Daily blogger and plugin author Tom McFarlin has found a new maintainer for five of his WordPress.org plugins. Within two days of putting the plugins up for adoption, McFarlin announced that Philip Arthur Moore will be taking over Category Sticky Post, Comment Tweets, Single Post Message, Tag Sticky Post, and Tipsy Social Icons. Moore, who is currently working as CTO at Professional Themes, has inherited roughly 10,000 users overnight in the transfer of maintainership.
WordPress.org plugin adoption stories are few and far between. The most common scenario for an orphaned plugin is to languish in the directory until it disappears from search results (with the exception of exact matches) after two years of no updates. In McFarlin’s case, he was looking to tie up some loose ends before shifting Pressware’s focus to launching Blogging Plugins, a marketplace for extensions that streamline WordPress for regular bloggers.
“Last year, I had a few false starts when trying to launch what was originally called Pressware Plugins,” McFarlin said. “Fast-forward a few months and we’re going to focus on something called Blogging Plugins. We already have two free plugins available, though there’s an entire set of plugins, marketplace, and more coming.”
Moore’s adoption of the plugins, which includes the first plugin McFarlin ever wrote, allows Pressware to move forward with its 2017 objectives. McFarlin said he selected Moore based on the quality of his open source projects and reputation in the WordPress community.
“For those of you who aren’t familiar with Philip’s side projects, you may be familiar with Subtitles,” McFarlin said. “It’s a plugin that falls right in line with my personal ethos of how things should work with WordPress: You activate it, it’s ready to go, and it feels native within the application.”
The adopt-me tag is used on WordPress.org to indicate plugins where the author is looking for a new maintainer. With just two pages of listings, it’s not yet widely used. Most developers find it easier to fork an open source plugin and WordPress.org has recently made it easier than ever for authors to close a plugin by simply emailing the plugin team.
However, not all orphaned plugins are ready for end of life measures. Circumstances change in plugin authors’ lives, but the strength of the user base is one of the primary indicators of a project that could thrive in new hands. The built-in user base is also one of the main advantages of adopting a plugin as opposed to forking it.
Developer and ZDNet columnist David Gewirtz discovered the full weight of adopting a plugin’s users when he took on 10 plugins from the adopt-me section of the directory. Gewirtz, who inherited approximately 50,000 users, said the experience helped him reconnect with real users.
“The value I’ve gained as a columnist, advisor, and educator that has come from interacting with users from so many nations with so many different skill sets and missions has been off the charts,” Gewirtz said. “I thought I’d keep my programming chops up, and I’ve certainly done that. But I never expected I’d gain a much broader perspective that I’d be able to apply to all of the areas of my professional life and meet so many cool people.”
Adoption is arguably the healthiest outcome for any orphaned project – not just for the sake of reducing plugin abandonment but also for continuing support for users. Many of them blindly depend on plugins with no understanding of how they work.
Once a plugin is downloaded and installed on users’ sites, it gains a life of its own. Adoption strengthens a project’s history by proving it can weather storms that might otherwise cause the plugin to become obsolete and wipe out the user base.