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Mailbag: Assumptions are the Mother of All Screw Ups

Assume good faith.

I get a lot of plugin related emails like this:

Did the rules change?

Or this:

You’re not being fair, you let X get away with it.

Or this:

They’re liars and you should be ashamed.

The problem all these people have is they only see one small portion of the world they’re dipping their toe in.

First of all, if you have a problem with WordPress.org hosted plugins or the repository in general or you think rules are being enforced unfairly or your plugin was closed, you email plugins@wordpress.org and not me directly.

The plugin team is a team — a group of people who work on the plugins. While you may only be talking to one ‘face’ of the team, when you take conversations offline, you rob us of the ability to track the status of your plugin. Also you prevent us from being able to use the experience to train up new team members.

So yeah, I get pretty firm about this one. Use the right channel for the right complaint. If someone comes by and tells you “Actually you want to talk about that here with the right people” and you decide not to, well you’re a fool.

Back to the case at hand. Those three emails had to do with pretty mundane situations.

The first two were about being busted for a guideline violation. The last was about a review.

Did the rules change?

This developer was using a trademark in his domain, which is not permitted, and he was told to fix it. The rules have always been that this is disallowed, but sometimes people (hi) miss things.

You’re not being fair, you let X get away with it.

This happened when the developer was closed for using powered-by links. He complained that six other developers were doing it. I replied thanking him, closed the other six, and told him he still needed to fix his plugin.

They’re liars and you should be ashamed.

A contentious review-that-should-have-been-a-support-post happened. Then the user came back, apologized, and said he was wrong. After that, the developer replied complaining that the user should have opened a ticket. This began a little snippy argument between user and developer, ending with the user repeating that he already had apologized and would delete his post if he could. The developer became irate when I wouldn’t delete the post (the user can change his review after all) and deleted his plugin.

Assumptions Should be Checked

Each person came to the table knowing their small world. I come knowing that there are 42,700 active plugins and over 56k total. I close and open tens of plugins a day. I review more. I see code that makes me sigh and some that makes me celebrate. I also am human and make mistakes. Things slip by reviews, we miss a trademark here and there, and we may not catch everyone doing it wrong.

But the one thing we never are is malicious.

We never hunt down one user and punish them because we hate them. Ever. If we have an argument that seems impolite, we hand off the conversation to someone else. We assume good faith from the developers, but we know communication is hard. We know two people may not speak on the same page sometimes. We know that miscommunication happens. The problems all stem from our assumptions. They assumed we were picking on them, singling them out, and punishing them. We assumed they’d understand we’re just enforcing guidelines.

About the only time we allow ourselves to be mad at people is when we’ve told them “Don’t do this” and they do it anyway. And really this only actually happens if we say “Don’t resubmit, please email us” and they just ignore that message and resubmit. It’s a following directions thing. Trust me, everyone hates you when you don’t follow directions, even if it all works out okay, you’re still acting entitled. If you don’t understand the directions, just ask for clarification.

English is imperfect. It’s confusing. It’s downright weird. It’s contradictory. On top of that, humans are weird and imperfect and contradictory.

Assume good faith.