294 – How might we fix the WordPress notifications problem?

Interview with Brain Coords and Nathan Wrigley.

If you’ve used WordPress for any length of time and use plugins, it’s highly likely that you’ve seen notifications in the backend which you did not expect. Perhaps they were ads, or upsells for things which are already installed.

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WordPress notifications serve a purpose. They are there for a very good reason, to notify you of things that you ought to be aware of. You just published a post. Something needs updating. That kind of thing.

But not all the notifications that we see are the kind that you might call ‘essential’ or ‘useful’.

This goes back to the fact that the WordPress notifications system was not really designed to be used in the variety of ways that ingenious developers have been able to use them. It’s a bit like cookies. They we created to maintain state on a website, and then developers figured out a whole raft of other uses for them, some of them somewhat undesirable. The system was created and then it was warped and reused in alternative ways. So it is with WordPress notifications.

Brian Coords is on the podcast today to talk through his thoughts on the WordPress notifications systems and how it might be improved so stop its true purpose being misused.

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Brian is a developer, and he also creates lots of content over at Master WP.

We spoke a lot about the problems of WordPress notifications, why they’re a problem in the first place. Why it’s a bit of Wild West. Why people get triggered by notifications?

We also talk about a feature plugin which he’s working on called WP-Notify. It’s a proof of concept, and is trying to constrain the possible options for notifications. Where they can go on your website. How will you know that you’ve got new notifications, and more.

The way that I’ve painted it thus far, it sounds like all non-WordPress notifications are wicked and evil. Of course that’s not the case. Some of them might be welcome, useful and desirable. Commercial plugin owners and developers do perhaps need a way to reach the audience of users who’ve installed the WordPress.org version of the plugin. After all, there’s no contact initiated between you and the developers, and perhaps this is a legitimate way to make contact with you?

So it’s a bit of a mixed bag. You’ve got to weigh this up with the advertisers who obviously need to need to be able to advertise their products, but we don’t want WordPress users being completely confused by everything that’s going on in their WordPress admin area.

Here are some of the questions which were discussed:

  • What are the problems with notifications?
  • Do we need to recognise that notifications have a place? These companies need to make money and have no email address from .org. They have a legit need to advertise?
  • Should we have a standard which is adhered to: size, shape, font etc.
  • Should there be a notifications area?
  • In Android I can look after the notifications which I want, should there be a UI for deciding what I want to see?
  • What about a plugin tier where it’s not premium, but it’s ad-free – is that dystopia? Think of the Amazon Kindle which comes with ads, you pay to remove the ads…
  • Is there a model which we can follow for this elsewhere in the world?
  • Is this a problem only in FOSS?
  • Ads in the Block Editor, is that a step across the Rubicon?
  • Do we run the risk of creating a system which hurts good actors because of the actions of a few good actors?
  • What is WP Notify? What’s it’s intention? What’s the status of the project?

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Transcript (if available)

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the worth rest community. Now welcome your hosts. David Walmsley, and Nathan Wrigley.

Hello there, and welcome to the WP Builds podcast. Once again, you've reached episode number 290. Entitled how we fix the WordPress notifications problem. It was published on Thursday, the 1st of September, 2022. My name's Nathan Wrigley. And in a few short moments, we will have our interview guest, which is Brian Coords from master WP and various other places.

We're gonna be talking about notifications, but before then, let's just do a little bit of housekeeping. If you enjoy what we do over at WP Builds, then please head over to our website. WP Builds.com and there's a couple of URLs that I'd like to mention. The first one is the subscribe link. You'll find it in the menu at the top. WP Builds.com/subscribe. Go there and you'll be able to see all of the different places where you can keep in touch with us. There is our Facebook group. There is our newsletters and there's also our Twitter handle. It's all there. WP Builds.com/subscribe. if you're into deals and you'd like a significant amount of, with a coupon code of a WordPress product, perhaps you're looking for a plugin theme, a block or something along those lines, head over to WP Builds.com/deals because we've got a black Friday style page and it's there 365 days of the year.

So you never know there might be a match with something that you are looking for and something which we have a coupon code. WP Builds.com/deals. And the last one, I keep plugging it. WP Builds.social. That's a URL, WP Builds.social. It's a Twitter clone. It's a open source piece of software called Masteron and we've opened up an install of it there. So if you'd like to join, it's very quiet at the moment, but you never know, perhaps that's exactly what you need. A WordPress quiet space.

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What have we got in store for you today? It's episode number 294, as I said, it's Brian Coords. And he's here to talk about WordPresses notification problem.

If you've used WordPress for any length of time, you've probably seen notifications popping up. Some of them useful and highly desirable. Some of them perhaps less desirable and less essential, let's say. Adverts and upsells and things like that. Is this a problem? Do we need to be mindful of it? Is it something that we can just ignore or is this kind of getting a bit out of control?

Brian's got some thoughts on it and he's also working on a plugin WP notify, which he talks about and how it may help this problem in the future. I hope that you enjoy the podcast. I am joined on the podcast today by Brian Coords. Hello, Brian. Hello, Ethan. How are you doing? Yeah, really good. Thank you for joining us today, Brian and I hooked up after he wrote a piece about an interview that I did with Matt Mullenweg and we decided we'd have a conversation today about something word Pressy.

We weren't quite sure where this conversation would go, but we've settled on the important, interesting and infuriating. One might say topic of kind of WordPress notifications before we get. Deep into that. Would you spend a couple of minutes just letting our listeners know who you are, what you do, how long you've been working with WordPress and all of that good stuff.

[00:04:30] Brian Coords: Sure. I've been working with WordPress for probably about a decade. Started as a freelancer. I work now at an agency called our development consulting and we do you. Just custom WordPress websites, pretty classic stuff. And we have a newsletter called master WP where we write about things going on in the WordPress space.

There's a podcast, there's a lot of good guest contributors, that sort of thing. And Recently, I've been doing a few posts about trying to contribute to WordPress. That's been a focus cuz I've never done that before. And so I joined a recent project about notifications and just as a contributor to help out.

And so I'm just learning about that and reporting on what I.

[00:05:20] Nathan Wrigley: is master WP. Is that a, is that like a part-time side gig or is it just something you do for fun? Because you seem to be putting a lot of hours into that. There's a lot of lengthy pieces coming out, written by you and many others might die.

And so it feels as if it's a very serious endeavor, but I'm not sure on what basis it's done, whether you are, like I say, volunteering your time or perhaps it's remunerated in.

[00:05:45] Brian Coords: Sure. Yeah. So our agency bought master WP less than a year ago, I think from the original founders, Ben and Alex, who we were just big fans of.

And so when we bought it, there's, it's a newsletter, it makes money by making ads. So it does have a budget. Everybody that contributes to it gets paid, whether they're doing a. Article, we pay anybody who wants to write for us. If they write a good article, we pay, anybody working on the podcast, all that, and it comes out of the advertising budget for it.

We're not as big on. Freely volunteering time since we have families and that sort of thing. Yeah, we're all getting paid, hopefully.

[00:06:29] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Oh, I've definitely noticed the quantity of work that's being put in, especially over the last year. I dunno if the website had stagnated a little bit or Ben and Alex had, put it onto the back burner, but I certainly, I appreciate it every couple of days.

I'll go over there and have a look it's part of my RSS feed and there's a lot of new content. So for my part, thank you for. For the enormous efforts that you guys are putting in, it really does make for I do a show about the news in WordPress every Monday and stuff is often scraped from your website, shall we say?

[00:07:06] Brian Coords: Yeah, that's awesome. Yeah. Ben and Alex they were very specifically a newsletter. And so they, they really didn't even have an archive of all the stuff they had done unless you went through their old newsletter issues. So that was one of the first things we did was you. Put it more like a blog where we could get people to contribute and we could, maybe keep a record of.

What people are seeing about WordPress.

[00:07:30] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah the one thing, if I had to single out your website the one thing that I really like above all else and forgive me. I love the writing. I love the topics, but I love the featured images. I just think that. Absolutely glorious. They look like watercolors and I don't know exactly if they're commissioned or what have you, but they are each one seemingly unique and beautifully done.

So I know that's probably not your, what you wanted to hear, but they are fabulous.

[00:08:00] Brian Coords: When we acquired it, I was a very vocal person about, I love the aesthetic. I thought that when you got it in your inbox, you would, you knew it was master of, because of that look. Yeah. And so I was, very adamant, like I, I don't think we should change this.

I think we should keep it. And for about a. We migrated everything onto subst stack, just to get through the process of the acquisition and subst stack, doesn't let you design anything and really makes everything look the same. And after about a week of that with some other technical issues, we were very.

Quick to get it back under WordPress in a way that could keep that unique design.

[00:08:42] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it's really lovely E everything that we're gonna talk about today. Obviously if you're [email protected]. We're gonna concentrate on an article which Brian wrote on the 26th of July.

So really recently, and also. A correlated piece [email protected], which is entitled. Let me just scroll to the top feature, sorry, feature notifications, proof of concept, which is a request for feedback. And the master WP article is called solving WordPress dashboard spam. And contributing to WordPress.

So maybe pause this podcast, look at the show notes, go and read those. You'll have an awful lot more context about what we're talking about, but it is the notification thing, the notification piece that we're gonna concentrate on today. And it seems to annoy some people seem to be able to not get triggered by it.

I. Confess occasionally I do, but mostly I don't just tell us what the problem is that we have in the WP admin with notifications. You can go wherever you like with that, the size, the shape, the color, the fact that there's maybe a bit of a wild west and there's no rules, whatever it is that you think needs to be addressed by that question, just outline what the problems are.

Sure. So

[00:10:00] Brian Coords: This project has been around for a few years now and. So it's not a new topic, I think the core of the issue is that WordPress just doesn't have a good way for plug-in developers or hosting companies or theme developers to just. Provide information to people in the back end of WordPress.

There's really no rules or guidelines. So if you want to have an alert or if you want to let your customers know about a new feature or upsell them on something on the back end of WordPress, you can pretty much do whatever you want. So the goal of the project really is to take that and just say like here's some rules, some guidelines, a tool that everyone can use.

That we'll just keep everything streamlined, a little cleaner. It'll let people turn things on and off. It'll let people, start connecting their notifications to third parties and really just do what our phones have been doing for the last few years, which is wr notifications. And, Just clean up the back end because we all have that issue of you log into a site that has 30 plugins, and it's just, you can't even see anything because there's, five upsell banners and ads and, animated gifts and all this sort of thing.

[00:11:21] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I guess that's a point to dwell on because if you are using WordPress, like I imagine most of the audience of this podcast, they're probably using WordPress a lot. They're logging into multiple WordPress admins and they've probably made a selection and refined their plugin choice and theme choice over many years.

And maybe the depth and breadth of this problem is. Exactly clear, because for my part, when I log into just about all the websites that I'm connected with broadly speaking, it's pretty much clean in there. I go in there's the dashboard when I've logged in and more or less, it looks like it did.

The last time I went in other words, it's quiet and it's clean and there's not much going on. Is this really a conversation, which is all about the, how to describe it. The more typical user, the less technical user, the user who's just using WordPress as their means of getting their blog out.

They're not really interested in how to do the code and all of that. They're just bamboozled by what they're seeing, because they've got this Welter of plugins.

[00:12:25] Brian Coords: Yeah, I think there's a few things, number one is sometimes there are notifications that are really important, but when they're buried under a ton of just junk, then, we all get selective blinders on and we just ignore everything because there's too many things.

One thing is how do we have important notifications show up in a way that's actually meaningful? The other thing is some of these. Some of these notifications are pretty crazy. There's an earlier article on master of where we did screenshots of some of the things and, it would be like you install a plugin.

That's has some small accessibility feature and then it has affiliate ads for, Page builders showing up on every page of your site to get you to install a page builder, which is, not a decision, anybody should just lightly install a page builder on their website. A lot of it is really about how do we just.

How do we just make this a little cleaner for, one number one for people like maybe me who logs into a ton of client sites that I didn't build, where they have, a ton of crazy plugins on there to, the average WordPress user who is not super technical and just install a plugin to do one simple thing.

And now it's trying to, get them to do other things or. Spam them with upsells, that sort of thing. Yeah.

[00:13:52] Nathan Wrigley: I, it'd be interesting if maybe when we finish recording this, you can dig out the URL for them. I'll put it in the show notes. It's the piece where you actually have seen the screenshots because I confess, I haven't seen that one, but are there some fairly alarming screenshots in there?

It's pretty dire at times. Can it be pretty

[00:14:10] Brian Coords: bad? Yeah. And when I first got onto this issue, it was because some other developer created a plugin. That would basically hide everything like the, it was like a nuclear bomb approach to notifications in word. Anything that wasn't, a real part of WordPress just disappeared.

And it was, just a symptom of this is how frustrated people are. I'll send you the the link to the article, but, it was a lot of You've been using this plugin, give us a rating, give us a review. I've already given you a review. Ask me later to give you a review.

Yeah. Or, you're using this version, if you upgrade to pro you can get this version. And if you send us analytics data and diagnostic information, that would be super helpful. And if you like our plugin that does this, then you should unlock this other plugin. And. It gets a little crazy.


[00:15:09] Nathan Wrigley: And I guess it's when you've just got this massive, like pancakes stack of them wa on top of the other, one which is modest and maybe, minimal fonts and minimal flashing lights and colors and animated jifs and all of that. Maybe just one or two doesn't seem that alarming, but when you literally cannot see what you're supposed to see.

Because it, the whole entire viewpoint is full up with ads. Yeah. That's when it gets a bit ridiculous. Of course. I guess we have to say right at the outset, that the reason that this is being done. Legitimate, in that these companies who have these products okay. Rewind, I didn't mean to say legitimate.

I think there are situations where it could be viewed as legitimate. Obviously, if you are simply putting a plugin out there so that you can put affiliate links in the back end of WordPress I cannot see that as legitimate in any way that. It, I think that just stinks basically. But if if you are a company and you are trying to promote your product and you've put a lot of hard work and effort into it and you've stripped out some features and you've got it in the repo and you would like to get directly to the people, who've taken the effort to install it.

That is legitimate in a way, isn't it. And so we have to bear that in mind.

[00:16:30] Brian Coords: Yeah. And I think part of it is. Part of the definition of the project is to show the right user, the right notification at the right time. Some of these show up and maybe I have just installed a plug and I haven't even used it.

Maybe that. Could show up later when I've used it, or maybe when I try to do something, that's in a premium version, that's a good time to show me the upsell, but maybe not. When my site author logs in, who has no technical knowledge and is just there to update some content, maybe they shouldn't be seeing the notification.

So part of it is, like you said, there's a right time and a place for this, and there's just, hasn't been a system for that to work. But the other thing is that, at the end of the day, people should be able to make money in WordPress and, people who make plugins should be able to make money from their plugins.

And there should be a good. To upsell their customers and provide more value in a reasonable. And like you said, legitimate way. And just because there's nothing, there's no system means that it's the wild west and people are just doing whatever grabs the most attention.

[00:17:43] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. I guess it's worth mentioning at this point that the installation of free theme, sorry, free plugins.

Let's stay with plugins free plugins on the repo is a curious. Marketplace really because you go and you browse and you look around. Maybe you get a recommendation, maybe you stumble upon something by searching and you install it. But that at this point, there is absolutely no relationship really between you and the person who's made that plugin.

The relationship is only that you've installed their plugin, there's, you, haven't had to fill out an email capture form or become part of a list or any of that in order to consume their stuff. And in, in the real world, Isn't usually the case. If you want something from somebody there's usually some kind of commercial transaction, it may be that you surrender an email address.

It may be that you pay for it, but there's a connection between you and the company, but in WordPress, not so much. So I can and do have sympathy for the companies who make a great free version of their software, make it freely available, but still have no idea. Really who's using it. And so that's, there's a hurdle to get over there.

[00:18:55] Brian Coords: Yeah. There's a legitimate reason for a plugin developer to ask people running their plugin. Hey, do you mind sending us some anonymous data that we can use to make the plugin better or, Hey, do you mind signing up for this email newsletter so we can let you know about, new, exciting things or important security updates or something like that.

So there really is. A place for those things to happen. There's a reason for it. It's just that WordPress doesn't really, hasn't really thought about this before. And WordPress is always in this weird place between everything's free and everything's coming from a volunteer, but also, people are staking their whole, livelihood.

My mortgage is based on, WordPress going well. We're trying to just find a place that's in between those two things. And, one of those ideas that people generally tend to have is, does WordPress need like an app store and just give you a better relationship with people who users software in the same way that you know, apple does or Google does,

[00:20:06] Nathan Wrigley: what do you think about that?

Are you for against or undecided?

[00:20:13] Brian Coords: It's a really tough one. . There's people on, there's voices on master WP that are more for it. Matt Mullenweg, the leader of WordPress is against it. It's, it's so in, in some sense it's just not gonna happen. I, I don't know if it would solve all of these problems, but it would be nice if there was just one central place to.

to get premium plugins and to, just keep that a little bit more centralized. I, I hate to come out in favor of centralizing everything in one place on the internet. Yeah. But sometimes, there's a reason that it's, people like those, there's a reason people buy iPhones because it does make a lot of that stuff easier.

And it's actually easier to just cancel a subscription or, do all those things when it's all in one place. Yeah.

[00:21:11] Nathan Wrigley: I don't know. Yeah. I am unsure as well because I can see exactly as you've described in the case of apple, they do a fantastic job, great custodians of their marketplace and it works really well.

Of course, there's a co. Benefit. I believe it's 30% of every transaction that goes through the app store comes to apple. There's a, there's definitely money to put boots on the ground and make that all work. But I can also see it from this more free, open source software side. Why people would say no.

We don't want things decentralized. We want. Just to be able to go where we want when we want and not give anybody any information about it. Yeah. So it's curious, it's a difficult circle to square, but the project that you are involved in that you've, and again, I'll link in the show notes, this feature notifications proof of concept project the idea there is to do what is it that you're trying to get feedback on?

What is it that you're trying to build? Just GI give us an idea of maybe the look and the feel of what you're trying to.

[00:22:13] Brian Coords: Sure. So the project itself is a WordPress feature project, which means, WordPress has given permission to develop it as a plugin and see if it would be useful and used.

And maybe one day it'll end up in core or maybe one day it won't. And right now the leader of the project is Jonathan Boger, who is a pretty well known. Educator in the developer space and is currently at automatic making, great educational content. Yep. And so the, what we have right now is.

We've built a plugin that installs on WordPress, and it just shows you a bunch of fake notifications in the way that we would give you notifications. And it shows you how a settings screen for how you would edit those notifications or how you would hide certain things. And so it's like a demo it's that you can install and just get a feel for this is what it would look like on a WordPress.

And I can click around and I can examine it. And we just want people to give feedback. So we can say oh, you're not thinking about this. Or, for my plug and I'd want it to do this. Or, we just wanna get all of that feedback and all of those ideas as it gets built out. And as far as the look it's, it's a pretty standard idea to control your notifications.

Our phones have been doing it. They, and they've been doing it pretty well over the last few years. So it's literally, you. Look at the back end of a WordPress website, imagine a little bell on the top right corner that you click on. And it opens up a little panel on the side and there's a bunch of notifications in there and you can mark them as red and you can see where they come from.

And some of them can link you to other parts of the dashboard or other websites. If you've used a tool like Trello or slack or anything like that, it's pretty standard notifications. And so we're just trying. Bring that into WordPress.

[00:24:09] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. So I'm looking at it right now and I've got installation.

So I can see, as you described. Top right hand corner. So on the right hand side of your avatar icon, where it says howdy is a little bell and there's a red dot indicating that there's things for you to look at, but it's very subtle. You could almost miss it, which to me is ideal. I want to see that notification bell when I go to look for it.

Not because some, because the bell is shouting at me, I, I know it's there. I can look at it when I choose to look at it. And you click on it. And exactly what you'd imagine a panel sweeps in from the right hand side, consumes a very small proportion of the available real estate on my screen.

Maybe only a fifth or a sixth of the width of the screen. And it's just a stack of notification in this case, fake notifications, but we get the point and it's, unread older notifications and you can scroll down and see what they all are. It, that to me is exactly what we need. I think I, I can't think of anything that's on the screen that I'm looking at now that isn't perfect.

So that's my feedback thus far. . That's

[00:25:21] Brian Coords: good. That's good to know. The sidebar that you're describing that sweeps in has generally gotten very good feedback. And most people feel like it's, like I said, it's intuitive. It's a pattern. We're all pretty used to. There's also if you test the plugin and just go to the main dashboard right.

Of your backend, you'll see some, what we call them on page notifications. And this is. Say you save a post or you updated some settings, right now every plugin shows a different way to do it. Some of them use the kind of old school admin notices, but most of them don't cuz they're clunky and hard to use.

And they don't really work well with, JavaScript and the way a lot of plugin developers do their settings these days. So that's the other piece of it is, the what, when I do wanna see a notification on the screen that takes up that prime real estate, what is that gonna look like?

And that's still, getting a lot of discussion, which is good. So

[00:26:24] Nathan Wrigley: does the discussion. Is the discussion centering around uniformity because I think one of the problems that we have at the moment is that because everybody who wishes to can insert basically anything they wish to, you can have this tangled mess of huge adverts with every font under the sun, you can have flashing lights and images and pictures.

Anything, and it just becomes a tangled mess. It's part of this project to standardize that and say, actually, you know what, here's the font you get. Here's the font size you're allowed to fiddle with. This is what your buttons will look like. And here's four colors that you can use to demonstrate the level of importance or what have you, is that part of the piece to just lock it down?

Just like on my. Where, if I open up the phone, which I'm doing now, I've got three or four notifications. They're all from completely rival services. I'm sure they don't communicate at all. One's a bank, one's Spotify and so on. They all basically look the same, there's an icon to the right information to the left.

And I know what I'm getting. Yeah. I think

[00:27:29] Brian Coords: The phone, especially the lock screen on your phone is a great example where you. You get an icon, you see the little Twitter icon or the little messages icon, one or two sentences and a button that you can click through to get. And on some of these we've even added an option for an image so that you could put in, a bigger logo or some sort of, small amount of marketing.

But the idea is, yeah that's what every notification is gonna look like. Obviously. No, one's gonna force this to be adopted because that's just not the way the plug-in directory really works and they just don't really have the time to, to confirm it. But the idea here is first let's just offer it and get it there to be used.

And then, later down the line, look at, start, seeing if we can get everybody to jump onto it. But but yeah, it's, I think you're describing it exactly right. Which. Here's a few parameters you can, put in what you need, but it, we don't need the giant, five inch tall green banner with the animated, Christmas lights blinking that one.

Yeah. Yeah,

[00:28:40] Nathan Wrigley: exactly. That one. Yeah. We don't need that. And so I'm staring at four three variations. Of what these may look like, and they're very minimal. They allow for the opportunity to say whatever you want to say there's a space for text. There's a space for a button, which could have whatever text on it.

There's an image over to the right. And it looks like something I might find. Should I be able to put my Android phone full screen on a laptop? Yeah it is great. And for my part. I think I want this to come around sooner rather than later as the way of doing it. The opt-in thing for a while.

Sounds like a good idea, but I would like it to be pursued in such a way that in three or four years from now, this is what you are allowed to do. These are the constraints that you are given. If you want to have a plugin on the WordPress repo, you've gotta abide by these constraint.

[00:29:35] Brian Coords: That, that would be my goal.

You said say three years, and I know that's just a time, but one of the things that I go over in my article is how quickly things move in WordPress , something and how . Yeah. And this project is three years in the making. And when I talked to Jonathan, the project lead about it, he, he even said, he's seen people come and go, PE most people are volunteers.

They show up, they can work on it for a few months and then, maybe their job changes or their family life changes or something. And this is, I think. I hope that we're at a place in three years where we can say this is the system let's start expecting people to use it.

but I'm, I've learned to, to not get too over excited about drastic changes in WordPress. Yeah. Especially anything outside of, the. The main priority of Gutenberg. Yeah.

[00:30:40] Nathan Wrigley: So one of the things that I've got on my phone is like this permissions model for notifications. So I can't remember exactly where I find it, but somewhere in the settings of the phone is the option to, for example, to switch off.

Any kind of notification that may come from this particular app. And if you've got an app that you enjoy using, but you discover that they send you notifications 16 times a day about things that you're not interested in, there is a way to switch them off. And I noticed that at the bottom of the screen that I'm looking at there's an area called notification settings and we've got four sources of notifications and we'll go through those and maybe.

Room for that to be expanded over time. But the sources at the moment could comprise of WordPress. So I guess just WordPress itself, then user activity, which is things like, for example, when something has been published successfully, or perhaps when something's been scheduled or edited and so on and so forth.

So the user interactions then comments, a big part of many websites and then site health. They're the ones that you've got on there at the moment. And each of those has got an option to be shown in the admin email, SMS and app. And I confess, I understand what the UI looks like, and I can understand what I might be doing, but the bit where it says admin email, SMS, and app, I'm confused by what it, what I would be getting if I ticked out ticked those boxes.


[00:32:09] Brian Coords: So that's a good question. The settings. First I'll say they're a work in progress and this was a, an initial design and it's just trying to get feedback to get these sorts of discussions going. So the breakdown right now that you mentioned WordPress user activity, comments, site health, what I'm imagining, and what I think a lot of us are imagining is plug-in developers adding more rows, maybe a row for Yost.

And I can pick my settings from them maybe a row for, woo commerce or other plugins. And they can maybe even break theirs down further. So any anybody that's sending you notifications any, you know what we would say, like an app, Twitter messages or something. They.

Register a row and control the settings. And then for. each row it's where do I wanna see these notifications? And the first one is in the admin when I'm literally logged into WordPress. And the second one is email and these two exist right now where. Sometimes I get emails from WordPress and sometimes I get notifications in my admin, but I generally don't get the same messages in both places.

And that's can be a little confusing. Let's say a new user registered for the site. I get that in an email. Yeah. But I don't see any record of that when I log into WordPress. When my WordPress crashes for two seconds, while an update's happening and you get that email that says your website crashed for a second because of this.

I don't see that in my site. On the other hand, when the site health tool discovers that I'm using an old version of PHP, I don't get an email about that. I don't really see it in my admin. It's hidden somewhere else. So there's so many different places and we just wanna say you should see all of these things everywhere.

And then start turning them off where you don't want to see them. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:34:06] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. I'm following that now okay. So in the example of like plugin X, it would be able to register a row and then we'd be able to switch off. Okay. I don't wish to receive emails from this and I don't wish to see them in the admins.

For example. Do you think that there's the possibility that certain. How to describe it, that this could be ignored. If it wasn't made mandatory, if these boxes, these tick boxes were not compulsory that people could, because we've seen what people are able to do. They, this sort bend the rules that this could either be ignored or that we then get a new, slightly different, but equally unmanageable interface where we've got 30 plug-ins and they've all registered a row, and it's gonna take us half an hour to figure out what we're doing.

Here as opposed to just a, an advertising row where any plugin company that wanted to put anything in that was ex external to security or updating, that would be treated as advertising. And you could opt into that across the whole website.

[00:35:12] Brian Coords: That's a. Very good question. The first half is, are developers going to ignore this if they can't get exactly what they want.

And the answer of course is yes. That's one of the things in fact, there was just a discussion today about something like that. And it was this, that idea, which is. Unless we make marketing an important part of this plugin developers will just continue to show their marketing messages elsewhere.

And so , that's, we're really trying to get all this feedback because we want everyone to feel like they can use it. So that way, you can turn it off and you can control it. Would having a general marketing bucket and trusting plug-in developers to. To use that that would, that's not a bad idea.

And I'm actually gonna write that down, but I think that's a good point. I think, again, it's we're just trying to get plug-in developers to talk and explain what their needs are. So that way we can make sure we don't end up in the situation where they are ignoring it. But as far as.

Keeping them outta the repository. That's that will only go so far. And, let's be honest. A lot of the bad actors here are also the premium plugins that aren't in the repository in the first place, yeah. Interesting.

[00:36:41] Nathan Wrigley: They, there's always a way with WordPress to make this stuff go away anyway, but , you've got to understand what you're doing, so you mentioned there's a plugin which can enforce the nuclear option.

I happen to be using one of the guys who contributed some comments onto the post that you wrote yesterday [email protected]. Ross wins. Turbo admin, it's an extension for Chrome and it does a few of the bits and pieces, but it would be nice to think that people honored it, but it would also be nice to think that there was a way that if people didn't honor it, there was a UI to enforce it, which is in effect what Ross's extension does.

And probably the nuclear plugin that you mentioned earlier. It, it just says, okay, you don't wanna, one of those setting. I'm gonna take that out of your hands anyway, and I'm gonna click this button, which will make it all go away regardless. And I think that the notification section at the right hand side with the bell is great because it's just, it's not there unless I invoke it and we don't have that at the moment.

So it, I'm sure there's a path through, this is what I'm trying to say. Yeah.

[00:37:50] Brian Coords: And as far as when things show up on the dashboard and not in that side, We really feel like if you take an action, you save a post or you install a plugin, then that's their one moment to show something on the top of the screen, you installed a plugin.

Here, show your big notification where you're asking for everything you're gonna ask for. And that's your one moment because they took an action. They installed the plugin that it's okay for you to give feedback in that moment. And that makes sense. And any other time you want to communicate, it's not that urgent and it doesn't need to be on the top of the screen.

Yeah. It can go into a sidebar. There's no reason not to. Yeah. I agree that I would love to see. the rules get stricter over time. And I'm hoping that's where this ends up.

[00:38:43] Nathan Wrigley: So here's a couple of curious thoughts. One of them's just occurred to me. And one of them I've been thinking about for a little while and the one that's just occurred to me is what about the option of allowing.

Advertising of whatever magnitude, go crazy. Do whatever you want with the page, but it's buried in the settings of the plugin. So let's say for example, plugin X it comes up somewhere. It's in the menu somewhere, whether it's in settings or it's got a menu item, all its own, but buried inside of there is their.

Advertising page, for example, and yeah, go nuts. It's there. If I really wanna see it, I'm gonna make the effort to go and look for it. And in a way I'm just sweeping it under the carpet that way. So there's one thought the other thought is the idea a bit like an Amazon Kindle, we spoke about this before the.

Before I press record. Amazon Kindle comes in several varieties, but one of the varieties that you can purchase is a more affordable version, but it has adverts baked into it. So the trade off there is you pay less money for the product, but Amazon is going to perpetually. Put adverts and I believe it's fairly constrained, it's off on the lock screen and maybe a few of the settings menus.

I don't think it interrupts your reading behavior, but there it is. That's the trade off you've made. And I wonder, I do wonder is there a new model for plugin? So we've got free at the minute and we've got premium. What about something in the middle where we have free? No ads, sorry, free.

And it obeys all of the rules that you've just mentioned. We've got paid and you've paid for it. So let's hope God help us. We don't get any adverts, but somewhere in the middle, we have a paid tier where you pay slightly less than the premium version, maybe 10, 20, 30, 40% reduced, but they get to do ads in your WP.

Admin. What do you think about that? Slightly contr. I'll

[00:40:43] Brian Coords: take the first half cuz you described, you install a plugin and it has its own settings page or somewhere. And on that page, they really do have free reign. I use a lot of plugins where. , on the side of the, you go to, add some redirects to your redirection, plugging in on the side, there's a little box that says that's right.

Described to our email here or something. And I, I think that's fine. Somebody brought up a similar issue, which is. Maybe a lot of those plugins should not be so prominent on the sidebar. When you install a plugin and they get a top level sidebar, for a plugin that you're really only accessing once in a while.

Yeah. I would love to see some. Some guidelines around that kind of stuff. But I think that exists and it's I think that's a good place to do it because it doesn't affect people who maybe don't have the permissions to deal with that plugin. And thus, shouldn't be really knowing about its marketing features anyway, but the second idea, the ad supported plugin, I think is it's part of this issue where plugin people who make plugins should get paid.

We're so used to free plugins. And on the one hand, I feel like I don't want to pay for a plugin. And on the other hand, I'm afraid to use a free plugin, cuz I'm worried it's not gonna be around in a year because the developer isn't getting paid and it's this real catch 22 about how do we keep giving things for free, but also like how do people, want to keep doing things if they're not getting paid for it?

WordPress, probably won't ever have that app store where, we could put those things together and have advertising in plugins and have people make money off of plugins, in, in a real way. But I would be curious to hear what people think about ad supported, free plugins and.

Those would ever make it into the plug-in directory. Yeah. Just

[00:42:48] Nathan Wrigley: so that we're just so that we're clear, I'm not suggesting it's a good idea. But it's an idea. Another one which has just occurred to me is, so you're watching the television it's commercial television. And you understand how it works.

You watch a period of television and the game is after that period of time is ended. You get bombarded with adverts, those adverts don't consume a bit of the screen. You don't get to watch the program whilst there's adverts running concurrently the ad completely dominates the screen.

Your program has functionally ended. You've gotta put up with the ads it's bound in time. But once that time is ended, you can resume and, come back from the kitchen, having made a nice brew, but but also what if in the WP admin, there was just a marketing page where anybody could put all of their advertising stuff, so if you've got plugin X and plugin, Y and plugin Z, they. Do all of their ads in this one page. So in a way it mimics the TV example except being bound in time, it's bound to a certain page. So go nots. There's the page for it? I don't suppose anybody had ever go to that page, but you never know if there was some nice offerings and coupon codes and things like that.

It might get visited well,

[00:44:10] Brian Coords: most bigger, plugin. Really do that where I feel like WooCommerce does this, where there's a page in WooCommerce on your website, that's just a bunch of their premium, extensions, and offerings. And a lot of those kind of plugins do it where you install it and they have one page, just for the one plugin, not, for the entire site.

Yeah. Where it just shows here's all the premium things. Yeah. That you could also add on. And I remember there. Time where on the main plugin screen, where you would go to install new plugins, the, I dunno if it was jet pack or w commerce, but they hijacked into that. And if you searched for something where they had a premium version, they would stick it in there.

You would search for, image optimization and then jet pack would pop up in there and say, oh, you need image optimization. We have a premium option for that. Trying to search for a free plugin. I, it's honestly not a bad idea that we have just an option for marketing premium plugins, things that you might want on your site that you might pay for based on what you're already using, that would actually make your experience better.

[00:45:24] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Just, the trade off on the TV. It's there, it dominates the screen and you know what to expect. You've made that deal with the, yeah. With the television network. I'm gonna watch some programming and then I'm gonna consume some ads. That's just the way it's gonna be.

And I just, it just occurred to me a similar idea, just a wall of adverts on this one page, which you can ignore or you can't. The what's occurring to me as this conversation goes on is how difficult thorny deep and wide this whole thing is there. Basically isn't a correct answer.

There's just, let's try things out. Let's see where this project goes. Let's see what triggers the community. Let's see what people can put up with. And as these ideas occur to me, I'm knocking them over in my own head, as I'm saying them thinking well, that wouldn't work in this scenario.

Time is short, so we can't go through everything. But I appreciate the quandary that you've got yourself into here.

[00:46:20] Brian Coords: you, we go through the same thing internally. Sometimes we discuss articles where you go, why doesn't WordPress? Just do this. And then you write half of an article and then you go, oh, I guess I found out why because I, I thought it through.


[00:46:34] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Just, I now realize that my initial thought was completely wrong or I've been told by 17 other people that no, that's insane. Nobody will ever use that. Yeah. That's interesting. If time is short, I'm afraid. We've probably reached the end of the allotted time. But if people want to communicate with you, Brian let's take this in two parts if they wanna communicate with you personally.

So Twitter handles email addresses. Are you comfortable sharing any of that? And if so, let us know what they are now. Sure.

[00:47:03] Brian Coords: So if you, I have been trying out Twitter this year has been my new bad habit. And so Twitter. my, handle's just my name, Brian Coords. I can't guarantee the quality there. Then most of.

The community stuff I do I write about on master WP, which is just master wp.com. And so you'll generally see my byline somewhere on the front page. Or if you scroll down, we have a list of all the contributors and, we always invite people to submit to be paid, to write for master WP.

And so that's the kind of me personal and my WordPress writing.

[00:47:46] Nathan Wrigley: okay. The other one thank you for that. I should say the other one is if they want to know more about the project that we've been talking about, so notifications and so on, where's a good place to get stuck into that debate.

[00:48:00] Brian Coords: Sure. So we're gonna add a link to this specific request for feedback in the show notes. Yep. So that's a good place to start, but anything you are interested in WordPress? I think the first thing to do is to figure out where they're talking about it on slack. Because that's. There's a big free slack, for making WordPress.

And if you're just interested in anything it's worth finding the channel and just watching it, there's every project has some sort of weekly meeting at some time zone. That is good for. You or painful. And so I recommend if you're really interested in this topic to just jump in the slack and you'll see the meeting take place and you'll be able to see what we're talking about.

And we are always open to hearing people. Share their opinions and share their feedback and just answer questions of how

[00:48:56] Nathan Wrigley: to get involved. Thank you very much. Brian Coords, I really appreciate your comment on the podcast today and giving us a real deep dive into WP notifications and the problems that they may no longer in the future.

Be presenting us with. Thanks a lot. Thank you, Nathan. I hope that you enjoyed the podcast. Very nice chatting to Brian, all about the WP notification system and how it may need to be improved in the future and what ways it might be improved. If you've got any thoughts or commentary, head over to WP Builds.com.

Search for episode number 294 leaves a comment there or go to WP, build.com. Facebook, which is our Facebook group. And you can search for 2 94 as well, and perhaps leave us a comment there.

The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting. That includes free domain, SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy pro to unlock more free benefits, to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by going to go.me/WPBuilds. And we really do thank GoDaddy Pro for their continued support of the WP Builds podcast.

We may be back next week. We may not. I'm still flipping and flopping about whether I'm gonna take a holiday. So I said it last week. I may be here next week. Here I am. And I may or may not be here next week. Let's see how that goes either way. I hope that you have a nice week, stay safe. I'm gonna fade in some cheesy music.

And say bye.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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