Filling potholes on the road to hell

Some of the WordPress guys are floating the notion of “canonical” plugins:

Canonical plugins would be plugins that are community developed (multiple developers, not just one person) and address the most popular functionality requests with superlative execution. These plugins would be GPL and live in the repo, and would be developed in close connection with WordPress core. There would be a very strong relationship between core and these plugins that ensured that a) the plugin code would be secure and the best possible example of coding standards, and b) that new versions of WordPress would be tested against these plugins prior to release to ensure compatibility. There would be a screen within the Plugins section of the WordPress admin to feature these canonical plugins as a kind of Editor’s Choice or Verified guarantee. These plugins would be a true extension of core WordPress in terms of compatibility, security and support.

If that’s the objective, why not just incorporate them into the core and be done with it? Because if you have government-approved canonical and non-canonical plugins, J. Random User is simply going to assume that canonical is better, whether it is or not:

When only 75% of users at a WordCamp are using the latest versions, we have a problem. Using a simple extrapolation — of course, not a statistically perfect method — of that number, assume 15% of the market is running outdated, insecure versions of the software. That’s a huge problem, considering the number of WordPress blogs out there. While I strongly believe that it’s one’s responsibility to maintain and update a site, that assumed number is that of irresponsible blog-owners who present a danger not just to the reputation of the WordPress community but to the general online health of all online people.

These same lazy people are the ones who won’t be bothered to pick a plugin based on how it performs. They’ll reach for the closest solution accessible and go with it. In today’s plugin/theme marketplace, the market leaders may not be the best of best of the very darned best, but they come close. In tomorrow’s canonical marketplace, the majority of users won’t be bothered to move beyond that which is canonical. Why would they, when those selfsame plugins and themes carry not just the approval that a theme is safe, but that it’s endorsed by and is considered “official” by the WordPress leadership itself?

But … but … their intentions are good!

This whole we-know-better-than-you-do attitude pervades every aspect of contemporary culture and most aspects of contemporary American politics. If you don’t consider it insulting, I suggest that you aren’t paying enough attention.


  1. Charles Pergiel »

    12 January 2010 · 2:13 am

    What planet are these guys from? Oh, I know! They’re from I-apply-all-the-recommended-updates-every-morning-as-soon-as-I-get-to-work planet. Nutballs. Ain’t they never heard “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? I mean if a software package was good enough to be released in the first place, it’s good enough to leave alone, unless you have some sort of real problem, like it won’t run. I finally installed SP2 on my XP box last year in order to install some free Microsoft crap, and I really regret it. Now every time something goes wrong I think “if only I hadn’t installed that SP2 crap”.

  2. CGHill »

    12 January 2010 · 7:44 am

    More likely the fault of that “free Microsoft crap” rather than of SP2. I’ve even installed XP3 with no ill effects.

    But Redmond enrolls you in the Patch of the Week Club because Windows has more holes in it than the Albert Hall, and people keep, well, finding them. WordPress is no different.

  3. unimpressed »

    12 January 2010 · 7:22 pm

    Way back, I -had- to install SP2 since I hadn’t realized until after I bought the 200G hard drive and installed it that XP wouldn’t access more than 137G without it. There were zero issues with the patch.

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