While searching for plugins I’ve found some plugin developers update the “Tested Up To” field with the current WP version, but they haven’t responded to support requests in months or years.
It’s up to site managers to decide how they assess plugins. These are two distinct metrics for decision making: Tested Up To, and Support. But this seems to me like a deceptive practice, intended to give the impression that a plugin is “supported” and “alive” when it is not.
If bugs have been reported over a period of months to years, without acknowledgement from the author, and without even a background change to code, what does the “Tested Up To” metric mean? That could mean the software installs without error, and perhaps that the admin screens display without error. But the fact that software is tested does not infer, explicitly or implicitly, that it works as documented, without flaw, or at all … it simply means the software was tested – there’s no information about the results of that tesing. Outside of that kind of “marketing speak”, to those of us who actually need to use this software, is it appropriate to claim that software is “tested”? Yes, sure, there author updated their WP version to the very latest and they didn’t see an error. Ship it!
I have no intent to drive a re-evaluation of terms. But when we can detect this thing that I describe, I believe that the information should be available as just another metric for prospective plugin users to include in their/our decision making.
My intent here is to cite what I think is an issue so that we can discuss it. I don’t necessarily want to propose solutions at this time. Anyone familiar with this plugin ecosystem will recognize the challenges of identifying the issue through automation, and the high chance of false positives. If someone proposes an ineffective solution to the problem, that doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist or that solutions aren’t possible. Here are two examples of solutions that have problems. Let’s shoot them down as ineffective and incomplete, but still try to acknowledge the issue for which the proposals are intended:
First, is it a potential flag if a plugin has no author posts in support but the Tested To version gets bumped? Not really.
What if we count the support requests over a period of a year, and count author responses, with responsiveSupport=responses/requests? That’s better, but what if the plugin is supported by other contributors?
Second, how about an anti-review mechanism where people simply enter a one line comment about why they think a plugin is dead? Nah, this simplistic mechanism would be misused, intentionally and by mistake.
For now, I’m just looking for acknowlegment by others that they consider this to be a problem too: that some plugins are actually dead in the sense that any of use would recognize that condition, while the author tries to make them look alive. I believe this can result in consumer dis-satisfaction with the WordPress platform by anyone down the chain of administrators, decision makers, and site visitors.
Further, on recognizing the problem, is it something that this community wants to take on as a problem to be mitigated, reduced in frequency, made more difficult to perpetrate, or more easily recognized?
If the answer to both of those is Yes, then, separately, we can take on the question of how to address the recognized problem.
Thanks for your time.
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