That was nice because it was Super Users who found it and said, “This is something we need to look at. These are the ticket numbers. These are the queues.”
What’s the biggest misconception about the Dropbox Community?
That it's just a place to whine. That it's just a place where people go when something isn't right or not working. I also think it’s a big misconception that people [at Dropbox] don't read stuff. Because the company, you are so quiet on a lot of things, people don't realize, actually, a lot of people are out there reading what people are saying, and are certainly interested in it.
To ask questions, find answers, and discover new ways to use Dropbox, join the Dropbox Community.
Read part one:
How user feedback on Dropbox Community revived a favorite feature