Talking point: Handling support for commercial users on the WordPress forums
During the support teams weekly meeting on August 27th the topic of support for users who may have both a free, and commercial, product from an author was discussed.
The support team wishes find a good baseline for how to distinguish between what is considered commercial support, and also be more transparent about the process that occurs when commercial support is discovered.
This post is not a final say, but rather a continuation of this discussion, to gather views from those unable to attend our weekly meetings, and also to allow for the authors of plugins and themes to be heard in the process.
The problem we wish to solve
The above is one of the points from the support guidelines, and is the problem we wish to discuss and find a good solution that benefits users, authors, and volunteers alike. Handling of scenarios where users may or may not be seeking paid help through the free WordPress.orgWordPress.orgThe 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/ forums.
It is a well known fact that many users do not always read the guidelines, so this needs to be taken into account for how scenarios are handled.
The problem can be split into a few main elements:
Identifying if a persons support for a pluginPluginA 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/theme relates to the paid or free version
Handling scenarios where it is not obvious where the problem lies
Handling scenarios where the problem is in the free code, but is made apparent by the paid product
Handling scenarios where it is clearly a paid product
Of the above, number 2 and 3 are the difficult ones, and what we would like to discuss.
Point 4 is not up for discussion, it is set in stone that there is no place for supporting paid products on WordPress.org, which is covered in the next section.
The end goal
The goal is to ensure that paying customers and free users get the best support they can, from the ones that can give it.
As volunteers do not have access to the paid products, this means the authors of the code is the best place to ask, and as the problems with a paid problem is gated, it is better to avoid mixing it with the features of a free plugin or theme.
It’s also an unacceptable misuse of volunteers time to support a product someone else has been paid to support.
Points made so far
As initially mentioned, discussions were had in the teams weekly meeting, and a lot of good points were brought up by the attendees, they will be summarized here, to the best of the authors ability. If anything appears to be missing, please feel free to re-iterate in the comment section below.
Plugin or theme authors are best suited to determine if a problem is with their own paid or free solution
If the answer to a problem benefits the free users, it should be available on the forums
Move the burden away from the moderators, let authors discern if it’s free or paid, and if they knowingly support paid solutions they risk the consequences.
Users may say they use a pro plugin or theme, but this could be unrelated to the issue they are actually having
That handles the determination of what type of request it is, there were also some points on how to handle the scenarios.
If it’s guaranteed a paid solution problem, closing the thread and provide a reply to the user linking to the official site/support area of the plugin or theme (this is the current process)
If the root cause has not been identified we should step back and let the authors handle debugging until it is clear what the problem truly is
If the authors supporting the plugin or theme is not referring the user to their own support platform it should be closed and the author informed/warned
If the main issue is in the free product, support should be allowed on WordPress.org, even if the user has also paid for add-ons or similar
The support handbook pre-defined replies also has a section on support for paid solutions, which should be used when pointing users to the right place for support for paid solutions, and can be improved upon with the outcome from this discussion.
Note that none of the above are the final decisions on what the end process will look like, but are points that were made and thoughts on how to approach it, this is where further input is wanted, are there scenarios that may have been missed? Ways to handle the known scenarios that have not been considered? The floor is open in the comment section below.