St. Petersburg Hosts 4th VK Fest

This Sunday marked the second and final day of VK Fest in St. Petersburg, attended by tens of thousands of users of Russia’s biggest social network. Interestingly, this was the first time that VK had its own large zone at the event. Developers, admins and designers explained how to get a job at VK, how it works and how the 140 members of the support service manage to answer millions of questions. Four stages, a videogame and technology zone, a lectorium and VK Team’s lifehacks: here are the highlights of the second day of VK Fest.

Just like in the previous years, the festival’s program included more than a dozen themed zones: Music, Blogging, Technology, Creativity, Sports, Kids, Beauty, Fashion, Food, Humor, Entertainment, Cosplay, Videogaming, Communities, and Cars. Several music stages hosted popular performers and relative newcomers.

As for sports, visitors at the festival could ride bikes, play tennis, squash, volleyball, surf or even run an obstacle course. Videogamers competed in a Fortnite tournament with the main prize of 300,000 rubles, tried their luck in the Asus-sponsored League of Legends competition and learned about the history of cybersports.

Science, Technology and AI

The Technology zone was one of the festival’s most expansive. At ITMO University’s booth, guests could choose their future professions, listen to lectures, play a VR tower defense game and even journey through a virtual city using a trampoline.

Other booths by the likes of QIWI, Xiaomi, Dom.RU and others also provided various VR entertainment and other exciting technologies.

At the Lectorium, the audience peered into the deep future and discussed if robots would be able to write music and whether the dreams of Isaac Asimov and other sci-fi visionaries can indeed come true. On Saturday, the Lectorium was host to a science slam for scientists, science popularizers, and science bloggers. On Sunday, renowned Russian sci-fi author Nikolay Yutanov gave the lecture “Androids and AI in the World of the Future.”

How will total digitization change our lives? Do robots need rights? How do we not lose the fight for survival against AI? As Nikolay Yutanov explains, we are now entering a new era. And even though humanity has become used to survival via strength, the rules might soon change. Robots are better than us in terms of rational thought, but we’re still more “charismatic”. Will this remain so if we refuse to change?

“If humans, confident that they’ve reached perfection, stay the same, another species will eventually take over. It doesn’t matter who. Our civilization has won thanks to time and speed. We know how to manage time and to change constantly,” – he says.

Nikolay Yutanov
Nikolay Yutanov

VK Team

For the first time in the festival’s history, the VK team got its own massive area at the event where guests could listen to developers and testers, play intellectual games and learn about the inner workings of Russia’s biggest social network.

Head of VK’s support team Ekaterina Lebedeva explained how the support agents at VK manage to answer millions of questions and handle any query. Here is a quick summary:

How it started. At first, the support team was just a community of users who knew the website well and helped others with their issues. This volunteer movement later became a full-fledged support team but remained amicable and friendly towards regular users.

Ekaterina Lebedeva
Ekaterina Lebedeva

How many support agents are there? Today, VK’s support team consists of 140 employees, while the social network is used by 97 million users each month.

How does a support agent work? All agents are split into three groups, each with a different work schedule. Those aren’t shifts that have to be “sat out” in the office. The schedules correspond to the user base’s activity rates. Deadlines are still a factor; an agent must respond to at least 700 tickets every week.

Support team’s funniest misclick. If a failure occurs that affects many users, you can expect dozens of users to contact the support over the same issue. It’s only logical that once the issue is resolved, all users should be contacted all at once. Still, mistakes happen. In 2014, an agent responding to several dozen users mixed up the text and sent everyone a message about a “cool car” he intended to send to a friend. Many users who received the message, already used to the support team’s informal conversation style, simply assumed it was intentional.

Handling the heavy topics. What should a support agent do if a user wants to discuss complex philosophy? They can laugh it off, as it is usually done. But if a user is serious and really wants to have a philosophical debate that has nothing to do with the social network? Use their imagination and logic. After all, the agents are also human, with their own experience and intellectual baggage. And that’s what makes them so likable. VK’s support agents don’t talk by a script; otherwise, they’d have been replaced with robots long ago.

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