Tips on using and developing for WordPress happily

Jeff Chandler at Weblog Tools Collection wrote a post titled Stop Blaming the WordPress Team, in which he basically argues that the users shouldn’t blame the WordPress developers if a plugin breaks with an upgrade.

I wanted to reply in the comments, but my reply probably warrants a longer blog post. And, I figured I’d try to throw in a few tips for both users and plugin authors.

The first thing I want to say is that this doesn’t just extend to plugins. Themes can sometimes break too, especially if they’re themes with more advanced features.

The WordPress developers can’t conceivably test every plugin to see if it’s working, not even what you consider to be a popular and useful plugin. What’s next? Should we start asking them to test themes too?

I’m quite happy that we get regular updates to our blogging platform, which means we get security fixes, bug fixes, and more features.

What I’ll try to do with this post is point users and plugin and theme authors in the right direction. Maybe some folks just don’t understand that when something breaks, it’s not WordPress’ fault.

As a blogger running a self-hosted version of WordPress

You should take some responsibility.

I think one of the major problems is that WordPress has made it too easy to run your own site. So easy, in fact, that we sometimes forget that we’re actually running our own sites. Not that I’m complaining about how easy it is, but it can present some problems.

Honestly, how often to you back up your database? Really? Don’t lie.

How many of the core developer’s blogs are you subscribed to?

If you’re running your own site, then you’re responsible for it. That’s just the simple truth of the matter.

Here are some useful tips for running your own site

First and foremost, make regular database backups of your blog:

Run a local install of WordPress on your computer. Yes, even Average Joe should do this to test plugins and themes before using them on a live site (alternately, you can run a test install in a subdirectory of your site):

Make sure you test plugins with the beta releases and release candidates WordPress puts out on your local install and/or your live test site.

If a plugin or theme doesn’t work with a new version, try contacting the author to see if there’ll be a fix for the latest version of WP. Or, at least let them know there’s an issue. Maybe they’re not even aware of it.

Another useful tip might be to check out a plugin or theme author’s site before using their stuff. Some people might not be that dedicated to their work, which is perfectly fine, but as a user, you might want some assurance. Check out what they’ve done and how involved they are within the WordPress community. Maybe that plugin author made a simple plugin and never made plans to update the plugin at all.

Some tips for plugin and theme authors

Any plugin or theme author worth his salt should have a local setup running the latest WordPress version. You can use the tutorial on setting up WordPress with Xampp. It’s quite simple.

Familiarize yourself with WordPress Trac. That’s all the documentation you’ll ever need on seeing where changes are made to the core WordPress code.

Use Subversion with WordPress. You can easily pull the latest development version of WordPress onto your computer. Ptah Dunbar also has a good article on using Subversion. I personally use Tortoise SVN to both track changes within my themes and plugins and to keep my version of WordPress current on my computer.

Follow Mark Jaquith’s blog He sometimes releases important information for plugin authors. Other developers and contributers’ blogs can be found on the About WordPress page.

Finally, set up support forums for your plugins or themes. bbPress is extremely simple to set up. It’s a lot easier to quickly find bugs if you have a community surrounding your work. Trust me, they’ll let you know if something’s broken.

What I hope you take away from this

I had first written a post in anger at users blaming WordPress for things breaking. But, not all users are as informed as the rest of us. I figured it be much more beneficial to give a few tips and point out some useful links.

What I really hope is that plugin and theme authors take advantage of some of the great tools the WordPress developers either give us or allow us to use with WordPress.

The ability to have updates ready on the day of a new WordPress release is pretty easy if you have the time to put into it.

Be sure to include any advice or tips you have for theme/plugin authors or users in the comments.