WordPress Documentation Team Bans Links to Commercial Websites – WordPress Tavern
This week the WordPress documentation team announced a ban on links to commercial websites in a revision of its external link policy:
While discussing guidelines for external links, we came to the conclusion that we will not allow commercial blogs, at least initially and for the time being. So before you argue that some popular plugin blogs contain valuable information, let me stop you right there.
Allowing “popular plugins / themes / services” etc blogs and all other commercial blogs enables us to protect documentation from abuse as marketing media, protect ourselves from allegations of bias, and defend any decision we may make the way meet the way. And yet there will be dissatisfied sides who claim we are not fair and have done them wrong. The idea of allowing external links becomes a purpose of its own.
Although the aggressive wording of the announcement discouraged further discussion on the matter, the controversial decision in the comments sparked heated conversation. Yoast founder Joost de Valk claims that companies that contribute to WordPress might as well get a promotion as a benefit:
I understand that you want to prevent bias discussions.
But I think your premise here is wrong: you are saying that if you fail to connect with commercial companies, you are not “biased”. I would say we are all inherently biased because some of these companies do a lot for the WordPress community while others don’t.
The companies that contribute a lot to WordPress have often received links, and therefore advertisements, to benefit from the fact that they are contributing. By removing that from them, you are basically treating those that don’t return the same as companies that do return what I think is simply wrong. Therefore I do not agree with this decision.
Milana Cap, the member of the documentation team who wrote the announcement, clarified that the policy change will not remove external links to WordPress.org’s commercial websites. This only applies to documentation pages including HelpHub, Code Reference, Plugin and Theme Developer’s Guide, Block Editor Guide, and General API Guide.
“There’s no way to make this fair,” said Cap. “And we can discuss a lot of unfair parallels that appear in open source communities. B. how many hours a week a freelancer can contribute compared to a paid company employee, meeting times (where decisions are made) in the middle of the night in your time zone, etc. “
Timi Wahalahti suggested that one solution would be to make better use of the Five for the Future pledges page to identify key contributions to the documentation when links to commercial websites are no longer an option.
Several commenters pointed out the value of linking with additional examples and resources, but also recommended that WordPress include a version or timestamp to provide more context for the reader.
WordPress agency owner Jon Brown called the ban “unwanted gatekeeping” and said the policy states that all commercial things are “inherently corrupt and neither trustworthy nor valuable”.
“A link value is inherently subjective and should be treated subjectively,” said Brown. “Trying to create high-level objective rules doesn’t seem beneficial or realistic. I certainly don’t think that all “commercial” websites should be banned outright.
“I think there are some low-level disqualifiers who could assist writers and moderators in determining which links are appropriate. These should be criteria that directly affect the users of documents and not commercially. These are things like: The source is accessible, the source is not walled, etc. “
Cap responded, saying that the root of the problem is that allowing commercial links is putting the documentation team in the undesirable position of having to find a fair way to decide which links to include. She also noted that the policy can evolve over time, but the decision on the ban is final for now.
“Maybe we’ll find out in time,” said Cap. “We’ll surely know more when we start. At the moment this is the decision. “
External sources can be valuable additions to the documentation, but this conversation underscores the need for better incentives for users to spend time documenting WordPress. Already with limited resources, the team tries to avoid having links to commercial websites heavily policed.
“The bottom line is, we haven’t figured out the best way to be fair about commercial blogs or websites, so we’re going to focus on links that don’t fall into that gray area,” said Cap. “We assume that at some point we will discuss how we can safely incorporate commercial blog links (if that is possible at all).”