On occasion I see comments, usually in plugin reviews, that go something like this: “I tried using the plugin but it was riddled with bugs so I had to use something else”. It occurred to me the other day just why I dislike this kind of statement so much. First, and most obviously, hearing someone say this about one of your own plugins, especially one you believe to work very well, is a hard blow. No matter how thick your skin has grown due to harsh user feedback, negative statements always dig deep. Second, “riddled with bugs” is usually about as inaccurate of a statement as possible.

For a quick reference, this is what a swarm of red bugs looks like on a palm tree:

20131124-170718.jpg

While obviously a completely different kind of bug, this puts the semantics of the “riddled with bugs” statement in perspective.

From my own experience, when a user says a plugin is riddled with bugs, what they really mean is that one or two particular aspects of the plugin that they were using at that time had a bug or two. Perhaps it was a really bad bug, such as a fatal error, or something more minor like an undefined index notice. Regardless of the bug, the experience the user had was most likely due to just one or two bugs, and most likely they were bugs caused by the user’s specific environment (hosting, other plugins, their theme, etc), instead of bugs that every user of the plugin experienced. They seem more drastic to the user because that is the part of the plugin they are trying to use, and if it happens to be a vital component of the plugin, such as a checkout page, then the most minor of bugs is going to seem 100x more important.

If a plugin is truly riddled with bugs, and bugs that everyone sees, no one will use the plugin. When you see plugins that are used by hundreds or thousands of users, you can essentially guarantee that they are not riddled with bugs.

As users, I encourage all of you (this goes for myself as well) to completely avoid phrases like “riddled with bugs” when leaving feedback about a plugin. If you experience a bug with every single aspect of the plugin, such a phrase might be appropriate, otherwise explaining how you experienced a bug in a particular section of the plugin will always be better received and better help the developer improve the plugin by fixing that particular bug.

In the same way that it is always better to explain why you do not like something, it is always better to be specific when claiming that plugins are riddled with bugs. Very, very rarely are they truly riddled with bugs.

  1. keha76

    I also think that many confuse usability issues with bugs, it’s not the same thing but I do understand the confusion from those who do not write code themselves. But hardcore coders giving comments like those mentioned above, that’s just plain stupid. Be helpful instead, it’s much nicer! :)

  2. Bob Dunn

    Yep, you hit the nail on the head. The word bug is easily thrown around and users, especially, don’t know how to better explain it. It’s just easier to say.

    Even sharing something like “that plugin is a little buggy” could easily translate into “the plugin doesn’t work with another one”.

    But riddled? I don’t think I would be here talking to you on your site if your plugins were :)

  3. Mark Penny

    Constrictive criticism can only be given by those criticized.

  4. Dan Milward

    Some people confuse lack of features with bugs.

    Chin up Pippin!!! You’re great and so is EDD and so is WP e-Commerce Plugin (even though I’m hanging out for 3.9 and it just can’t seem to happen quickly enough).

    Look forward to catching up soon :)

  5. Sebastian

    I wholeheartedly agree. Being helpful is not only nicer but it actually goes to show that the individual wants to see improvement, and through feedback they pave a way for that to occur. I feel similar about users who submit questions that they later find answers to. Rather than follow up with feedback about how they reached a solution, they leave an empty response stating “Nevermind. I fixed it.”

    • Pippin

      Bingo.

    • Maeve Lander

      haha yeah so frustrating to have a user write “Horrible plugin, riddled with bugs” and then a few minutes later get a follow up “Nevermind. I fixed it.” Incredibly unhelpful x2 as a plugin developer.

      Hey Pippin, I wonder if it would be at all viable in the WordPress support forum to trigger a popup if a user is posting for the very first time with some simple tips/requests? Something like, “Hey looks like this is your first ever post at WordPress.org… please run your eye over these tips real quick… try this, do that, be polite, bla bla”? The official forum rules are a tad long so it would have to be cut down to some simple dot points… And while we’re at it, how about a flag so a moderator or perhaps even just a more experienced forum user can flag another user to re-display the popup? ;-p Dreaming?

    • Pippin

      While it seems like a great idea, I don’t expect that would ever happen.

  6. Timothy DeWein

    Ouch!

  7. Craig Grella

    I’ve done alot of beta testing for many developers – the fact is, you can’t plan for every scenario of how everyone in the world is going to use your plugin. WordPress is too big and used in too many ways for that now. Things happen, things break. I wouldnt necessarily call that a bug, but its somethng that needs to be fixed, for sure.

    This is one of the reasons I try to use products (especially paid products) only from developers I trust and know to be good coders and to provide good support.

    Just my two cents.

  8. Dillard

    One of my concerns is dealing with deprecated or unmaintained plugins.
    We’ve already got a situation with MantisForge where there are dozens of
    plugins, many of which aren’t actively maintained against both the 1.2.x
    and 1.3.x branches.

  9. Mordechai Ben David

    Happened to us many times and in most cases when you drilled in to the “bugs” you see that it has nothing to do with your plugin.

    On our support desk we encourage people to describe the problem in details by using guiding questions and not just a general problem textbox.

    This has reduced our response time and help our support team to really understand the customer problem.

    It took us some time and a lot of trial and error to find the right questions.