Reference these search results:

While admitting up-front that this isn't a huge problem, it is a bit of a pet peeve. Users asking for solutions "without a Plugin" introduce an arbitrary and unnecessary constraint to potential solutions. Also, such a request belies a fundamental lack of understanding about what a Plugin is, how the WordPress Plugin API works, and how, at the filter/action hook level, a Theme is fundamentally interchangeable with a Plugin.

Would it be worthwhile to add something to our FAQ about not asking for solutions "without a plugin"?

(Bear in mind: I'm also the one who previously suggested that we discourage answers that consisted of nothing more than a mere Plugin recommendation. The end goal here is building a body of knowledge and reference code/material.)


3 Answers 3


I don’t see what we can do in these cases: Closing a question which is okay in all other aspects would be too drastic, and editing it out would change the meaning too much.

My recommendation: Answer the question, ignore the “without a plugin” part. Our answers are never written just for the asker (that would be “too localized”), they are for all readers. A positive example is better than prohibition.

  • Out of curiosity: what is wrong with editing the question to remove the "without a plugin" constraint? Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 22:48
  • Only the asker knows if it is necessary in the actual situation (for example a client requirement). We should not introduce new norms for what is allowed to say.
    – fuxia Mod
    Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 23:08
  • But in that scenario (a client requirement limiting the solution to use/non-use of a plugin), the question would fall under too localized. Commented Nov 18, 2012 at 2:03
  • If the problem and its solution are useful for other readers the question is not too localized.
    – fuxia Mod
    Commented Nov 18, 2012 at 2:16
  • "If the problem and its solution are useful for other readers the question is not too localized." With all due respect, that's not the criterion for a question being too localized. As per the FAQ, a question is too localized if it is "unlikely to help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet." I think it behooves us to try to define the line for being too localized, rather than just to pretend that the line doesn't exist. Commented Nov 18, 2012 at 2:22
  • I was talking about the solution that ignores the “without a plugin” part. If that can help future visitors (== useful), the question is not too localized. At least, I would not close it as such with mod powers.
    – fuxia Mod
    Commented Nov 18, 2012 at 2:38

This is a good point you raise that has some additional story behind it.

I agree with you that there is a general misconception that surrounds exactly what a plugin is and how they are not that different than a solution without a plugin that might find its way into your standard functions.php file.

The whole "without-a-plugin" phrase, phenomena has its origins in search engines where often people who want either,

  • a quick copypasta solution
  • to learn about how to perform a specific action** (a tutorial if you will)

...and or think,

  • too many plugins slow down your site (my friend told me) so give me some copypasta.. ya mun!

...but have to wade through page after page of search results that return more often than not a solution to your request in the form of a plugin.

Its also a misconception that "too many plugins slow down your site". That's simply not true by default. Bad or unoptimized code is what will make your site perform poorly regardless of whether it was in your theme or in your plugin directory.

Further to that point, people who don't code for living tend to install more plugins than those of us that do. This compounds the issue by creating a situation where a user has umpteen plugins installed, from as many authors, all of which with different degrees of code-quality that can result in poor performance. This then feeds the myth that too many plugins are a bad thing.

What we get in return is {something here} without a plugin but for which there could be more than one intent behind the question as shown, although more often than not if you're phrasing your question that way on WPSE then you probably lack the understanding surrounding the Plugin API and the API in general.

I see the issue as being Misconception born out of Miseducation

Who's fault is that?

Is it the people promoting information that's often second hand "I heard it from such and such so I'll repeat it here, there and everywhere, as if its the truth" or is the professionals like you? (I'm not professional so I'm excluded)

Only kiddin...

I don't mean YOU (Chip) in the literal sense either, I mean it generally as in US, the ones that do know (for the most part) right from wrong.

The fact that there is little consistency in where and how to refer to what is standard and best practice concerning WordPress is the reason why there are a lot of bad themes and plugins out there to begin with. The same principal extends itself to this very topic that you raise, its all relative.

It all comes back to miseducation.

What we need?

Instead of adding something to our FAQ that is about,

not asking for solutions "without a plugin"?

I recommend adding something to our FAQ or more appropriately a link from within our FAQ to a wiki reference or external article reference that explains the concept of the Plugin API and how that asking questions that are phrased with the term "without a plugin" are not necessarily the right kind of question to be asking and provide adequate reasons as to why that's the case and how that solution itself should be about the resulting code, its efficiency and overall quality and adherence to standards and best practices.

That then is aimed at making the whole notion of "without a plugin" moot.

Otherwise we run the risk of not being able to ask anything at all if the following were true,

  • Plugin recommendation questions are off-topic
  • Plugin recommendations as a one-line or shallow answer are not encouraged
  • Questions for recommending solutions without-a-plugin are not allowed

You state,

The end goal here is building a body of knowledge and reference code/material.

Fully agree. WPSE is a wealth of knowledge, its an invaluable resource however it lacks resources that allow for technical posts that are designed to educate by way of theory, simply because its not a question-answer, so you can't exactly go create a question that provides the "why" behind the "how" that is the basis for these misconceptions in the first place.

So my question now is where and how do we go about providing supporting information that we can refer these questions to in support, along with the answers we provide, that help to further educate people about what Plugins really are and begin to have a positive impact in reversing this miseducated state of being that is spread through the WordPress community as a whole?

WPSE being a centralized body of knowledge is one of the perfect places to have these supporting references.

  • 2
    The best place to host these arguments is our main site. I just asked that question.
    – fuxia Mod
    Commented Nov 18, 2012 at 10:52
  • @toscho Ok good, that should now attract some well thought responses that we can act as the reference we point to for this very topic.
    – Adam
    Commented Nov 18, 2012 at 10:56
  • You really get close to the sentiment behind my original question. The ultimate point isn't about asking for solutions constrained either to use or not to use a Plugin, but rather to recognize that the constraint itself is arbitrary, unnecessary, and too localized. WPSE exists to build a body of knowledge, and a body of real solutions to real problems. Both "I need to accomplish X without a Plugin" and "What are the best Plugins for X" fail to meet that objective, because they artificially limit the amount of knowledge that can be included in the proposed solutions. Commented Nov 20, 2012 at 13:05

Let's compare these requests:

  • Without a plugin please!

  • I would like answer, explaining internal code mechanics of this.

  • I had seen plugin accomplishing this, but have trouble following its code and would like it explained.

  • and so on...

The problem is - they are essentially same in what they ask for technically. They only differ in motivation for the request. It is complicated thing to make a rule to discern requests that differ by motivation but not actual form.

Yes, it is tad annoying. However neither major issue or trivial to address.

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