WordCamp Orange County, CA, took place this past weekend and the winners of the Plugin-a-Palooza have been crowned. Nathan Tyler and Natalie MacLees took the first place prize of $3,000 with their submission, Plugin Detective.
When it comes to troubleshooting WordPress, disabling and re-enabling plugins is one of the first steps in the process. This is time consuming and involves browsing to the plugin management page multiple times to turn a plugin on or off.
Plugin Detective simplifies the process by quickly identifying the culprit. Once installed, a Troubleshooting quick link is added to the WordPress Toolbar. From here, users can open or continue a case. When a case is opened, a bot named Detective Otto asks users to navigate to the page where the problem is occurring.
After the location is identified, users inform Detective Otto which plugins are required for the site to function properly. Interrogations is the act of of disabling and enabling plugins. Multiple interrogation attempts are made until the culprit is identified through the process of elimination. The following video does a great job of explaining and showing how it works.
It can also be used to identify and fix White Screen of Death errors caused by plugins.
Plugin Detective is partly inspired by a software program from the 90s called Conflict Catcher.
“I used ‘Conflict Catcher’ to troubleshoot conflicts between system extensions on my Mac,” Tyler said. “I thought the concept was cool and would often run it for fun to try to figure out how it worked. Eventually, I learned that the computer science concept is a ‘binary search.’
“Applying the concept to WordPress plugins seemed like a good approach to the plugin conflict problem we all experience.”
“Basically, if an author opts-in, we can help the end-user file a support ticket right there in Plugin Detective after we’ve identified the problem,” he said. “The support team gets a helpful bug report with notes from the customer, along with system information, other installed plugins, active theme, etc.”
If you troubleshoot sites often or want an easier way to figure out which plugin is causing a conflict, consider adding Plugin Detective to your toolkit. Plugin Detective is free and available for download from the WordPress plugin directory.