Looking at the top 1000 plugin authors, how many of them have no good support mechanism and would like to "move" to the WordPress Stack Exchange to do most of their support? This would mean more people using our site to get answers, but (more important to me): more experts hanging around, so the difficult questions get more attention too.

I will create a Google Spreadsheet where we can collect information about the different authors and their willingness to participate. I will need your help - but I'll post more instructions soon.

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See my response to @Ash G. To enable this we may want to have the community build a plugin which provides functionality for developers at their site but enabled them to have Q&A here? –  MikeSchinkel Nov 13 '10 at 5:26

7 Answers 7

I provide a forum on my site for user support for my plugins. I also check the WordPress forums for questions on my plugin and now I check WordPress Answers too.

The thing is, on my forum, I'm responsible for moderating so I usually have to link users to previously answered questions, documentation, etc. Advantage for SE: Community moderation.

Users who subscribe to my forum get access to a community of users of my plugins. Advantage for SE: Users who subscribe to WP Answers get access to a much larger community of WordPress users and developers. Also, it's happened to me when someone asks something about a plugin I haven't used, if I have the time, I go download this plugin and check what it does. This way you may find a way to answer the question, and know a new plugin! You can even discover some bug or similar on the code. So the whole "code review" thing occurs naturally.

Now that I've stopped to think about it, why am I even still using my forum? This two reasons are enough for me to consider making this site the official support site!

As mentioned in previous questions, announcements and "sticky" posts are a good reason to keep the forum. Mostly when you do some "backwards compatibility breaking" update, or big new features. Also, regarding feature requests / bug reports, just ask the users to write an email or use my forum, as they prefer.

But in general, I think this site is better for general troubleshooting. So, from the next version and forward, I'll start telling my users to come here to ask their questions under the corresponding tag. So instead of 3 sites, I'll have to start checking WP Answers and the WP official forums only.

UPDATE: It's official now, since version 0.16, my plugin includes a link to WP Answers for support :D - http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/list-category-posts/faq/

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Thanks for your comments! I think you said why support here would be good more elegantly than I did, for sure. +1 –  MikeSchinkel Jan 29 '11 at 7:11
    
+1 Fernando, very good idea of adding the link to WPSE in the FAQ of the plugin. –  brasofilo May 30 '12 at 20:41

Hi @Jan:

Based on reading guidelines on where to post new content over on StackOverflow I think the email Jon Skeet mentioned and copied below gives perfect guidelines:

Where-to-post summary:

  • How do I? -- StackOverflow!
  • I got this error, why? -- StackOverflow!
  • I got this error and I'm sure it's a bug -- file an issue!
  • I have an idea/request -- file an issue!
  • Why do you? -- the mailing list!
  • When will you? -- the mailing list!
  • You suck and I hate you -- contact us privately at me@glennbeck.com!
  • You're awesome -- aw shucks!

So now what I am thinking makes much better sense than convincing plugin authors to do their support here is instead to convince plugin authors to solicit "How To?" and "Error, Why?" questions here on WordPress Answers.

That would be beneficial for everyone involved; "How Tos" are great types of questions to inspire people to become interested in the plugin and SE is a great mechanism to surface the best answers. The "Error, Why?" questions would also be good because of SE's superior SEO it will help people find the answers to their problems more quickly. And a plugin developer could easily host the best questions and answers on his own site because of the Creative Commons licensing.

So my answer to your meta question is: "Change the question".

Hope this helps.

-Mike

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I think I'll start listing me@glennbeck.com as my exclusive complaints email from now on as well :-) –  EAMann Nov 15 '10 at 22:46
    
@EAMann - Ditto!!! –  MikeSchinkel Nov 16 '10 at 11:46

I am launching a premium theme and have gone the route of paid forum support. I am not sure SE is right for my needs as I want to be able to

  1. Have users submit feature requests and discuss them
  2. Provide updates
  3. Maintain a list of plugins that work / don't work with my themes and workarounds when available.
  4. Maintain a a list of tutorials and videos to help train on usage
  5. Maintain repository of code for modifying the themes
  6. And last but not least all of this should only be available to those paying for access to the support forums

I am also concerned over how this would impact my ability to build a cohesive community around my products

Thats just a few problems I see off the top of my head. I am open to ideas to get around these issues

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@Ash G - Those are great reasons not to have support here, can't really argue with them. On the other hand, you'll miss out from having people here getting exposure to your products. I'm here rather than blogging for the same reason. Similarly I've used Meetup.com rather than my own site because of how well that site markets my group to prospective members. So I'll ask: "Is there a way to combine them and get the best of both worlds? Can you do some things on your site and some here? Can you (we) use the SE API to enable this?" I don't know the answers, but figured I'd post the questions. –  MikeSchinkel Nov 13 '10 at 5:23
    
@Ash G: Indeed, a premium theme will almost never be a good fit for Stack Overflow. I assume you can only "guard" your images and CSS, and your support, from free redistribution under the GPL? And I can also imagine that building a (separate) community is even more important for a premium plugin or theme, as this only adds value to the package. Do you also have premium plugins (where, I believe, it's even harder to split out non-GPL stuff - but IANAL, so correct me if needed)? What's your opinion on people asking for support here on premium plugins/themes? Is that a threat to your business? –  Jan Fabry Nov 13 '10 at 12:25
    
@MikeSchinkel "Is there a way to combine them and get the best of both worlds? Can you do some things on your site and some here? Can you (we) use the SE API to enable this?" My worry here is fragmentation, scalability and control. Re control: eventually as things grow I'll have staff hired to help with support I would then have to have them register accounts with SE and provide support here as well. Should something go wrong and I have to fire a member of the support staff I can remove their access from the support forums, I can't do that with SE –  Ash G Nov 14 '10 at 23:55
    
@Jan Fabry GPL or not you can't stop people from pirating your themes so in my opinion GPL is a non issue when it comes to development. Yes you could sue, but we have seen how well that works for the Music industry. Where not being GPL does come into play would be with competitors and there is something to be said for having proprietary parts of code or designs. (to be continued due to lack of space) –  Ash G Nov 15 '10 at 0:00
    
@Jan Fabry Leaving the GPL or not debate out of things and assuming at worst the designs are not GPL but everything else is or at best everything is GPL, in either case community is everything. This is where GPL has its strength. IMO its the only way to be successful as a business running partial/full GPL. As such protecting that community and avoiding fragmentation is critical. This holds true for themes and plugins (I don't have plugins as of yet, but will likely do so in the future) –  Ash G Nov 15 '10 at 0:01
    
@all "Where not being GPL does come into play would be with competitors and there is something to be said for having proprietary parts of code or designs." -- There are some who will view this as this start of a GPL debate. This is not my intention. This is not a statement defining my theming companies stance on GPL. This is not an invitation for a flame war or a debate on the merits of GPL. This is not the proper venue for such a discussion –  Ash G Nov 15 '10 at 0:04
    
@Ash G - I hear you about the control issues. I think this is the issue all corporations are struggling with related to social media frankly. However, I ask the rhetorical question: "Might you not gain more in positive exposure than you will loose in control?" Something to consider... –  MikeSchinkel Nov 16 '10 at 11:45
    
@MikeSchnikel "Might you not gain more in positive exposure than you will loose in control?" Perhaps once well established yes, but in a market dominated bu the likes of StudioPress (now part of the copy blogger group) etc and the likes of ThemeForest and other marketplaces its getting harder to get established. Take away the ability to make anything proprietary (ala GPL) and all you have left going for you is constant innovation, superior support and community.When that support and likewise the community is fragmented and beyond your control you have just lost 2/3 of your potential advantage. –  Ash G Nov 28 '10 at 1:10

I've been evaluating the idea of shifting my forum's support requests to WP Answers in the past few weeks, and to be honest I'm still hesitant.

The actual show stopper, to me, is that there is no means to automatically tag a question as it's being asked. SE should be updated in order to make these urls fill in the tag field automatically:

(Or possibly more appropriately, ?tagnames=semiologic.) This would allow me to rely on the semiologic tag's RSS feed, and not worry about missing questions.

Assuming the above gets sorted out, I suspect that not all end-users like the SE format. A few of the less savvy ones might make no sense of the interface. (Then again, it's a small learning curve, and they've other support venues, namely phone, Skype and my ticketing system.)

Next, I'm worried that you guys would get tired of reading questions related to Semiologic. (For some reason, many of my end-users refer to WP as Semiologic, confusing my theme/plugin bundle and the underlying CMS.) That many of these end-users are paying customers might irritate a few SE users, too.

The Semiologic tag might get big and fast, btw: they blacklisted it in the WP forums when it made it into the top tag cloud. At the time, some of the WP forum regulars would also abuse the tag by assigning it the questions that now end up in WP Advanced.

Along the same lines, I'd dread that my user base would be littering the site with valid questions which are only narrowly on topic. Examples of such could be "What should I use to track affiliate clicks originating from my site?" or "Where is the WP/Semiologic installer on hub?" or "Does Semiologic play well with [enter theme or plugin name here]?".

Some of my end-users' questions may very well be entirely completely off topic. Things such as "I love/hate Semiologic/Hub/the new forum." Even if I create a special "WP Answers how-to for Semiologic users" question in meta (or a wiki page) in an effort to prevent the latter types of threads to appear, a few such questions will creep up every now and then.

My last worry is that I occasionally use my forum to make announcements. These would clearly be off topic for this site. Sticking to my blog isn't the best option for this kind of stuff, because many of my end-users hang out in my forum a lot more than on my blog, and not all of my announcements cater to my blog's visitors.

Anyway... if the default tagging via url parameters is made to work, I'm currently willing to give it a try. But only if you guys think you can cope with the above. :-)

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@Denis: 1) The auto-tag thing should be possible, even if only with a site-specific Javascript. 2) Becoming a huge tag will not be a problem, Stack Overflow has a majority of .Net questions, but other languages have no problem "surviving" there. You can always place [semiologic] on your ignored tag list if you don't want to see them. 3) I don't think the three example questions are invalid. Maybe a bit subjective, but we also have [plugin-recommendation] which could be considered subjective. 4) If a question belongs on Meta it will be migrated there without much effort. –  Jan Fabry Nov 11 '10 at 18:03
    
@Denis: The final issue is a bit harder, since this format is indeed not suited to "sticky" announcements, but also not for socializing and more general questions like "what should be in the next version of X?" For these things a forum is still a better format than Stack Exchange, which was also said when AskUbuntu launched, but not to replace the Ubuntu forums. You could probably move the "announcements" to a separate news feed on your site that is also displayed in your plugin. –  Jan Fabry Nov 11 '10 at 18:10
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@Denis: Correction, pre-tagging already works! The parameter is tags, you separate with +, like this: [wordpress.stackexchange.com/questions/… –  Jan Fabry Nov 11 '10 at 18:19
    
I've added a sticky thread in my forum, inviting users to give WPA a try and reporting back on how they feel about the idea. –  Denis de Bernardy Nov 11 '10 at 18:38
    
@Denis - I really appreciate your honest evaluation for us all to appreciate. Speaking for only me, I would support you and your customer's use of the forum 110% if not more. I will bend over backwards to support you; if you need my help just ask. –  MikeSchinkel Nov 12 '10 at 8:46
    
@MikeSchinkel: "I would support you and your customer's use of the forum": do you mean their use of Stack Overflow or of Denis' original forum? –  Jan Fabry Nov 13 '10 at 12:17
    
Interesting: when the maintainers of the Guave library announced they would deprecate the mailing lists for support in favor of Stack Overflow, they gave guidelines on where to post new content. Some belongs on SO, some on the ticket tracker, some should stay on the mailing list. Imagine if wp-hackers would get no support mails, only, you know, hacker discussion... –  Jan Fabry Nov 13 '10 at 12:31
    
Also, maybe Denis and Ash may be "too advanced" for moving (everything) to Stack Overflow. They invested in shaping their support channels, they built a community. I was originally thinking more of those that don't have dedicated support channels, and are a bit overwhelmed by questions they get via mail, comments on blog posts (finding anything in a discussion with 300 comments is impossible), and the WP.org forums. They will get the most advantage from "endorsing" this site as their "most official" (= most looked at) support channel. –  Jan Fabry Nov 13 '10 at 12:35
    
@Jan Fabry - Sorry for my lack of clarity in those words. I meant I would do whatever I could to be helpful if he would host (some of) his plugin's support here on WordPress answers. –  MikeSchinkel Nov 14 '10 at 0:57
    
@Jan Fabry "Imagine if wp-hackers would get no support mails, only, you know, hacker discussion..." It would seem that it would be Nirvana for those on the hackers list who would don't want to field support questions... –  MikeSchinkel Nov 14 '10 at 0:59
    
@Jan Fabry " I was originally thinking more of those that don't have dedicated support channels" agreed that makes a lot of sense –  Ash G Nov 16 '10 at 0:33

Is the Stack Exchange format the best format for support? People who need support are often unlikely to be familiar with the SE format. Also, on a low-traffic question, it would be possible for the developer's answer to be buried under someone else's answer, and a lot of developers wouldn't want that.

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We have more and more newcomers on the site, and while some need a minor comment to "correct" their behavior (on using votes, comments vs. answers, ...), most of them have no problem working with it. I see even people with 18 rep participating on Meta :-) If a correct answer would get not enough votes to appear above the incorrect ones, it will probably be no problem to ask (in the chat?) other people to help vote the best on top. Authors can also "prime" the site with FA Questions that they ask and answer themselves. –  Jan Fabry Nov 10 '10 at 8:02
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We are averaging what, 2.2 answers per question?.. It is very hard to get your answer buried under that. :) –  Rarst Nov 10 '10 at 10:35
    
I don't see any issue with questions getting "lost" - they only need to be tagged appropriately which the moderators can help maintain good tagging, for example: wordpress.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/wp-e-commerce Also I think you'll see more and more people learning the SE format over time with all the sites they are launching, on cooking, photography, etc. So I don't see that as a longer term issue. –  MikeSchinkel Nov 10 '10 at 13:34

The current issue is that there are already lots of places to do support for plugins and users can use any of them. I'd be reluctant to move it as I'd just have another spot to check when doing support. If WordPress would put some support behind it and direct people over here for those questions then maybe it would work but I understand that will not happen.

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Indeed, it should be an improvement for the author. That's why I think the main "targets" are those that currently get a lot of questions on their own site, but can't really manage it there. –  Jan Fabry Nov 9 '10 at 20:33
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I see many developers openly assigning single official channel to handle support (whatever channel that might be). I don't think it's developer's responsibility or best interest to run all over Internet looking for support requests. –  Rarst Nov 10 '10 at 10:37
    
It depends what you want. For me as plugin author, I see WP Answers as a great opportunity as I like the SE system and I know others like it as well. –  hakre Nov 10 '10 at 15:21

I think WordPress Answers is a great community site, so to gather Q/A for plugins. I'm not part of that top 1 000 list (namely), but I'll definitely would use this site for everyday support questions regarding my and other's plugins.

If we find some way to tag them appropriate that could be used with feeds to be easily integrated into other sites.

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I assume you are talking about this tagging question, which we also discussed in the chat? –  Jan Fabry Nov 9 '10 at 20:42
    
@Jan - yes, somehow. I'm playing around with them right now, and from what I can see it looks good so far. –  hakre Nov 10 '10 at 15:07
    
I should add hat I know of some popular plugin authors who do use this site already. –  hakre Nov 10 '10 at 15:19

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