Blogging

Thankless Bloggers?

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A new post over at the Weblog Tools Collection blog criticizes some WordPress bloggers who seem to be helping their community gain a reputation as “thankless.”

Unlike AOL’s now-deceased blogging platform, and Blogger (at least when I was a user), WordPress allows its users a great deal of freedom in modifying the code that makes its system work. It also allows independent developers to create additional features (called “plugins”) that can be added to the WordPress software to customize the blog.

For example, if you read this post on its own page, rather than on the homepage of the blog, you’ll notice, just below the last line, a feature that allows you to retweet this post via URL on Twitter or to vote for it on Digg. You’ll also see a listing of several posts that may touch on the same subject matter as this one.

Plugins make those functions possible.

The developers of plugins, and themes, too, often offer their creations for free. There’s usually a link where you can donate money to the developer, but that’s a totally-voluntary measure.

The point of the post is that even when no money changes hands, a simple “Thank You” should:

“Based on the plugin authors feedback, end users demand more features, demand better support, and in the end, have this feeling of entitlement even if the plugin is available without a price tag. The reality is, that for a freely available plugin, you’re not entitled to anything.”

I take a little issue with the last line: for a freely available plugin, an end user is entitled to a plugin that works as advertised. If it doesn’t, the end user doesn’t have to use it. If it does, the end user can use it or not.

By the same logic, unfortunately, one can conclude that developers who offer their creations for free without requiring any credit or payment aren’t entitled to anything, either. No more than the woman who expects someone else to hold the door open for her, or the driver who expects a lane of traffic to stop to let them in: it’s mighty nice when someone does, but there’s no law that says you have to. And more often than not, when there’s a surprise over such a simple gesture, it’s surprise that someone did take the time to make the gesture, not that someone didn’t.

A sad commentary on the state of the world? Perhaps. But at least it’s an honest one.

To be fair, I can certainly put myself in the place of the developers, and I’m sure that if I offered up a product that people used elsewhere without acknowledging me, I’d get a little bent out of shape, too. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever donated a cent for a plugin or theme I’ve used on this site. I think I’ve thanked a couple of developers over time, but I haven’t come close to thanking them all.

The way I see it if a developer really expected payment for the theme, he’d sell it, not give it away. And if he really expected some kind of feedback, he’d add an extra bit of code into either the download page or the plugin itself requiring the user to acknowledge him in some way — a poll, perhaps — before the plugin could go active.

Believe me: no one is more amazed at what these developers are able to make WordPress do than I am; I suspect that anyone who can create a plugin to find related posts on a blog that handles so many different topics can certainly create a little program that requires a little one-on-one interaction.

I definitely feel like a simple “Thank You” isn’t too much to ask, and I agree that it’s the least we WordPress users can do. I also agree, based on common courtesy, that it’s something we should do. And I certainly plan to go back to my dashboard and try to locate developers of the plugins I’ve used and really liked.

I appreciate the post in that it reminds me of a social obligation good manners dictates as necessary. I’m a little less enthusiastic about the notion that expressing gratitude in such an arrangement is in any way required.

Gratitude made solely out of obligation isn’t gratitude at all.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.