Should wordpress.org introduce a ‘reputation’ system?

Update: Massive kudos to Otto who spotted that there were over 60 fake accounts created over a year ago and used for the purpose of knocking this plugin, now sorted, what a legend!

Earlier today I was browsing our ever increasing number of free plugin releases at WordPress.org and made a pretty unpleasant discovery.

Gone, from our free membership plugin, was the satisfaction-inducing 4.8 [estimated] average star rating from 40 or so users – and in place was a much less than gratifying 2.7 or so score – from 80 users feedback – as well as 9 new ‘Doesn’t Work’ tags.So, naturally my first thought was to check out whether in fact we’d just released an absolute dud, breaking peoples sites and leaving them rightly annoyed.

Fortunately though, that wasn’t the case – in fact what had happened was clearly the result of an individual, or group, of users suddenly descending on the plugin (in the space of a few days) to rate it 1 star and say that it doesn’t work – without even opening a single support ticket.

Essentially spamming it down.

Ouch!

Now, whether this was a competitor, or someone with a  grudge, I don’t know – but in a critical commercial context I do know that it’ll harm our business (needless to say, a lot of people like that plugin so much they upgrade to the paid version)… and in doing so threaten the livelihood of 16 dedicated WordPress developers, support folk, writers and alike.

Which really isn’t on.

But is also easily fixed!

I’d like to suggest that wordpress.org introduces a simple reputation system – much like StackOverflow operates – whereby registered users need to, essentially:

  • be a registered user for a period of time
  • post x times in the forums (even once would be good)
  • be credited with x ‘thumbs ups’ or similar from other users
  • pass other associated simple tests to determine they are legit

Before they can rate or mark a plugin as working or not.

As an additional bonus this could also leave to a resurgence of use at the forums – everyone loves reputation points (heck, we give free lifetime membership to folks at WPMU DEV that rack up 1000) and a higher quality of review would doubtless benefit everyone.

And save us, and countless other premium plugin providers, from issues like the above.

Of course, if this was some sort of coordinated effort by a group of established wordpress.org members to give us a kicking, then the above wouldn’t work at all, but you’d like to think that that was unlikely to be the case (or at least hope that much!).

Whaddya reckon?

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Comments (11)

  1. What I would like to see is a list of who rated the plugin and what rating they gave. Even if that isn’t publicly available info and only available to the admin of the plugin. If somebody gave the plugin 1 star, I’d love to drop them an email and ask what happened. If they gave it 5 stars, maybe an email to say thanks.

  2. So, does this sudden surge in rating count correspond with a surge in download count? If there’s an obvious discrepancy, then someone is definitely trying to manipulate and spam your plugins.

  3. Yep, in an ideal world we would know more about who rated them, or at least implementing a reputation system. But I see this happening all over the web. Same thing with some articles on certain social media sites.

    It’s really too bad people have to do things like this. And often, what happens, is some people feel forced into getting their “friends” in to knock it back up. It’s like high school all over again!

  4. Check the update:

    “Massive cudos to Otto who spotted that there were over 60 fake accounts created over a year ago and used for the purpose of knocking this plugin, now sorted, what a legend!”

    Couldn’t be happier :)

  5. There are a lot of things wrong with this. With All due respect, and WPMU deserves a lot, the harder you make it to participate, the less people will. At the end of the day, I just want to know if a plugin works for the most amount of people or not.
    Secondly, WP.org is not Stacked Overflow. There, you want to weed out people who are not experts because their answers are most times useless. Here, we have an entirely different goal. We don’t want just one type of person rating plugins. We want all people with all types of sites and various versions.
    I hear your pain. You are a business and are trying to protect your interests. But the plugins ratings are not for you… They are for the user.

  6. @Len, but as you can see, they *were* spam and the .org team *did* have to get rid of them – I’m just proposing some ways this could be countered and/or the system generally improved in future.

  7. Wow, what a lowlife loser who ever did this. I think I know all of the competitors in the WordPress membership niche, and I can’t think who among them could have done this.

    Someone even came to my review of WPMU DEV Membership and posted an unsubstantiated negative comment. Now I think it’s related to this.

    The name of the company/person who did this should be revealed and they should be shamed publicly.

  8. My main concern is that there are ways to prevent it happening in future… but I would love to know who it was, I guess there are only so many commercial membership plugins out there tho, so if it’s a. pre-meditated & b. accompanied by other efforts it could be one of them.

  9. Hi James,

    I see what Len is saying in that we want a well rounded view of reviews and making requirements such as StackOverflow may skew the results. However I do agree with you that a system has to be put in place to prevent this sort of spamming.

    I know Joomla has a system where you have to register to write a review and it has to be approved. Sure it takes a bit more work, but if someone feels strongly about writing about a plugin (good or bad), then they will go the extra step.

    Not sure what the best solution for WP would be, but if you noticed this issue, I’m sure it has happened to other plugin authors which is really a shame.

    Hopefully they figure out a solution that works for everyone.

    P.S. I’ve looked into your membership plugin to use on one of my sites. Definitely two thumbs up. ;-)

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