The WordPress community is made up of pretty incredible people – for the most part.
However, there are some bad eggs in the basket that little nothing but negativity directed towards others in the community who are dedicated to improving the WordPress platform. Some of these ‘eggs’ are simply ignorant, while others act in a manner that is less forgivable.
Big deal, you say. Welcome to the internet.
Well, you may have a point (to an extent), but the aforementioned negativity acts as a speed brake on the improvement and expansion of WordPress.
This article is my attempt to demonstrate what is in the best interests of WordPress users globally – from the total beginner to the experienced developer. Ultimately, it comes down to one simple thing: respect.
(Constructive) Feedback: One of the Pillars of WordPress’ Growth
Generally speaking, it is irritating when something doesn’t work as well as we would like.
Such is the case with plugins. There have been plenty of occasions when I have downloaded and installed a plugin onto WordPress, only to discover that it doesn’t work in the way that I expected (or simply doesn’t work at all).
I think the way in which you respond to these kinds of situations really defines your value to the WordPress community.
You’ve got a few options:
- Uninstall the plugin and get on with your day
- Contact the plugin developer, explaining the issue
- Contact the plugin developer and give him a piece of your mind
The first two options are perfectly legitimate.
In a perfect world we would all choose option two, as the majority of plugin developers want to fix bugs and need the enduser to point them out. But that’s not always practical. However, if you have any interest in furthering WordPress, choose option two whenever you can.
After all, we must not lose sight of the fact that WordPress has been built on foundations of giving. It can be all too easy to forget that the dashboard you fire up every morning is available to you completely free of charge. Think of how many other less useful tools you spend your hard-earned money on.
But that works both ways. WordPress is available to us for free, and many theme and plugin developers develop products that are also free. But I believe that in return for this act of generosity, we should engage in the giving process ourself by offering (at the least) constructive feedback to developers when it feels appropriate and helpful to do so.
In attempting to reciprocate the generosity of the developers who have enabled us to build our sites, you can engage in the continuing growth of WordPress – even if you don’t know how to write a single line of code.
Entitlement: A Plague on WordPress
I mentioned a third option above – contacting the plugin developer and giving him a piece of your mind. Unfortunately, this is a course of action that some people choose to take.
Why would anyone do this? Well, as far as I can see, it comes down to a simple case of entitlement – a lack of appreciation for everything we are given completely free of charge coupled with a belief that one is somehow “owed” all that is made available.
Some people choose to behave as if they have spent good money on the free themes and plugins they download, and act accordingly (or even worse).
I get that it’s frustrating when something doesn’t seem to work as we would like, but ultimately, berating the developer is not a sustainable course of action. After all, developers’ generosity will only stretch so far. It only takes one more piece of unwarranted criticism to convince them that giving away their work for free is more trouble than its worth. I’ve released a handful of plugins that have only been downloaded a few times, yet I’ve experienced these “what’s the point?” feelings (which I suppose is what originally prompted me to write this post).
There are few things more damaging to the WordPress community than a sense of entitlement, because it stands contrary to everything that the rest of us stand for. The open source model relies upon generosity and reciprocity, and entitlement just doesn’t mingle well with them.
Now is the Time to Give
If you’ll indulge me, I’d like you to carry out a simple exercise.
Just log into your WordPress site (or your most important site, if you have more than one) and count the number of plugins you have installed. My count is 28.
Now go through those plugins again and count how many you actually paid for. I count one.
Now take a moment to imagine what functionality your site would miss if you had to delete all of those free plugins.
The point I’m trying to get to is that we stand on a fine line. We are reliant upon those in our community who go above and beyond in giving away their work with little or no expectation of reward. My strong belief is that we must reward developers’ giving nature in whatever way we can, in order to ensure that they continue (and by extension, WordPress continues) to thrive.
There are so many ways in which we can contribute to the ongoing development of WordPress without touching a line of code, and this article is a call to arms for you to do something:
- Leave a positive review of your favorite plugin on WordPress.org
- If you’ve been experiencing a bug with any of your plugins, get in touch with the developer and let them know
- If you think a plugin could be improved with a new feature, get in touch with the developer and let them know
Possibly my personal favorite suggestion is simply to reach out to the developer of a plugin you use and let them know that you really appreciate their hard work. At the end of the day, you can’t beat the human touch.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out this great article by Raelene over at WPMU Dev. She offers up a number of different ways in which you can contribute to WordPress without touching a line of code.
This Is in Your Best Interests
I’ll close with the central argument of this article: your WordPress website depends upon the kind of reciprocity I am advocating.
If the relationship between developer and user was entirely one-way, the system would fail. Many people out there have developed incredibly useful plugins on the basis that they might benefit, directly and indirectly, in many ways other than financial. But in order for them to continue to do what they do, those benefits must manifest themselves.
At the end of the day, we all need to make a living, and developers’ generosity is not endless. Let’s make sure that we recognize their generosity and reward them appropriately. Your website will thank you for it.