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Making WordPress.org

Opened 11 months ago

Last modified 2 months ago

#5426 new defect

Improve the plugin repository's Support tab.

Reported by: carike Owned by:
Milestone: Priority: normal
Component: Plugin Directory Keywords: 2nd-opinion
Cc:

Description

The Challenge:

Non-technical users who view a plugin in the WordPress.org repository may reasonably think that if they click on Support, they will go to the plugin's official support channel.
While it may be clear to those of us who are familiar with the UI, people only tend to read as far as they need to to spot a potential answer - doing otherwise seems inefficient.

Plugin developers are allowed to refer users to their ticketing system in their readme.txt, as well as by sticky in their plugin's support forum.
Not allowing them to add the information to the place where it is the most relevant is not the best user experience we can offer.
However, simply linking directly to the Support tab to an external site may not always be in the community's best interests, as WordPress.org can provide a more neutral place for website owners and authors to communicate - and can be accessible to others with similar issues later.

See https://meta.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/5425

A Solution:

Turn support into a new tab (like Details or Development).

<h2> Community Support </h2>

WordPress.org offers a public community support forum for each plugin hosted here.
Some plugin authors choose to provide volunteer support for their own plugins.

Take me there! [link]

<h2> Support from the Plugin Author </h2>

This plugin's author does not answer questions in the community support forums.
However, they do offer help to users of this free plugin on their own site.

Take me there! [link - no-index, no-follow]

Attachments (3)

Dev offers support on dot org example.PNG (53.3 KB) - added by carike 11 months ago.
Dev offers free support on their own site.PNG (69.7 KB) - added by carike 11 months ago.
commercial-support.png (146.0 KB) - added by Clorith 2 months ago.

Download all attachments as: .zip

Change History (21)

#1 @carike
11 months ago

#5425 was marked as a duplicate.

#2 @tnolte
11 months ago

@carike thank you so much for this!

#3 follow-up: @dd32
11 months ago

  • Keywords 2nd-opinion close added

This plugin's author does not answer questions in the community support forums.
However, they do offer help to users of this free plugin on their own site.

Take me there! [link - no-index, no-follow]

I personally don't like this phrasing at all, and I think we should improve the wording to force authors to offer support through official WordPress.org channels.

By having your plugin hosted on WordPress.org, you're expected to make use of the provided tooling, it's not designed to be used purely as a distribution channel only.

I would go so far as to support disallowing plugin authors from linking to their own support channels.

I'm marking this as 2nd-opinion because this is above our pay-grades. close because I feel that's the ideal solution putting end-users first.

#4 @tnolte
11 months ago

  • Keywords close removed

I don't agree that plugin authors should be restricted from providing their own support tools/platforms. If WordPress provided the best tooling then why are plugin authors, and even Core development, happening on GitHub?

I can provide a better, more up-to-date, and timely support of my free plugin using something like GitHub issues than the .org support forum. I see the current forums as limiting and inflexible. I shouldn't be restricted from providing better support to my users.

I will also say that if my plugin is free I am giving my time for the community and should be allowed to make the best use of my time. Which is also why I don't restrict myself to using the .org SVN repository for all of my development. I want to use the best tool for the job today serves my users.

#5 in reply to: ↑ 3 @carike
11 months ago

Replying to dd32:

I personally don't like this phrasing at all, and I think we should improve the wording to force authors to offer support through official WordPress.org channels.
By having your plugin hosted on WordPress.org, you're expected to make use of the provided tooling, it's not designed to be used purely as a distribution channel only.
I would go so far as to support disallowing plugin authors from linking to their own support channels.
close because I feel that's the ideal solution putting end-users first.

Users are not well-served when there is no one to serve them.
There is enough friction that can't be eliminated between the repos and independent developers.
We should try to reduce the friction that we can control. This is one of those cases.
Giving people agency increases satisfaction - and the WordPress ecosystem needs independent developers.
End-users are best served in vibrant, active communities - not by people who feel resentful because they are being forced.

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #forums by carike. View the logs.


9 months ago

#7 @Ipstenu
9 months ago

I want to address this first:

Users are not well-served when there is no one to serve them.

Just because the plugin developers aren't active in the forum does not mean there is NO ONE to help. That's literally why they are community forums. I understand what you're meaning here, but the language is unfair to the thousands of volunteers.

Which takes me to Dion's comments... Overall, I agree with him. I don't think this is as great an idea as all that. It's also above my pay grade too, but if it was my call I would say "Maybe later."

We're giving plugin devs free hosting, free pushes of updates, etc etc. That's all expensive stuff to build and manage and maintain. In return, they are required to actually use our systems (by putting up code), and expected to use the reviews and support forums. This seems like a reasonable prospect. You get free stuff and in return you contribute to the community forums. Any other way, and they're taking from the community without giving anything in return.

Which is really the difference in Community Forums vs Private Forums. We are a community forum, and if a plugin developer wants no part in the community, some people want no part in them. That's equitable. Everyone is expected to give back after all.

Community Forums exist to help everyone in the absence of official help which is why if you have a plugin here, you're getting forums, period, end of story. That also encourages you to volunteer outside your own plugin forums and help others. This improves the community for everyone. The transparency of public support means new people with issues can find solutions without making a new post. Private forums generally don't allow that, and I say that having argued many a time with freemium themes/plugins on behalf of customers.

Other concerns about a link to a private forum:

We're not removing the community forums, which means they're still responsible for monitoring and redirecting people. All they 'gain' is the ability to bug track via their own systems, and while that sounds like a great gain, at the end of the day is that different that copying a post to a git ticket? It's easier for the dev, but is it easier for the end user? Are we actually helping the users here more than the developers?

We would need to have a way to manage those links besides pulling the plugin and shouting at the devs.

If the link breaks, or their domain gets hijacked, we need to yank it. And IMO that should be something the forum mods can do. So a mod can 'disable external support' with a button (and an AYS? pop up), but only plugin admins can restore it. Add in an automated email "Your external support link has been disabled because .... Please reply to this email when the issue is resolved." type email would help a lot. Automate!

We must have a pause "You are leaving WordPress.org, your user account/pwd will no longer work on this next site..." An intermediary screen is very helpful here.

There also needs to be warnings about common problems. Like "Do not provide strangers with admin access to your website or hosting." Which is really a bigger issue than it should be, and needs to be reminded over and over. Like saying don't blow vape into your XBox, we should not have to tell people this, but we do.

It has to be painfully clear "Son, you're on your own here." if you leave. That we (.org) have no responsibility for what happens. Again, this should be obvious, it's not, we have to make it so.

Finally ... how can we guarantee the plugin devs are actually giving back to the community and not having a negative relationship with .org? Yes, that absolutely matters. Do we want to welcome community members who don't want to contribute? Sure, but generally that's for end users. They want help, and actually are contributing by asking questions. People who want to take all our services for nothing are parasitic. I am aware it's a harsh word, but if you take and take and take and give nothing ... why are you even hosting here?

#8 @carike
9 months ago

Just because the plugin developers aren't active in the forum does not mean there is NO ONE to help. That's literally why they are community forums.

That is not what I was referring to :)
There is a lot of friction between the various WordPress stakeholder groups - users, developers, moderators, other volunteers, project leadership.

I do not agree with changing the current support tab link to the developer's preferred URL - I do not believe developers have the right to demand that community support not be accessible.

I see this proposal as a reasonable compromise. The user gets informed - and then has to accept the consequences of their decisions.
Using the community forums is not without consequence. While I am really glad that steps are being taken in that area, people are still getting in trouble at work because we won't delete requested info about databases, etc. Plugin / theme developers are really unlikely to refuse to delete threads from their own forums - and for the most part they are private ticketing systems. There are benefits to both choices.

When I say that users are not well-served when there is no one to serve them, I'm not saying that fewer devs will support in the forums, I'm saying that at some point, the friction just gets too much and it isn't worth hosting here anymore at all - depriving the community of that code / other contributions.

If the link breaks, or their domain gets hijacked, we need to yank it.

Agreed. Developers can refer users to their own sites now though. So, instead of editing their sticky, a forum moderator can press a button. All good with that.

We must have a pause "You are leaving WordPress.org, your user account/pwd will no longer work on this next site..." An intermediary screen is very helpful here.

Also good with that, although the accessibility folks will need to have a look as well.

There also needs to be warnings about common problems. Like "Do not provide strangers with admin access to your website or hosting."

Good with that too. Decision trees ;)

People who want to take all our services for nothing are parasitic. I am aware it's a harsh word, but if you take and take and take and give nothing ... why are you even hosting here?

There are lots of different ways to contribute to the community. I think there are many people that feel that WordPress is somewhat parasitic right now. A compromise here can go some ways towards showing good faith and de-escalating things.

When we consider that developers are not required to support their plugins / themes here at all, I would personally consider a diversity of GPL code a significant contribution in and of itself.

P.S. It seems fair that people who provide support here would be given preference in the plugin search rankings (other than for exact matches, because not providing an exact match to a query seems rather disrespectful towards the user's agency).

Last edited 9 months ago by carike (previous) (diff)

#9 @joyously
9 months ago

To me, the existing Support link to the .org forum seems fine, and isn't broken at all. This ticket proposes that there is a problem to solve, but I don't see it.
The plugin developer can already ignore the .org forum, can put a sticky post saying their support is somewhere else, and also gets their search ranking skewed by support requests resolved counts. They already know the consequences of using a different site for support, and have ways to convey that to users.
No problems...

The previous remark about development elsewhere

Which is also why I don't restrict myself to using the .org SVN repository for all of my development. I want to use the best tool for the job today serves my users.

doesn't apply since the .org repository is not a development repository; it is a production repository. We are talking about support here.

#10 @carike
9 months ago

This ticket proposes that there is a problem to solve, but I don't see it.

The problem is that we should not give users something different to what they expect.
When you are looking for your keys and you find it in the third place you look, you don't keep searching the whole house.
When a user clicks on the plugin / theme's "Support" tab, they have a reasonable expectation that that is the main / official support channel.
While community support is valuable and should be encouraged and protected, we should not seek to make other people's choices for them. There are two possible channels here. Acknowledging that isn't a bad thing.
Free market of ideas an' all... If the Support Forums are the better option, users will use them.

#11 @joyously
9 months ago

The problem is that we should not give users something different to what they expect.

That is not a problem. We shouldn't tailor our offerings to the users' expectations. We offer hosting and forums and reviews and moderation of all that. Period. You can't control what users will expect.
It seems like a perfectly normal flow for the user to click Support and see either a forum of questions or a forum with a sticky that says "we answer stuff over here". No big deal.

#12 @carike
9 months ago

That is not a problem. We shouldn't tailor our offerings to the users' expectations.

I'm sorry, but if we can't agree to start from the premise that entities should do the best they can to meet the needs of their users within the limitations of any applicable resources (and fairly balancing the needs of other stakeholders), or that people who provide software as their product should not care about UX, then there is no way that this can be a productive discussion.

#13 @Ipstenu
9 months ago

There are lots of different ways to contribute to the community. I think there are many people that feel that WordPress is somewhat parasitic right now. A compromise here can go some ways towards showing good faith and de-escalating things.

There are, but if the bare minimum expectation is that you keep an eye on your own forums for code you host here, I think that's acceptable.

The problem is that we should not give users something different to what they expect.

Okay this is where I'm at odds with your premise.

If, as you say, it's users who are expecting things to be an official forum, then the first step would be to clarify that they are in fact open community forums, where everyone and anyone can help you.

But I would argue that even if we had it clearly demarcated between official and unofficial, people will still get confused, and we'll have solved nothing.

Basically? I don't think giving the minority of developers who want this will solve the problem for the majority of users. Over 90,000 plugins. I would be shocked if more than 1% of those plugins have (or even wanted to have) official forums/sources. And like as not, it won't be the 1% who are making users upset. In my experience (and this is anecdotal since I've never bothered to keep track), people get the most angry at the small plugins who support things in their free time.

#14 @carike
9 months ago

There are, but if the bare minimum expectation is that you keep an eye on your own forums for code you host here, I think that's acceptable.

I think these are separate issues, but okay, let's follow the rabbit hole ;)
The reality is that, currently, there is no requirement to provide any support for any code that you host here.
Enforcing such a requirement would be very difficult and would be difficult to do consistently across developers.
Also, I'm personally concerned that the market has more and more of an expectation of everything that plugin authors need to give away for free. I think it should be possible for someone to "donate" GPL code, but charge for all support.

If, as you say, it's users who are expecting things to be an official forum, then the first step would be to clarify that they are in fact open community forums, where everyone and anyone can help you.

Authors are allowed to link to their site on the Description tab for their readme. I personally really do not understand the sanctity placed on the "Support" tab here. The user is looking for support. The developer wants to offer support (through whichever channel), or doesn't, in which case they'd be able to list so on the proposed tab. The community support forums do not go away - and they are still listed first. Empowering people isn't easy - it means accepting that sometimes they are not going to choose your solution. And that's okay. It means it's working.

#15 @Clorith
2 months ago

#5482 was marked as a duplicate.

#16 @Clorith
2 months ago

I just closed #5482 as a duplicate, as I had missed this ticket altogether.

I don't agree with the idea of having the support section be another two-step click, and am cross-posting my thoughts from the other ticket, to consolidate thoughts and discussions on this topic in one place (here).

Original post:

For the sake of discussion, and potential implementation, let's look at the idea of letting authors declare their commercial site in some way though.

For comparison, themes currently have a "Theme Homepage" link, under the theme details, in the sidebar.

Plugins have nothing like this right now. So adding a "Plugin Homepage" link may be a starter.

By making this an official thing (it doesn't need to go into the readme, we all know that's already starting to get quite busy), maybe by adding it to the Advanced view of a plugin, which is already becoming partly the authors control panel, we can actually do some with this.

The rebuttal: Authors can just add a sticky topic saying where to go. And although this is correct, we also know that users do not necessarily read a sticky once they've landed in the forums.

I've attached a screenshot of a concept, the text would need working into something that makes it clear that this is their own doing, and not a dotorg thing, but I believe there is legitimate value in showing users both directions, and things have moved forward, it's not all techy users visiting forums, it's average Jim and Jill, who may not know of previous norms on how to forum properly.

#17 @tnolte
2 months ago

I would be careful pidgin holing this into "commercial support". As a free plugin provider it becomes a challenge to have to constantly recreate GitHub issues, where I can actually track work that needs to be done, from WordPress.org support requests. Another issue that now seems to be prevalent is that the quality of support by plugin authors is basically evaluated based on the activity on WordPress.org alone.

Although, I will say that the original issue that started all of this was what to do about the .org support forums being used for commercial support when there are freemium plugins. In that vain a place that calls out commercial support is good. I'm still frustrated with all the extra work I have to when supporting a free plugin. My time is valuable and when the .org repository just makes my support efforts harder it's frustrating. I'd like to hear how Gutenberg I'd managing this since all of the development is being done on GitHub. Seems like improvements would help that support effort as well. Maybe WordPress.org could provide a REST API or hooks that would allow me to trigger opening up GitHub issues when support requests are opened on the forums. Then be able to provide responses directly back to those posts from the GitHub issues. That warrants a new ticket/discussion though.

#18 @joyously
2 months ago

Plugins have nothing like this right now. So adding a "Plugin Homepage" link may be a starter.

Uh, yes they do. See the plugin headers: https://developer.wordpress.org/plugins/plugin-basics/header-requirements/#header-fields

And by the way, the readme is for repository stuff, while the headers are for core use.

I've attached a screenshot of a concept, the text would need working into something that makes it clear that this is their own doing, and not a dotorg thing

It shouldn't be in the sidebar then, but in the readme where they can put whatever they want. (which they can already do) This is another argument for showing the theme's readme as well. Please don't focus on plugins only, but consider themes at the same time.

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