Je t'aime… moi non plus
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:
- Who am I in the WordPress community?
- 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 :)