Hackadelic Rules Of Support

Bat PhoneI develop and maintain a growing collection of some pretty cool free WordPress plugins, and naturally, people frequently ask for all kind of support. On this page, I’d like to outline the rules under which I am or am not providing support.

Generally, the usual rules for free software apply: The plugins are free in all respects, which also means they are support-free, too. 😉

Or to put it another way:  The code is free, but my support is not.

That said, I have more than proved myself supportive in the past, and I will continue to help within certain limits. But time is limited, and we all have to constrain and filter what we do, and what we drop. Here are some rules that I roughly apply to filter support inquiries:

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How to definitely disqualify for support

I thought I’d start with some things that would certainly kick you off my agenda:

RulesUnfair Use. If I think you are not making a fair use of my plugin, I will not respond. This particularly includes unauthorized removal of signatures and credits from the plugin code. It also includes cases when you are apparently using a plugin in a for-money project, but you offer no counter-value for my help whatsoever.1 If my support is worth nothing to you, while you do make money with my code, I will not give your inquiry any consideration.  (See also “What is Open Source Worth To You?“)

Modifed/forked Code. It is time-consuming enough to maintain the main code base. I have no time to invest into guessing what might be wrong with code modified elsewhere. (Note though that this does not refer to modifications that you submit and I integrate back into the code base. Also, it may dramatically change my mind if you would provide adequate credits to me from you project, or partner with me on it.)

Be rude. One might think this is needless to say, but from time to time I do get posts with inappropriate tone. What is needless to say is that they go straight to the trash can without a second thought.

How to reduce your chances to get support

There are some things that you can do that won’t necessarily get you immediately off my agenda, but they would certainly push you near the end of the line. (OK, it’s just one thing for now, but others may follow.)

Pretend it was my obligation to handle your problem. Though it rarely happens, there have been some fellows who showed up here with an attitude as if I would exist to fulfill their wishes. Well I’m not. And the only reason why this point is here, and not on the above list, is that I acknowledge the potential for misunderstandings between different cultures.

How to qualify for support

Donate. Money helps sustain my ongoing efforts, but moreover, a donation shows clearly your appreciation of my work. Appreciation makes me feel good. It will make me like you, and make me want to help you. 😉

Reciprocity. Balance is an all-encompassing principle. Give me the feeling that if I helped you, you are willing to return the favor, and you will greatly increase your chances for a competent and timely response.

Conciseness. Show appreciation of my time. Formulate your question/issue as precisely as possible, while keeping it as succinct as you can. Provide all the facts, so I don’t have to guess. As a bare minimum, provide the plugin and WP version, the URL where your issue manifests, and the browser(s) (including their version number) it manifests on.

Read before you post. Don’t make me repeat myself, or spend precious life time reading the same issue over and again that has been long resolved. There is a search box that you can use to search the site, including comments, for keywords related to your issue. So use it.

Broader Benefit. If I find solving an issue will have benefit for the plugin in general, and hence for many other users out there, I will give it more priority.

Fun. This is not exactly something you can control, but I’m mentioning it for completeness: I (like everybody else) prefer to spend my time with matters that are fun, interesting and challenging rather than with those that are not. So all other things being equal, I will give preference to inquiries that seem to me more fun to work on.

  1. Note that it does not always have to be money that you offer in return. It may be exchange of services, or any other favor. But I do expect a clear sign that you are aware my support costs time and effort that you appreciate. []