Talking Point: Allowing Self-Archival of Topics

This is not for tomorrow’s agenda, but is still something that should be talked about with more than just the people who happened to be online at the time.

tl;dr Proposal

I propose we allow users to archive their own topics (not replies). In addition, we should lengthen the time-to-edit to allow people to remove semi-sensitive data.

Longer Explanation/Reasoning

One of the ongoing concerns in the forums is a double-edged sword. We want the forums to be more welcoming to more people, and the needs of the people have changed considerably in the decade+ since we codified the forum guidelines. At the same time, making it easier for people to get where they need to be and do what they want to do causes an extra burden on the volunteers.

Part of simplifying the experience for users and lessening the load for volunteers comes with an added twist of privacy and legality.

It came up today (2 Sept 2020) that someone had posted information that isn’t exactly ‘private’ but could land them in legal trouble for sharing. They did so by posting a debug log that had information that probably should not be public.

Over the course of the discussion, many pain points were identified (including talking to the 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 Plugin Directory or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party developer about making it clearer to the users that some data should not be shared on public forums). The one we can action on from the forums side would be to alter our policy of “No, we don’t delete posts except in extreme circumstances” to “allow users to delete their own posts whenever they want.”

Why This Needs to Happen

Back in 2010, the user base for WordPress was different. It was not unacceptable to think that most people coming to the forums were aware of the basics of servers and FTPFTP FTP is an acronym for File Transfer Protocol which is a way of moving computer files from one computer to another via the Internet. You can use software, known as a FTP client, to upload files to a server for a WordPress website., as few one-click-to-install services existed. Having MultisiteMultisite Multisite is a WordPress feature which allows users to create a network of sites on a single WordPress installation. Available since WordPress version 3.0, Multisite is a continuation of WPMU or WordPress Multiuser project. WordPress MultiUser project was discontinued and its features were included into WordPress core. require people demonstrate some server awareness (by editing a wp-config.php file) was seen as reasonable and logical. We actively wanted that barrier to entry, as the support and maintenance of Multisite would need you to know how to log in to the server and possibly use command line.

Today, a number of companies offer WordPress managed hosting, where they do everything for you. While we have amazing tools like WP-CliWP-CLI WP-CLI is the Command Line Interface for WordPress, used to do administrative and development tasks in a programmatic way. The project page is, the average user has shifted, and not everyone needs to care about Ubuntu flavours or packaging their own 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. versions.

  • WP 3.0 (released in 2010) had 37,579,278 downloads
  • WP 5.4 (released in 2020) had 60,771,290 downloads
  • WP 5.5 (released a month ago) is around 16,700,000 already

To be clear, I think this is a good thing for the ongoing growth of WordPress. But it also means we need to reevaluate how we handle things in the forums. The decisions made a decade ago were never meant to be immutable and permanent. They are, in fact, guidelines for a reason. Our user base is going to keep growing and changing, and we must adapt.

Recognizing that our user base is different means we need to change our expectations. It is no longer fair to assume that everyone knows a user ID isn’t a security risk, or that posting in public means Google will find it eventually. Instead of trying to educate an ever growing user base, we can simply permit people to remove posts.

In addition, with the landscape of privacy awareness, it’s unfair to expect all forum moderators for all nations to be up to speed on the legality of sharing private information. There’s no possible way any volunteer can always know what is safe for public consumption from their e-commerce store, and what is privileged information, after all, and we should not be asking them to do so!

Proof of Concept

I can speak to this directly. In previous years, when the Plugins team emailed all developers to ask them to update their plugins for compatibility, we would receive hundreds of requests to close plugins. In April 2020, we added a change that permitted developers to close (but not reopen) their own plugins on their own.

This last release cycle, we received under 20 requests, while over 100 plugins were still closed.

By allowing people to take agency over their own experience, the developer satisfaction rose. I firmly believe this will have the same effect on forum posters.


These are ordered in what I believe are ‘easiest to hardest’ to do:

  • Extend the time-to-edit (currently 1 hour, proposals were for 3 days to 7 days)
  • Make the link to edit more obvious
  • Rewrite the WALL O TEXT before the post box to something smaller/actionable
  • Link to the guidelines (maybe a checkbox) at the post box
  • Allow OP (and only op) to self-archive (the URLURL A specific web address of a website or web page on the Internet, such as a website’s URL would become a 410 GONE with a simple message of “This post has been removed by it’s author”)
  • Allow people to report individual replies, not just posts
  • Have a popup if ‘Debug Log’ is pasted in
  • Have Carike’s Flow be a thing (It’s already in progress)

Pros and Cons


  • Giving users agency makes happy users
  • Smaller burden on forum mods
  • Legally protected from privileged data
  • Reduction of harassment towards mods when telling people no
  • SEO bonus as less valuable posts will be removed, making the Google Beast happier


  • Solutions may be lost for other people with the same problem (this is often referred to as the DenverCoder9 problem)
  • Some people may act maliciously and hide/edit the post to try and cover their tracks
  • Longer post editing will cause out-of-sync issues, where answers no longer make contextual sense


Allowing users to remove their own posts, and giving them a longer time to edit, will give them power over their own representation online, and allow them the freedom to make mistakes without dog-shaming them about them in perpetuity.

#proposal #guidelines

Changes to the support guidelines for linking to off-site resources

After thorough discussions, and observations over an extended period of time, the support team has decided to amend the guidelines, and add a section relating to links for external resources.

It should be noted that this only applies to topics in 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 Plugin Directory or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party and theme support forums, and not to the general support forums of The 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., although the spirit behind the guideline should still be adhered to there as well.

The guideline text can be read, and linked to directly, in the Forum Guidelines.

When creating links to other resources

Public links in plugin or theme support topics may only be posted if they meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • The link is to the plugin or theme authors own website.
  • The link is to the plugin or theme authors own support website.
  • The link is posted by the plugin or theme author them selves to an external resource related to the topic.
  • The link is to documentation on the website

Why is this being enforced?

Links may come and go, websites change, URLs change, this all could mean that someone looking for an answer in the future ends up on a topic that only has links to a website no longer running, or to a site now owned by someone else with different content from what is expected.

Most support related websites have guidelines asking users to post their answers in full, instead of linking to different places, and this is why.

By sharing the information on, you ensure that it is kept available for all WordPress users.

As we like to assume good faith, the reasons for us not wanting content linked externally are outlined in such a fashion, but it should be noted that as part of the decision making process, other uses were also mentioned.

Links to personal sites which promote paid resolutions, and attempting to solicit work after the fact, by not providing complete solutions on the forums, were also a driving force behind this change.

By providing this guideline, we also encourage plugin and theme authors to provide their users with good documentation them selves, either by sourcing it through the community and offering it on their own official channels, or by creating it them selves ahead of time.

Both directions help new and existing users alike, by ensuring they get the best possible experience, which in turn leads to higher user satisfaction.

So what does this mean for you, the user?

Well, first of all, we don’t retroactively punish anyone, so even if you had made links in the past, this won’t come back to haunt you.

It does put higher expectations on posting answers, if the plugin or theme author does not have their own proper documentation. We do hope that this is overcome by an initial set of good replies that the authors can adapt into their own FAQs and user documentation though.

And as a final note; We, the support team, and broader WordPress community, thank you for volunteering your time and helping others!


Discussion: A Better Do and Don’t List

The following are cribbed from another site’s Dos and Don’ts. They should not be considered the be all and end all of guidelines, but they’re a good start. I’m thinking that perhaps a simplified ‘dos and dont’s’ list may help some people who see our massive list of guidelines and panic.

This list is not perfect and I want your help

Please suggest changes and improvements. I don’t want to make it much longer, so if we can consolidate and combine, that would be good. There’s no point in even trying to get through everything, so really I’m trying to spell out the basics of etiquette on the forums.

Good Manners and Respect Dos and Don’ts

  • DON’T use “um,” be snotty to another user, or make the argument personal
  • DO know the difference between differences of opinion and personal attacks
  • DO treat others the way you want to be treated
  • DON’T present your opinions as facts
  • DON’T post the same opinion over and over in the hopes of wearing other people down or “winning” a discussion; just move on
  • DON’T be a gosh-darn dirty spammer
  • DON’T be vulgar; if you’re not sure, don’t say it

Starting New Threads Dos and Don’ts

  • DO search for existing topics before starting new threads
  • DO make a new topic if you find yourself saying “I have the same problem but …”
  • DO link back to a related topic (or closed) when approriate
  • DON’T use all-caps or excessive punctuation in thread titles
  • DON’T treat the support forums as your personal blog
  • DON’T get all metaMeta Meta is a term that refers to the inside workings of a group. For us, this is the team that works on internal WordPress sites like WordCamp Central and Make WordPress. and use the forums to rant about the forums

Posting Messages Dos and Don’ts

  • DON’T post in a thread until you’ve read the whole thread
  • DON’T post “Me Too!” messages; add something of substance to the conversation
  • DON’T sign your posts
  • DO use proper spelling, capitalization, punctuation, et cetera
  • DON’T post just to pimp your site or product, et cetera
  • DON’T post the same thing in multiple areas; pick a spot and go with it

Warnings, Bans and Trolls Dos and Don’ts

  • DO take any mod warnings you get seriously
  • DON’T bug the mods to remove moderation on your posts
  • DO help us out and report trolls, flame wars, and troublemakers by tagging a post with “modlook”
  • DON’T abuse the modlook tag

#forums, #guidelines, #support