WordPress Users: Please Respect Free Plugin Developers. Your Website Depends On It. - ManageWP

WordPress Users: Please Respect Free Plugin Developers. Your Website Depends On It.

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:

  1. Uninstall the plugin and get on with your day
  2. Contact the plugin developer, explaining the issue
  3. 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:

  1. Leave a positive review of your favorite plugin on WordPress.org
  2. If you’ve been experiencing a bug with any of your plugins, get in touch with the developer and let them know
  3. 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.

Tom Ewer

Tom Ewer is the founder of WordCandy.co. He has been a huge fan of WordPress since he first laid eyes on it, and has been writing educational and informative content for WordPress users since 2011. When he's not working, you're likely to find him outdoors somewhere – as far away from a screen as possible!

16 Comments

  1. Spor Salonu

    nice information, thank you

  2. Will

    Hear, hear!
    Great points, Tom, thanks for the write-up.
    If something has made your life easier take a few moments and thank the people who facilitate that.

  3. Adhitya Chandra

    I think a free plugin developer will be very happy just looking us install their program in our site. All we have to do is only give respect and feedback.

  4. Eric

    I’m a big believer in donating to developers who provide free plugins that I use a lot. Particularly the ones who are always working to improve their (free) product. Even if it’s just a few dollars, I think it goes a long way in making them feel appreciated.

    1. Tom Ewer

      I agree! I’ve done this plenty of times before :-)

  5. Dan

    Is there really that much angry criticism and complaining over (especially free) plugins? I haven’t noticed it very often. It’s probably a consequence of frustration — people are trying to solve a problem but are faced with many choices without an easy way to evaluate the differences, quality, and costs. If they experience a plugin or a string of plugins that frustrate them, they may vent, however ineffective, unfair and unkind that may be.

    It also seems like people in all areas of life will be angry if you provide them with a tool they feel is deficient once they adopt it — because now it’s affecting their work, business, time, etc. It doesn’t matter if the tool is free — they feel it’s costing them something. There is a certain legitimacy to that complaint. If a lot of people become reliant on a certain piece of free software, a couple of guys who aren’t making much money developing it (e.g. OpenSSL) may prove inadequate to support the way it is actually used.

    IMO most free software should make it clear there is no (free) support, and if it is popular it should not be free unless the authors have some other revenue source to subsidize support. In the end what is more irresponsible: giving away something you want people to use but then being unable or unwilling to grow a business to support this — or venting because you are the kind of frustrated user this non-business model creates? I suppose they are about equal, but it’s the free software developer who creates the frustrated user who fails to appreciate the “gift.” All of these problems would go away if it was relatively easy to assess best of breed plugins and themes, whether they are free or not, where “best” takes into account the stability, longevity, and sustainability of the product and people supporting it.

    1. Tom Ewer

      Hey Dan,

      Great points – thanks for sharing.

      I’m definitely on board with your point regarding support – I made essentially the same point as you in a post last year: http://managewp.com/free-plugin-support/.

      Thanks again!

      Tom

  6. Hans

    My problem with free plugins is that they often very condensed written and from premium plugins that the salespage often describes more than really is to be delivered.

    So there is a pile of free and paid plugins that I have tried and still I am not happy, so I install another, etc.

    Why the free or paid plugin devellopers start composing a very condensed good working backbone plugin, f.i. Facebook, extended technical described without sales hum-bug, and stay open to add a client specific addition for a reasonable price.

    In my opinion there are not really so many client specific options and solutions can be sold several times.

    1. Tom Ewer

      Hi Hans,

      I certain wouldn’t defend plugin developers who try to deceive people into purchasing a premium plugin through a poor quality free plugin!

      Cheers,

      Tom

  7. Karl Sandoval

    I couldn’t agree more, I’ve never understood this sense of entitlement that some people seem to have.

  8. Brin Wilson

    Hear, hear!

  9. Rhys

    Bravo :)

    It’s a MASSIVE bugbear for me. One way to give back is – quite simply – reading. Good plugin developers will define a list of things they want to be contacted with, an FAQ, or where to leave support. One of my plugins (with over 100,000 downloads) get a fair bit of support traffic. The majority of which is already answered in the plugins FAQ sections.

    When a user submits a bad review, and then demands me to fix their plugin. I quite simply give them a refund :)

    1. Tom Ewer

      Hi Rhys,

      I can only imagine the hassle that accompanies a plugin with 100,000 downloads! If most people learned to read FAQs before submitting a support request, the world would be a better place 😉

      Cheers,

      Tom

    2. Trisha Cupra

      I love that you give them a refund for a free plugin. Hahahahaha. :-)

  10. Jrf

    Thank you Tom for this article. It voices one of the greatest frustrations of developers – me included – in a well-balanced manner.

    I actually seem to remember that an older GPL-version stated that if you modified GPL-licensed software, you were actively encouraged to ‘give-back’ your modifications to the original product if they could be of use to others.

    To me, ‘give-back’ is at the core of open-source development and it would be awesome if more people would act accordingly: “You get something for free, so you give-back something for free.”

    And it doesn’t have to be hard either, we all have skills and knowledge in our own field, give-back can take many forms.
    * Answering a support question from another user
    * Translating a plugin/theme or improving existing translations
    * Create a logo for the project if it doesn’t have one
    * Writing a blog post on how to use the software
    * Reporting issues
    * Fixing bugs
    * Writing unit tests
    * etc etc

    Let’s all continue to make open source projects better and having the right attitude is step one.

    1. Tom Ewer

      Thanks for sharing JRF, and I agree; having the right attitude is the first step.

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