What level of control should users have over their WordPress support forum topics? That is the question at the heart of a recent discussion opened by Mika Epstein on the Make Support blog. The goal is to grant more power to users, particularly when they post private or privileged information to the public forums.
The proposal is twofold. One idea is to give users total control over deleting or “archiving” topics they create. This would remove it from public view at least. The second part of the equation would extend the amount of time users have to edit their topics.
Currently, users can edit topics for one hour after posting. For the most part, this is reasonable. However, there are some cases where users inadvertently post sensitive data and need to remove it later. After their hour is up, the only solution for editing is to contact a forum moderator, increasing the burden on the WordPress support team. The easiest solution is to increase the length of time to edit.
The big downside to editing topics is that they can be changed so much that replies are out of context. This can make discussions, particularly, lengthier ones with more replies, hard to follow. However, given the nature of the WordPress forums being for support instead of long-form discussion, increasing the time-to-edit should not hurt. It should help users fix mistakes and lighten the load on forum moderators. There are proposals for increasing the limit between three to seven days.
In general, I am supportive of increasing the time-to-edit for forum topics. There is some room for abuse of the system, but such abuse will not likely outweigh the benefits. However, the ability to delete a topic does not sit well with me.
I see the problem. WordPress’s user base has changed over the past decade. The average user from 10 years ago was tech-savvy enough to not drop private info — or info they are not legally allowed to share — into public forums. The game has changed. Users are no longer webmasters, running every aspect of their sites. They are using one-click installs to launch software they have no technical knowledge of. They do not know the difference between a debug log and server info. This is not a bad thing — the more WordPress users the more we inch toward that democratize-publishing goal. However, the makeup of WordPress’s users has shifted drastically to a point where many may not realize they are posting information they shouldn’t.
The burden ultimately falls on forum moderators. They do all the cleanup, and it is likely overwhelming at times to keep up. It is a decision that should probably fall into their hands.
One of the catalysts for this discussion was a forum topic from last week. “Someone had posted information that isn’t exactly ‘private’ but could land them in legal trouble for sharing,” wrote Epstein. “They did so by posting a debug log that had information that probably should not be public.”
The WordPress support system has had a
This article was written by Justin Tadlock and originally published on WordPress Tavern.