Tackling team challenges together

TLDR: New team reps selected; strategies for working through 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 backlog; solid show of interest in joining the team.

The last few months since Mika announced she was stepping down from the team have been very exciting (and busy!) for all the new team members (@davidperez, @eherman24, @frantorres, @lukecarbis, @martatorre and @pacomarchante), and we wanted to share an update with you. 

The first couple of weeks were a bit nerve-wracking. We were daunted by the complexity of the task, the responsibility it entails, and the sheer volume of plugins that needed to be reviewed. But over time, we’ve become more comfortable with the processes and routines of plugin review.  We are very grateful we got all the support we needed from Mika, @otto42, @dd32, @zoonini, @mrfoxtalbot, and other contributors during this period. 

We’re also pleased to announce that after some discussion, Francisco Torres & Paco Marchante will be the new team reps. 

The challenges

When you start working on plugin reviews it suddenly strikes you how tremendously efficient Mika was at doing this. In the last year alone, She reviewed 5297 new plugins (that’s around 100 plugins per week). You have to take into account that most of the plugins the team receives require a back-and-forth of several emails before the plugin can be approved.

Fortunately, the team is quickly picking up its pace at reviewing plugins. At first, it would take us 2 hours to review each plugin, then 1 hour, and now we are down to 10-20 minutes for an initial review. It is important to remember that reviewing plugins is not just looking at the code, we also need to check for other things such as trademark violations and other guidelines regarding compliance.

Aside from plugin reviews, the team takes care of several other tasks: we review reports of guideline violations, reply to requests about closing or reassigning ownership of plugins, respond to questions in the #pluginreview SlackSlack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform https://slack.com/. The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at https://make.wordpress.org/chat/. channel, work with the security team to address vulnerabilities, and send out (and monitor) pre-release emails to ensure all plugin authors are still reachable at their regular email address. We have spent a lot of time documenting and streamlining these tasks.

Solving these challenges

The first challenge we found during our onboarding was the fact that a lot of processes were not clearly documented. We asked A LOT of questions during this process and ensured that all the answers Mika shared with us were added to the team’s internal docs. This effort should make it a lot easier for new contributors to join the team down the road.

We have also improved our internal tools to catch the most common coding mistakes and have built our predefined responses into the output provided by this tool. We still review this content manually before sending out replies, but by merging the two tasks into one (reviewing the code and drafting the message) we have been able to cut down review time considerably.

Another thing we decided to do was speed up our first reviews. As it turns out, about half of all plugin authors don’t reply to the initial review email with feedback on what they need to fix. In order to tackle the backlog faster, we’re now spending less time on initial reviews. We begin checking issues that take us less time, and then as soon as we spot one or two issues with the plugin that would prevent it from being approved, we email the plugin author to ask them to fix the initial issues. If the author gets back to us with those first fixes, then we proceed with an in-depth review.

20+ Submissions

When the team was announced, an application form was created for those considering joining the team. We are excited to announce that we have received more than 20 submissions from generous contributors wanting to help. We are currently reviewing them and our goal is to expand the team in the near future.

To recap, we are making our best effort to reduce the current backlog by improving our tools and expanding the team. Our goal is to lower the waiting period significantly over the next few months. We sincerely want to thank you all for your patience and understanding during this transition period.