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There are still WPSE moderators aggressively closing or down-voting WooCommerce related questions, and various (vague) guidelines claiming that is is off-topic for this community. Why?

WooCommerce is a free and open-source software, a micro-platform built on top of WordPress. It boasts a bigger market share than other fully independent FOSS products like PrestaShop, OpenCart, and Magento.

Yet, even Magento has it's own SE community.

Did it really make sense to lobby for WooCommerce to get it's own SE community too? I don't think so, since most of the questions also involve general WordPress development concepts related to hooks, filters, and the like.

Folks... WooCommerce is winning the eCommerce FOSS battle. How many years before moderators here accept that fact and realize it is a core part of the WordPress ecosystem now, for better or worse?

WooCommerce is only getting more popular, and is directly integrated with WordPress and (for the past several years) is also owned by Automattic, the same company that owns the WordPress trademark. I'm no defender of the bad faith, double-speak, and back-room deals that their company is now well known for, but "clever" moderators trying to stick it to Automattic is only sticking it to users of the software in the end and forcing them into paid support or otherwise...

TLDR I think it's time to welcome WooCommerce questions here.

Or at the very least... STOP CLOSING THEM...

Related:

Why so trigger happy on the Close button?

Woocommerce questions flooding WPSE

Make WooCommerce questions off topic

Dealing with WooThemes/Commerce Questions

Are woocommerce questions not allowed wordpress.stackexchange.com?

Is WooCommerce off topic?

So, is WooCommerce on-topic now? I'm confused

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    Currently, all 3rd party plugins are off-topic regardless of popularity. It would be unfair to allow WooCommerce based questions while closing questions for Easy Digital Downloads. This works vice-versa too. Additionally, I don't think questions regarding premium plugins or extensions ( such as WooCommerce Subscriptions ) should ever be on-topic. – Howdy_McGee Mar 5 at 15:34
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    Lets not forget that non-moderators can and do close questions, anybody with high reputation can do this, not just those with diamonds after their name – Tom J Nowell Mar 5 at 18:02
  • @Howdy_McGee So should questions about the Church of England (private org) not be allowed on the Christianity SE community? These pedantic platitudes from WPSE are exactly why Quora is winning, because year after year SE mods care more about their own personal logic than what makes sense to 99% of end users and the general public (and makes good business sense). I think ANY question related to ANY WordPress plugin should be allowed here. – Jesse Nickles Mar 5 at 18:36
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    I'm not a moderator of Christianity SE. Premium plugins and themes often make money off of their support licenses. Theme Forest is a good example of this. Not only are the authors more capable of answering questions regarding their own code, but by answering them for free here, we would be taking that opportunity from the author. We also can't expect our user-base to buy ( or have bought ) a premium plugin/theme to answer a certain question. – Howdy_McGee Mar 5 at 20:13
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    It is not moderator's "personal logic" that results in question closure. It is the will of the community as a whole. Moderators merely execute the will of the people. – Chenmunka Mar 8 at 18:18
  • Simply regurgitating the same responses from the past 7+ years is not helpful. I'm here proposing that WPSE reconsider WooCommerce, and all other WordPress plugins, as being relevant to this community. That is the purpose of the META section, I believe. – Jesse Nickles Mar 8 at 18:29
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    Bringing 3rd party plugins up for reconsideration fine to do and what Meta is for. This question doesn't address any of the "regurgitated" issues with 3rd party plugin questions and doesn't illustrate any path forward. It still leaves us at square 1. If we want to open the flood gates to all ~58,000 plugins, we need a plan to prevent the site from being bogged down with unanswerable, low-quality questions. Otherwise, my understanding is that if our answer rate drops too low, the site gets closed. Full stop. – Howdy_McGee Mar 9 at 16:02
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First let me address two points in your question that are over the line:

  1. There is no "aggressive" close voting. It's just voting, yes or no.
  2. The guidelines aren't vague. They state clearly, that "questions concerning third party plugins and themes" are off-topic.

Moderators are executing community rules, and making third-party applications off-topic was a community decision. Please don't blame us for doing our job.

The basic problem here is that if we'd make WooCommerce on-topic, we would have to be fair and make every plugin related question on-topic. And that doesn't work.
We've tried that. The vast majority of those questions never got an answer, and our answer rate went down to one of the worst in the entire Stack Exchange network. The first impression for everyone new here was that questions don't get answers. Another side effect was that regulars stopped using the site, because they were lost in that endless stream of unanswerable questions.

So if you want to make a case for changing our scope, you have to show a way to avoid the negative effects. I don't see it, but I can assure you that we, the community and the moderators, are open for new ideas.

My personal view was and is that we should have a grey area: If a question is well researched, points to the related source code and might be useful in other contexts, it should be allowed. But that's difficult to judge and it would lead to a very subjective handling of close votes. The community decided against that, and that's what we moderators have to respect.

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  • Fair enough, but I think questions regarding any WordPress plugin are on-topic, because there is no other SE community for them (nor would it make sense). The millions of users who land on these pages don't know anything about private moderator discussions, they just have questions (and answers). It's probably a bigger discussion to be had, but I think SE needs to start breaking down some of the barriers they've created with all these subdomains and walled gardens. If the concern is SEO than take a page from Quora and noindex unanswered questions? – Jesse Nickles Mar 5 at 18:41
  • @JesseNickles Right now, they are off-topic. If you want to change that, propose a new scope, and address the issues we had in the past. This is not about SEO, moderators or other sites in the SE network. It's only about what the community wants. – fuxia Mar 5 at 20:56
  • Thanks for your explanation. I'm just not sure why moderators are preoccupied with being "fair" when the entire point of SE is that only certain (popular) communities get approved in the first place. If Magento deserves a community, than WooCommerce surely does too. And it doesn't make sense to split WooCommerce off from the WordPress community IMHO. The constant stream of questions on WPSE related to WooCommerce prove that the plebs want (and expect) help with WooCommerce here. Anyway, I think it more comes down to better "messaging" in the end... – Jesse Nickles Mar 10 at 18:07
  • @JesseNickles I don't feel they are preoccupied with "being fair." It's a matter of what works best for the community, and opening the flood gates to calling all plugins on topic nearly destroyed the site. Consistency is easily enforceable, and becomes paramount when community-moderated content is involved. Creating an exception for a single popular product will lead to confusion for end-users and a huge slew of "why isn't this other popular product on-topic if WooCommerce is?" questions down the road. There are far fewer people who can answer a question about a specific product then core WP. – bosco Jun 10 at 23:08
  • @bosco Unfortunately, there's not a single respond here that is not pedantic. If we want to be pragmatic, launch a poll, and the matter will be concluded quickly as the vast majority of users agree with this approach (it has come up often). – Jesse Nickles Jun 11 at 1:41
  • Perhaps, but I do not consider the vast majority of users' opinion to be of value. If they cannot bother to read the rules then I do not trust that their opinion remotely has the best interests of the community in mind. I would invest in the opinions of the 3k users with 250+ rep, as they at least have some idea of what this site actually is, and have at some point bothered to engage with it. In any scenario, a proposal to trial bringing plugins on-topic is on the table [answer:25324]. The counterweight is increasing the bar for a quality question. – bosco Jun 11 at 1:50
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WooCommerce is only getting more popular, and is directly integrated with WordPress and (for the past several years) is also owned by Automattic, the same company that owns the WordPress trademark. I'm no defender of the bad faith, double-speak, and back-room deals that their company is now well known for, but "clever" moderators trying to stick it to Automattic is only sticking it to users of the software in the end and forcing them into paid support or otherwise...

As a former employee of Automattic of 5 years, I can categorically and definitively say this is incorrect.

  1. Automattic is a 3rd party, it is not a 1st party.
  2. WooCommerce is 3rd party, it is not 1st party just because Automattic owns it
  3. WordPress.org and the opensource project are not Automattic products. Automattic does not maintain and release WordPress.
  4. I and other moderators are not sticking it to Automattic. Most of my time here as a moderator I was employed by them.
  5. 1st party plugins and themes are on topic, e.g. twentytwenty, the Gutenberg plugin, feature plugins, etc

Believe me things would have been so much easier for the people at Automattic if this was all true. I can think of many occasions when WordPress releases disrupted internal Automattic development, and you can see some ugly hacks around the block editor to get custom blocks working with wordpress.com in the Jetpack plugin if you don't believe me.

Sure there are conflicts of interest, but that doesn't make Automattic 1st party, and it doesn't give their plugins a free hall pass. For example, if WooCommerce is considered 1st party, then so is Jetpack, and so is the WordPress.com VIP Platform library! Would you consider a question about photon image handling in VIP to be a general WordPress question?

WooCommerce has .org forums for free support, they have paid support, facebook groups, conferences, monthly user groups, etc etc. Just because it's popular doesn't mean we should include it in our scope. So we aren't pushing people to paid support.

And as long as it is outside the scope of this stack, it will be off topic. Otherwise nobody has given a good argument for why it should be included, other than it's popular, and it would be convenient to them personally.

If you want WooCommerce questions on stack exchange, you have 2 options:

  • StackOverflow
  • starting a new WooCommerce stack on Area51

A while back people tried to create a WooCommerce stack, and we as a community tried to raise awareness and support it. However, it didn't have enough people answering questions, so it failed to graduate.

At the end of the day, it is not the moderators that decide the rules here, it is the community. The community voted us in, the community set the scope long before I and the other mods came here, and the community continues to downvote and close WooCommerce questions.

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This might get downvoted but I'm with you on this one. It was not all that long ago that I put out feelers to give BuddyPress/BuddyBoss its own SO for similar reasons. Prior to Tom's answer, I pretty much saw Automatic as synonymous with WordPress. I imagine others might have that view as well.

Regardless of pedigree, WooCommerce, BuddyPress, BBPress, and others have a more natural home here than anywhere else. Assuming we differentiate between development and support questions I do not see why they cannot be adopted here.

I am broadly in support of Jesse Nickles' first suggestion - selectively open up WPSO to WooCommerce. Especially if we are willing to take the time to build really solid and worthwhile resources. Perhaps as community wiki QnAs (more on that in a moment).

Might I suggest that we go further and also consider other framework-like and widely developed with plugins (such as BuddyPress and BBPress) for trial inclusion too? Perhaps maintaining a shortlist of topic areas to experimentally expand into in the near future. This way we could nurture potential new WordPress developers and grow our community.

The past seems to still remain starkly in the mind of longer serving members. I am aware of the history of this community and how badly things went the first time. And I can see why there might be a sense of once bitten twice shy. However, Falling down is no reason not to get back up and try again - slightly older and slightly wiser.

I, for one, am willing to invest time learning WooCommerce (which I have never used) and BuddyPress (which I have begun developing with) in order to be able to offer new users quality development answers.

Perhaps, what we need to do is to sharply differentiate between development questions (as always on-topic) and support questions (always off-topic).

This brings me to my next point - beefy answers to thin questions. I came here today to suggest that we community wiki some QnAs. This one might be a perfect example case for doing so. It might be the ideal way to turn otherwise thin content into teachable and informative content. It is quite likely that two or more thin questions with thin answers could be combined into a beefier question and answer in community wiki form.

After all, SO is - effectively - an FAQ written large. So why not create some common questions and answers (as a community wiki) either on Meta or even on the main WPSO? For example, "who makes WordPress?" and "Does Automatic own WordPress?" - stuff we can point new users to.

Other example questions to wiki might be:

  • Where can I bug report ___________?
  • What is the first point of support for ______________?
  • Where is the documentation for ____________?

Such questions could be used to point new users who ask support questions, plugin recommendation questions, and other clearly off-topic-but-touching-on-WordPress questions to resources that can help them.

Perhaps we can turn our current model of, "no, no, no, and also no" into, "I think you might be looking for this...".

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    "Perhaps, what we need to do is to sharply differentiate between development questions (as always on-topic) and support questions (always off-topic)." ... one could argue this is all that's ever been needed here, really. I think more than anything, the problem is a UI and messaging problem, not a subject matter problem. The walled garden approach of SE is fine if moderators are given control over settings and messaging, but if they're not, an "anything goes" approach like Quora is all that makes sense, subdomains be damned. – Jesse Nickles Mar 10 at 7:42
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    "Perhaps, what we need to do is to sharply differentiate between development questions (as always on-topic) and support questions (always off-topic)." I like this idea. – Antti Koskinen Mar 19 at 15:37
  • I feel the line between a "support question" and a "development question" is very blurry... beyond that I would argue at face value our site's scope does encompass some degree of "support questions" in the sense of using/administering WordPress installations in addition to developing on/for them. I do not feel abstracting a subset of topicality criteria into new terms could work any better than simply presenting the original criteria. But maybe I'm missing the point. Drafting proposed criteria for classifying "development"/"support" questions would go a long way towards illustrating the point – bosco Jun 11 at 5:20
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Interesting proposal, Jesse -- thanks for participating here at WPSE Meta, and for trying to make Stack Exchange a more holistic and useful platform to millions of users around the world.

You're right, WooCommerce is increasingly synonymous with WordPress these days, and this is becoming more true with every passing year. The market share of WooCommerce is larger than competing FOSS software products, like Magento, which has it's own SE community already.

It is clear from the hundreds of WooCommerce questions posted to this community every month that the vast majority of users believe that it is both on-topic and allowed; these users don't know (or care) about the politics involving Automattic or the private discussions between moderators and high-reputation SE users, they only know that SE is an (allegedly) open platform to ask questions -- and receive answers.

By down-voting or closing such questions, which are often posted by new users, it is not only making those pages lower quality than if we kept them open (i.e. thinner content), but it also confuses and offends many of those users as well, meaning that they might not come back to SE again.

Indeed, perhaps it is time to consider a more pragmatic approach and let the "data" speak for itself. There are hundreds of WooCommerce questions being asked here every month, so clearly there is increasing demand for these discussions to be honored. By welcome these discussions, WPSE could not only establish itself as a more progressive community, but also grow their long-term traffic tremendously, resulting in potential corporate sponsorship or other business opportunities down the road, which in turn could feed back into supporting the success and growth of SE as a whole...

In order to address previous concerns, this shift could be rolled out as follows:

  1. Only allow WooCommerce questions for now. As many moderators are concerned about a surge of unanswered questions, yet paying heed to the fact that WooCommerce is truly a "WordPress plugin apart from other plugins", it would make sense to allow WooCommerce discussions without (yet) allowing questions regarding other third-party plugins (see above justification). Like @s1lv3r and @fuxia answered previously, it is more an issue of moderating "quality" questions than subject matter censorship. This is true whether or not WooCommerce questions are officially allowed here, and the questions keep rolling in regardless... so perhaps a simple policy change is enough to try this out. All that needs to happen is for high-rep users to stop down-voting and closing otherwise "good" Woo questions. If there is push-back from e.g. other third party plugins, all the better -- simply tell them we'd love to allow questions about more plugins but need to ensure there are enough interested users to answer them. Wink ;)

  2. Make the rules easier to find. Even as someone who is probably more tech-savvy than average, I still don't know where to look for the "rules" of WPSE at first glance, so I can't imagine the thousands of other users who land here from search engines understand the rules either. This might require cooperation from the SE suits upstairs, but making WPSE slightly more friendly and informative could go a very long way in improving the quality and relevance of new questions here.

  3. Conditionally noindex new questions. I realize this is not Quora and we don't have a thousand new questions each day like "Who is the best dentist in Kalamazoo, Michigan?" but if thin content is a big concern at WPSE than I think the SE suits need to consider this option seriously. Perhaps not ALL new questions should be noindexed, but maybe new questions that are less than 100 characters of content or something should be noindexed by default. Perhaps WPSE moderators could even be given control over those conditions... like noindexing (or put into review queue) any questions that contain low quality terms like "cPanel" or "change the color" etc. Alternatively, SE could consider better messaging on the new question prompts, like "Wow, your question is very short... can you make it longer?"

Ultimately, Jesse, it would be easier if Stack Exchange just hired you as VP of Product Management since this points to systemic usability (and SEO) issues across the platform, but barring that I think a few small changes to WPSE guidelines and the user interface might work wonders.

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    Thanks for putting this together! I personally don't think it's fair to play favorites on which plugins are on/off-topic. I don't think it's fair to tell developers that their plugin is off-topic because their plugin is not popular enough. A more fair approach may be to define a question by its subject and overall quality. – Howdy_McGee Mar 10 at 17:20
  • @Howdy_McGee It's clear the vast majority of users disagree with your opinion, though, which is why the WooCommerce questions keep being posted. As per your previous post, "At the end of the day, it is not the moderators that decide the rules here, it is the community" which is why I don't think the personal opinions of a few long-time moderators are very relevant to this proposal, to be honest... the community data speaks for itself. – Jesse Nickles Mar 10 at 17:53
  • I'd wager the majority of the people who often answer and handle the queues are on the same page as Howdy. Users who ignore or don't bother to read the site rules then post an off-topic question do not constitute meaningful anecdotes, in my book. If they actually care about the site, they can and should add their voice to the conversation - the core of the community is the people who speak and engage, not those who post an off-topic question then leave. But really nothing new has been brought to the discussion here - I see nothing that would make a new trial turn out differently than the last. – bosco Jun 10 at 23:41
  • @bosco Just more of the same comments. My answer already addresses this, in that the UI must better explain the rules to users, etc. – Jesse Nickles Jun 11 at 1:42
  • And I maintain that doing so will have little to no impact. Users are already very prevalently presented with what is on and off topic when they first join the site. If you would like to mock up specific UI improvements for consideration I might come to see what you're saying a little better. But simply saying "better UI" is not something that I can tangibly wrap my head around. – bosco Jun 11 at 1:55

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