Trusted Author Program – a year of its journey

Trusted authors (TA) program was started in April 2018 and it’s been more than a year of its journey. We got 56 applications in 2019, whereas we had 233 applicants in 2018. Some authors applied more than once after the rejection on the first try. Some tickets were still under review.

There was an agenda about the removal of TA program during the meeting on the 11th of June. All attendees put their own pros and cons about the TA. Since no conclusion could be made, the decision about the TA was left to the team leads. The status of TA was raised almost every meeting after that.  

After the huge discussion between leads and senior reviewers, we decided to remove the TA program from yesterday. From now on all the authors will need to follow the same queue (trac 2) again.

We know that there were some pros with TA program but still there were many cons as well. 

The team leads tried lots of different ideas and methods to make it an awesome program, but still we were unable to handle it correctly. We got lots of help from the TA authors – for which we’d like to thank them. However, there was still gaming from some of the authors – which resulted in their removal from the TA program.

One of the intentions of the TA program was to reduce the gaming by the use of multiple accounts. However we still saw some authors having multiple accounts so this intention was not realised though the program existing.

While TA members were able to have themes go live with ease and regularity the normal queue for other authors was not in a good situation. The wait time was growing longer and the admin queue was getting out of hand. In an effort to make the queue shorter and allow the admin queue to be cleared we tried to enlist the help from TA authors by having them review themes in order to stay in the program.

We strongly believed that TA members were highly familiar with the requirements but we found that was not the case for all of them. Additionally some authors did not feel confident enough in their own understanding of all requirements to perform reviews and set themes live. Instead many TA reviews went to admin queue after approval. This was an indicator that the quality of the themes by TA may not be as high as expected.

Whenever we had time, we used it to review the TA tickets. We saw non-GPLGPL GPL is an acronym for GNU Public License. It is the standard license WordPress uses for Open Source licensing The GPL is a ‘copyleft’ license This means that derivative work can only be distributed under the same license terms. This is in distinction to permissive free software licenses, of which the BSD license and the MIT License are widely used examples. image sources, validation and translation issues. These are similar types of things that are flagged in many reviews but we never expected such things from the TA authors.

With the ability to release themes frequently, and go live without much friction, some authors started to struggle to maintain quality on that more regular schedule. Over time clone themes became common. Themes with minor or insignificant changes – like slight color tweaks or font swaps – were frequently what was submitted. Spotting these after they were live and reacting to them has proved to be inefficient and ineffective to deter them. These kinds of clone themes give no real value to end users.

Child themes with very minimal changes also become so common that authors were requested to indicate what changes they were making in their tickets so that reviewers could judge if the changes were too small to justify a whole new theme without needing to go through a potentially lengthy review to reach that conclusion. Sadly the call was made too many times that the changes did not justify the new theme.

Due to all this the TA program is shut down. All authors will be treated the same.

All the themes will be reviewed from the top of the queue and themes will get closed with 3+ distinct issues. One theme at a time and max one per month rule is still there. 

Reviewers can check theme anywhere from the queue, but the themes should be assigned from only the top of the queue. Your theme can get closed from any position – even from the approved queue – so you need to know the guidelines properly and need to follow them.

If you have themes in the repository, you need to follow all the existing and added guidelines. There will be some limited time for implementing new guidelines and in that time frame you need to update your theme.

All the other requirements are the same and the review process is the same as before.

#decision, #trt, #trusted-authors