Is the WordPress Community Supportive? My Journey into the Heart of WP

WordPress is known as an open-source resource; a wonderful tool that can be put to good use to create any kind of website you can imagine. A major part of using it involves relying on the WordPress community at large.

These folks consistently work hard to develop and test new core features, perform bug fixes, and generally make sure the latest update or release is top-notch. The community is also available to developers who need a little help. The support forums are always bustling with activity, after all.

And while WordPress has this tremendous reputation as friendly to beginners and being consistently helpful, I had to wonder—how much of that is assumption or hype? Can the WordPress community really be as good as everyone says?

I decided to put those claims to the test. 

The Criteria

In order to see if the WordPress community really lived up to its reputation, I needed to come up with a plan. How would I test the community’s effectiveness as a resource? What would I do to gauge this across multiple sites? And what specific sites would I test?

So I first put together a list of criteria I would judge each community resource by. After some brainstorming, this is what I came up with. Each category is rated on a 1-10 scale (1 being the worst and 10 being the best):

  • Responsiveness – Did the community respond to my question? If so, how long did it take to receive a response?
  • Activity – Is the community very active? Did several people respond to my question or just one (or none at all)? Beyond my question, are the members consistently engaged in discussion?
  • Effectiveness – Were the responses useful? Did they help me solve the problem? Or did they just have me running around in circles?
  • Attitude – Were community members helpful, or did they at least try to be? Were they polite and friendly? Or did they make me feel out of place, unwanted, or even stupid?

With these criteria in hand, I approached the resources with an open mind.

The Test Subjects – and the Results

While there are many forums and blogs out there dedicated to WordPress, I wanted to keep things simple here and stick to those that WordPress users would gravitate to the most. I’ve included both WordPress-specific communities as well as social media communities to prove a fair assessment of how people who use WordPress interact with one another and support one another.

Twitter

Twitter is a broad social resource. People discuss every topic under the sun on this platform, which is why you have to use hashtags to get your queries seen by a relevant audience.

To test Twitter as a community resource, I asked a specific question of my followers. I used relevant hashtags like #wordpress and #webdesign:

twitter-question

I did receive at least one response to my question, which offered some insightful feedback. However, I ultimately didn’t get a solution to my problem and had to look elsewhere. In all honesty, this test doesn’t accurately portray the usefulness of Twitter (or the members of the WordPress community who are on it) very well. The number of responses I received had a lot to do with how many followers I have and how engaged I am with WordPress experts on this social site. Only those who previously followed me or who were searching the WordPress hashtag that day saw my posts. That’s a pretty limited audience.

Basically, Twitter can serve as a great WordPress resource if you’re already fully engaged with people there. If you have a large following and contribute to WordPress-related discussions on a regular basis, you’re much more likely to get something useful out of your interactions there than those who only post when they need help.

In terms of how Twitter functions as a part of the WordPress community, how did it fair?

  • Responsiveness: I posted my question at 1:24pm and received a response by 7:26pm. Not the best, but certainly not the worst, either. 7/10
  • Activity: Only one person responded to my question, but you can find a ton of discussion about WordPress on Twitter. 6/10
  • Effectiveness: Though the feedback I received was helpful and positive, it ultimately didn’t provide a clear solution. 6/10
  • Attitude: Can’t complain. All discourse was friendly and to-the-point. 10/10

Facebook

Facebook is about more than just posting pictures of your kids, especially when you dive into the world of Facebook groups. There’s a group for everything, it seems, and when it comes to WordPress, there are tons of groups out there to consider. Of course, some are better than others.

I targeted two groups that had a lot of members and activity and were recommended across several different blogs. I posted questions on each. My experience with these groups follows:

WordPress Help for Beginners

wp-beginners-help
The WordPress Help for Beginners group.

 

Since the question I posed to Twitter was a bit complex, I decided to dial it back a bit and ask a truly simple question here. After all, this group does promise help to beginners, so I needed to interact accordingly.

wp-beginners-help-question

At 5:47pm, I asked if anyone could recommend themes that’d be great for a site about comic books. My first response came in at 9:22pm. It didn’t offer any concrete suggestions, and rather said I could use plugins to get the comic book-specific features I needed with one of thousands of different themes.

Which is fair enough. But a theme suggestion or two might have been helpful here. Especially if I was a true blue beginner and didn’t want to fiddle with multiple plugins to build the site I wanted.

  • Responsiveness: It was fairly good. I received a response within 3 1/2 hours. Not fantastic but at least it was the same day and for a group with over 1,200 members, that’s not too shabby. 7/10
  • Activity: Hit and miss. There’s typically a question or two posted per day here, with several responses for each. There’s a good amount of discussion going on just not on a million different topics at once. 6/10
  • Effectiveness: Though the feedback I received wasn’t the most helpful in the world, the member did make a legitimate point. Also, responses to other questions are quite useful and explained in such a way that a total newbie could understand. 9/10
  • Attitude: Largely positive. I didn’t experience any snark and didn’t see any on other people’s posts. All in all, this is just a group of people who love WordPress and who want to help other people out. 9/10

Advanced WordPress

advanced-wordpress
The Advanced WordPress Facebook group.

 

The Advanced WordPress group is designed for those who have moved past the basics and actually develop sites for a living. Discussions center around code tips and tricks, troubleshooting, and more general questions about how to run a business. I asked the same question of this community as I did Twitter and the responses I got were pretty interesting. Although, this author tried to go back the day after posting to take a screen cap and the question had been removed altogether. Maybe my question was considered too basic? It’s not clear.

One person was very helpful and offered concrete advice—even linking me to a resource for further info. While he didn’t walk me through what I needed to do step-by-step, he did offer me a few more ideas of what to search for and included a link to the Google Custom Search Engine as a possible solution. He didn’t have a definitive answer for me, but it was definitely helpful advice.

Another individual questioned why I’d want to populate a page with search results for a preset query in the first place. Fair enough. But generally, when I see someone asking a question I assume they have a good reason to be doing what they’re doing.

  • Responsiveness: Lightning quick. I posted my question at 2:50 pm and received my first response by 3:07pm. Totally, completely impressed. 10/10
  • Activity: With over 14,000 members, this group is super active, not just with new posts and questions but with responses. Each new post gets tons of replies. 10/10
  • Effectiveness: I was offered useful advice that showed me a perspective I hadn’t yet considered. However, the lack of step-by-step instructions means I’d need to put in considerable legwork to get the answer I needed. 7/10
  • Attitude: For the most part, positive. However, there was an air of curtness with one reply. Perhaps I didn’t elaborate enough in my question. Perhaps it was too rudimentary for the audience. Still, being polite never hurt anybody. 7/10

WordPress.org Support Forums

WordPress Support Forums
The WordPress Support Forums.

I actually posted to the official support forums last. You’d think that would’ve been my first choice, but since I’d never posted there before, I opted to check out more familiar territory first, a la social media.

So, once I got to posting my question to the support forums, I’d learned from the experience of posting elsewhere.

That is, I’d honed the phrasing of my query. I’d already figured out what kind of questions elicit the best answers and what simply garners a snark-filled response. I’m telling you this, because it might just go to show that reworking your questions over and over again can sometimes improve the quality of help you get. Just some food for thought there.

wordpress-support-forum-question
I did my best to be as detailed as possible.

My experience with the WordPress.org forums began on the Hacks sub-forum. After mulling it over, that seemed to be the most appropriate spot for my question.

  • Responsiveness: I posted my question at 11am on a Monday and didn’t receive a response until Tuesday evening. While many other threads got immediate attention, mine wasn’t addressed right away. That’s okay though. It’s just the luck of the draw sometimes with these things. 6/10
  • Activity: Abundant! The official support forums are always bustling with activity. Which makes sense since they’re located right on WordPress.org. I only received one response but I’m not going to let that ding the forums’ score too badly here. 9/10
  • Effectiveness: The support forums as a whole are pretty dang effective. True blue experts post here all the time and collaborate on problem solving. Hot threads are particularly fun to watch as users troubleshoot together. Now regarding the effectiveness of the responses I received, I was a tad disappointed. The one response I got didn’t exactly address my question. Again, I might have just phrased it wrong or something, but I wasn’t really provided with a direct solution to the problem I had. 6/10
  • Attitude: Good for the most part. But don’t be caught posting a newbie question in the wrong place. Some folks are keen to jump all over you. Of course, the lack of patience makes sense when tons of people are posting in the wrong place or posting without searching the forum first on a daily basis. Occasional snark aside, the forums are friendly and helpful. People hang out here because they truly love WordPress. 7/10

The Verdict

I turn back to the question in the title of this post: Is the WordPress community any good? And my answer is this: Yes. Yes, it’s good.

People are passionate about this CMS, which means they love (LOVE!) to talk about it. And because they love to talk about it so much, communities develop around it to foster these discussions. Whether that’s on Twitter, a Facebook group, or even the official WordPress forums, it doesn’t matter. The discussions involve WordPress diehards who like to help out other people.

Will you run into the occasional person with an attitude or who seems to get a thrill out of making others feel inferior or dumb? Yes. But that’s true of any online community. There’s also going to be a sour apple in there somewhere. My advice? Don’t let them get to you. Rather, ask your questions*, review the feedback you receive, engage in the discussion, and thank those who took the time to help you out. Follow these instructions and you’ll reduce the likelihood of getting any flack from other developers and you’ll get the help you need.

*You should always Google your question and/or search the support forum for an answer to your question first. Failure to complete this step is a rookie mistake and will result in an (often quite curt) response that reads “There are tons of threads on this already,” or “You could easily find out how to do this by searching the web for it…” 

The aspects of the community I found to be the most helpful were the Facebook Groups. This might have just had something to do with the questions I was asking but the quickness of the responses and their quality were both head and shoulders above the other resources I put to the test. Obviously, I can’t speak for all WordPress Facebook groups here, but the two I used offered a largely positive experience.

Do you make use of the WordPress community? What has your experience been like? Did you find the help you needed or did you end up still having to figure it out for yourself? Please sound off in the comments.

Image source: Dennis Hamilton

11 Responses

  • The intention is fair, and the criteria are good, but the test lacks of datas and studies about the impact of the questions them-selves.
    Are you sure the question wasn’t to specific ? If no one feels they can answer, well, your post may not have any answer despite the activity of the community.
    Are you sure that the question was fell formated ? (especially on wordpress forum, you could have had more style for clarity).
    and are you sure your type of question cannot be answered by a simple google search ? These are questions that get ignored.

    And what about stackoverflow ?

    Your questions are fair but you can’t judge one one question per service. This is a statistics bias.

    Big datas analyses, which would handle any types of questions/users/time period, would give the best answer to your concerns :)

  • I’m quite accustomed to the WP forums, so I hope my feedback will be relevant :)

    First: you were TOO stackoverflow’ing here, not even starting with a “Hello!”.

    The presentation is also severely lacking.
    No skipping lines. No separation in chapters. Impossible to know in advance where is the “real” important thing, if i’ts in the beginning (and then quick-understanding is possible), or if we’ll have to painfully read the whole dense block of text before figuring out what it is about.

    In short, I think you’ve pushed away possible helpers, scared they’d lose time over someone who doesn’t even care about politeness (no initial greeting, forcing to read a huge threatening block of text) or who’s not internet-literate enough to know it’s better to present information in a readable manner (and in that case, it would risk to be a hopeless chore to help, quite unlike helping someone ready to work seriously on getting his problem fixed.)

    Sure, reading your post would have shown you’re worth helping, but that’s precisely where it was lacking, you’ve drastically limited the number of people who will have had the time, desire and availability to read your post.

  • I would have to second “ExtremRaym’s” comments. I also think you overlooked the vast amount of other WordPress resources that are available. Twitter and Facebook are are NOT the only kids in town. Google+ has very active and thriving communities for WordPress: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/101504763068635549461 (58K + members) is one of the largest, do a search and you will come up with about dozen other WordPress centric communities with their own flavor, some geared towards specific themes or plugins and even developers specific content.

    Now let’s also talk about many local WordPress meetup communities that also provide support to their members. I am co-organizer of a growing community – (over 1K members) http://www.meetup.com/Tampa-Bay-WordPress/ – In addition to answering question at our meetups and on the meetup forum, we also support a dedicated Facebook Group and just like WordPress.org we have recently established a series of SLACK categorizes to better interact with our community.

    Oh, and have you ever attended a WordCamp ? Talk about comradery. If you happen to be in or around Tampa Florida in September – consider this a personal invite. I am also co-organizer for WordCamp Tampa. (https://tampa.wordcamp.org/2015/)

    Now I would remiss if I did not reference the internal working of wordpress.org than ANYONE can participate in at any level. As I mentioned above, WordPres.org recently moved their chat system to SLACK for an even better integration and responsiveness to the community at large.
    https://make.wordpress.org/chat/

    You do know what SLACK is ? :)

  • When I’m responding to questions on Facebook / the forums, often I don’t put more time in it than the person who asked te question. Asking for a theme in a specific style is like asking someone else to do a google search for you. Especially if you don’t have any other requirements.

    Twitter doesn’t have the possibility to give a decent answer except for a link to something else.

    Format on the forum is also something that makes a lot of difference. The details get lost in a wall of text.

  • Hi Brenda,

    Interesting experiment you ran here, and a very good question to ponder and research. I wanted to comment however on the methodology you applied because I do not think it yielded you as effective data as you could potentially get. I am a research scientist by training, and so I understand the concepts of hypothesis testing. I am also an avid WordPress fan, and so I would love to get a more detailed answer to the very valid and interesting question you posed.

    One of the principles of hypothesis testing is that you should try to minimize the number of variables in your experiment, so that whatever differences in feedback you get from the experiment can only be attributed to an identifiable variable. In your case, you asked one question on Twitter, and then another on Facebook, and a variation of that on the WordPress support forums. So now, you cannot be sure whether the differences in the results you got were the result of the platforms you were asking the questions on (Variable #1) or because of the differences in the question you posed on the different platforms (Variable #2). So, maybe you got more responses on Facebook than on Twitter and on WordPress Forums, because the way you presented your question on Facebook made the question easier to respond to. I think you get my drift.

    I personally use the WordPress support forums whenever I get stuck on some issue. Now, you have to understand the way these forums work. The only people who will see your question, and even read your question, are (1) the forum owner (whether it be the developer of a certain plugin you are seeking support on, or a team of developers), and (2) people like you who are specifically seeking an answer to the same or similar issue you are facing. As you know, the plugins on the WordPress.org platform are free. The developers are often fully engaged in other income-generating activities (whether they be wordpress-related or completely unrelated). (3) your post on the forums may also be read by someone who randomly chances upon it, (very rare). For these reasons, responses are very slow in coming on this platform (sometimes weeks), and often, ONLY people who feel confident enough that they have an answer to your question will respond. Otherwise, your question will sit un-answered indefinitely. Nonetheless, I have found that indeed, when the answer does come, it is often very helpful, and even if not immediately so, once you do finally engage with someone, they are likely to walk with you until you both get to the answer, or as close to it as possible. This has been my experience.

    I wonder if you would be interested in doing a real study of this question again. I would be glad to help you develop the “experiment” so that the results received are fully insightful. Nonetheless, enjoyed reading your post (and tweeted it).

    Joshua
    https://www.interpolat.com

  • Another social media channel, in which to look for answers to your WordPress questions, is LinkedIn. I recently joined a WordPress group (here is the link, if you’re interested – https://www.linkedin.com/grp/home?gid=154024 ). It has over 55,000 members, although I’d say only about 20 of them are active at any given time. The members are generally quite friendly, and helpful.

  • I’ve used Stackoverflow and the WP support forums for help before, and have had such a wide variety of responses that it’s impossible to generalise… though I will. :)

    I found Stack’ to be full of self-important people who are rude, annoying and happy to spend longer asking why you want to do something than trying to help. It’s the arse factor; trolls, whatever you want to call them. That said, when someone HAS provided a response, it’s usually been truly excellent.

    The WP.org forums? That’s one weird animal. As @oliverfr mentioned above, a lot of the people who use the forum expect a whole intro, full information and an almost subservient begging approach before they will deign to answer. The funny thing is that, as someone who has published plugins there, the people who ask for help with bugs are mostly the opposite – blunt, to the point and demanding. I guess that’s just a result of having such a large user base: you see all sorts.

    The support I’ve had on WP.org has been sorely lacking, compared to Stack’. I don’t know why, but virtually every question I’ve posted on WP has had vague, mostly useless responses from people who don’t seem to know what they’re doing or the self-important idiots who point you to a function page, like you haven’t already tried to understand THAT mess before asking.

    These days, if I have a question I research answers myself. I have actually reached the point where, unless it’s a specific problem for a plugin (in which case I ask the developer), it takes less time, effort and stress to figure it out for myself. Depressing, yes, but also true.

  • There is the WordPress dedicated Stack channel http://wordpress.stackexchange.com.

    I agree it can take a few attempts at wording and structuring your questions on the rang of forums. But once you get the hang of it, it works, for you and the community helping you.

    When you really think about your question, you start learning more about what your asking, you may go google something before writing it, which leads you to the answer or at least educates you and enables you to ask a more informed question which gets you better answers!

    I don’t think any of these forums are here to give you everything in an answer so you don’t have to work anymore. Some are set up as places to report bugs, errors, give feedback and possibly give asnwers to simole questions. Others, help create discussion over code, or my favourite, nudge you in the right direction :) I’m still learning and haven’t managed to give much back yet, but I can’t wait to have the knowledge to give back to people like me who have been nudged so kindely on to the right track in these places.

    This article only speaks about some of the forum community. There are so many great tutorials out there, making the community huge! There a lot of not so good too, but if your eager to learn, you’ll find the good ones, they start to shine after a while :)

    If your not willing to put time into learning how to work with WordPress or any other development platform, asking in any forum will be a bit of drag after while. With WordPres, the community has built a plugin for your very need, so if you don’t want to spend this time, no problem. If there isn’t a plugin, there’s probably one close to what you want. Ask the developer if they’d consider developing the feature for a future up a date, you could be helping them expand their business by suggestijg the feature and if they implement it you get reward with the feature too.

    The community is an amazing one, I’m so greatful to be able to be a part of it.

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