Distributed Wisdom

I recently posted how happy I feel about my first WordPress theme being approved in the official directories: here’s my story about the reviewing process behind that.

My background? I had several previous experiences with WordPress and other CMS software but this was the first time I decided to write an actual package, publicly available, for any of them.

Much more than it sounds.

So, all excited, I begun collecting all the necessary resources and had my first contact with the Theme Review Team, in the form of a visit to its website. ‘Great!’, I said to myself, ‘Someone else is going to take care of pointing out my mistakes’. That was NOT what their website was saying, but I was too excited to argue with myself.

You can then imagine how excited I was when I heard the team released a Theme Check plugin, which ‘is an easy way to test your theme and make sure it’s up to spec with the latest theme review standards’. Oh yes! I was about to upload the theme for the review by then and I was so over the top, I actually ended up installing Child Theme Check, the plugin listed right next to it. Cool plugin…

So I installed the right plugin, run the check and, really excited, had the chance to watch about 100 red lines and an amazing rainbow of lines of every other color painting my screen: all of them pointing out different kind of mistakes I did building the theme.
What a variety!
And one of the reasons it felt amazing is that EVERY error line had instructions on how to fix it. How about that?

The review

Once I made sure the theme would pass the plugin check, I was ready to submit it for review, which is a pretty straight-forward concept: a reviewer picks up the theme in the queue and the process goes on until the code follows the requirements. How long it takes for a reviewer to pick it up depends on many factors but in my case it took about 3 months (many uploaded their themes at the same time).

Can you imagine the excitement I felt when the review started? I thought so.
It’s about Christmas time, indeed time for presents, and my reviewer picks up the theme and quickly reports to me a series of mistakes I did: mistakes that would have taken me quite a while to fix but most importantly that I couldn’t possibly have fixed at that time, with backpack in one hand and maps in the other, all ready for the end of the year family reunions. The reviewer, the best I could wish for, is Carolina, and I’m suddenly impressed by the level of knowledge, dedication and politeness. From now on you could read the whole ticket here but since I already know you won’t (it could take you hours), here’s my final review of the review: WOW!

A pretty short review, I give you that.
Incomplete? Certainly.
Easy? Right.
But, you have to agree, effective. And short.
I learned a lot from it and it sparkled my creativity: Carolina and the Team ended up in the theme credits, totally deserving it.

But the main reason I wanted to write this post is not really to thank the Team (which as I said, I already did thank) but because I’ve noticed that many theme authors don’t. And some actually write nasty things about it. I’m neither taking sides nor naive about the general lack of netiquette when I say that

a WordPress theme author cannot dislike the reviewing process.

You might have had a bad experience with it, of course. I got lucky, certainly.
But the whole point here is to review the code TOGETHER. Many authors seem to be convinced that the process would be better off if a reviewer would be paid to do it and I strongly disagree: in my experience it would just create conflicts of interests. The reviewing rules are always changing and adapted according to the community, of course, but what’s not to like in the core principle?

Someone points out the time it takes. Fair objection to which I’ll respond with an hyperbole: how many of your friends actually installed and tried the theme you created and that you asked them to try multiple times? If you asked enough people, chances are most of them didn’t even install WordPress if they weren’t already using it for their own projects and if they did install it, the actual ‘review’ from a friend who uses WordPress for the first time isn’t really that useful, is it? Being reviewed by a random enthusiast like yourself -with no money involved- backed by the larger WP community, is EXACTLY what you are looking for, as a developer.

I never contacted Carolina directly and I wanted to wait for this post to be published to do so. And if you wished my excitement about the review would drop by the end of this post, ‘glad to disappoint’.

Photo credit and license: if he’s stop with just a hug via photopin (license)

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