X-post: Automatically Catching Bugs in Plugins

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X-post: Proposal: A WordPress Project Contributor Handbook

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Trunk vs Tags? Which is Better? (Answer: Tags)

tl;dr – We strongly recommend you use tagged folders for your releases of your plugins. Future you will thank you.

While we have always advocated for people to use a tag folder with their plugins instead of trunk, it persists that a number of developers like using the “Stable TagTag Tag is one of the pre-defined taxonomies in WordPress. Users can add tags to their WordPress posts along with categories. However, while a category may cover a broad range of topics, tags are smaller in scope and focused to specific topics. Think of them as keywords used for topics discussed in a particular post.” of trunk. There are logical reasons for this. Having your stable tag be trunk feels like it’s one less thing to keep in mind when you update your pluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party for a new release.

The problem with that setup is that you suddenly made it harder for everyone else to keep tabs on your plugin, to make sure they downloaded the correct version, and worst of all … you made it nearly impossible to roll back to a previous release. And with the advent of automated plugin updates, that last one is going to be damaging to you in the long run.

In fact, here’s what you’re making worse:

  • No easy way to download older versions to debug compatibility issues
  • Translators cannot work in ‘advance’ of a release, meaning as soon as you push your code, the translations are out of date until volunteers can work on it
  • You increase your risk of an accidental release
  • No way to allow people to download the ‘pre-release’ version from official WordPress.orgWordPress.org The community site where WordPress code is created and shared by the users. This is where you can download the source code for WordPress core, plugins and themes as well as the central location for community conversations and organization. https://wordpress.org/ sources
  • No ability to ‘roll back’ versions

So what’s the right way?

  1. Make sure your readme.txt has the stable tag to your stable version in the main plugin file (those need to match)
  2. Put everything into your trunk folder on your local checkout (use svn add and so on as needed)
  3. Run svn cp trunk tags/1.2.3 — this will copy from trunk to the tag folder
  4. Run svn ci -m "Releasing new version" — this will push both trunk and tag

That’s it. You’re done. Now you can upload and edit trunk all you want, for a dev version, and as long as the readme points to the proper stable tag, your users won’t get any updates.

Okay, but what if you want to have a trunk version for testing? Do not edit the stable tag in the trunk readme! It’s that value that tells WordPress which version is ‘stable’ and if you’re working on 1.2.3, keep stable as 1.2.2 in trunk and no one will get the new code until you’re ready.

#release, #svn, #tags

Reminder: Trademarked Logos Cannot Be Used In Banners/Icons

tl;dr: Using someone else’s trademarked logo in your pluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party icons or banners is a trademark violation, and they have the right to have us remove your plugin at any time.

We’ve posted about this before, and it’s apparently time for a reminder. Logos for brands are generally trademarked. Those logos cannot be used in your plugins banners or icons unless you have their express permission.

Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of someone else’s registered trademark. This means you are using their logos without permission. When we talk about misuse, it’s more clear to think about it in terms of physical products. Lets say you make electronic gizmos and they happen to work with MacOS. If you put Apple’s logo on your products, you would be infringing on their trademark. Basically you’re misrepresenting yourself in a way that implies or suggests that the trademark owner approves of your work when this is not true.

If you got an email from us (either a warning or a closure notice) about this sort of matter, please address it promptly. Check your banners and icons, and your display names, to make sure you aren’t in violation. Remove all trademarked logos from your plugin banners and icons (yes, even social media ones), and make sure it’s clear that your plugin is not an official plugin (unless it is, and then you don’t have to worry).

Some quick questions:

Why do trademark owners care?

Trademark owners who do not protect their trademark usage end up being unable to enforce it legally later on. So it’s in their best interests to monitor the use and prevent misuse. Also, customers often get confused about the origin of the plugins, and will complain to the wrong people if there’s an issue. Finally, you are essentially profiting from the goodwill that the trademark owner has generated.

Who actually complains to [company] about a 3rd party plugin!?

A lot of people, actually. A high number of people complain to companies and the companies come back to us and say we’re encouraging the behavior which causes confusion with users and a loss of trust in the trademark owners. After all, if your unofficial plugin breaks someone’s site, and they blame the trademark owner? Well that wasn’t fair at all.

Why are other people getting away with it?

They aren’t. They’re just living on borrowed time, as the saying goes.

We have getting close to 100k plugins. They are all monitored by humans (not automated for this one yet) and a human has to check if you had permission or not, if you’ve been warned or not, if your plugin merits a grace period or not, and if the trademark owner has officially demanded we close your plugin immediately. Plus a large number of people argue about this, which eats up time. We do things in batches to try and stay sane.

Also … we strongly recommend you never use that excuse. It makes you sound like ‘sour grapes’ or childish to argue that someone else didn’t get caught yet, so you should be allowed to keep breaking the rules. That just makes this process take longer for everyone.

I reported someone, but you didn’t do anything! Why not?

Unless it’s your trademark, we generally don’t do anything right away because, again, we have close to 100,000 plugins. The number of violations is high, and in order not to ‘play favorites’ we do them in the order we’ve got them. We don’t bump people higher (or lower) on the list just because someone complained or is our friend. That would be terribly unfair!

If it was your trademark, we probably did bump them to the top of the list. We do try to get the developers to fix things before we close (especially for larger plugins that would have a massive negative impact on the community), but this isn’t always possible.

Isn’t it fair-use to use social media logos for related plugins?

No. Besides the fact that ‘fair use’ doesn’t apply to trademarks, it’s a matter of how you’re using it. Social media companies usually give permission to use their logos on your website as a direct link to your presence on their ecosystem. So a bird links you to Twitter. However. That is not the same as using a logo for advertising which is what many of them consider banners and icons to be. Their argument is that WordPress.orgWordPress.org The community site where WordPress code is created and shared by the users. This is where you can download the source code for WordPress core, plugins and themes as well as the central location for community conversations and organization. https://wordpress.org/ is not your site. We’ve argued about this, but some companies have slapped us with legal threats so there we are.

What about screenshots?

Some trademark owners demand we prevent that too, some don’t. I wish we had a clearer answer here, but just to grab an example, there is a certain social media company who doesn’t want to see you use the logos in screenshots. Meanwhile, there are other credit card companies who don’t mind. Keeping track of those is incredibly hard! We recommend you not use them in screenshots.

What if I redraw my own version of the logos?

Then you’re probably going to get a legal demand from the owner to stop because you broke their usage guidelines for the logo. We should note here, when you intentionally try to get around trademark law, you are effectively confessing guilt. You know what you’re supposed to be doing and you’re actively trying to get away with something? The trademark lawyers will be able to take you down in seconds.

How can I promote my plugin’s associations without violating?

First and foremost, the directory isn’t for promoting anything, it’s for listing. If you’re doing all this to basically be a big “Click Here!” method, you’re going about it the wrong way.

Now if you’re really asking “How can I improve my usage by getting people to click on my plugin?” then you start by making a great banner that is memorable.

Stop treating a banner or an icon as a billboard. You don’t need to show off what your plugin can do, you need to be memorable and noticeable. The best banners are the ones that stick in people’s minds, and the odds are not a single person remembers “Oh you’re the one with the logos in this order…”

But no, you don’t need all the examples of the possible social media uses on your plugin banner.

What about Display Names?

In general, you can use “For [Trademark]” in your display name. There are some vendors who are particular and won’t even let you do that. We do our best to try and warn you ahead of time, but sometimes vendors change things on us without notification. Most are pretty cool about working out a plan so we don’t have to close plugins, some are not. I wish I had a better answer there.

#guidelines, #trademarks

The WordPress 5.7 Email Has been Sent

The field guide is out and the email has been sent.

If you find your pluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party has been closed, it would be for one of the following reasons:

  • Email bounces
  • Auto replies continue after a warning
  • Email reply says the email address is no longer checked/in use
  • We have received the exact same out of office for 3 releases in a row

If your plugin is still open? Please re-read the field guide. It has some pretty cool stuff 🙂

WordPress 5.7 Field Guide

#email #field-guide #reminder

X-post: Removing plugin and theme names used as topic tags on the forums

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X-post: Introducing script attributes related functions in WordPress 5.7

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Reminder: Forked Premium Plugins Are Not Permitted

tl;dr: We do not permit copies or forks of premium (pay for) plugins to be hosted on WordPress.orgWordPress.org The community site where WordPress code is created and shared by the users. This is where you can download the source code for WordPress core, plugins and themes as well as the central location for community conversations and organization. https://wordpress.org/.

Caveat: While this topic always brings up people arguing that the GPLGPL GPL is an acronym for GNU Public License. It is the standard license WordPress uses for Open Source licensing https://wordpress.org/about/license/. The GPL is a ‘copyleft’ license https://www.gnu.org/licenses/copyleft.en.html. This means that derivative work can only be distributed under the same license terms. This is in distinction to permissive free software licenses, of which the BSD license and the MIT License are widely used examples. means they can (and yes, you can copy GPL plugins and do whatever you want with them), we wish to remind developers that just because the GPL allows something doesn’t mean we will host it here. Our guidelines are considered above and beyond the GPL. After all, the GPL doesn’t say you can’t punch someone, but if you get into a fistfight at a WordCampWordCamp WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress. They're one of the places where the WordPress community comes together to teach one another what they’ve learned throughout the year and share the joy. Learn more., we’re not going to host your plugins.

Taking someone’s pay-for code and re-releasing it as free-of-charge is considered (by us — the PluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party Review Team) to be a form of piracy and is not welcome here. It doesn’t matter if the code is GPL, it matters that When you do that, when you copy and re-release someone’s code without any changes, you’re stealing the opportunity of the original developers to make a living, and we feel that is detrimental to the community. In addition, it’s often in violation of the terms you agreed to when you downloaded the plugin from the developer in the first place.

By you doing that, and rehosting here, you put the entire directory in peril. Arguably we become responsible for your actions. As such, we do not permit plugins that are sold off WordPress.org to be re-hosted here.

The only exception to this (besides it being your own plugin) is if you have made a significant fork, properly credited in the readme and inline code, and everything was 100% GPL compatible, including the terms from where you bought the plugin. If you pirated a plugin, or if you violated the license purchasing terms (which may say things like you cannot resell it), then we cannot host the code.

Edit: It’s important to note that adding non-GPL compliant terms to a license may in fact invalidate the license, which means we can’t host it here anyway. The above comment is not in support of people violating licenses nor are we attempting to protect and help those people in any way. We are trying to point out that even if a license says it’s GPL, if it’s sold with terms that violate the GPL, it cannot be hosted here either. tl;dr? If the license or terms are sus, we can’t host it.

If the plugin is your own plugin and you just want to re-host here, we will do our best to validate that claim, and may pend your plugin while this is researched. We appreciate your patience when that happens.

If you feel someone took your plugin and hosted a copy of it here, please email plugins@wordpress.org with a link to the plugin as it’s hosted here, a link to your original plugin, and (if the plugin is hosted outside WordPress.org) attach a zip of the plugin so that we may compare the two.

Edited to add: This post is not about the GPL. This is only about the existing WordPress.org Plugin Developer Guidelines. You should not, under any circumstances, use this post to frame your understanding or interpretation of the GPL as it is not intended as such. Again, this post is about the plugin guidelines, the ones all plugin devs already committed to following, which have long since stated that immoral or ethical practices are not permitted here.

#reminder, #theft

Reminder: Plugins Must Not Interfere with Updates

While we do look for plugins that touch the update services on submission, we do not monitor existing plugins, which is where this reminder stems from.

Unless your pluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party has the purpose of managing updates, you must not change the defaults of WordPress’ update settings.

You may offer a feature to auto-update, but it has to honor the coreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress. settings. This means if someone has set their site to “Never update any of my plugins or themes” you are not to change those for them unless they opt-in and request it.

The reason for this is that plugins should not over-reach their authority. When a plugin is made, it is self-defined by the developers as what it will do and why. There are some logical reasons to expand that of course (an anti-spam comment plugin may grow to also handle feedback forms), but for most plugins, the arbitrary management of plugin updates is outside their stated goals.

Plugins crossing over purposes, overriding settings that are unrelated to the function of their specific goal, can and will cause unexpected outcomes. It also destroys the faith users have in you to not break their sites. Sadly, this happened recently to a well used plugin, and the fallout has been pretty bad.

We do understand that many plugins want to take advantage of the new features within WordPress. But if your plugin is a custom blockBlock Block is the abstract term used to describe units of markup that, composed together, form the content or layout of a webpage using the WordPress editor. The idea combines concepts of what in the past may have achieved with shortcodes, custom HTML, and embed discovery into a single consistent API and user experience., you really don’t have a need to be changing how the uploader works, or even setting your plugin to default-auto-update.

At this time, we have no plans to spell this out in a guideline. We do currently, regularly flag plugins that go outside their dictated (self defined) boundaries, and this is not a change. Please, respect your users.

#reminder, #updates

Why the Plugin Emails are ‘Anonymous’

In 2019, we transitioned to a new email service which has allowed us to make all emails anonymous. This decision was not initially well received by all, especially when people feel they are unfairly targeted for guideline violations, though over time it’s settled down.

I wanted to take a minute to explain the backstory about why this had to happen.

Backstory

Over the last four years, there has been a disturbing escalation in behavior with regards to plugins. Reviewers have found themselves targeted in rather terrifying ways, including:

  • emailing someone’s employers to complain
  • making credible threats against safety at an upcoming WordCampWordCamp WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress. They're one of the places where the WordPress community comes together to teach one another what they’ve learned throughout the year and share the joy. Learn more.
  • doxxing a reviewer by publishing their address
  • publicizing information about their families
  • death threats
  • sending physical packages/mail to them

All those things happened from people who were censured for not complying with the guidelines. Some of them even chose to quit, asking us to pull their plugins, and then retaliated in that manner.

Their reactions are always rather odd to look at in the community because the PluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party Team does not publicize these issues. That is to say, we generally will not explain, to the general public, the full details on why something was closed or a developer banned. We don’t do this to hide anything for our own benefit, though that appears to be a common misconception. The reason we keep those issues private is that we feel it gives developers a chance to walk back from a very bad day.

We know we’re sending out some pretty devastating emails to people. Being told “Your plugins have been closed” is a gut-punch, and it’s one we really try to avoid. When people are hurt, they have a tendency to lash out, and in doing so they can cause irreparable harm to their own standing in society. The Internet never forgets anything, and the words said in anger and frustration will haunt us to our dying day and beyond.

By keeping the conversations private, we are allowing developers to have the ability to survive their bad day. You can think of it as giving people a second chance. Of course, you can’t help everyone, and we do know to cut our losses. Not everyone will come back, and some people will burn bridges so badly that it would be detrimental to the community at large to allow it, no matter how much they apologize.

The Decision

2019 was the worst year on record for categorical abuse of the members of the team. It’s difficult to express without violating confidence (and in some situations, legal cases still pending) exactly how bad. When we say ‘Someone mailed things to a reviewer’ we literally do mean that unasked for items were sent via physical mail. And when we say that someone’s home address was leaked, it was absolutely done with intent to harm.

All this leads to the great cost we bear, willingly, as we shoulder the outrage quietly. When we had people’s real names attached to the emails, we had them targeted specifically and personally. They were clear attacks on people, many times misguided and misdirected, that prompted us to change the emails to anonymous.

Because of the attacks on people’s safety and out of a desire to protect their health and well being, we have chosen to make all emails from the Plugin Review Team anonymous.

Failures

This choice has not really gone over as well as we’d hoped.

It’s no secret that people get very passionate about their plugins. They’ve created something out of their heart and minds, and getting emails from us telling them that there are issues with their work is disheartening. It’s worse when those are clearly a form email.

When we moved to form replies years ago, in order to expedite the review process, they were generally understood to be the cost of the high volume of reviews. Having impersonal emails sent from a real human was annoying, but acceptable. Having impersonal emails sent from an anonymous account makes us feel like we’re not valued as humans.

That’s why we’ve worked hard to rewrite a lot of the emails to be more clear about what the problem is and what you need to do to resolve it. We’ve tried to make our dreaded ‘Final Warning’ email even more clear.

We Want You To Do Well

We want nothing more than the continued success of the Plugin Ecosystem, hosted on WordPress.orgWordPress.org The community site where WordPress code is created and shared by the users. This is where you can download the source code for WordPress core, plugins and themes as well as the central location for community conversations and organization. https://wordpress.org/ and not. When we’re reviewing your code, we want the code to be safe and to be well documented so that you have every possible opportunity to be a success.

We can no longer sacrifice ourselves in doing so.

Our emails are always sent by a real human being, who is just as flawed as you are. They’re never personal attacks. While we always do our best to make sure we’re in the right before we send a warning, we are humans, like you, and we make mistakes.

We Will Continue to Be (Mostly) Anonymous

With rare exceptions, emails from plugins will remain anonymous. In some cases, the person replying may divulge who they are, but that is their personal choice to do so. No one on the team will ever be required to reveal their identity in an email.

We hope you can understand this frustrating, but needed, action.

#abuse, #explanation, #privacy