Easter egg debate on the WP-Hackers mailing list

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A discussion was prompted on the WP-Hackers mailing list over the weekend when Eric Mann, a subscriber on the list, posted about his experience with a client panicking upon finding one of WordPress’ easter eggs:

I have a client who *thinks* they’re tech-savvy. Unfortunately, they’re not
and concepts like easter eggs in software are completely lost on them. Last
night, they were trying to edit a post that had an embedded video tag. I’d
gotten the post working, and they broke something … so they tried using
the post revision feature to figure out what they’d changed. The first
thing they did was compare one revision against itself and, boom, they
thought their site had been hacked, deleted, and destroyed.

An easter egg is an intentionally hidden message or inside joke that is triggered by doing something uncommon. They’ve been showing up in software since the earliest days of Atari.

What followed was a discussion of the relative merits of the easter eggs being included in WordPress core, different methods for disabling the easter eggs, and to a larger degree, the nature of what should be included in WordPress core.

We’ve highlighted the intriguing points of the ensuing conversation after the jump.

Eddie Moya, early on, said:

It seems irresponsible that “cute” things like these are built into wordpress, and are turned on be default. I don’t want to hash out that old debate though. I camel-case P debate is too fresh in my mind.

It seems only reasonable that there be a core plugin that removes all these – rather unprofessional looking – easter eggs. That is, in lieu of having them turned off by default and optionally turned on.

As Alren suggests, a wp-config.php setting would work just as fine – although I think a core-plugin might be more easily accessible by the types who get confused by these easter-eggs to begin with.

Chris Williams seemed to agree with this sentiment, here:

Easter eggs should be hard to find, and virtually impossible to “stumble upon”. If I have to disable them to prevent people from stumbling upon them, they’re not a good egg.

You need to click on a hidden button, while holding down shift, control, and alt, then type “WP” to get to them… The point is for it to be something that is leaked, and word about them is spread virally.

Cute is the enemy of professional, if WP wants to be treated seriously, it cannot be “cute”. Vis “Hello Dolly”, but that’s a whole different argument.

Ryan Bilesky said:

I wold imagine it is a small group of people who would be confused or even
scared by it, and those people probably aren’t those who host their own
website, they are the people who would hire a developer to setup their
website. Now, this is just an assumption but regardless i find the easter
egg quite amusing and have trigger it on purpose even, and anything short of
removing it or having it off by default would have the same affect my
javascript suggestion would, an effect which I don’t believe is much if
any. And I don’t foresee it going away.

Toward the end of the discussion, original poster Eric Mann jumped back in to say:

I didn’t expect this much of an uproar to my initial email. Really, I just
wanted a simple way to turn off an easter egg that might confuse some of my
needier clients – you know, the kinds of people who know how to use
one-click installers supplied by web hosts, know how to turn their computers
on and off, but still type “Facebook Login” into a Google search rather than
going directly to “facebook.com.”

The whole conversation is worth a read, so start from the beginning if it’s at all interesting to you. In the end, Eddie Moya added code to replace the easter egg to a Plugin of his specifically made to remove the capital_P_dangit easter egg, and renamed the Plugin “Disable All Easter Eggs”.

If conversations like this interest you, you can subscribe to the WP-Hackers mailing list here.