WordPress.org plugins out of date

A screenshot of the default WordPress theme.

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It must be challenging to keep up with the frequency of updates between platform makers and developers. If you have been using WordPress you get at least monthly updates for plugins, sometimes they come days apart.

To give you an example. WordPress just recently upgraded to 3.2. I love it. The downside is that all the plugins needed to be updated as well. So I have a modest amount of plugins of about 30. You can batch upgrade them, which I did. The downside and the monkey in the wrench is that there was a security problem with some plugins being hacked. So that required another round of updates a day or two later. All in all, lots of downloading time. I only have one blog, but if I had multiple blogs and they weren’t hosted at one site, this would be a major inconvenience. I am not writing this to complain about this, but rather to point out something that shouldn’t happen.

One of my plugins I’ll be generous and not name it, is out of sync with the WordPress.org version. The developer has a newer version of it posted on the website, than available at the WP.org version. This shouldn’t happen. Most of WordPress users I bet are small business and don’t have a ton of web experience. For someone to download, unzip, then use a ftp client to login and find the right directory and perhaps change permissions is asking a whole lot of someone. It is not a problem for some of us, but not everyone is lucky to have IT knowledge. Rather, a developer should make it as easy as possible for people to work with them. If for whatever reason their updating is hampered by WP.org, then they should have a backdoor to directly update the program inside their own plugin.

Am I being too harsh or asking too much? I don’t think so. Lets say that the company doesn’t care about the users time or problems in installing the software manually. I can think of three reasons off the top of my head why they would want to care about this.

  1. Security. If people find something hard to do, they won’t do it. That means that hackers will see this version as out of date and attack it. What is the cost to a company for bad press of their hacked plugin? Their reputation doesn’t recover. There are too many other great products to use when a company doesn’t care about its own security.
  2. Perception/reputation. If a company fails to make things easy for its clients, the clients will count that towards a negative towards the company. The goodwill they might have built up by having a good plugin will be destroyed, and their customer might go to a competitor. People are just looking for something “that works”. If it stops to work in any fashion for any reason, they might sense it is dying and jump ship.
  3. Support costs. What extra money will it cost for all the times when your support team has to deal with emails, phone or other communications about this issue? Probably far more to handle things manually than to find an automated solution to the problem that makes life easier on everyone.

Bottom line: To be seen as a market-leader you have to act like one. Go beyond what others do to please their customers and they will love you and reward you for it.

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