The WordPress Plugin Discovery Problem

They look like me. They act like me. They think like me. The power of the tribe comes from the shared features of its members. I trust members of the tribe.

The WordPress Plugin Discovery Problem

I’ve spent the last three months diving deep into the WordPress codebase and learned many things about its internals. I’ve built a half dozen WordPress Plugins and learned many things about what makes a plugin great. But the things that still trouble me come from the fact that plugin discovery for the average user remains difficult.

The market place for plugins serves the purpose but does it rather badly. First of all it ranks plugins by the number of installs and this gate-keeping ensures the old guard plugins stay at the top of the list. Gaining even more installs. In effect, this makes it very difficult to find any of the new plugins that developers make everyday. Often these new plugins offer better features and improvements over the bloated old guard versions.

A new plugin released today starts with a disadvantage. It starts with a ranking behind 40,000 other plugins and remains unknown for it. Few casual WordPress administrators venture down to page 235 of their search results and new plugins die anonymously. Fewer still know how to evaluate the quality of a plugin to ensure site security and robustness in the age of automatic updates.

The strategy of following the pack and always using the most popular plugins results in a form of security against making a bad decision. It gets you perfectly average results if you do what the average person does.

Solving the WordPress Plugin Discovery Problem

So what does the tribe do? We can’t walk away from this problem. No, instead we band together and share our stories. We relying on an oral history in the form of meetups with the sole purpose of talking about our favorite plugins. We user the tribal knowledge to protect ourselves and shortcut the difficult challenge of finding great plugins.

A Meetup Comment about the WordPress Plugin Discovery Problem

Last night I attended my first Plugin Review gathering and met some new friends. Lots of fun, and I enjoyed thoroughly the discussions. The experts of the group brought forth their favorite plugins and made their recommendations. The tribe consumed the information with zeal and we all came away feeling more confident in our choices regarding what plugins to use on our sites.

The tribal leaders with their trusted voice had done the work of hunting what works and leaving behind what to avoid. The night didn’t help us learn to do that ourselves, but we did get to consume the game they offered.

Using Pluginalytics

Now, as a new member of the tribe, I spent much of the evening listening and learning. It gave me the opportunity to compare the plugins on display and measure their quality score via Pluginalytics. As a new system it requires some tuning, but it held up well.

The leaders made their recommendations and I checked Pluginalytics to see if my calculated “Quality Score” matched the recommend item. It does. Very Good.