2020 Roundup

Well. It’s been a year…

Overview

Between December 31 2019 and December 28 2020, we have:

  • 8486 plugins submitted (up from 8048)
  • 1338 plugins rejected (up from 1221)
  • 3317 plugins closed (down from 6038)
  • 676 plugins pending review on average week to week (up from 623)

It’s not a huge increase in workload, and unlike last year, we have only three spikes of massive closures.

Here’s an overview in table format:

RequestedRejectedClosedApprovedPending
Most in a week221111600132790
Least in a week12821041560
Average169286569676
YEAR TOTAL8486133833173451595

Overall, the load was slightly up but nothing to phone home about.

The number one reason a 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 is closed is, still, bounced emails. The number two reason is security, followed by general guidelines and trademarks.

The number one reason a plugin is pended for approval is sanitization/validation related (remember you have to do both – sanitize and validate – because otherwise people will put ‘dog’ in for a value of how many hats they need).

Looking Back at 2020

We had some wins and some losses.

First, here’s what didn’t go great:

  • New Team Members — this was probably the worst year for that, seeing as real life kicked everyone around. Of the people onboarded, one remains semi-active.
  • Tools — I did not manage to convert my shell script to something mass-consumable, but I did make significant progress in improving it
  • Trademarks — Legal representatives from multiple companies have forced us to be harsher and more strict with trademark usage. There’s very little we can do here.

Now here’s what did go well!

  • Helpscout — This has been a godsend. We’ve managed to improve a lot of automation with it, speeding up everyone’s work.
  • .Org Tools
    • There are a lot more checks for trademarks in slugs and display names now, so people can’t even submit violations.
    • We added a lot of code to allow people to better manage their own plugins. For example, you can close your own plugin as well as change the primary owner.

Helpscout

As mentioned last year, we make heavy use of Saved Replies to speed up reviews and processing. Here again, in order from most used to least, are the most commonly used replies:

Reviews

These are sent out during reviews to help identify issues:

  • Review: Please sanitize, escape, and validate your POST calls
  • Review: Generic function/class/define prefix names
  • Review: Invalid Tested Up To
  • Review: Incomplete Readme
  • Review: Not using wp_enqueue commands
  • Review: Calling remote files (js, css, images, etc)
  • Review: Undocumented use of a 3rd Party or external service
  • Review: Including Libraries Already In WP CoreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress. (including jquery)
  • Review: Including out of date libraries
  • Review: Including your own CURL code
  • Review: Calling file locations poorly (also hardcoding in paths)
  • Review: Whole $_POST processing
  • Review: Including full vendor/demo/documentation folders
  • Review: Using esc_ to sanitize (not esc_url)
  • Review: Plugin uses Error Reporting in public
  • Review: Display Name infringes on trademarks (slug is fine)
  • Review: Including your own update checker
  • Review: Using file_get_contents on remote files
  • Review: Calling core loading files directly (wp-load etc)
  • Review: Poorly Chosen Plugin Name
  • Review: Including a zip file
  • Review: Using variables/defines for text-domains (this breaks glotpress)
  • Review: Allowing Direct File Access to plugin files
  • Review: Not using Nonces and/or checking permissions
  • Review: Plugin is still calling localhost
  • Review: Your admin dashboard has an iframeiframe iFrame is an acronym for an inline frame. An iFrame is used inside a webpage to load another HTML document and render it. This HTML document may also contain JavaScript and/or CSS which is loaded at the time when iframe tag is parsed by the user’s browser.

Rejected

These are the most common reasons a plugin was rejected:

  • Rejected: New/renamed version of their own plugin
  • Rejected: Not Your Plugin (Tried to upload vs host)

Pended

The top three reasons a plugin is pended before we even review it:

  • Pended: Name Infringes on Trademarks (slug and name need to be changed)
  • Pended: Not Official Owner
  • Pending: Website incomplete (coming soon/demo)

Replies

These are common replies to common issues.

  • Reply: Rescan (Plugins must be checked before being reopened)
  • Reply: You can remove your own plugin
  • Reply: Plugin Slug Renamed
  • Reply: Be More Patient
  • Reply: Not a Marketplace
#year-in-review

2019 Insights

There’s been a lot of quiet change going on for Plugins, so now is as good a time as any to get into it!

If you’re interested in any details missing, leave a comment. I do ask you try not to speculate too much into the why’s and wherefores of what people do with plugins. I’ve been at this a while, and the one thing I can promise is people do weird things.

New Email System

We finally migrated off of the old system and on to HelpScout in March, which allows us the ability to sort and organize emails into teams. It also lets us properly filterFilter Filters are one of the two types of Hooks https://codex.wordpress.org/Plugin_API/Hooks. They provide a way for functions to modify data of other functions. They are the counterpart to Actions. Unlike Actions, filters are meant to work in an isolated manner, and should never have side effects such as affecting global variables and output. bad actors so not everyone has to deal with them. We make heavy use of automated filters now, which has let us do the impossible …

New Team Members

We onboarded two new team members in November and have been easing them in to the weird workload of Plugins. They’ve been instrumental in sorting out what filters and team assignments do and don’t work well for Plugins.

New Tools

I’ve been using a new bash script to expedite scanning plugins. While we’d love to use WPCS (and I personally recommend it to for everyone), even with a heavily parred down version it hasn’t quite met our needs. The goal for next year is to move the bash script into a PHPPHP PHP (recursive acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is a widely-used open source general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development and can be embedded into HTML. http://php.net/manual/en/intro-whatis.php. 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 we can use to automate a lot more.

New Replies

Our saved replies (the standard ones you get for closures and reviews) have all been cleaned up, spellchecked, and formatted for easier reading. Now, when you get an alert that your plugin has been closed, we attempt to direct you on exactly how to resolve the issues. This is still a bit of a work in progress, but we’ve made great strides on consistent tone and softer language.

New Restrictions

Sadly as many people found out, we got dinged hard by some trademark owners, and are taking action against people who violate trademarks. Around 1000 plugins were closed due to that, and it’s one of those things we can’t protect you from. We’ve changed the plugin uploader for new submissions to 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. a lot of that.

Remember the basic rule: If it’s not your company/product/library, don’t begin your plugin Display Name or permalink with it!

(Trademark owners: Please ask the developer to changes things before coming to us. Communication will help everyone.)

The Stats!

A lot of people like this part. Here’s the overall outlook from 2019:

Chart showing the Requested, Rejected, Closed, Approved, and Pending plugins each week for 2019.

And in a slightly more consumable summary table:

RequestedRejectedClosedApprovedPending
Most in a week194109480118718
Least in a week1292925527
Average1612511776623
Year to Date8048122160383836N/A

We’ve had 1000 more plugins submitted in 2019 than 2018, however the Rejected and Approved numbers only went up by 100.

So where are the extra 800 plugins? On average, pending plugins did go down but only by about 25 a week. Most of the missing counts are there, but they’re also in the dreaded “Closed” section.

A higher than expected number of developers have submitted plugins for review and then asked them to be closed within a 6 month timeframe. This has led to us pushing back on people and making notes in their accounts about that kind of behavior. There hasn’t yet been a common thread to why that’s happening, so we’re keeping an eye out.

HelpScout Overall

HelpScout also helpfully provides their own statistics for how much we used them. This is just since March when we switched over:

  • Customers: 6665
  • Conversations per Day: 35
  • Busiest Day: Thursday
  • Email Conversations: 12,829
  • Messages Received: 17,439
  • Replies Sent: 18,931
  • Emails Created: 6650
  • Resolved: 6642
  • Resolved on First Reply: 31%
  • Closed: 11,818

HelpScout Saved Replies

We make heavy use of Saved Replies to speed up reviews and processing. These were brought in to use in chunks, and I’m omitting the exact numbers. They won’t do you any good to know we sent 2,679 “Approval after send” emails when you realize we also only sent 628 “Intro to new Review”. All that means is we pulled in the Approval email first. Next year these stats will be more useful.

All that said, I think having a look at what the most common sorts of issues are might be a little enlightening. Everything is ordered from most use to least.

Closed and Warned

These emails are sent out when a plugin is closed or the developer needs to be warned about issues/behavior.

  • Closed: Trademark Abuse (All)
  • Closed: Removal Request Completed
  • Closed: Security Exploit
  • Warning: Sockpuppets
  • Warning: Trademark Violation
  • Notice: Closed Becuase Email Bounced
  • Warning: Security Issue (NOT CLOSED)
  • Closed: General Guideline Violation

Reviews

All these emails are sent when a plugin is being reviewed.

  • Approval: Approval after send
  • Review: End Of Review (goes at the end of all reviews)
  • Review: Intro to new review (all new reviews start here)
  • Review: Please sanitize, escape, and validate your POST calls
  • Review: Generic function/class/define names
  • Review: Incomplete Readme
  • Review: Including your own CURL code
  • Review: Not using wp_enqueue commands
  • Review: Calling remote files (js, css, images, etc)
  • Review: Including Libraries Already In WP CoreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress. (i.e. jquery)
  • Review: Calling file locations poorly (also hardcoding in paths)
  • Review: Including out of date libraries
  • Review: Undocumented use of a 3rd Party or external service
  • Review: Not using Nonces and/or checking permissions
  • Review: Using file_get_contents on remote files
  • Review: Calling core loading files directly (wp-config, wp-load, wp-blog- etc etc)
  • Review: Display Name infringes on trademarks (slug is fine)
  • Review: Using esc_ to sanitize (not esc_url)

Pended

A pended plugin is one we stop before even reviewing the code. This usually happens because someone’s infringing on trademarks, or using a personal account to submit a company owned plugin.

  • Pended: Name Infringes on Trademarks (slug and name need to be changed)
  • Pended: Never replied to previous review (was rejected)
  • Pended: Not Official Owner

Rejected

This should give you an idea of why plugins are rejected. Top of the list? People who don’t reply.

  • Rejected: Review never completed within 6 months
  • Rejected: Not Your Plugin (Tried to upload vs host)
  • Rejected: Generic for plugins we’re just not hosting
  • Rejected: Framework or Library Plugins
  • Rejected: New/renamed version of their own plugin

Miscellanous

The rest of the emails are lumped together. You’ll notice we have prefixes to what each email is. That helps us find them faster.

  • Notice: Plugin Restored
  • Reply: Plugin Slug Renamed
  • Reply: Rescan (Plugins must be checked before being reopened)
  • Thank You: Security Report
  • Thank You: Guideline Report
  • Reply: Don’t call people ‘sir’
  • Thank You: Generic, Will Review
  • Notice: AutoReply Sucks
  • Notice: Already Mailed Review
  • Approved: Resend Approval
  • Question: Why Close?
  • Reply: Cannot Rename Plugins (for people who email RIGHT after approval)

#statistics, #year-in-review