WordPress.org Moderators Abuse of Power

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This blog post is being generated as a result of recent wordpress.org moderators abuse of power. I have been the victim of their abuse of power and I have seen it far too often. Being in the web development industry I know that forums can get out of control if not properly moderated. In addition to monitoring posts, someone should also be moderating the moderators. It’s a chain of command that should be adhered to just like any major corporation.

Preface

On 4/25/15 while helping many thousands of WordPress users I had a post moderated and removed. WordPress 4.2 was released and many thousands of people updated their websites to the newest version. Thousands of users experienced a problem after updating where the entire website was down. The forums were getting bombarded with people asking for help. The moderators started posting in response with template responses asking people to disable all plugins, reset to a default theme, etc. The problem with this approach is that there was a clear and obvious problem that the moderators didn’t care to research. The forums had hundreds of people asking for help. Disabling plugins wasn’t the problem. Something major was going on. I took it upon myself to look into the issue. I pushed the 4.2 update to a few of our test websites attempting to force the replication of the error. Bam, I hit it on one of the test sites. I immediately diagnosed the issue and posted a full troubleshooting and resolution to the problem. I was the first person to diagnose the issue and help the community.

Here’s a few of the posts where I helped the hundreds and thousands of users:
https://wordpress.org/support/topic/updated-wordpress-and-got-error-cannot-redeclare-get_avatar_url
https://wordpress.org/support/topic/wordpress-42-trouble-i-cannot-access-my-website
https://wordpress.org/support/topic/no-access-to-admin-dashboard-after-42-upgrade

WordPress administration (redacted) acknowledged that my response was helpful by using (in part verbatim) my resolution as part of their known issue post which can be found here:
https://wordpress.org/support/topic/read-this-first-%E2%80%93-wordpress-42-master-list (this link has been removed)

The Problem

Please note that all of the comments have been removed by a moderator. I’m quoting this verbatim from the emails received as it’s the only proof of my testaments below.

The post that started the problem: https://wordpress.org/support/topic/no-access-to-admin-dashboard-after-42-upgrade

In one of my posts I helped a lady and walked her through the modification of the files needed to resolve the issue. I did this while on vacation, in a hotel and being yelled at by my other half for working. I spent a good hour with her. A couple days later a few more people asked for help and I helped them as well. One of the users (Cromerty) said: “I’m getting the same error, but don’t have the knowledge to fix as you suggest.” My reply to her was: “Google my username and contact me, I’d be more than happy to help”. And this is where it all started.

My post was immediately moderated with a comment from Moderator (redacted) who wrote: “@Todd – WireFlare – please do not use these forums that way – see: http://codex.wordpress.org/Forum_Welcome#Helping_Out

After review of the link that the moderator posted I found the following:

“If you’re helping out, do your best to fully assist the person having the issues, and do not use your support as an excuse to promote your own site/themes/plugins. That behavior is frowned upon.

Similarly, we ask that you not demand payment, solicit work, or take the conversation to a private location. The point of helping out on the WordPress.org forums is to help out on the forums… Leave something for the next person who searches to have an answer too.”

So let’s review the above:
1 – I did help out and assist the person(s) having the issue. I did so much better that any moderator that answered before me. I actually researched the issue rather than provide boiler-plate template responses.
2 – I could have made a blog post, as I am a blogger, and post a link to the resolution, but I didn’t. I helped out on the WordPress.org forum and didn’t promote our site or any services.
3 – I did not ask for payment or solicit work. I did not ask to take the conversation elsewhere. I offered free help to someone who didn’t have the technical know how.
4 – I helped on the forum and the issue was resolved, by myself, in a number of different posts.

So what did I do? I replied to Moderator WPyogi asking him to not abuse his power. I stated the obvious facts of the conversation as mentioned above in 1-4. I stated that I did not violate the forum rules and made it clear that forum rules are made for people who abuse the forums. I asked that common sense be used when moderating comments to the validity and intent.

That comment was then removed by Moderator (redacted) who wrote: “If you feel strongly that the person asking for help cannot receive it from these forums then forward them onto http://jobs.wordpress.net – Thanks.”

This poor lady didn’t have the technical know how to resolve an issue created by WordPress and it’s own forum moderators are telling me to instruct her to go to a payment based hiring solution. If you’ve ever been to jobs.wordpress.net you’d see that it’s just a job listing forum where people can ask for work. The client is contacted via their OFFSITE email link. I’m not quite sure how this is any different than what I did, other than I wanted to help her out for free. Yes, I wanted to help someone fix something that WordPress broke, for free, but was prevented from doing so by WordPress Moderators.

To which I replied: “Just FYI. Moderators can be reported via the following: complaints@wordpress.org”. To no surprise, this was also removed.

So why did I reply with the last comment? Simply put, my though was that these moderators can post off topic conversations (with links) in the forum directed at me, why not fire back with an off topic conversation with an included link. Ok so this was possibly a little immature, but I never used vulgar language or in any way attacked or insulted anyone.

So What Now?

I’ve decided that I will no longer offer solutions on WordPress Forums. Unless of course someone wants to take action, discipline, apologize and come up with a preventative measure plan for bad moderators. I will continue to post solutions to WordPress on the WireFlare forum, on StackExchange, WordPress Development and various other places on the web.

In Closure

Moderators should be in place to moderate. Not to provide people with blanket, boiler-plate, template responses. Not to send people on goose chases and not to cast blame on plugins and themes. If it wasn’t for the plugins and themes WordPress would be nothing! If a moderator wants to help someone they should invest time and effort into helping them.

It would appear that WordPress.org moderators have one goal, to see who can get the most posts. To see who can post some random boiler-plate response first. Their actions should be considered spam. In my case, the moderators posted off-topic responses to the OP’s post. This isn’t permitted either. But… they’re moderators, so it must be okay.

It would be nice to see WordPress educate their Moderators, instruct them to use common sense. With all of the hard work and dedication invested in the WordPress foundation and community, it only takes one moderator to discredit and discount the WordPress community staff of volunteers. If someone is attempting to help one of THEIR users for free, maybe they should just leave that be!

Update (4/27/15):

I’ve been watching the WP Slack community on this topic as many of the members have reached out to me. All of them have said that I have brought to light something positive. None have reached out saying anything negative. But the slack community proves different. Many people are upset that I made this post and I’ve even been discredited with coming up with the solution. Some are complaining about the image I used, while other are claiming we’re an India based company (not that it matters). Some are even saying that because we’re a smaller company we should be ignored.

Maybe some people just needed to clear the varnish cache as was mentioned, but there is a real issue with the get_avarar_url. It did cause people errors and I did help those people. One person said that the varnish cache helped him, while many others have thanked me for helping them with the get_avatar_url issue. As mentioned in my article, my solution to the get_avatar_url was included in a known issues post, which has since been removed.

Some claim that I’m being over dramatic, that I’m a troll and that I should just move on with my life. Some say that I’m clearly breaking rules of the forum. I would disagree. Either way, I have an opinion, I don’t make claims against people for no reason. Anyone who known me, knows that I strive from day to day to help people and I will continue to do so.

As a token of good faith I have redacted the moderators names in question. I have also promised not to publish this post to our social media accounts. The post will remain for now. I appreciate the fact that James reached out to me despite many people on Slack encouraging him not to.

Reply From WP:

“Hi there Todd, my name is James and I’m a member of the WordPress.org Moderator Team. Matt forwarded your email to me, asking me to reach out to you personally with regards to the incident.

First of all, thanks so much for your help in the forums, it was greatly appreciated, took some work off on our hands on a stressful release day, and contributed towards a solution for a known issue. For that, you will always have our gratitude.

With regards to what happened, we don’t allow offsite solicitations of help, because such a tactic has been abused repeatedly in the past by people with bad intentions, and because it impacts the effectiveness of the forums as a searchable database of answers. While I know you didn’t have any bad intentions, especially with offering to help on your vacation, we have to enforce all rules equally, so we had to remove the portion of the reply asking the user to contact you directly.

What happened next was a regrettable overreaction. 4.2 launched with some high-profile known issues, which meant we were spending more time barely keeping the forums in order than we were helping people. When you replied in defense of your direct contact request, I think that was enough to send withheld tempers over the edge, and I truly apologize for that.

We’re all volunteers on the forums, and sometimes that means we need to walk away to cool off, but especially on release day many of us are too dedicated (obsessed?) to follow through with that, and unfortunate things can be communicated in a less-than-optimal manner.

We’re always working to improve the clarify of our rules, and our methods of enforcement. I’d like to thank you for your feedback, and apologize again for why it was necessary.

If you would like to add this reply to your post, please feel free to do so, and please feel free to contact me directly if you have any further questions, comments, concerns, etc.”

From all of us at WireFlare we ask that you help others find the answers they are looking for. Please leave a comment or share this post!

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I'm the President of WireFlare. I have a passion for creativity, online business and internet security. I strive to create a community that empowers people to be themselves. I'm an adventurist, fun loving and caring. Find me hiking in places most people don't dare to go!

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