Julien Liabeuf

Je t'aime… moi non plus

July 08, 2016 | 5 Minute Read | 4 Comments

As a plugin developer who released a few plugins on WordPress.org, I sometimes feel like the song says: "Je t'aime… moi non plus". Well, sexual content aside :p

There are two questions I've been asking myself a lot lately. Dan Cameron's post "What Now? No Way? Huh?" made me feel that maybe others are asking themselves those questions too.

Disclaimer: this post is not at all a critic of the current system. I am not trying to provoke anyone in the community. I am merely trying to get answers to two selfish questions I've been asking myslef:

  1. Who am I in the WordPress community?
  2. What are my "rights"?


While this is not the only thing I've been wondering about, this post was inspired by how incentivized reviews are being handled.

My first interaction with the .org team on this matter dates back to April 2016 when I released, in all honesty, a small library, WP Review Me, where discount codes were automatically given in exchange for a review.

Otto came down hard on me very quickly in this GitHub issue: https://github.com/julien731/WP-Review-Me/issues/3

Then, there was Dan's post, to which I left a pretty lengthy comment. But then I realized there was more than just a difference of opinion, which is why I'm writing this post.

I, Plugin Developer

I love WordPress. I've been working with it one way or another since circa 2012. I love how flexible it is, how powerful, and how amazing the community is. I've seen some really awesome things happen, and I've met some extremely generous and open minded people.

What did I contribute to benefit from that? Mostly plugins. I have contributed a tiny fix to core a while back, and while I felt very proud, it was really nothing compared to what the real core contributors do.

So, as a plugin developer, where do I - I as in I, plugin developer, not just I, Julien Liabeuf - stand in the community?

When I see what happened to Dan (I also had a plugin taken down the same way in the past, minus the removal of reviews), I can't help be feel cheated. This situation seems extremely unfair to me. But what can I say? Do I have a say in this? Obviously no in Dan's case.

At a more global scale, what can a plugin developer say in a decision making process?

The Gift of Time

When I release a new plugin on WordPress.org, I spend hours forming the idea, planning the features, writing the code, writing documentation, supporting users... All of that for free.

If someone takes my plugin down or deletes user's reviews, it's a bit like saying "all this work you put in for free, we'll just delete a part of it". It makes me feel like shit. It makes me feel like I'm nothing, that I don't have a word to say in how my own work is being used.

Should plugin authors be allowed to step in?

I understand the review team. They, too, put a lot of unpaid time in what they do. Probably more than me. From where I stand, there are two ways of envisioning things.

Plugin Authors Don't Have a Say

If I were to stop developing plugins and drop WordPress, it wouldn't change anything. If all plugin authors were doing the same, WordPress would still be here.

If WordPress was gone, though, there would obviously be no plugins. Plugins are nothing without WordPress; which mans that core / review people should definitely be the ones saying what's ok and what's not. They should be allowed to do whatever they please with plugins.

Plugin Authors Do Have a Say

If there was no plugins, sure WordPress would still be here. It would certainly not power a quarter of the web, though. It wouldn't be as great as it is.

This means that plugin developers are a big part of WordPress' success and as such, they should be allowed to step it.

Easier Said Than Done

Unsurprisingly, I tend to think that plugin developers should have a say. However, the first proposition is valid as well.

There is another thing that should be considered: the amount of time and resources each contributor type puts in.

Core contributors and reviewers certainly give more of their time to the community than I do. Does it mean that their opinion should matter more than mine? Absolutely. They deserve it. But it shouldn't mean my opinion doesn't matter at all.

When I read guidelines #9 and #18 that are currently in the spotlight, I feel like someone is telling me "fuck you".

#9: [...] This includes spam, for whatever definition of spam we want to use.

This, to me translates into "You genuinely think what you did was ok? Well I say no. Fuck off".

#18: [...] We reserve the right to arbitrarily disable or remove any plugin for any reason whatsoever. Basically, this is our repository [...]

This, to me, translates into "Thanks for releasing your work. Now we rule. Don't complain".

These are very aggressive statements and they obviously mean that a plugin developer has no say whatsoever. Which leads me back to my original questions: who am I in the community and what are my rights?


I could summarize all the blah blah above into one simple quiz.

John spent a lot of time to release a free plugin on WP.org. The review team sees something they don't like. They suspend John's plugin and delete his reviews. John wants to discuss the decision. Which of the following answers from the review team is correct?

a) Shut up
b) Let's discuss that matter


I still don't really have an answer to my questions. Who am I in the community? What can I do/say? What should I be able to do/say? I feel a bit lost sometimes.

There is one sure thing, though. My post might sound like a critic of the review team, but it's not. Sure there are things that could be improved in the review team / authors relationship. I'd actually be glad to be part of some kind of reflexion group to try and improve how review team members and plugin authors interact.

I also want to acknowledge the amount of time the review team provides. Thanks for your work guys.

I'll now be back to tormenting myself with my existential crisis :)


Great Post Julien. I am a plugin developer too and felt the same way when I heard about Dan’s situation. I know he wasn’t doing anything shady but also know how really really hard it is to get people to leave good reviews.

It’s not that I only want the good ones, I don’t mind constructive criticism, it’s that most people just don’t spend the time leaving good ones so sometimes it takes a little prompting. I just saw your review request library and will be adding that next week. Thanks for sharing it.

One question for you, is Dan’s situation driving the sale of the awesome support plugin, contributing or not related?

I am struggling a bit myself with a choice to diversify into other areas or doubling down with WordPress. I love WordPress too but Dan’s situation has really made me realize how dependent I am on the repo and how exposed I am.

Thanks Julien

Dan’s situation is completely unrelated to Awesome Support. I just related to the situation as a plugin developer (and for having “met” the review team about WP Review Me).

This has been an eye opener for me too on how dependent I am on the repo and how little control I have over data that’s crucial to my business. That’s a little stressful.

I understand that the reasoning behind the rules in .org (the they can do whatever we want), is that they want total control over all the aspects of the repo.. which isn’t a bad thing since they want a clean and proper plugin directory. The same goes with Otto’s issue in your Github repo.

I think the major issue everyone really has is with the review wipe that happened to Dan’s plugin.. all 2 years’ worth. And how swift it was implemented.

I look up to Otto, but one of the things he said in your Github repo bothers me:

> The truth of the matter is that WordPress.org, as a community site, isn’t a place for you to do your marketing… but that’s not how we see it and it’s not how we want you to see it either.

I think there needs to be a reality check here. Yes, a lot of people place their plugins in WordPress.org for free and it revolves around the community. But in reality, can ALL plugin authors continue to put their plugins in the directory, and support them for nothing? We all need to make a living, and some of the most used/popular plugins have some sort of monetization in them.

I say accept that people make a living off WP plugins, and help us in the directory. Think about it this way, if you remove all the plugins that get some sort of revenue anywhere (freemium, lite-premiums, free plugins that market others, premium-support driven free plugins), then we would most likely end up with a lot of dead and old plugins in the repo.

Very true. I often feel like commercial plugins are demonized. However, they are essential to the WP ecosystem because, as you said, it is what pays for the free plugins and the free support.

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