Support » Everything else WordPress » Zombie plugins : Dead, author makes them look alive

  • Resolved Tony G

    (@starbuck)


    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.

Viewing 7 replies - 1 through 7 (of 7 total)
  • Moderator Jan Dembowski

    (@jdembowski)

    Forum Moderator and Brute Squad

    Honest question from me: do you need support or are you just blogging? ‘Cause this reads like a blog post and those are not for this site.

    If you have something you need support for related to WordPress then that is good. These are support forums for that reason. And these are not general discussion forums.

    If you are looking to wax philosophically and are looking for feedback (blog comments) then this topic will be closed.

    So: actual problem or discussion?

    Moderator Ipstenu (Mika Epstein)

    (@ipstenu)

    🏳️‍🌈 Plugin Review Team Rep

    And to clarify an common mistake: There is no requirement that plugin (or theme) developers support their code in the forums.

    We already factor in non-resolved support posts into a plugin’s search ranking.

    Thread Starter Tony G

    (@starbuck)

    @ipstenu Thank you Mika.

    I didn’t know “non-resolved support posts” were factored into ranking. That’s great. But that’s not my focus. Where is an appropriate place to discuss “revision bumping” on plugins as a means of trying to stay relevant?

    You yourself have fine plugins that do not need maintenance. When you bump the rev, I trust that you are confident that the plugin actually is “Tested Up To” the rev. When I come to this site, that is the kind of hope, belief, or expectation that I bring. This “ethos” is a part of why I’m in the WordPress community.

    When someone else bumps just to keep their plugin relevant, I feel misled. I wonder how many others are doing this as a pretense to con plugin users who don’t look at change log detail.

    I hoped that by bringing up this topic here, that I would be led to a Slack channel or elsewhere, where people would confirm recognition, discussion, maybe some initiative among so many others that are intended to ensure the quality of the overall offering here. The Plugin Review Team is a perfect example of a protocol that was created out of recognized needs, as is the review system and the search ranking algorithm.

    @jdembowski : From: https://wordpress.org/support/

    Can’t find what you’re looking for? Find out if others share your experience. Check out our support forums

    I looked for a place to talk about this. I followed the instructions. I resolved that this fell into the category of “Everything else WordPress”. I did not see any other category for this industry topic that is specfic to this site.

    OK, here’s a “Support” question :

    Where do people go to discuss WordPress.org, or simply trying to make things a little better around here. Your comment here did not help in this regard.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by Tony G.
    Moderator Ipstenu (Mika Epstein)

    (@ipstenu)

    🏳️‍🌈 Plugin Review Team Rep

    Where is an appropriate place to discuss “revision bumping” on plugins as a means of trying to stay relevant?

    There really isn’t, because that’s not what’s happening. You misunderstand what they’re doing and why.

    We actually email every single plugin developer every time there’s a new, major release of WordPress, and we tell them to update the tested up to version.

    You’ve jumped to an assumption that people do it to stay relevant. And while that is, to a small degree, true, they’re doing it because the plugin still works on the new version of WP.

    That is ALL that value means.

    Where do people go to discuss WordPress.org, or simply trying to make things a little better around here. Your comment here did not help in this regard.

    Well the issue there is you didn’t post questions as much as a ‘let’s talk about X!’ and the support forums aren’t the place for that 🙂 This is for people to ask a question and get help.

    The best place would be the Meta team – https://make.wordpress.org/meta/

    But… This ‘concept’ you have, that this is a problem that needs a fix, is unlikely to get traction as is, since it’s really not a problem.

    1. No plugin is required to help anyone in the forums at all, ever
    2. The search results already factor in reviews and un-answered/resolved support posts
    3. Plugins are told to bump the tested up to version if their plugins still work

    At that point, there isn’t a problem. System works as designed.

    Do SOME people abuse the system and claim a plugin is tested up to 6.0 when it’s not? Sure. And people bad-review them into oblivion. Same as people who fill their plugin with ads and promotions, or break sites. But the assumption that everyone who doesn’t help their users in the forum are intentionally misled is … wrong.

    If someone read the email and bumped their tested-up-to version, then they actually ARE active. It just isn’t the active you happen to want.

    Moderator Steven Stern (sterndata)

    (@sterndata)

    Forum Moderator & Support Team Rep

    So, if I may jump in… It’s clear you care about the perceived (and actual) quality of WordPress. How would you like to help? Everyone here is a volunteer, and, well, I’m looking at you! 🙂

    Thread Starter Tony G

    (@starbuck)

    Friends – I thank you kindly for your positive responses.

    @ipstenu I accept your explanation. I was wrong in my assumption that the rev bump was only or even mostly just a tactic. Thanks for that information! I would like to take this to Meta though, not to be annoying but to ensure that this policy of bumping the rev just for the sake of doing so is actually having the effect that is desired – and/or how we might be able to improve the process.

    @sterndata I monitor the Slack ‘Make’ team for core, all docs, and marketing, though rarely jump in. (Always on, feel free to ping me there.) I’ve contributed a tiny bit to docs and have one or two assignments there. My volunteer contribution in this case has been to observe and research what might be a community issue, remark on it to see if peers also recognize it as such, and then perhaps to offer suggestions if indeed it is a problem.

    If this is the wrong place, cool, I’ve been pointed to a better one.
    If there is no issue, cool, we all have other things to do.
    But yes, if I take it up in the right place and something can be improved, then I’m happy to do my part.

    I welcome guidance on this process, and have received such. The original Mod response was not welcoming in the least – and I tend not to participate in these forums in part due to such responses. I understand Mods here have limited time and fend off a ton of nonsense, but we can see that there is a huge difference in productivity here when responses have a better tone. Thanks for your indulgence on this side note.

    Going forward on the main topic … Um, I won’t go forward on this for a while given Mika’s notes. I’ll gather some examples later of what seem to be actual abuse and will take them up in Meta. For now, we all have better things to do.

    Thanks again.

    Moderator Steven Stern (sterndata)

    (@sterndata)

    Forum Moderator & Support Team Rep

    See you in #meta!

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