Something Smells with WordPress Plugin Ratings & Reviews


Contributing to the open source movement can be amazing, but this week wasn’t one of those times. We’ve been contributing to the WordPress community for a decade now. We’ve built countless plugins. Some have been retired, and others have incredible exposure. Our Image Rotator Widget plugin, for example, has been downloaded over 120,000 times and is active on over 10,000 WordPress sites.

One plugin that we’ve invested hundreds of hours on is CircuPress, the email newsletter plugin we developed for WordPress. The plugin is pretty ingenious, allowing agencies to build an email just as they would a theme page… but sending the email via our service so we can manage click tracking, bounce management, subscribers, and subscriptions. It’s taken quite a bit of infrastructure work to get this going, but we’re in it for the long-haul. We believe WordPress users should have a native email platform that’s easy to use.

While we’re ramping up the platform, we’ve not charged a single person for using it – cool if you ask me. The registration does offer a free version if you send less than 100 emails per month, but we’ve extended that while we convert the billing system to WooCommerce and work on the setup of the platform to make it easier for users.

To my surprise, we had a 1-star review popup on the Plugin site. I immediately scrambled to see what was wrong:


So… this user never actually signed up but said that were suspect in our registration process. I was taken aback since we don’t actually request credit card information. He would have found that out had he completed the registration process, but he didn’t.

I thought this was unfair enough to bring it to the attention of Automattic, writing their Plugin Support person:


The response I received was more shocking than the review itself. I went back and forth with the person at Automattic saying that our site did seem shady because no pricing was listed publicly. Shady?

I reminded him that we DO NOT ASK FOR ANY CREDIT CARD information before presenting pricing to the person. And even then we’ve NEVER ACTUALLY charged our early adopters. Have you ever registered for a service that cost nothing? I’m pretty sure you have… WordPress requests registration without any pricing information on additional services. Shady?

Not to mention that the Pricing page was referred to in the FAQs of our plugin. In the meantime, I published the pricing page in our menu so that there was no confusion by anyone, but still requested the review be removed. The response:

mike epstein

So, in other words, someone who admittedly never actually used our service is allowed to rate our service with a 1-star review. As we’re working to help the open source community and provide a more affordable solution, I’m not sure how this helps anyone. This is basically a phony review – the author fully admits never signing up nor used our service.

I’d feel differently had the reviewer registered and rated us on the plugin’s capabilities – even adding that he wished pricing was on the site would have been nice. But a 1-star review for something he never used is inexcusable.

UPDATE 11/2: Now I’m angry, a hothead, unreasonable, a jerk, insane, and irrational because I’m upset that someone who never used the plugin gave a 1-star review, eluded that our service was dishonest, and that anyone that registered was stupid. The service they never signed up for.

My email was below, their response is on top.

Otto from WordPress

Maybe it’s time that I just do what other plugin developers are doing that Matt and the team at WordPress don’t appreciate, and bypass donating any time and effort back to WordPress and just start selling plugins on my own site. It’s obvious they don’t care about the people that are supporting their platform.

UPDATE 11/3: Today, the volunteer team at WordPress decided I needed an education in marketing and advised me to be the better man. My email was below, their response is on top.

Be the better man


  1. 1

    I agree with you and the review system is going like trip advisor. There is no quality assurance policy about reviews system but reviews are used as sell point even for products/services that don’t works as they say or that break licensing policy. This is unfair and not professional. There are also a lot of external reviews/rating systems but you can refuse low ratings.
    I don’t believe in ratings/reviews because they are not managed by an indipendent third party and they don’t have any system certificates (like iso or similar).
    I also don’t believe much in markets like envato or similar. In the past i submitted some tracks (i am a musician too) and they have never been accepted. Now I am writing music for some movie companies.

    • 2

      There are some systems that actually do a good job of mediation. Angie’s List, for example, provides the contractor an opportunity to make things right and when it’s mutually agreed upon as satisfactory, the bad review can be modified. It is unfortunate that this review stands – it provides no value to the community and can only hurt our plugin’s adoption.

  2. 3

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