Starting a little over a month ago, I started submitting plugins to WordPress.org’s Plugin Directory. Overall, the system is great for developers since it offers Subversion and enables the automatic plugin upgrades that the latest WordPress versions support. However, it has some major problems that causes developers like me some headaches.

The instructions on how the request for adding new plugins works has the following information:

  1. Sign up.
  2. Within some vaguely defined amount of time, some one will approve your request.
  3. You’ll then have access to a Subversion Repository where you’ll store your plugin.
  4. Once you put your plugin (and a readme file!) in that repository, it will shortly be automatically entered into the plugins browser.

The “vaguely defined amount of time” isn’t defined at all. I’m sure that there are some people that handle new plugin approvals on their spare time and set up the subversion for the new projects, so I understand how there can’t be definitive times for new plugin approvals. However, I think the language here needs to clarify the details of how the approval process works and what type of feedback will be sent when the approval process is complete.

I was pulling out my hair when trying to submit my first plugin. I put in the request and then checked back a few hours later, nothing had changed. I checked a day later, not approved. Finally, after three days, the site said that my plugin was approved. I eagerly dug into the documentation on how to add the plugin to Subversion and started the submission process. When it came time to check in the repository (this is how you submit your new version), I received the following message:

Error: Commit failed (details follow):
Error: CHECKOUT of ‘/!svn/ver/52171/current-date-time-widget/trunk’: 403 Forbidden (http://svn.wp-plugins.org)

Forbidden? There must be an easy fix for this problem. I started searching around Forums, and found a large number of people were having the same problem. No one had any help for these people and there weren’t any official responses. Everyone just guessed that some random accounts just aren’t set up correctly and that there isn’t any way to fix it or to get help. After making official help requests and sending an email off to Matt Mullenweg with no response to either, I figured that they were probably right.

A few days after seeing that my submission request had been approved, I received an email telling me that my request was approved and that my Subversion would be ready in about an hour. I was extremely happy to get this email but was also very confused. If I had known that I just had to wait for an email, I would have just waited patiently. Instead, I wasted hours of time searching the forum, requesting official help, and doing some trial-and-error testing.

So what do I want to do about this? I’d like for the documentation to be improved. Sure, it’s kind of cute, but it doesn’t help a developer know what to do when they run into the problem I did. The documentation should read:

  1. Sign up.
  2. Approval of your request can take anywhere from a few hours to more than a week.
  3. When your request is approved, you will be sent an email notifying you of the request approval with instructions for submitting your plugin to the Subversion Repository.
  4. Once you put your plugin (and a readme file!) in that repository, it will shortly be automatically entered into the plugins browser.

The change is simple, but it would prevent a lot of frustration that may cause promising developers to ignore the repository due to their frustration.

Just last night, I found a new irritation with the plugin submission system. Since approval takes so long, I thought I’d go ahead and put in requests for some plugins that I’m working on so that when they are ready to be released, their spot is ready and waiting. I released the WP Developer Assistant late last night and was dismayed to see that my plugin wasn’t listed on the new plugins page. I went to bed thinking that I would see my plugin listed there today. For those that don’t know, getting a plugin listed on that page is crucial since you get a lot of exposure and can build an initial user base quickly. To my disappointment, I didn’t find the plugin on the new page today either. After a “what if” thought, I went back a couple pages and found my plugin listed on the third page. Apparently, the plugins are ordered in that list based upon when the plugin request was approved, not when the first version is loaded.

Due to my desire to release the plugin as soon as it was ready rather than waiting for request approval before I can release, my plugin has lost it’s best chance to get good initial exposure. I’m not sure how the back-end of the system is structured, but it would make sense to me that plugins should be listed in order of their initial version release rather than by their approval date.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I love the system. I just think that it has some issues that could be simple to fix and would improve the experience greatly. I’m still sad that my plugin that I’m really excited about didn’t get a chance to sit on the front page for a few days. Oh well, maybe next time.

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