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.
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 WordCamp 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 Plugin 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.
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.
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.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.