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Are Your Plugins Compatible?

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October 27th, 2009
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WordPress

A few days ago, something new showed up on each plugin page throughout the repository. This new box on the right hand side is a way of enabling the community to say whether a plugin is compatible with the newest version of WordPress or not. Normally, the plugin information within the FYI box tells you which version of WordPress is required and which version the plugin is compatible up to. Unfortunately, the version the plugin is compatible up to is not updated that often which is why some plugins which state that they only work up to WordPress 2.5 end up working with the latest release. If you have a WordPress.org forum user account, you’ll need to log in in order to vote. The voting is simple. The first box enables you to select which version of WordPress you’re running, including the latest version being worked on. The second box allows you to choose which version of the plugin you are running. After setting those two options, you click on the broken or works buttons to place your vote.

itworks

As per the screenshot, the majority of those using WordPress 2.8.5 with version 3.1.7 of the Google XML Sitemaps plugin reported that it’s working. The beauty of this system is that it leverages the community in order to figure out what works with what. However, just because it works for the majority of users is no guarantee it will work on your particular setup. But using these statistics, it should make it easier to figure out whether the issue is with the plugin and WordPress or with your setup.

One of the biggest fears users have when it comes time to upgrade WordPress is whether their plugins will work on the newest version or not. There are a large handful of people who upgrade to the latest version of WordPress as soon as it’s released and the hope is, these folks will visit the plugin page and report their findings for others to take advantage of. If more users see that their plugins work on the newest version, they are more likely to upgrade.

What are your thoughts on this system? Any ideas to enhance it?

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Comments

  1. Epic Alex (18 comments.) says:

    I do really like this new feature. Unfortunately, for my New User Email Setup Plugin, at http://wordpress.org/extend/pl.....il-set-up/ , the latest version of my plugin isn’t available in the dropdown… Not sure what’s going on there.

  2. Eric says:

    It would be great if we could vote directly from our blog on the plugin page. Maybe make plugin that allows you to vote from your blog. I think it would great increase the amount of votes that would come in, otherwise I fear the only people that would take the time to vote would be those that have problems and go to the plugin directory for answers.

  3. Andrew (11 comments.) says:

    Great idea. I have been concerned that I since I stopped developing my plugins they would cause people problems.

    I did state on the pages that I wasn’t supporting them any more and so couldn’t say whether they worked or not but that didn’t seem to stop people trying.

    At least this way people can get an idea about whether they work or not, and eventually I guess they will be removed from the repository.

    Perhaps there should also be something for plugin owners where they need to tick a box every x weeks to show that they are still the owner. That way, if a certain number of weeks are skipped someone else can take it over.

    • Mark Jaquith (5 comments.) says:

      You can add other committers to your plugins, which should allow development to continue, if there is a willing adoptive developer. Go to the “Admin” tab of your plugin.

    • Jeff Chandler (171 comments.) says:

      This was discussed in a recent developer chat but I don’t think anything concrete came out of the discussion with the exception that it would be tough to define a set of circumstances which would determine whether a plugin should be up for adoption or not. Becomes a slippery slope.

      • bubazoo (213 comments.) says:

        especially when 99.9% of the plugins available always have more then one developer to start with. Take the shoutbox plugin just as an example, there are several authors of different shoutboxes out there all developing pretty much the same idea. I’ve lost count of the # of galleries that exist for wordpress. but then there are others like the amazon wishlist plugin, that started out being a good idea, but development stopped on it altogether. Either way, something needs to be done about collaberating together so there aren’t 50 dozen same ideas and old good ideas that stop development altogether.

    • bubazoo (213 comments.) says:

      I don’t like it when plugin developers stop developing their plugins, I stop using them immediately after that happens, regardless of how useful the plugin was. Its just the whole point of the matter.

  4. Kieran O'Shea (5 comments.) says:

    I like this idea, hopefully it should stem the tide of e-mails that come in to developers asking if the plugin is compatible.

    The only slight concern here is that people will vote that the plugin isn’t compatible with a WordPress version even when it is and the issue is just a configuration one on their part. Still, hopefully this will only be a small percentage of voters.

  5. Ade (12 comments.) says:

    I think it’s a nice idea, but I wonder what benefits it really brings to the average WP plugin-searcher (if an “average” one actually exists, of course!).

    For example, taking the Google XML Sitemaps plugin shown above, what does 88% really mean? That it *will* work on my setup? Or only 88% of the time? Or I have an 88% chance of it working? The % doesn’t mean any of those things, of course. The only certainty that I would take from the percentages is that a proportion of users who voted (12% in this case) *decided* that it didn’t work with their version of WordPress. But suppose the incompatibility is to do with a conflict with another plugin, rather than with WP itself? How thoroughly did the voter confirm the source of the problem before voting?

    Also, does a “Broken” vote really mean that it couldn’t run, eg threw a fatal error or something, or simply that its functionality wasn’t quite what the user was expecting? I try out many plugins and end up discarding the majority of them – not because they break anything, but rather because they don’t quite do what I was hoping for. I would still give it a Works vote, of course. But would everyone else in this same situation?

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not completely against the introduction of this, but I’m not sure if it will bring the intended benefit. I guess what I’m saying is that the “customer” may not always be right!

    PS: I feel the same way about the plugin star ratings – a nice idea, but completely meaningless. Things like the number of downloads, amount of recent activity on the author’s site, date of last update etc. All of these things are more important indicators to me than a star rating. (Sorry! Got a bit off topic and on my soapbox… :-) )

    • Jeff Chandler (171 comments.) says:

      You bring up some great points and there are problems with the system. But, do you have other ideas on how to implement the same system without those pitfalls? The best thing to do would be to have the plugin authors maintain this information but they don’t do it.

      • bubazoo (213 comments.) says:

        I know they don’t. It seems like when an author stops development of a plugin, its like they disappear off the face of the earth. In my opinion, I think thats just being lazy. I mean, if I wrote a bit of code for something, and planned on not updating it sometime in the future, then why on earth put it up for public download to begin with? I understand life sometimes gets in the way, but nothing life throws at us could ever excuse disappearing off the face of the earth *shrugs* least in my view anyway. I think peoples attitudes just change.

        Then you got these plugin authors who are stingy with their code, keeping their ideas all to themselves, not letting anybody download their plugins at all, like its some competition or big secret or something. Every author should be covered under creative commons licensing, so I never did understand why some plugin authors act like that? but I do understand stealing others ideas is common practice in web development these days, and unfortunately there’s really nothing we can do about it.

        I did freelance web design for awhile, and someone stole my web design idea passing the website off as their own. I always thought creative commons protected against stuff like that happening, but I’m finding out, people can steal each others ideas now, its not fair.

        I just think there are too many developers developing plugins for wordpress that have no business being developers in the first place, which I find so sad, not many have good moral values anymore.

      • Ade (12 comments.) says:

        I think Mark Jaquith’s suggestion below is the way forward. Apply cutoffs, say at 80% and 20% (actual % can be considered after this beta phase), and show plugins with >80% “Works” as Compatible and those with less than 20% as Incompatible. Or something along those lines…

    • Mark Jaquith (5 comments.) says:

      I think it’s a nice idea, but I wonder what benefits it really brings to the average WP plugin-searcher

      We’re in information gathering mode now. It’s likely that the raw output won’t be useful right now, and may not ultimately be useful. In the end, we may present you with a “interpreted” view of the data, based on our observations of the entire data set. For instance, maybe we determine that anything with more than 10 votes and over 80% “broken” votes is 100% broken, and we don’t give you that 20% of niggling doubt. We had all these arguments internally, but decided that we were putting the cart in front of the horse. We’re going to let it ride for a while and see what the data says.

      • Ade (12 comments.) says:

        I think that’s a great idea, Mark, and I’m glad to hear that these issues were thought about. :-)

        It will also be intersting to see how the split between Works and Broken actually turns out over time For example, 10/90 or 90/10 splits are quite easy to interpret. 50/50 will be a real head-scratcher! lol

  6. Mike says:

    Looks like a great feature.One enhancement: A place to note that a plugin is incompatible with ANOTHER plugin, and not just incompatible with WordPress in general.

    • bubazoo (213 comments.) says:

      yeah thats a good idea. Another thing is it should be like the amazon comment system, where people can see 88% say it works, but also, there should be a space where people can leave a comment that others can read. In those comments, there you could get more detailed then just “works” or “doesn’t work” :)

      because I agree, people want to know these things before downloading a plugin, because if that plugin breaks their blog, it takes hours to clean up, so its a very good thing to have comments like that. Just like amazon comments, I read them, but I take what others say at face value, as a web site owner we have the right to choose, and because of that right, we want to know the facts too.

  7. keith (1 comments.) says:

    the best way I could see this working out really well is if you could rate a plugin from the wp-admin/plugins section. after i download a plugin the last thing i’m thinking about after i use it is to go back and leave a comment or rate it.

  8. Yves (2 comments.) says:

    Agreed, there should be a way to leave a simple comment.

    Why not also provide this feedback system from within the plugin panel in WordPress itself since more and more users install plugins from the admin area (but not all of them due to webhost limitations).

    Finally the plugin search form should take into account all of the data available (popularity, total number of downloads, number of downloads last month, last update time, number of forum posts and so on..) and find a way to “phase out” plugins. The same idea applies to Theme search…

    • Lorna (4 comments.) says:

      How would leaving a comment be different from leaving a message through the WP.org forum?

      As a plugin developer, I’m impartial to this option, but the version compatibility vs. configuration issues on the users’ side perks my interest.

      I don’t update the repository unless there are actual updates to be made, and not just because I needed to update the README file to reflect the version compatibility. Besides, can’t this be tied in some way to the list of plugin compatibility in the Codex?

    • Yves (2 comments.) says:

      This feature seems broken in WinXP+IE6 (cannot do anything about it, I’m at work). If I click “broken”, the feeback bar indicates “works 100%”…

  9. Tony (4 comments.) says:

    This is a very nice feature to have and it will come in very handy.

    I must admit that with so many plugins available, it would be nice when looking for a plugin if you could select to see only those that are compatible with your version of WordPress rather than hundreds that match the keywords you enter, many of which are no longer supported.

  10. Ade (12 comments.) says:

    Just noticed the new twist on the original Compatibility check which appears to have been introduced today. Thanks guys! I think this is a vast improvement over the Beta version. I, for one, am much happier now with the way the overall compatibilty is displayed.
    :-)



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