Banned from WordPress.org

Banned from WordPress.org Forums

Banned from WordPress.orgBanned from WordPress.org Forums! It seems I have landed into #WPDrama of my own finally after 9 years of WordPress. What happened? How did I get into such a mess? Well it seems I had thought I could do something and was wrong and I was properly dealt with at least as far as Jan Dembowski is concerned and he has washed his hands of my case as you can read below.

First some background on the issue.

As many of you know I have been doing a podcast the WP Plugins A to Z show for over 8 years now. Weekly reviews of WordPress plugins my thoughts about them and for 6 of those years I had a co-host Marcus Couch so his thoughts also. I had believed it would be a good idea to start placing those reviews into the WordPress.org forums so people could know about them. I was also linking back to the show in which the review was made so they could get more information. Seemed reasonable to me. I was wrong..

Banned from WordPress.org Forums! It seems I have landed into #WPDrama of my own. What happened? How did I get into such a mess? Click To Tweet

I do not log into my WordPress.org account very often usually every couple months, or so I thought (turns out it was often longer) it seems it had been 5 months since my last login. I went to login and my account was deactivated. Initially I had no idea why but I soon began to suspect why. As you will see in the email thread with Jan Dembowski, I would be enlightened and reprimanded for my BAD behavior. I would try to get back my account and be properly contrite but in the end after accepting responsibility for my wrongs and promising not to do it again and calling him out on his behavior, and I was left in a banned state and I would have to appeal to another volunteer moderator for my case.

Please leave comments on this and visit my YouTube channel for more.

The full Email Thread between John Overall and Jan Dembroski

The emails in order

****

It started with this when I went to log into my account which I had not done in a while had had thought a couple months but well it was longer as you will see.

I started with this ****

Hello,

I have a pretty old account Username “SirDragonlord” that was using

email dragon @smartbomb.ca I went to log into the account today and it

has been a couple months since I last used it but it shows it has been

disabled no understanding why.

I started to create a new account to post in the forum using this

email john@ wppro.ca when I found a thread that said I should write here.

********

I got back this:

Hi!

You were blocked for spamming. It’s been 5 months since you were blocked and I’ve blocked your new account as well.

https://wordpress.org/support/users/ahkonsu/

https://wordpress.org/support/users/sirdragonlord

Here’s why: you spammed the reviews. Egregiously (I use that word a lot lately).

You kept leaving reviews with links to your real review on your site. You did that 31 times and you were asked by moderators to stop doing that. You ignored those emails and all 31 reviews were archived and your account was banned for spamming.

Jan Dembowski

***** Ok, I can accept that and I was wrong for not know the rules, but the bit of snark at one point did not seem warranted and it seemed a bit heavy handed on another. I thought, well I did make a mistake. So I would try to make it better and I sent off the following: **********

Hi Jan,

Amazing how time flies, I had not realized it had been 5 months since I last logged in.

Interestingly, none of those emails asking me to change my practice ever arrived, not even in my spam folder. And it’s pretty severe, I think, to just cut off an attempt to fix and make things right. I had not realized linking back to my show was an issue. They were not links to the “Real” review but to the verbal review. Had I seen any of the emails you say were sent I would have corrected the issue immediately.

Seems to be typical of companies today, if someone makes a mistake to just cut them off and not let them atone for it. Pretty sad I think that the world has become this way.

The reviews were all legit. I have been doing reviews for 7 years now on my podcast WP Plugins A to Z (and I thought sharing them with a link back to the show would be helpful for the dev). I do not believe it was spamming as I was linking to where they could hear more about what I said in my review of the plugin.

It is sad that all those developers that I review will no longer get the advantage of having my review added to their reviews list.

How about if I propose a fix here?

How about if you unlock my old account, I go into all the previous reviews, I then edit out and remove all the links. Then in the future I only place the review and mention the WP Plugins A to Z show and have no links there.  Will this fix the problem?

****

And Jan responded back breaking up my email into points not a bad thing, I do that all the time. It did seem to have the same snark in the response, judge for yourself.. *******

Hi,

> Interestingly, none of those emails asking me to change my practice

> ever arrived, not even in my spam folder.

The same system for mail were are using now is the same system those notifications use. If you did not get it it’s not for lack of the system sending them out. This place sends out an amazing amount of email and some less enlightened mail systems think we spam (we don’t).

> And it’s pretty severe, I think, to

> just cut off an attempt to fix and make things right. I had not

> realized linking back to my show was an issue. They were not links to the “Real”

> review but to the verbal review. Had I seen any of the emails you say

> were sent I would have corrected the issue immediately.

That’s good to know that had you read those emails you’d have corrected your actions.

> Seems to be typical of companies today, if someone makes a mistake to

> just cut them off and not let them atone for it. Pretty sad I think

> that the world has become this way.

And that’s incorrect. Completely. You were warned, you did not modify your behavior. That has consequences. That you didn’t get or read the warnings has nothing to do with the moderators who warned you. The email went out.

WordPress.ORG despite many people’s misunderstanding isn’t a company. It’s an open source community software project staffed by volunteers such as myself doing thing on their own time.

> The reviews were all legit. I have been doing reviews for 7 years now

> on my podcast WP Plugins A to Z (and I thought sharing them with a

> link back to the show would be helpful for the dev). I do not believe

> it was spamming as I was linking to where they could hear more about

> what I said in my review of the plugin.

The reviews have always been limited to feedback and is not about “go here for more information” links. As I am sure you can imagine some not very nice people have abused the reviews and were informed to stop. If they do not heed that warning then, as you’ve found out, the account gets banned.

NOTE: Actual spammers such as “male enhancement” spam doesn’t get a reply and is not archived. It’s flagged as spam and dealt with. That’s not the case with you, I’m just trying to be complete.

Those accounts get banned for cause (spam). Abuse is abuse and that’s not long tolerated. I think you understand why that is.

> It is sad that all those developers that I review will no longer get

> the advantage of having my review added to their reviews list.

See above comment of mine about abusive behavior.

> How about if I propose a fix here?

> How about if you unlock my old account, I go into all the previous

> reviews, I then edit out and remove all the links. Then in the future

> I only place the review and mention the WP Plugins A to Z show and

> have no links there.  Will this fix the problem?

Yes and no. If you agree then I will unban your account as we’re having this conversation and I am positive you understand and will not repeat that behavior.

I will not restored those reviews as there’s many and frankly there’s no point. They’ve been gone for 5 months now. Also you’re describing a lot of work and enough effort was spent archiving those reviews.

If you like, feel free to leave new reviews. But if you do refrain from links and even the suggestion of “visit my site for more information”. The review section is where you provide your feedback. Keep it in text and in that section where it belongs.

Let me know if that works for you. You may want me to change the email on that old account to the one that you’re using now.

Thanks,

Jan Dembowski

******

Ok well you judge if it was a bit heavy on snark or not. But I wanted the account back to start posting reviews again. Also I was not too sure about the reference to Male Enhancement. I also thought I would clarify I had read the rules in the forum.. So I sent back this: ********

Hi Jan,

Yes. I would like to have my “sirdragonlord” account unbanned and the email associated with it changed to john@wppro.ca. I will keep this account as my personal account.  I see in the “Forum Guidelines” that I am able to create a ‘business’ account.  I will create a new account for my podcast, WP Plugins A to Z, and use it to post the plugin reviews I have given on my show.  Am I able to reference, in text form with no links, the information about which show their plugin review was produced in? Or any other pertinent information about it that will help the developer to find the review on my site themselves without including links to the actual show or my site? An example would be “as reviewed by John Overall in episode #850 of the WP Plugins A to Z Podcast show” or “as reviewed in episode #850 of the WP Plugins A to Z Podcast show on YouTube”?

Please clarify if the above statements are made within the review post they will be acceptable.  I want to ensure that I am abiding by the guidelines that are in place so that we don’t have this issue again.

******* And he sent back this you judge here how the response was.. ********

Hi John,

No, that is not true. You are reading the forum guidelines incorrectly and if you do create multiple accounts then you will be permanently banned. That “business account” is for plugin and theme authors to upload code only or for specific support people of those companies with said plugins or themes. That’s not you.

And if you add anything like “as reviewed by John Overall in episode #850 of the WP Plugins A to Z Podcast show” then that’s spamming. Just cut that out now.

The forums are not for your “brand”, its not for marketing, it is not to generate traffic, revenue or anything like that. The review is only for describing in words your experience with that plugin or theme. That’s all and nothing else.

What you are describing is spam. Don’t. That is not allowed and if you do that all of your accounts will be banned for good for spamming.

I can un-ban your one account BUT you can only use it to get support, help others or (in the capacity I’ve described) leave reviews without referencing your site at all.

If you are OK that let me know and I’ll proceed. If you have already created a new account, let me know too before I locate it myself; that would be bad if I do.

****** and so I thought about my final response this is it*****

Now at this point I had thought I might be loosing my mind about what I read so I decided to pop back in and check and sure enough the rules had changed between the 20th and the 21st of Dec 2018 as below.. Thank goodness for the Wayback machine..

What it said on Dec 20, 2018 as I read it and its archive in the Wayback machine Dec 11, 2018 here https://web.archive.org/web/20181211130839/https://wordpress.org/support/guidelines/ :

If you are plugin or theme developer, or a representative of a company involved with WordPress in some way (like a hosting provider), having separate personal and “business” accounts is acceptable, we don’t consider that to be sockpuppetry.

What it now says on Dec 21, 2018:

If you are plugin or theme developer only, having separate personal and “business” accounts is acceptable for uploading code to the WordPress repo or for a very limited capacity of support of that plugin or theme. In that limited capacity that may not be consider that to be sockpuppetry.

****

This saga was interesting and I gave allot of thought to my final response because I knew that if my words did not convey anything but total submission i would be banned by Jan Dembrosky, I weighed if I really needed the account over at WordPress.org forums and realized I do not actually need it but would like to have it. So I decided to be straightforward and express my dissatisfaction with the process as well as plead my case. The result was as expected… Judge for yourself and let me know in the comments.

*****

My final response

Hi Jan,

Looks like I have no option but to accept your terms for the reactivation of my account. Please reactivate it as per your terms in your last email. I had not created the other account as of yet.

I look forward to having my account, SirDragonlord, back and associated with the email john@wppro.ca.

One of the most unfortunate things about email is not being able to really get the tone of voice for the words being typed.  Unfortunately, in all your emails, your tone comes across as snarky and rude. I have been nothing but polite during this thread, trying to get a clear understanding of things. I have accepted my responsibility for what I have done and wanted to make sure going forward I did not cross any lines.

You have been pretty snarky and at points seemingly condescending during this thread. I have asked questions to clarify things and gotten snark and rudeness and accusations back. Why?

One strange thing though, when I read the forum guidelines on Dec 20, 2018  they indicated that if your company was involved in any way with WordPress it was ok to also have a ‘business’ account. I see that has changed as of Dec 21, 2018.

What it said on Dec 20, 2018, as I read it and it’s archived in the Wayback machine on Dec 11, 2018, here https://web.archive.org/web/20181211130839/https://wordpress.org/support/guidelines/  :.

If you are plugin or theme developer, or a representative of a company involved with WordPress in some way (like a hosting provider), having separate personal and “business” accounts is acceptable, we don’t consider that to be sockpuppetry.

What it now says on Dec 21, 2018:

If you are plugin or theme developer only, having separate personal and “business” accounts is acceptable for uploading code to the WordPress repo or for a very limited capacity of support of that plugin or theme. In that limited capacity that may not be consider that to be sockpuppetry.

Good to see it is crystal clear now, even if it is awkward to read. Good to know I may have had a hand in this being clarified (note you have a couple grammatical errors in the last line)

Additionally,

Just so you know I won’t reference my podcast when I start posting again. But, I feel this is a disservice to the community as my show has reviewed thousands of plugins from the good to the bad and have helped thousands of users find great and interesting plugins over the last 8 years. My being able to reference where a review is coming from adds a bit more credibility to the review as it is coming from a long standing, credible and knowledgeable source. This gives it more weight to both the review and the plugin than a regular review, kind of like a report from Consumers Reports. It may add more trust and belief to the review when someone is determining if they want to use the plugin.

******

The last response from Jan and my being banned ***********

Hi John,

I’m sorry if you thought my tone was rude or I was being “snarky”. I wasn’t, I was being exacerbated by your replies and after a few emails I may have lost my patience with you. I do apologize for that. This isn’t my email address and I am not representing myself here in this WordPress email.

Here’s why I lost my patience.

  1. You spammed the forums. That’s not up to your interpretation or acceptance. Your reviews are all still there they are just not visible to you or others. You were spamming and that is abuse.
  2. More than one moderator asked you to stop with a reply that was guaranteed to send your old email that.
  3. For whatever reason you disregarded that and repeated your abuse.
  4. Your account was banned for good cause.
  5. Five months later you started this email thread.

When I explained what you did, you chose to be partly reconciliatory about that while opining about what “Seems to be typical of companies today”. I corrected your assumptions about that and offered a way to get your account back.

Then you tried to use the guidelines to game the system and you tried to determine what level of self-promotion is acceptable. That’s likely where my replies began to show my exacerbation.

Yes, the guidelines were soon updated after that and a conversation in Slack with the moderators occurred at that time. The purpose of that section in the guideline is simple. Do not create multiple accounts, do not sock puppet. The guidelines are not an acceptable use policy, they are not a terms of service. They’re a simple guideline on how to behave in the forums and trying to game that isn’t acceptable either.

I’m a volunteer. I don’t have any obligation to help someone who abused the forums and leaving you banned is an appropriate outcome. Your situation is not a result of any rudeness or snark on my part. You were banned due to your actions, not mine. I’ve been trying to explain where you went awry and you don’t like my tone, you’ve indicated that I’m being rude and snarky.

OK then. Fair enough, I may have let my patience lapse when I read your replies and now I’m walking away from this conversation. I have no desire to misrepresent this community and you are dissatisfied dealing with me and my replies. This is not my email inbox and perhaps someone else can help you.

That other person can also un-ban your accounts if they choose. I’m leaving your accounts in their banned state.

Please have a nice holiday and New Year.

*****

Thus ends my trip though #WPDrama

Final Comments:

Now I had thought long and hard about my last response and thinking about everything he had written and realized that if I was properly contrite and on my metaphorical knees I would get my account back but at the loss of my dignity. I realized that I did not need the account back that badly. What I did on the WordPress.org Forums was for the community not myself. I shared reviews from my show and occasional responded to help questions if I caught one.

I realized by not giving the right words I would end up banned and I was right since I refused to kowtow to Jan Dembroski. I also noted his inconsistency in saying that my old stuff is gone implying deletion and that it is all still there as mentioned in his last email.

It is interesting to note the Guidelines are not hard rules in anyway for the WordPress.org Forums. They are just a way to behave and well guidelines are just a guide. here is the definition from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guideline

A guideline is a statement by which to determine a course of action. A guideline aims to streamline particular processes according to a set routine or sound practice. By definition, following a guideline is never mandatory. Guidelines are not binding and are not enforced.

Or even better the definition from The Law Dictionary

A practice that allows leeway in its interpretation.

By this meaning the guidelines are meaningless.. Maybe they should change the title of them and call them Rules as they are enforced like rules.

Well this has been an interesting little saga for me and a trip though #WPDrama which I never thought I would be directly involved in.

 

Look forward to any comments.

John Overall

8 replies
  1. Dale Reardon
    Dale Reardon says:

    Hi,

    Just as a first point maybe you could add the subscribe to comments plugin to let us get notified of replies.

    Now for the substantive issue. I personally usually refuse to participate in forums that don’t at the very least allow signatures – I think it is just courtesy from the site to give you something for contributing in a valuable way.

    WordPress.org is a slightly different case though as you are almost forced to accept their rules and participate so that everyone in the community gets the benefits of others experience with plugins. Having said that I don’t see why they couldn’t easily upgrade the reviews section and the forums to allow signatures on all posts; and then to please the die hards have an option to not display signatures if you want – I have seen quite a few forums setup like that.

    And as for saying you spammed the reviews that is simply not correct – you may have broken the guidelines; breached their rules but it still wasn’t spam under any normal definiton of spam.

    And personally as a site owner and heavy user of WordPress I prefer to know more about the person leaving the review so I can understand the review in context – eg if a experienced dev can’t get a plugin to work properly there is no way I will even try. But if a novice can’t understand the instructions maybe us experienced users can still use it fine.

    Personally I have come to learn that some crucial aspects are missing from the wp org plugins directory anyway – there needs to be a way to say if a plugin is compatible with PHP 7.2/7.3 and the Mysql versions. It would also be great to have the revies be more nuanced like Trip Advisor – eg a score for support, score for price if applies, score for ease of use; quality of documentation; performance/use of server resources; frequency and speed of updates etc etc.

    I personally think the decision of the moderator was far too harsh but the rules themselves need changing.

    A little while back I saw someone asking about a community plugin and asked for examples of using it in a certain way. I left a review and dropped a link to our community site (free to use) to answer the person’s questions. A moderator got very grumpy and told me off for leaving a link even though it was providing help to the other person. I suggested that in that case maybe the plugin dev could add some example urls to the plugin description which would help everyone – the moderator said that if the plugin dev did that then they would be banned and the plugin removed. Just crazy as how can a developer maintain lots of demos themselves? I guess they have to create a demo page on their own site, list the other sites and then link to that demo listing page on the plugin description.

    Dale.

    Reply
    • John Overall
      John Overall says:

      Hi Dale,
      Thanks for the comments and I have re-added back subscribe to comments reloaded I had turned it off a while back when doing some diagnostic work forgot to put it back.

      I agree about the forums should allow a signature but for some strange reason they do not allow it.

      As for your comment about the “Guidelines” (they are not rules) they did change one to make it tighter.

      Thanks
      John

      Reply
  2. mac2net
    mac2net says:

    I was also banned and for something far less.
    I don’t really care – i used to leave support contributions and usually – except in one case which got me banned – the developers were grateful for the contributions. The one case that got me banned was involving a high profile developer who told me to fix her own mistake myself on GitHub.

    I will probably try to get unbanned if it it becomes necessary. Meanwhile my message to Jan and the rest is “I am sure you enjoy your commie pinko small minded bully bureaucrat mentality.” Please continue… I wouldn’t want you to lose the ability to get excited by your juvenile use of power.”

    Reply
  3. Dale Reardon
    Dale Reardon says:

    Yep – with such an important site in the WP community they really need to formalise procedures on the forums a lot more.

    Do they happen to have a feedback / suggestions section or don’t want feedback?

    Dale.

    Reply
    • John Overall
      John Overall says:

      They do need to make it more formal that “guidelines” which can be ignored or flipped at a whim as seems to happen.

      As far as I can tell the only way to leave anything if you do not have an account is to email them at forum-password-resets@wordpress.org even that was hard to find at first when I started down this crazy path. I have heard they have Slack channels but not something I use.

      John

      Reply
  4. Shawn DeWolfe
    Shawn DeWolfe says:

    The promise of Open Source gets squashed by the Gatekeepers. Drupal had a really bad cult of personality and I didn’t want to participate in that. In Drupal, being popular makes the code better, not performance. Time after time, people would lead their talks with “I was a [non-programmer]….. (bio details)…. now, I’m a core contributor.” (applause)
    It sounds like someone cozy to the admins didn’t like your conduct. The idea of two accounts isn’t so horrid. I have a .com and .ca to separate my voices. Accounts are not people and they don’t know the difference. To put “sockpuppetry” into their guideline languages shows some immaturity.

    Reply

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