Don’t Get Scammed

There’s a company who regularly emails people telling them that for $50 or $100 they’ll review your plugin or theme and you’ll get 5 star ratings on WordPress.org. They’ll tell you that doing this will get you SEO and traffic and they’ll link to their domain as proof of their success.

They’re lying.

Don’t fall for this. Never pay anyone for a review, it’s all a scam and the worst case scenario is that they actually do write a review. Why is that worst? Because if we find out you paid for reviews, we remove your plugins from hosting.

If you got a mail from a certain company offering a Valentine’s sale, know that we already know about them. They’ve been banned from here for years but we’ll be monitoring reviews just in case they slip through.

#reminder

Reminder about Behavior

This really shouldn’t need to be said however, based on three recent incidents, it is clear we need a reminder.

You are responsible for your own actions and choices. If you decide to do a thing, you are assuming responsibility for the outcome and, like it or not, the repercussions fall on you and you alone.

When you work with a team of people to support and maintain your plugin, everyone is required to follow the plugin and forum guidelines. Choices made by the team will impact the group as a whole, for good or ill.

Recently a company was banned due to having never briefed their employees on the plugin guidelines. This led to a new, un-monitored employee, egregiously violating the guidelines, harassing and abusing the volunteers of the forums as well as the end-users, who were just trying to get help with the plugin.

The company had been warned about this kind of behaviour before. In fact, they had been issued a final warning. As this was a repeat of the exact behaviour they’d been warned on, their plugin was closed and the company prohibited from hosting anymore.

Sadly this isn’t the only time that’s happened in the last 4 months.

If you work with a team of people, the company/group is responsible for each other. If one person in your group/company violates the guidelines, it’s the whole group who will suffer as you’ve demonstrated an inability to manage your team. The same is true if a rogue intern or SEO marketer spams the forums. They’re doing those actions in the name of the company, which makes the company accountable for their actions.

Don’t hire random people from companies like Fourer to do your marketing. Don’t let people loose in the forums without making sure they understand the guidelines and our expectations.

Abuse, name calling, harassment, stalking, and spamming the forum moderators is not permitted behaviour by anyone. Users are banned for this, and developers will find their companies and all plugins similarly removed. We feel it’s unfair of people to put the burden of monitoring and managing their team on the volunteers of the forums and the plugin team. This is especially true of companies.

Please make sure the people who work with you understand not just the guidelines, but the stakes. Quite often we find an enthusiastic intern is the cause of sockpuppeting, or a well-meaning SEO consultant who took the wrong lessons to heart and made a readme filled with spam.

If we have to contact you multiple times about your behaviour, or that of the people you’re working with, we’re simply not going to permit you to use our services any longer.

#guidelines, #policy, #reminder

Bounces, AutoReplies, and You

Over 150 plugins were closed during WCUS due to auto replies, bounces, and confusing plugin ownership.

In our plugin developer expectations, we say this:

It is the responsibility of the plugin developer to ensure their contact information on WordPress.org is up to date and accurate, in order that they receive all notifications from the plugins team. Auto-replies and emails that route to a support system are not permitted as they historically prevent humans from addressing emails in a timely fashion.

Your email has to work. If we can’t get a hold of you, we’re going to either remove you from your plugin or, if you’re the owner, close it. This is especially true if we can’t figure out who’s meant to own a plugin, or the ‘official’ company account is bouncing.

If your email sends an auto-reply, or a partial bounce (that is, you have a group email and one address in the group bounces) we ALWAYS email you with as much detail as needed to resolve the issue.

Since we sent out a mass email in October, pre 5.0, and another last week, we had a 50 day window for many people to correct the issues.

Let’s hit up some of the reasons why we do this:

Auto-Replies are a bad developer practice

Two reasons, besides the fact that they’re spammy, that a developer account should never auto-reply:

1. Security
2. Communication

Security is the biggest. An auto-reply generally comes from a SUPPORT account. A support account should NEVER be receiving our emails because they’re likely to be related to insecurity in your plugins. We don’t 0-day you, ever, that would be cruel. We want you to fix things ASAP, though, for your users, and if support gets that message, now you have more people, who may not understand not to tell customers about the problems. Also we have no way to be sure the developer got the email. You’re trusting support to escalate properly every time.

Communication is obviously related. We’ve got to be able to get a hold of you, and putting layers between us and you isn’t going to help.

Auto-replies cause developers to not get notifications

We actually DO inform everyone about the status of auto-replies. Once we determine what plugin causes the reply, we email everyone with commit access (i.e. your developers) that there is a problem and to please resolve it. The fact that a high number of you aren’t seeing those emails is indicative of the problem.

Developers aren’t support

For the majority of plugins, this is actually not true. That is, most people are developers and their own support. But those aren’t the people who make auto-replies. The people who have auto-replies tend to be companies. And for a company, there’s a reason they want the auto-replies for people contacting support. That’s perfectly sensible.

The disconnect here is that we expect the people who have commit access to be developers. We

Thankfully we have a solution for you! You can add your support users as Support Representatives for your plugin!

WordPress isn’t your user

All of that said, having an auto-reply on the account you use here to manage your plugin and support your users creates a poor experience. People can’t email you from WordPress.org and while you can chose to get emails for all new posts in your plugin’s forum, having that sent to an auto-reply is rather odd. Why would you want to auto-reply to an automated notification email?

Shared accounts are dangerous

This goes back to security. Don’t share accounts. NEVER share accounts. Give developers individual access to commit code. Add support reps individually. Doing this gives you an easy way to track who commits what code, who answered what question, and you can now hold them accountable for their individual actions! Got one support tech who goes off the rails? You can explain that it was one person and you’re handling it. Or the forums team can help you block their account if needed.

Bounces are harder to unravel than you think

Sometimes a bounce is obvious. If a user no longer exists, we can close the plugin. If a domain no longer exists, you’d think we could close it, but what if that happened because a company renamed themselves and forgot to update the emails? And what about when the bounce is from the domain, but doesn’t say WHICH user account bounced? It takes time.

We know a handful of people have been upset to find out we closed their plugins instead of trying to sort out who actually should own the plugin when the email bounced. We are sorry about that, but it was a case of prioritizing and expediency. It’s much more efficient for us to close the plugin and let you contact us than to spend a couple hours untangling who represents a company and is legally responsible for managing a plugin.

Questions?

As always, if your plugin was closed and you don’t know why, email us with a link to the plugin and ask. We’d rather have them up and active and usable too!

#reminder #email

Reminder: We can’t rename plugins post approval.

When you submit a plugin, the plugin slug (i.e. the URL) is determined from your plugin’s display name, as set in the main plugin file. The slug can be changed while a plugin is in review but we cannot change it once your plugin is approved.

That’s why, when you submit a plugin, we send you an automatic email telling you what your slug is, and asking you to please reply immediately if that slug is wrong. We also show you what the slug will be on the post-submission page.

If you fail to tell us before we approve your plugin, you’re going to be stuck with the name you got, unless there’s an extenuating circumstance (like a legal issue, or a typo). We do not accept ‘resubmissions’ to fix the name, as we’re making every reasonable effort to get the information out there for you to act on.

Please. Make sure you read the emails. Make sure you check the slug after you submit. Tell us right away when you spot something wrong. And above all? Remember you have full control of your slug in your own submission 🙂

#reminder #policy

Reminder: Plugins are closed if emails bounce

We emailed out the ‘5.0 is coming’ email and received a record high number of bounces. Over 2000. Normally we get a couple hundred, mixed in with vacation notifications (which we ignore) and auto-replies.

When your email bounces, we close your plugin because we no longer have a way to communicate with you. We even email you to tell you, just in case it’s a one-off glitch. If your email auto-replies, you get a warning. If you don’t fix this, the next auto-reply gets you closed. There are a couple exceptions to this, like the person who’s system got stuck in a loop and emailed us back 6 times for one plugin.

  • If the email was the owner of the plugin, and there’s no clear secondary owner, the plugin’s closed
  • If the email was the owner but we can tell another account is the co-owner, we transfer the plugin and email the new owner to explain
  • If the email is a committer, their account is removed and the owner emailed to explain why

Why so many?

But this number being so high was astounding to us. Like I said, it’s 10x the norm. In looking into it, we’ve determined the following facts led to this number:

  • Yahoo will delete your email account if you don’t use it for a year
  • Google reserves the right to deactivate your email after 9 months of inactivity
  • Free Windows Live Hotmail accounts become inactive if you don’t sign in for more than 270 days
  • Google email groups default to not allowing external emails.

My guess is that with GDPR being a thing, many email servers have gone ahead and deleted things. Also I suspect they changed the defaults on Google email groups, since a few of these accounts have been around for a while.

How do I get my plugin reopened?

First check that your user’s email is correct. If not, fix that. Then email us and ask if your plugin can be reopened. Most everyone has been reopened immediately. The stragglers are due to ownership issues. This is why we’re so pedantic about official accounts owning plugins. If the owner bounces but other people from the company have official accounts as committers, we’ll transfer the plugin.

What can I do to prevent this from happening?

The simple answer is “Make sure your email is up to date and functional.”

  • Add wordpress.org to your email’s white-list so you always get our emails
  • If you have a plugin that is a company plugin, make sure that the plugin owner’s email us up to date, and not an auto-reply
  • If your email is an alias, make sure everyone who gets the copy of the email is an active users
  • If you use a group/mailinglist account for your plugin, make sure wordpress.org can email it (groups need to allow ‘world’ access to send to)

#email, #reminder

Reminder: Check your Boilerplates

Boilerplates are hugely popular and can save you a lot of time getting started. That’s great.

However … The number one reason for plugin pushback this year is this:

define( 'PLUGIN_NAME_VERSION', '1.0.0' );

Please remember to check the defaults in those boilerplates.

#reminder

Submitted a Plugin? Please Check Your Emails!

Currently ~30% of all new plugins are approved within 7 days of submission.

Why so low? People don’t reply to their emails. We have over 100 plugins waiting on replies from developers. At this precise moment (10:30 am US Pacific Time, Sunday April 16) there are ZERO plugins pending review. That means everyone who submitted a plugin between April 1 and today has been emailed.

If you didn’t get the email, please go check your spam. Free email clients like Hotmail, Yahoo, and Google tend to file us as ‘automated’ emails, which is not true, but whatever. Put plugins@wordpress.org in your whitelist (actually put @wordpress.org in a filter to have it never treated as spam and always important) because if you’re not getting emails from WP and you’ve submitted a plugin or a theme, you’re going to have a bad time.

Again. Everyone’s been emailed. I promise. Check your emails. Drop us a line if you can’t find it. Remember to whitelist us.

#reminder

Want to Close Your Plugins? Email!

Hi everyone, it’s winter at last, and there’s snow in the mountains! This is the perfect time to sit by the fire and look at your plugins and get rid of the ones you don’t want to be on the hook for any more.

Did you make a plugin for an event that happened a long time ago, like the 2008 Olympics? Did you make a featured plugin that got wrapped into core and you’re done?

Email plugins@wordpress.org with a link to the plugin and we’ll close it for you!

Doing this means you won’t get any new people complaining about how the plugin doesn’t work and disables itself in WP 4.3 and up (even though you documented it…). It’s less work for you and it’s okay to EoL plugins. We’ll close ’em for you and you’ll be done.

A lovely winter present for everyone.

(If you think the plugin has a use and life, but you don’t want to support it anymore, consider adding the tag ‘adopt me’ to your readme. Just update your readme file with that and maybe someone will come and offer a new home for your old plugin. Check out https://wordpress.org/plugins/tags/adopt-me to see the plugins out there looking for you!)

#reminder

The Perils of Partnership

If you’ve ever received an email offering to partner with you or to join an affiliate network or to help you earn money for your plugin, it’s probably a scam.

In the last three months, we’ve seen a serious uptick in emails like “please join our affiliate network” or “I can help you earn money” or “increase your plugin’s SEO” sent to plugin developers. On review, every last one that looked iffy has turned out to be by a nefarious or malicious group of people, who want to either install backdoors into plugins or black hat SEO links.

These deals should sound too good to be true, and they are. They can irreparably harm you, your reputation, and your standing on WordPress.org. Our reaction, when we see it, is to remove the plugin and revoke all SVN access from the developers involved. We don’t always restore access, especially if we feel you may fall for such a scam again or your online behavior is inherently insecure.

I know some of you are reading this thinking “Who falls for stupid stuff like that!” and the reality is anyone. All it takes is one mistake, one moment where you’re not thinking all the way through, and you’ve shot yourself in the foot.

There are some simple tips you can take to protect yourself.

  • Never let anyone else use your SVN account. If you work with a team, everyone should use their own account. This will help you track changes too.
  • Look up the people. Check that they seem legit. Are they using wordpress in their domain name (which you know is not permitted)? Do they already have any plugins? Are they active in the community?
  • What other kinds of plugins do they own? If the plugins are all over the place, ask yourself: Why would they want MY plugin? Companies that make a grab for a lot of different plugins are often trying to find ones with a high user count in order to spam.
  • Preview the code. Never add anything you’re not 100% sure is safe. If the code that gets added has links that look like http://api.wp' . '-example.com/api/upd' . 'ate or 'ht'.'tp://wpcdn.example.com/api/update/ then it’s not trustworthy (those aren’t the real URLs).
  • Does the email look like a form letter? WordPress is such a small community that people generally reach out like human beings. If someone’s spam-blasting a form, it’s sketchy.
  • Check spelling and grammar. If it’s `Wordpress` with a lower case P, or `JetPack` with an uppercase one, it might just be an innocent mistake, but it might not. Businesses should care about these things. After all, you do.

Above all, if you see something, say something. If you get an email like that, forward it on to plugins@wordpress.org with as much information as possible. We would love to see some code samples, for example, as we can add it to our scan routines.

#reminder, #security

Plugin Directory Chat on Oct 5th

I know, it got quiet. There were things.

Plugin directory chat on 2016-10-05

They’ll be picking back up next month though! Come with your thinking hats on. Can’t make it? Leave comments on the above post 😁

#plugin-directory, #reminder