Plugin duplicates may cause rejection, devs should collab

17 Comments

Earlier this month I caught wind of an exchange plugin being rejected during the approval process at WordPress.org. Not knowing much about the issue myself, I reached out to someone who would know, or could find out for me: Otto over at WordPress.org.

Currently, Otto explained to me, the WordPress.org plugin directory is not accepting a handful of different types of plugins: exchange rate plugins, Facebook Like and Google +1 plugins, to name a few. He said there are already a log of plugins in the directory doing essentially the same thing, and if left alone there could be as many as two or three plugins just like them submitted to the directory every day.

So if nothing else, take this as a heads up. Certain plugin submissions, if they are similar to a large number of other plugins, may not make it through the review process. Otto himself said that he wishes that collaboration on similar plugins would happen more often, though exactly how to encourage this isn’t clear.

Have you run into this type of plugin rejection before? How do you think the community could encourage more collaboration on plugin projects?

17 thoughts on “Plugin duplicates may cause rejection, devs should collab

  1. I think a “props” log in a featured area of the plugin could help incentivize people to contribute to existing plugins. The main author could give props and those props could show up below the author. And of course, if a contribution is big enough they could be listed as a coauthor.

    The downside is that sometimes it could be hard to keep in touch with a primary author, and sometimes you may not want to be hamstrung by a plugin author that’s not paying attention to the plugin or your contributions.

    If people get tired of working with an uncooperative author and don’t get their plugin admitted, it could prevent good plugins from being in the repository. But overall, I think it’s a good idea.

  2. I wrote a plugin. Widget & Shortcode for ECB: European Central Bank’s exchange reference rates:
    http://www.unsalkorkmaz.com/ajx_exchange_rates/

    I wrote this because i couldnt find any good plugin for exchange rates. I tried to share it with community with releasing on wordpress.org but they denied with this message:
    “Sorry but no more exchange-type plugins are being approved.”

    Just check exchange rate plugins that currently have in wordpress.org and tell me there is a good plugin that i can use it like what i wrote.

  3. I am looking forward to announced changes in WordPress Repository and removal (or hiding) of outdated plugins. But, right now it is not easy to find plugins there, and better categorization is needed. Current tags system is not good and it is often abused by developers.

    If the plugins were better classified it would cause for less submission of plugins with duplicated functionalities. Also, cleanup of old plugins might again open space for new submissions.

  4. I wish this curation attention was, instead, directed towards abandoned plugins that do not work with recent versions of WordPress.

    By rejecting plugins that offer similar functionality to existing plugins, it will encourage a “First Post” mentality, in which authors rush to be the first to submit plugins based upon some newly emergent possibility. Authors who take the time to think about the best possible implementation will find their work spurned and that is hardly going to encourage them to donate more of their free time to the community. We will never know the true cost of that loss of goodwill.

    Quick submitters already have the pretty considerable advantage of being able to grab the best and most obvious names, this new policy will compound that advantage.

    While it can be messy to have dozens of plugins doing the same thing, the answer is to allow the crowd to try them and rate them. There then also needs to be a better way of highlighting highly-regarded plugins in the search results – at the moment, we are shown the version number and star rating of each plugin. Version number are pretty much meaningless, as are star ratings because very few people bother to give them and they can be easily gamed – when you see five stars in the search results, you cannot tell if that is based upon 1 review or 100. You have to click Details for each plugin in order to see info that might actually help you to make a decision, such as the number of downloads, the most recent update and reported version compatibility.

    Some of my favorite plugins are ones that entered an already crowded space and re-invented it. I understand that this policy is intended to deal with the immediate problem but is it really a good idea to send out the message that your hard work may be rejected simply because someone else got there first, so, why bother?

  5. I understand that in certain genres, exchange rate plugins being one, people will be creating plugins as link bait for SEO purposes, but banning ‘duplicate’ plugins is bad and will stifle improvement. Many popular plugins stated off as ‘duplicates’, as indeed did WordPress itself (‘duplicate’ of b2).

    • And also, this ‘ban same plugin’ practice looks too much like the Apple AppStore. I would think that WordPress community is much better than that, and that plugin quality is more important than having even 10 or more plugins doing same basic thing.

  6. I’m assuming this only applies to limited functionality plugins. Because if not… I can see where this could easily stifle the repository rather than improve the repository.

    Would they reject Gravity Forms from being added to the repository should we make it available for free because Grunion or Contact Form 7 already exist in the repository? All are form plugins. But not all plugins that provide similar functionality are equal in value or usefulness.

    It’s a tricky thing to manage. Just because a plugin already exists that does something doesn’t mean it can’t be done better. If you reject a plugin because a similar plugin exists, you could actually be rejecting the better solution.

    Hopefully it doesn’t negatively impact the plugin repository.

    • I presume that, in practise, it will only apply to limited functionality plugins but the damaging thing is the perception it will create.

      I also wonder if limited functionality plugins might not be how many developers get bitten by the bug before going on to create more advanced plugins. Every good book or tutorial I’ve read on WordPress plugin development encourages you to create and submit something simple, just to see how easy and how much fun it is.

    • Currently, those plugin types he mentioned in the OP are the only ones this is being applied to. The FB/G+ stuff suffered from a glut of spam-plugin being submitted on a continuous basis. Seriously, in a month we had something like 400 identical -share-with-facebook-google-twitter-yourmom-plugin-a-number-1 and so forth being submitted and all of them were spam.

      Exchange rate is one of those first-plugin kind of things that anybody could write. Nothing against the submitters, but if the plugin is entering a space where it’s just a widget that does some minor math via JS, then it’s a bit simplistic, isn’t it? Not every plugin belongs in the directory.

      If a plugin is extraordinary in some way, it’ll go in, regardless of similar plugins in there. This isn’t a case where we’re setting some kind of general policy on duplicate plugins; this is a case of some kinds of plugins are often spam, and some plugins are too much hello-world type plugins. Submissions to the plugin directory do get reviewed, and your plugin may be rejected for reasons other than technical ones, without prejudice.

  7. I think killing all the duplicate sharing plugins is a good thing. I have to try out a million plugins, to find a decent one from all those search results.
    But, I think that this shouldn’t be the only change in WordPress.org plugin directory. I Fully hope, that unsupported, old versions of plugins are going to be dropped OR there will be a filter set up, that lets you search by version. Nobody ever wants an old plugin, and if the author is active, it would be better to spread the active version of the plugin rather than an old one.
    Anyway, In my opinion, the wordpress plugin directory should be really rethought, and I think this is a step forward.

  8. This totally passed me by – it’s a really interesting development.

    Recently we’ve noticed quite a few of our free plugins are downloaded, the code changed ever so slightly (usually the readme left exactly the same) and then re-uploaded to the repo with spam links included on them. They’re usually really shoddily done and once we pick up on them they get removed. In general, we’ve been trying to be vigilant about this but it’s pretty difficult to search the repo to keep on top of things. Usually we find them by chance, there’s probably some that pass us by.

    In general, it’s social media plugins that this happens to. It’s interesting to see that it’s happening to other people and that wp.org is trying to address it.

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  11. So maybe the admins at wordpress.org could come up with a classification process that would enable dev’s and themselves to see what there’s ‘too much of’ and ‘not enough of’, and perhaps publish requirements? or just the raw data and let dev’s see where the gaps are?

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