It seems that we as the WPSE community haven't yet drawn a clear line of distinction regarding appropriate level of support questions for specific Plugins/Themes/etc.

The reason that I ask now is that one particular, new user seems to be using WPSE as an adjunct support forum for a specific Plugin - and a Plugin for which the developer maintains an active support forum.

I can understand asking one such, particularly difficult question; but this user has asked about a half-dozen such questions, which seems rather excessive to me.

So, what do you think? Should WPSE be providing Theme/Plugin-specific support? Should we provide this support whether or not the Plugin/Theme developer provides an active support forum? Should we limit the scope of such support to "beyond-the-FAQ" type issues?

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  • Could you add a link, so the discussion has a real world example? Thanks. – kaiser Jun 14 '11 at 18:44
  • Posted in a comment below. Note that this user has asked at least a couple of other questions about the Plugin, without directly referencing it. So, give or take: half a dozen specific-Plugin questions in about a week or so. – Chip Bennett Jun 14 '11 at 18:47
  • Currently there are exactly 8 Q (if I didn't miss one) in one month. So it's about 2 per week. If we got 4 more people like him, then we will have a daily flood of too specific Qs. Now I understand your worry. – kaiser Jun 14 '11 at 18:56

Our official position:

Is it okay to use Stack Overflow as the support forum for a product or project?

I think this idea of using Stack Overflow as an official support forum is inside-out : the community has to adopt the project, find it of interest, and talk about it on the site.

Pushing to one particular destination from inside the project feels like forcing a fit for the community rather than letting one organically evolve.

One way is as you saw with Subsonic -- where they simply provide a single link to Stack Overflow among other links of places people can go to discuss Subsonic. I think that's an OK nudge and if you want to seed it with questions yourself, that's fine too.

But outsourcing your forums or support to Stack Overflow alone is abusive and definitely frowned upon.

You can substitute "Stack Overflow" with any SE site there, though it's up to you guys to decide the line for plugins here.

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    I think this question is not as much about developers pushing their users here, as about users coming here instead of coming to developers. And as per my answer I think that if users (on their own initiative) choose to ask here and it is in WP scope than there seems to be no reason to fight that. – Rarst Jun 16 '11 at 14:37

As long as other people can learn from the answers I don’t see any reason to forbid these questions.
Don’t forget that questions are editable. If a question is too narrow – rewrite or ignore it. If the user doesn’t get a good answer he’ll go to the regular support forum anyway.

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  • I guess the "attack vector" is Support Forum > WPSE... – kaiser Jun 14 '11 at 14:07

If it is in scope for WPSE why should it matter if there are other support venues for it?

We don't care that there are active wordpress.org support forums, why special treatment for other kinds of support resources?

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    Why should we care? Because excessive use of WPSE as a Theme- or Plugin-specific support forum will dilute the questions (and therefore, answers) for more universally beneficial, or for more technically advanced, topics. – Chip Bennett Jun 14 '11 at 13:56
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    @chip I haven't noticed anything excessive, and I'm fairly sensitive to this. Flag or downvote anything you don't like, but if your concern is one of site quality, I'd suggest there are more pressing concerns. – anu Jun 14 '11 at 14:02
  • See here, for example. And the user has posted at least one or two other questions related to the same Plugin - all within a very short time period. I've not flagged or downvoted anything, because we don't have an established community consensus upon which to base such actions, which is why I've posed the question. If such questions are acceptable, I don't want to flag/downvote them. – Chip Bennett Jun 14 '11 at 15:15
  • @Chip Bennett I agree with spartacus above, it's not an issue at moment and it only might become one if plugin-specific stuff grows faster than generic - something that I don't observe happening. – Rarst Jun 14 '11 at 16:03
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    @chip - You don't need a community decision before you downvote - one of the principles of crowdsourcing is that actors should be independent. – anu Jun 14 '11 at 16:32
  • @Rarst shouldn't we establish community standards before an issue develops? Why wait until a problem arises before we even discuss how we define and deal with it? – Chip Bennett Jun 14 '11 at 17:48
  • @spartacus if the WPSE community is fine with a question that I might not otherwise think appropriate, I'm not going to downvote it. I'll just ignore it. I don't see downvoting as appropriate in that situation. – Chip Bennett Jun 14 '11 at 17:49
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    @Chip Bennett Voting is expression of your personal opinion and should be exercised whenever you feel it is needed. Community moderating is being composed from voting, not the other way around. There is no mythical invisible hand of community that instructs when you should and should not vote. – Rarst Jun 14 '11 at 18:28
  • Another reason not to downvote such things too often: it costs reputation. One-off instances are one thing; but if the site is flooded with such questions, it just becomes a matter of throwing rep points away. Better, IMHO, to establish a community standard, and to act according to such standard. – Chip Bennett Jun 16 '11 at 16:03
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    @Chip Bennett since recently downvoting questions does not cost reputation. – Rarst Jun 16 '11 at 16:14
  • So, it is only downvoting answers that costs rep points? Good to know! – Chip Bennett Jun 16 '11 at 16:25

I vote to allow all plugin and theme support questions here. There more questions about plugins and themes, the more people will ask questions about themes and plugins, and the more likely vendors will come here too.

See this meta question where some of us are actually advocated that we solicit vendors to provide support here:

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  • I still think that this route would dilute WPSE. Do you see the level of typical Plugin support question on the WPORG forums? Do we really want to inundate WPSE with FAQ-level questions, and bug reports? – Chip Bennett Jun 15 '11 at 13:11
  • @Chip Bennett - I definitely don't want to see bug reports; they should be left to the vendor's site. But I think it would be good to have lots of technical "How To" questions about WordPress plugins. – MikeSchinkel Jun 16 '11 at 5:47
  • So, at least we agree that there should be some sort of line, and therefore giving me a modicum of confidence that I wasn't totally crazy in posing the question. :) – Chip Bennett Jun 16 '11 at 12:19
  • Also, would you modify this answer, based on your recent update in the linked Meta Question, regarding specific types of questions? – Chip Bennett Jun 16 '11 at 12:26

Imo the rout the Questioner comes is from the Support Forumo to WPSE. The reasons might be that the author is too slow (everybody is impatient), currently not available or no other user wants to help imediately.

I understand the argument @Rarst brought into the discussion:

We don't care that there are active wordpress.org support forums, why special treatment for other kinds of support resources?

My reasons against this:

  1. We make the life of the plugin/theme author much harder. Most already have a problem to bundle all their support venues.
  2. We help spreading the knowledge to different places, so people who search later will have to search the web first and take what they stumble upon. So we help avoiding that people can be sure that they checked all support venues.
  3. A lot of plugins/themes authors stop development after a while and we got a database filled up with stuff that's not relevant anymore.
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    I agree with point 1 here. As a plugin author I'd prefer that my users would stick to using the support forum provided by wordpress. That way I have one place to check and also I can sign up to the RSS feed to keep up to date on new issues. If the users start using other venues then they are not going to get my support. – Scott Jun 14 '11 at 15:28
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    My personal assumptions/biases: 1) I approach WPSE with the desire to help users find the best answers to their questions, and 2) for Plugins or Themes, there is no better resource for such answers, than the developer himself. WordPress itself is a community project (on various levels), but specific Themes and Plugins certainly are not. Thus, the crowd-sourcing that works so well for solving WordPress issues won't necessarily work for providing support for specific Plugins/Themes. So, it is possible that WPSE might not be the best venue for such support questions. – Chip Bennett Jun 14 '11 at 15:54
  • @Brady as developer you are free to designate how to provide support, however I do not see why WPSE should be bound in any way by that decision. If user chooses to ignore your support options and prefer asking at WPSE I do not see why should he be denied answer. – Rarst Jun 14 '11 at 16:06
  • @Rarst I'm not saying they should be denied an answer here, I'm saying they would be denied an answer from me unless they used the support channels I had designated. – Scott Jun 14 '11 at 16:12
  • @Chip Bennett won't necessarily work is perfectly fine, won't necessarily work, so should be forbidden is not. – Rarst Jun 14 '11 at 16:18
  • @Brady sure and it's between you and your users, no reason for WPSE to account for such in its rules. – Rarst Jun 14 '11 at 16:19
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    @Rarst so then, where should the line be, with respect to user-specific questions - and especially, user-specific questions regarding Plugins or Themes? I've seen WPSE questions closed as being too specific to the user. – Chip Bennett Jun 14 '11 at 17:59
  • @Chip Bennett well, you've nailed it there - too specific to the user. If question won't possibly help anyone else ever then it is overly localized and often closed as such. It has little to do with plugins/theme, generic WP questions can easily be such as well (hey, I did this stupid thing and broke something, etc). – Rarst Jun 14 '11 at 18:24
  • @Rarst So the Q is ok until it deals with plugin/theme specific code? Or are you saying: It's ok (not too specific) until the user asks for a) a plugin/theme that's not "TwentyTen/Eleven" or "Akismet"/"Hello Dolly" & (incl.) b) that's not about the general/by the author intended usecase? – kaiser Jun 14 '11 at 18:48
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    @kaiser question is ok until it is not. :) Typical it-is-not cases are quite nicely described when you vote to close something: duplicate, off topic, subjective, not question, too localized. – Rarst Jun 14 '11 at 18:54
  • @Rarst I guess @Chip Bennet is talking about this flag [it needs ♦ moderator attention > other] :) – kaiser Jun 14 '11 at 19:00
  • @kaiser those flags are mostly for cases when things gets seriously nasty (spam, insults, etc) and you need moderator there, making and enforcing harsh decisions. – Rarst Jun 14 '11 at 19:08

Maybe I'm wrong but it seems like plugin/theme specific questions often require specific knowledge of that particular code, which is usually outside the WordPress base, they go unanswered and that might degrade the quality of the site?

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  • Sadly we have enough WP-generic unanswered question for this to not be an issue. – Rarst Jun 22 '11 at 20:37

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