The Subtle Difference Dividing Assistance from Promotion

This is a post I’ve meant to write for a long time to talk about links in the support forums and elsewhere. It’s not targeted at anyone specific. The forum moderators have been dealing with this for years.

I’m going to walk through this with a few situations by example. I’m trying to illustrate a simple ethical problem.

  • If a 3rd party sends people to your site, that’s good.
  • If you send someone to an article on your site occasionally (not as a routine), cool.
  • If you are sending people to your site as a matter of routine then that could be a problem.

I know that’s vague. I’ll try to expand on that.

Plugin or theme authors in their WordPress support forum

A user posts a problem in a support sub-forum for a plugin or theme and Alice (the author or contributor) in reply  posts an external link to her plugin/theme company site or her own site.

That’s fine. If you have code in the WordPress repository then yes, you can send people to your site or service within your WordPress.org support forum.

If you have staff helping you and they’re not clearly designated as part of your staff then get them to add the words “Hey, I work for the author” in their replies. Don’t use signatures but have them make it clear who they are in their reply. If you are amenable to it then make that staff plugin contributors. The moderators will thank you.

Posting 3rd party links

Scenario: Bob comes across a topic in the forums and provides assistance via an answer in the small text box. He walks the original poster through the steps guiding them to a solution. At some point in the conversation he uses his favorite search engine and posts a link to a site that has some good information. The user reads it, gets assistance and solves their problem.

This is acceptable since the link Bob posted is a 3rd party to him.

There is no connection between Bob and that site. It’s not his blog, he doesn’t work there, he’s not getting an affiliate fee, etc. The link provided information that Bob believed could help the person with their problem. There isn’t a possibility Bob could benefit from that exchange except by gaining the satisfaction of helping someone.

Links to your own site

Now take the same scenario above but in this hypothetical another person named John directs the topic to John’s own personal site.

John has written a post extensively about a WordPress problem complete with images, detailed step by step instructions and a good video. It’s a great post on John’s site. He’s proud of his documentation and he maintains the article as versions of WordPress are updated. He has spent hours on that topic and John is the undisputed champion of solving that problem. His intentions are good.

He also shouldn’t routinely send people there like that from the WordPress forums. Note the word “routinely”, an occasional link is OK. Here’s why: John’s site isn’t a community resource. His helping people in the community forums shouldn’t possibly be about getting traffic.

At the moment John does not have ads on his site, he does not offer WordPress consulting services, he doesn’t gain anything but satisfaction. But what if that changed? What if he decided to supplement his family’s income with a small ad or offer paid WordPress consulting services?

It’s that possibility that I believe should be avoided in the community support forums. Posting a link to your site to help people is alright but making a habit of doing that for every reply may not be good.

If the article in question is that much of a resource, then please consider adding that info into the Codex. The Documentation Team is actively working on a Codex replacement. If you’ve a lot of information, articles and documentation on a topic then you may want to get involved with the Helphub project.

Links to a paid service, plugin or theme

I’ll take the hypothetical in a new direction. Elsbeth is a plugin author who also provides a paid service for WordPress users. Her plugin is hosted in the WordPress plugin repository.

I’ll pause to reiterate the opening:

This post isn’t about you, your plugin or your service or anything you’ve recently posted.

This has been an issue for years and it’s good to get it out in the open. Talking about things in the community is healthy even if you don’t agree with it.

That original person who posted in the forums with a problem? Elsbeth wrote a plugin that addresses the problem exactly. She’s part of a team that has built a company to solve that problem. Her company is staffed by pros, they are a market leader in that space and Elsbeth replies to that topic with a long step by step that gets them rolling to a solution.

Elsbeth also refers them to her company’s site. She provided the original poster with a link to sign up for a service they obviously need. She explains that they can sign up and their site will be fixed going forward. And when Elsbeth did that she went too far.

I’m not talking about something plugin authors have posted in their own sub-forum. I’m talking about visiting general topics and crossing the line into promotion.

It doesn’t really matter that Elsbeth’s company site has an extensive knowledge base written by experts. It now appears that she’s promoting her company and that’s not really a community activity.

What about other companies? Why do they get a pass?

If you think this post is about you then you may think moderators are showing favoritism or giving your competition a pass. You point to all the good your company has done, how you put community first, how your intentions are good.

Other companies do not get a pass in the WordPress ecosystem. When they cross that subjective threshold about links and promotion then they are politely asked to stop doing that. No one doubts anyone’s good intentions and if you are taking the time to help people in the forums then you are already in good graces.

But please, keep it in the WordPress forums or Codex. Avoid even the appearance of self-promotion. It will help you and the community if you do.

#3rd-party, #links, #self-promotion

December 15th Support Team Meeting Summary

Announcements

WordPress 4.7

An issue with comment pagination and a conflict between Twenty Seventeen and older versions of Font Awesome were added to the known issues for 4.7.

Tagging

After a great discussion, we decided that we’d like to pursue implementing some sort of tag suggester/matcher based on the content of your support request. This will particularly help feature developers keep track of support requests after launch.

Currently, however, manually adding a tag to a topic still requires either editing or adding a reply. This will be fixed eventually, and we’ll wait for that first before we pursue the tag suggester/matcher.

Until then, we have added a new section on tagging to the Forum Welcome.

Following Home

“Following home” is what we call the action of contacting moderators and other forum users outside of the forums when not solicited. Plain and simple, this is harassment, and it’s already detailed twice in the forum rules, so don’t do it.

If you are routinely followed home from the forums, you might want to consider this great plugin from Support Team member @sterndata.

Checkin with International Support Liaisons

Attendance

@macmanx @bcworkz @jmdodd @numeeja @geoffreyshilling @jdembowski @kidsguide @sterndata @wido @cristianozanca @stephencottontail @t-p @bethannon1 @kmessinger @ipstenu @christinedonovan @bdbrown @imazed @kenshino @dimitris33 @sage-chara @zoonini @fierevere @zodiac1978 @mikbaloch @voldemortensen @jcastaneda attended.

Note: The lack of links for some @-mentions is a known issue and will be addressed.

Read the meeting transcript in the Slack archives. (A Slack account is required)

#weekly-chat

Agenda for December 15th Support Meeting

  • General Announcements
  • WordPress 4.7
  • Checkin with International Support Liaisons

For any other items to discuss please add them in the comments below, or bring them up in the meeting.

The meeting will be Thursday, December 15, 2016, 17:00 UTC in #forums on Slack. (a Slack account is required)

December 8th Support Team Meeting Summary

Announcements

WordPress 4.7

Beyond the currently reported Genesis and W3 Total Cache issues, we have no trending and reproducible bugs to add to the known issues for 4.7.

To be clear, there are currently 31 reported bugs on track to be fixed in 4.7.1, but these haven’t been observed with enough consistency in the support forums to warrant listing in the known issues topic. To avoid cluttering the list with items that may only affect a handful of users, we list trending and reproducible issues only. You can see the known issues for 4.6 as an example of this.

Earlier today, there was a bug scrub focussing on all non-Customizer bugs, followed by a bug scrub of Customizer bugs tomorrow.

Badges

Automation of badges is still underway based on the criteria we all voted on for on August 18.

Until then, support liaisons can add them to the Google Sheet they have access to. Please ping @macmanx or @kenshino if you have any questions about that.

WCUS 2016 Recap

Contributor Day at WordCamp US 2016 was a great success for us! We have 5 new contributors, and one even wants to help out in IRC!

We also continued our efforts to be one of the most enjoyable teams at Contributor Day. 🙂

New Forum Theme

The new forum theme (see the November 10th meeting summary for details) will most likely be launching in a few weeks on the English forums. Once Meta Team is sure that everything is solid, it will then be launched on the not-English forums.

Please continue to test the new theme and file bug reports for now, following instructions in the linked to November 10th meeting summary.

Checkin with International Support Liaisons

  • The Italian and Russian support communities are doing well.
  • The Japanese support community is definitely looking forward to automated badges.

Attendance

@macmanx @otto42 @clorith @bethannon1 @jmdodd @lasacco @bcworkz @ipstenu @t-p @cristianozanca @numeeja @geoffreyshilling @hempsworth @jdembowski @christinedonovan @bdbrown @kenshino @heytheo @imazed @keesiemeijer @fierevere @sergeybiryukov @wido @sterndata @zoonini @hideokamoto @hardeepasrani @pixolin @liamdempsey @perezbox @samuelsidler @lukecavanagh attended.

Read the meeting transcript in the Slack archives. (A Slack account is required)

#weekly-chat

Agenda for December 8th Support Meeting

  • General Announcements
  • WordPress 4.7
  • WordCamp 2016 Contributor Day Recap
  • Checkin with International Support Liaisons

For any other items to discuss please add them in the comments below, or bring them up in the meeting.

The meeting will be Thursday, December 8, 2016, 17:00 UTC in #forums on Slack. (a Slack account is required)

4.7 OMGWTFBBQ Draft Post

Here’s a rough draft of the 4.7 OMGWTFBBQ thread.

Thread Title: READ THIS FIRST WordPress 4.7 Master List

Hooray! FIX TITLE AND URL is here! But OMGWTFBBQ!? WordPress 4.7 broke everything?

Don’t Panic!

Before you go any further, make sure you’ve updated your plugins and themes to the latest versions, clear your browser’s cache and cookies and re-log into your WordPress dashboard.

Still having problems? Okay, read on!

This thread contains the known issues with plugins and themes found in 4.7. Please read this WHOLE topic and come back and check again later, as it will be updated.

Remember to be calm, be patient, and be respectful. Volunteers are out here to try and help you, but we need your help too. All of the normal forum rules still apply. Remember, you are just as important as everyone else.

If your post doesn’t show up right away, please be patient. With the higher than normal post volume, more posts get flagged as spam by our auto-spam tool. We’re working hard to keep the queue clear, but making multiple posts slows us down, as we have to go back and check if you already posted. Post once.

  • Do use proper capitalization in post titles and body. Punctuate your sentence properly and humanely, it helps us read.
  • Do use descriptive subject lines. “All permalinks broken since 4.6” is much better than “Augh! Help ASAP! This version is terrible!”
  • Do describe the problem clearly. Explain what you’re seeing, include error messages and link to screenshots if needed. Linking to your site, if the problem is on the front-end, also helps.
  • Do be patient. We know it sucks to be down, but posting multiple times doesn’t get you help any faster.
  • Do make your own topic unless you are using the exact same version of WordPress on the same physical server hosted by the same hosts with the same plugins, theme and configurations as the original poster. You may find it weird, but it will be easier for us to help you specifically if you have your own topic.
  • Do mark your topic as resolved when it’s fixed so we know not to come looking there anymore.
  • Do remember you’re not alone.

Also keep in mind that not liking the direction of WordPress’s design is a not a bug. If you don’t like a feature, please don’t make a series of posts complaining about it. Look and see if someone already did, and post there, or consider joining the process earlier on. What you’re seeing today is the result of thousands of hours of work and testing, and unless something is outright broken, it’s highly unlikely to be changed.

Again, before you post:

Make sure you’ve read this entire thread and FIX URL New Features in 4.7 Codex Article.

Go to your own install’s about page – `example.com/wp-admin/about.php` – to see what’s new.

And then make sure you’ve tried…

  • Flushing any caching plugins you might be running, as well as server and/or browser caches. Not just your browser, but any op cache or content network cache as well such as Cloudflare. That will solve many weird JavaScript issues.
  • If your host provider has a “Purge Varnish” option or if you can ask your provider to flush memcache on your server.
  • Deactivating all plugins (yes, all) to see if this resolves the problem. If this works, re-activate the plugins one by one until you find the problematic plugin(s). If you can’t get into your admin dashboard, try resetting the plugins folder by SFTP/FTP or PhpMyAdmin (read “How to deactivate all plugins when you can’t log in to wp-admin” if you need help). Sometimes, an apparently inactive plugin can still cause problems. Also remember to deactivate any plugins in the mu-plugins folder. The easiest way is to rename that folder to `mu-plugins-old`
  • Switching to the Twenty Seventeen theme to rule out any theme-specific problems. If you can’t log in to change themes, you can remove the theme folders via SFTP/FTP so the only one is `twentyseventeen`. That will force your site to use it.
  • Manually upgrading. When all else fails, download a fresh copy of the latest.zip file of 4.7 (top right on this page) to your computer, and use that to copy up. You may need to delete the wp-admin and wp-includes folders on your server (NOTE: do not delete the `wp-content` directory or your `wp-config.php` file) Read the Manual Update directions first.

Next section, posted as a reply:

Core Changes

In addition to new features highlighted in FIX URL the release post:

This Crazy Change: To be filled in later based on the release post.

This Other Crazy Change: Will there be more? Who knows?!

Next section, posted as a reply:

Not a Bug

I can’t add a video header to my theme: While WordPress 4.7 does introduce video headers, the theme you’re using must be built to support video headers. Contact your theme’s developer for details.

I can’t see the other Customizer features detailed in the release post: As with the video headers, the theme you’re using must be built to support these. Contact your theme’s developer for details.

I don’t see PDF previews: Although PDF previews are now a posibility, any already uploaded PDFs will not display thumbnails, and your server will have to be configured t osupport them (This means you need Imagik, ImageMagick and Ghostscript for thumbnails to be generated for you).

Alternative texts are no longer created automatically for my images: The alternative text auto-generated by WordPress was not good for accessibility, this is why we changed this to instead have a blank value (defining it as merely a visual element and not an important part) by default. This means we leave it to the poster to define the appropriate text for assisstive technologies to use.

The language of wp-admin changed: With 4.7, we’ve introduced the ability to change your personal languages preference for the admin areas. You may have saved your profile with a new language chosen, or the default language was not what you expected it to be.

Feature buttons are missing from the editor: To encourage proper use of HTML elements, and to reduce the misuse of confusing elements (such as underlines for example), the toolbars have been rearranged (and some options removed, although their keyboard shortcuts will continue to work as expected), and may be found by extending the toolbar at the top to show both lines of options.

Next section, posted as a reply:

Known Issues

  • There are no known consistent or reproducible known issues in the final release of WordPress 4.7 at this time.

Next section, posted as a reply:

Plugin and theme issues

  • There are no known consistent or reproducible plugin or theme issues in the final release of WordPress 4.7 at this time.

The final release of WordPress 4.7 is scheduled for December 6, 2016, so the content of this post may continue to change until then. Please use the comments below to suggest any alterations.

WCUS Support Breakfast

(Apologies to those of you not at WordCamp US this year, but this is the most efficient way to get the word out.)

If you’re a Support Contributor or Support Team Member at WordCamp US 2016, we’d love to get together for a breakfast Sunday at 8 AM at the Down Home Diner:

12 Filbert St
Philadelphia PA 19107

It’s a 5 minute walk from the convention center, which will be great for Support Team members, who should try to be at the convention center around 9 AM to meet eager new contributors before Contributor Day officially kicks off. The location also looks big enough to fit us.

One extra note, the breakfast won’t be a provided/free meal (sorry!), and if you can’t make it to breakfast, that’s fine, we all understand.

No need to RSVP, just stop by the Down Home Diner Sunday at 8 AM if you want to have some breakfast with your fellow Support friends. 🙂

November 24th Support Office Hour

Since the majority of our US-based Support Contributors will be celebrating a traditionally full-day holiday, we won’t be holding a formal meeting on November 24.

There is no agenda, and attendance will not be recorded, but if you want to discuss anything, please feel free to stop by #forums in Slack on Thursday, November 24, 2016, 17:00 UTC for an informal office hour. (a Slack account is required)

There will be no meeting the following Thursday, December 1, due to WordCamp US 2016 travel (any sort of WCUS-related coordination will be handled throughout the event in #forums on Slack).

November 17th Support Team Meeting Summary

Announcements

  • Please take the official WordPress 2016 Survey.
  • Please continue to test the new forum theme. (see previous meeting summaries for details)
  • Thursday next week will be a holiday for the US-based contributors who typically represent a majority of our attendance, but the Thursday after that is travel to WCUS for most who are attending. So, there will be a short office-hour/open-floor type meeting on November 24 (attendance will not be recorded, enjoy your holiday), and no meeting on December 1.

WordPress 4.7 Beta 4

The fourth WordPress 4.7 Beta is here, so please start testing.

More bug reports during the beta means less forum threads after the final release.

Support in Other Languages

Please remember that there are no rules against asking a question in a different language than what the specific forum represents (for example, asking a question in German on the English support forums).

If your preferred translator service makes a mess out of their support request, it’s perfectly fine to politely suggest that they ask in the forum which represents their language, but don’t close the topic for language alone.

WCUS 2016 Plans

Support Contributors at WordCamp US 2016 will gather for breakfast, either dine-in or take-out, at either 7 AM or 8 AM (depending on location) on Sunday (the morning of Contributor Day). Support Team members should plan on being at Contributor Day by 9 AM to greet new contributors, which is why the breakfast time depends on the breakfast location.

Final decisions will be solidified as we get closer to the actual day, but it will definitely be breakfast on Sunday. Look for an announcement in #forums on Slack no later than Saturday evening.

Plans for Contributor Day will generally involve improving the handbook and helping new contributors find their voice in the support forums. Final decisions will be solidified at the time itself, as they mostly depend on how many new contributors are interested in joining us.

Checkin with International Support Liaisons

  • The Portugues and Russian support communities are doing well.
  • The Spanish support community is getting organized to ensure that spam is cleared and threads are answered more frequently.

Attendance

@macmanx @clorith @jmdodd @bcworkz @nickduncan @denisco @sergeybiryukov @josearcos @pmfonseca @vitormadeira @numeeja @geoffreyshilling @ipstenu @cristianozanca @sterndata @fierevere @t-p @zoonini @bethannon1 @kidsguide @hardeepasrani @alchymyth @lukecavanagh @kafleg @jdembowski @jcastaneda @danhgilmore @kenshino attended.

Read the meeting transcript in the Slack archives. (A Slack account is required)

#weekly-chat

Agenda for November 17th Support Meeting

  • General Announcements
  • Testing WordPress 4.7 Beta 4
  • Checkin with International Support Liaisons
  • WordCamp US 2016 Support Contributor Plans

For any other items to discuss please add them in the comments below, or bring them up in the meeting.

The meeting will be Thursday, November 17, 2016, 17:00 UTC in #forums on Slack. (a Slack account is required)