Linking to your own support sites

After a lively and engaging discussion during this weeks support meeting, a few scenarios were brought up relating to plugin and theme authors linking to their own support resources.

There are different views on what is considered appropriate times to do so, and what is or isn’t allowed when viewed in relation to the established support guidelines. It’s also clear that the current guideline is not clear enough, and needs updating to be much clearer.

This post outlines some of the ideas that came forth during that discussion (which can be read on Slack in its entirety), not all of which are guaranteed to be implemented, but are recorded for the sake of completeness. We then open the floor to input and comments by those who were unable to attend our latest meeting, or those who did, but have more to bring to the table, all are welcome.


Scenarios not up for discussion

There are two fixed parts that are not up for discussion, but are reiterated for context. No one, no matter who, should ever ask for any kind of credentials (this includes, but is not limited to, WordPress itself, remote viewing applications like TeamViewer, or basic authentications on sites).

An average user should never link a user to off-site platforms for continued support. There is no reason for this, this is exclusively for plugin and theme authors who may have their own systems in place to better follow up and help users.


Points brought up

Currently, it’s possible to link to different platforms, it may be an idea to stop allowing the in-between, either you provide support on WordPress.org, or you don’t.
Would need changes to the plugins side to lock down forums, as it was noted that those who claim to not offer support do it any way at this point, so to avoid confusion, locking down would be the way to go. This does have some disconnects from the expectations of plugin authors when they choose to use the plugin directory though.

If you are a SaaS (Software as a Service), you may require private information like an authentication token or similar to troubleshoot a problem, which should not be posted in a public forum.

If the plugin or theme has a paid version, any conversation relating to premium only features should be taken to their private support platform, as they are not allowed to support customers through our platform for free users.

Currently we do allow authors to post their support email and there is no plan to stop allowing this, but we do recommend that if they need this direct contact, it should be with a proper support system, for both theirs, and the users sake.

The forums are ideally for users to lean to help themselves. It’s important to keep in mind that for the majority of end users, who have no familiarity with the forums or those who help out on them, it is a place to get their problem fixed and nothing more.

Grabbing links and put them behind an intermediary page on WordPress.org with a disclaimer about the dangers of sharing credentials is mentioned as a possible solution to the scenario of links going off-site.
This brought up a continued discussion on a need for whitelisting known good locations, and the increased administrative wok that would lead to in the long run. A whitelist feature may also lead to perceived favoritism towards specific plugins or themes.

When is it OK to link off-site?

  • premium plugins/themes (which should also result in a post closure)
  • services related to plugins/themes

Clarification to the guidelines

A proposition for an improved clarification on linking was put forth, and

Linking to support off-site is allowed for plugin/theme developers and support personnel, but it should only ever be used as a last resort, and never to collect access credentials.

Please keep in mind that the forums here are searchable, so a fully resolved thread here may help another user down the line.