Chat with Matt about the future of theme repo

On Friday evening, @jcastaneda, @poena and I met with Matt to discuss the future of the theme repository on WordPress.org. @greenshady had to drop out last minute since Matt wanted to do a voice call and Justin was unable to due to his internet connection. We asked Jose to join so that we would not need to delay the call any longer.

Matt wanted to know more about the Theme Review team. We mentioned our plans with automation, problems with the previews, and how the portability of content affects users. We also mentioned that the common issues in themes are security, code errors and prefixing.
A suggestion that we got back was that we should check if themes could be prevented from being activated if there are PHP fatal errors, like it is done with plugins.

The reason for having the meeting now and not at the community summit is so that we can start working on improvements before the community summit.

Matt’s goal for the theme repository is to make it the main place for users to search and find themes.
Matt is interested in seeing how the repository reacts if we remove the manual review process and switch to a process where user feedback helps rank the themes.
Amazon was an example where search results are influenced by different meta data including reviews and how reviews affect users buying a product or not. On Wix you can search for nearly any term and a related theme is shown. That should be possible on WordPress.org too.

Another comparison was made between Google and Yahoo where Yahoo used to have a directory of links that were reviewed before being added to the list but Google indexes all links but shows the best at the top.

Allowing users to give feedback in different formats like adding tags or giving a tag a thumbs up or down if the tag was correct or not thus allowing bad themes to drop and good themes to rise. Users should be able to decide how much upsell is too much.
An example of this is how Google Maps asks users for feedback after visiting is place.

Matt asked us how the featured themes/homepage functioned and we explained that they were random themes that have been updated in the last two years. As this list of featured themes are not always the best we need to come up with ideas how to improve it.

As we are not sure if the process will function without manual reviews, we will start working on getting better user feedback on themes. Once we have a good infrastructure in place we can experiment with how the repository reacts with no manual reviews.

We discussed the process we would go about making decisions on changes to the theme repository and came to the consensus that a direct democracy is too fragile and representative democracy would be a better solution.

We were given a few tasks to complete and then get back to Matt with the results so that he can see where the resources are needed.

Tasks:

  • Matt has asked that we choose a few people who will represent the team and make the final decisions.
    The representatives are people who can be contacted to get feedback from and provide feedback to.
  • To create a list of blockers or resources that are needed to improve the theme repo.
  • Once we have a list to contact him so that he can assign the necessary resources.

A few things that we discussed as potential places where we can improve on.

  • SVN access
  • Multiple screenshots
  • Improved search to be able find a theme related to a certain topic for example “Thai Restaurant”.
  • Improved previews that display the theme at a basic level and allow theme authors to show their own theme demo.
  • Showing more information about the theme, like the readme and changelogs.
  • Allow a way for users to report bad themes, but also if a theme has a certain feature.
  • If we allow themes to have content then we should allow custom post types and taxonomies as they are better than pseudo custom post types.