WordPress Support Forums: Rude Support is a Disservice to the Growing WordPress Community

be nice (by zzzed)

I’m not very religious but do believe in the Bill and Ted “just be excellent to each other” philosophy. Well, at least, I try. Of course, there was the Blade Runner compliment debacle and the time I was snippy rather than reflecting on what was being said to me. But, I really think it’s easier to be kind.

Recently, for fun or because I am a masochist – I’m not really sure, I’ve being helping people on the WordPress forums. I get excited when I know the answer and I also learn a lot. People have encountered issues that I’ve never even heard of or are using really cool code that I hadn’t even considered using.

What I’ve found though is that some of the other members, while knowledgeable, are really unpleasant. They are rude, sarcastic and snarky.

I know this occurs on all support forums but I don’t think it’s helping to promote WordPress.

Here’s an example. A user asked the following question.

This is the error message I get when trying to upload an image: “The uploaded file could not be moved to D:\inetpub\user\blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/11”.

A member replied with:

why dont you use the search box at the top of the page?

put this in it:

The uploaded file could not be moved


show us the miracle that would be someone searching.


I would have replied with something like this.

When I searched the forums for “the uploaded file could not be moved”, I found the following information. Hopefully this helps you out. (and include the link to the information)

If I was too annoyed to respond pleasantly, than I wouldn’t answer at all, or I would stop providing support.

And some of these rude members are burned out. They’ve been providing support for years and are tired of reading the same questions over and over and having people ask questions before searching for the answer. I completely understand the frustration.

But, if you are that frustrated over something you do as a volunteer, as a hobby, then maybe it’s time to stop. Seriously.

And here’s why.

  1. With each release WordPress becomes more popular. More people are using it. More people are going to be asking questions in the forums.
  2. The developers have designed it to be accessible to everyone so you don’t have to be a techie type to use it. This is going to cause there to be more users asking newbie questions. Questions that have been asked before. Repeatedly.
  3. When something goes horribly awry with WordPress and a website, the user is going to panic. They are going to write a panicked question, not search the forums for solutions first, and not provide enough information. It is isn’t going to help anyone to be nasty to that person.
  4. With more users, there are going to be more non-native English speakers. Imagine trying to ask your question in another language or searching forums in another language. Yeah, I didn’t think that would work out so well. I belong to a soccer forum that is in French. I can muddle my way through to get information out of it, but my French is not good enough to search the forums or ask a question.
  5. Let’s face it WordPress. The Support Forums are not that easy to get information out of if you don’t know the keywords to search for. It’s gotten better, but still. And the Codex (WordPress documentation) is not written for the non-technical person. Sorry, it isn’t. I’d say I have an intermediate level of knowledge but I didn’t switch from Movable Type to WordPress for a long time because the Codex information is hard to understand. Fortunately, as more people use WordPress more tutorials are being written and there is a lot more information outside of the Codex. I’ve even written a guide to upgrading WordPress manually so that I had a more user-friendly version.

So, let’s be excellent to each other. And, if you can’t be nice providing a volunteer service, than it’s time to stop. Your attitude is a disservice to the growing WordPress community.

photo credit: zzzed

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  1. says

    some people are rude to others online because they can be. it’s so easy to hide behind a computer screen and be a jerk. I still think that too much technology has made us insensitive to the feelings of other. We are impatient and we don’t always care. We don’t have time to….We all learn at different levels and people don’t realize that. What’s easy for you is rocket science for someone else.

    We have little to no tolerance. It’s horrible. How much better would things be if we treated people the way we want to be treated. PLain and simplE.

    Natural´s last blog post – The Day of the Fight

  2. says

    HI Kim,

    Great article. As a WordPress newcomer, I found some of the responses at the WordPress forums (by moderators especially) to be shocking. It was really a turnoff. I don’t want to go back to those forums if I can help it. I have never understood nastiness in forums. Its harder to be nasty than it is to not post in the thread. If someone’s question is below you, then don’t answer it. Or if you feel you must, answer it politely like your example above. Luckily for me, I know an awesome person who gives me help with WordPress and is also nice. ;-)

    Jim´s last blog post – The Most Important Moment in Television History

  3. says

    Totally! When I first added WordPress to my server, I was doing this alone and totally new to .org. I didn’t know what a FTP was. I never knew it would be so difficult – for me. I encountered a couple error messages and whatnot and did not receive any help from the forums after I spend hours trying to fix it myself.

    I did a search on the WP forums and apparently others have asked some of the same questions and they never got an answer, just rude, snarky, sarcastic responses and almost no help. I ended up paying someone on scriptlance to fix it for me when I couldn’t find a solution anywhere online.

    Carla´s last blog post – I am sick of “green”

  4. says

    Serious techies come in a few varieties. The very nice, helpful kind that understands that not all users are the same, and each needs to be helped at the user’s level, not the techies. Then there are the “I know so much, why should I waste my time with these trivial questions” types, which I have worked with before and are not cool at all. And finally, there is the pure anti-social types, who just won’t get in questioning range. I agree, everyone should be much nicer. Even super techies aren’t experts in everything, and one day when they need help, they could run into someone that gives them a bit of karma in rude responses.

    ~ Kristi

    Kikolani | Poetry, Photography, Blogging Tips´s last blog post – Guilty Pleasures

  5. says

    @Natural – It seems that many people tend to behave differently online that they would in real life. In my example, the person is supposed to be helping people – and this person is very knowledgeable and does help many people but is frequently really rude about it. It’s interesting to watch the other responses. Some say you don’t have to be a jerk while others almost apologize for being “stupid”. I feel sorry for the ones that apologize.

    @Andy – Well, you are an example of perfect customer support! Some of these forum members could learn a lot from you. Interesting point that they wouldn’t say anything nasty if had to pay to do so.

    @Jim – I didn’t actually notice any from the moderators, just other members. I’ll have to take another look. If it’s also the moderators then it really is a sad state of affairs.

    You’re right – it is so much more time-consuming to be a jerk than to just say nothing.

    @Tawnya – It’s definitely burnout so they need to stop. They aren’t getting paid to do it.

    @Carla – I see many questions that don’t get answered. I don’t answer them if I don’t know the answer or don’t understand what is being asked. It’s pretty quick and easy though to leave a link for someone with additional information. I also thing questions go unanswered because there are a lot more people asking them then answering them. WordPress is free and everyone there is a volunteer.

    Sorry you had so much trouble though. Have you learned more since you started?

    @Vered – Nasty little trolls ;-)

  6. says

    @Kristi – I like the breakdown of the types of techies :-) Especially the third – I’m so anti-social I won’t get in questioning range.

    I think the 2nd type should stick to the advanced users forum if all the beginner questions are bothering him/her.

    The example I used wasn’t even the worst one that I encountered by this individual.

    Funny coincidence – you almost always post a comment here when I am responding to comments.

  7. says

    @Kim I did learn that my issue was pretty simple after I paid to have it corrected. It was one of those 505 errors or something like that. I understand that there are more questions than people to answer but the answers I did find for the same problem were curt, short, rude and not helpful. I’m still trying to find a WordPress forum that has nothing to do with WP itself.

    I still haven’t been able to successfully upgrade my WP yet.

    Carla´s last blog post – I am sick of “green”

  8. says

    This has been a problem since the early days for WordPress. It was even worse on the MU forum a while back, to the point that I made a decision not to use that product based upon my not wanting to deal with the clowns in the support forum. I have only recently gone back to reevaluate that code base, and the support forum.

    Unmoderated communities are a disservice to all of us. I’ve found in my many years of forum moderation that sticking a head on a pike at the gate, publically, is utterly important to enforcing civility. Obviously, that lesson has not been learned on the Wp forums yet.

    Mark Cahill´s last blog post – The Tragedy of the Virtual Bookshelf

  9. says

    In my experience personal finance forums can be the most bitter. Its because some of the people who turn to these forums sound really helpless and in real financial trouble.

    Especially recently, I have seen a lot of people asking about foreclosure advice and being laughed at. That’s really really sad.

  10. says

    I don’t know if that will help. There are plenty of places to go for WordPress support, and the only times I tend to go to the Automattic forums is when I’m utterly stumped. Then, after a couple, “did you search, you idiot” replies, no one answers, because I’ve asked a really hard question.

    I do try to answer 3 questions for every question I ask.

    Mark Cahill´s last blog post – The Tragedy of the Virtual Bookshelf

  11. says

    @Carla – I sent you an email about the upgrade problem.

    @Mark – I haven’t even wanted to touch MU. I know I could figure it out but there doesn’t seem to be much support out there.

    Where else do you go for support? Sometimes when I do for a search I find a blog post that explains what I’m trying to do but more often then not I end up in the WordPress forums.

    If the moderation capabilities in BBpress are limited, then what exactly do the WordPress forum moderators do? I was under the impression that BBPress was the best forum software for WordPress because of the integration. There isn’t a lot of support for that product either though.

    @Stratos – It’s a good idea but not something I think I would have the time to do. I also don’t know if my knowledge level is high enough. I could be the civility enforcer though ;-) I would rather work toward improving the current resources.

    @Manshu – That’s terrible. I can’t imagine who would laugh at someone in that situation. Now I’m very concerned about forums that deal with issues such as mental health – hopefully they are moderated better than that.

  12. says

    The problem with burn-outs is that they often don’t realize they are burned out an even if they do, they will stick around out of some warped sense of “duty”.

    No excuse for the behavior. Even when folks use their names, there is this false sense of blanket anonymity on the web.

    In my previously life I was a paramedic. Pretty high burnout factor with that job, for sure. Saw all kinds of folks continue to do it long after their compassion for the work and the patients was gone. Terrible.

    So yes, just be excellent to each other, ok?

    Insightful post, KW.


    Tumblemoose´s last blog post – Write, write, rewrite

  13. says

    I tried using the WordPress forums a couple of times, but I didn’t even get an answer, even a snarky one. Searching the forums yielded little or no help, either. I gave up on the forums and haven’t been back since.

    Now when I have a problem, I will use Google to find an answer, or failing that, just whack at it until I solve it on my own. Fortunately, I’ve gathered some friends on the net that I can ask now when I get stuck.

    I participate on several forums, and they are not all like WordPress’. Many are civil and helpful, even when the same question is asked over and over. The Thesis forum is one of the best I’ve been on.

    I think that the general tone of the WordPress forum is snarky, and it draws people who think being rude is the way to go. I don’t see a solution for that aside from people (like you, Kim) who do want to be kind and helpful visiting the forum and answering questions.

    Mike Nichols´s last blog post – Phobia Names: Why Can’t We Just Agree?

  14. says

    @George – Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. That’s terrible about the paramedics – that’s a lot more serious than some tech forums. I didn’t know that you used to be one – that’s got to be a rough job.

    @Mike – I was hoping you would stop by because I wanted your input in how the WordPress forums differ from the Thesis ones – I know you spend a lot of time over there.

    I asked a couple of really dumb questions on the Thesis forums and the responses weren’t rude but they were a little terse. Or maybe my own insecurities interpreted them that way.

    It’s a shame your questions were never answered at WordPress but I guess no answer is better than a rude one. What I haven’t figured out is how to report bad behavior or if it is even possible.

  15. says

    I have seen some terse replies on the Thesis forum, but I hope they weren’t rude, and I hope it didn’t turn you off from using it when you need to. Rick Beckman, the moderator, rides herd on the forum pretty tightly and keeps the peace.

    Most of the more terse replies I have seen have been when 1) the person didn’t give enough information, such as a URL where the problem is happening, or 2) they didn’t search the forums first. Most replies are friendly and helpful — much more than on many other forums I frequent, including the mental health ones.

    I admit the search function on the Thesis forum is pretty bad. I usually use Google site search instead.

    I decided to give the WordPress forum another try and just entered a question after a search yielded nothing. It’s to do with WP 2.7RC1 and the Safari browser.

    Incidentally, if you want to play with 2.7, I have a test site set up with it. Just dm me your desired name, password and your email address and I’ll set you up an admin account.

    Mike Nichols´s last blog post – Phobia Names: Why Can’t We Just Agree?

  16. says

    You bring in a very important point – that the WP platform is not really meant for a blogger with excellent ideas to write about and whose main job is writing. The frequent updates that the platform comes up with, the number of settings to be done and the amount of knowledge one should have before woking on it, puts the blogger into more technically challenging situation.

    If you sit back and think, why would one need to know a lot of things just to start writing some good content? This is the unfortunate scenario of online content creation right now. And the so-called know-it-all geeks snub others who ask genuine questions and raise concerns. The problem is created by the techies and unfriendly support people alone – not by the dummies who are at their mercy right now.

  17. says

    Hi Kim – I wish you were around when I was learning. I couldn’t get anywhere in the WP forums and didn’t understand codex. I ended up doing Google searches for all that I had problems with/ Boy, was that time consuming, but over time I finally got things figured out. A caring person on the other end would be a Godsend.

    Barbara Swafford – Blogging Without A Blog´s last blog post – The Unseen Benefit of Commenting

  18. says

    @Mike – No one on the Thesis forums was rude. Rick Beckman is kingdomgeek, right? He is answering a lot of the questions :-)

    Thanks for the 2.7 access!

    @Ajith – I am of the opinion that blogging with WordPress requires people to have a variety of skills – writing, technical, marketing, etc. No one can excel in all areas. If WordPress adoption is going to continue to grow, if needs to become more user friendly or at the very least have friendly support.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

    @Barbara – I almost always search google first. It frequently brings me to the forums or the codex but I often find useful articles on other sites. A couple of my articles have been my own guides to information in the Codex. The plus side of your experience is that you learned a lot.

  19. says

    snarky – I like that word, the things I learn from blogging!

    I tried codex, yeah right. The forums were worse though. IF you got an answer it was often rude or over my head or so vague that it was useless.

    Regarding being unable to use the publish feature in wordpress, one thread actually told me I was the only one with the issue. Another one told me it was my server, so I went through that nitemare, still no publish feature to this date. That kind of service just made me give up and forget about it.

    I guess what do you expect for nothing? or you get what you pay for?

    Remember the days of the phone tech, their first question, “is it plugged in?” Used to drive me crazy! By the time you called them or they picked up you were so frustrated you wanted to scream!

    Dee Langdon – BloggerNewbie´s last blog post – Do You Think Blogging Is Becoming Over Saturated?

  20. says

    @Dee – Snarky is one of my favorite words. “sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner”

    I haven’t been able to help you with that problem either I’m afraid. And you aren’t the only one who’s had it. You are the 3rd person I’ve encountered online – there has to be many more. Unfortunately, it is usually the host and there are a variety of causes.

    I worked in Tech Support for 2 years and frequently the problem is resolved by something as simple as “it is plugged in.” It’s frustrating for more advanced users with bigger problems but I’ve found it’s best to start with the simpler causes and then move up to the more complicated ones.

    The best is when I don’t have Internet access so I call Verizon. While I’m on hold they recommend going online and using their support center for quick resolutions. “Well, yeah – if I could get online then maybe I would do that.” ;-)

  21. says

    Hi Kim. you know I hate rudeness! I did a post on that awhile back. But I am so glad you are there to help people out.

    For the rest of you reading this, Kim is contracting with me to get my blog set up on my ever-in-process website and themed to match. I play with that code stuff and it is not my thing. I tried twice to put the Twitter button on my blog and it just didn’t want to go there. I reached out to Kim after reading her blog, talking to her in comments and on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I believe this is a true benefit of social media, meeting people you can trust that have the talents to solve your problems.

    I do look for people who are nice and helpful… rude people would not get my attention.

    Julie Walraven´s last blog post – Postcards from the road

  22. says

    Hi Julie – Thank you so much! I really appreciate your kind words. I remember your article – you were upset because you rarely encountered that kind of rudeness where you live. I can’t wait to get you all set-up.

  23. says

    Ah, yes. The wonder that is BBPress Moderation. It’s utterly clunky, very hard to find the posts that need to be deleted. Luckily, from what I see on the WP support site, they don’t really bother deleting anything. There is a bozo filter plugin, but that’s not totally awesome.

    We’ve resorted to writing our own admin stuff for the NameMedia premium sites like http://www.geek.com that use it.

    WordPress and BBpress are well integrated, but for running a real forum community, I’d look at simple machines or vBulletin (I’ve done lots of vBulletin work). There are user bridges to wordpress for both.

    Mark Cahill´s last blog post – Layoffs for for Book Publishers

  24. says

    Hi Mark – Thank you for the additional information. I didn’t know about the WordPress bridges for other forums so that’s something I’m going to look into.

  25. Eddie Sutton says

    Love this topic and your views = right on the money! One additional thought about the potential (or real) damage of so many snarky-type replies that DO NOT provide any answer – those replies clutter search results! Ironic when the “snarks” push searching as a solution? Yep. This has been my experience in the WordPress forums – search for a solution and then scroll through one-after-another reply that snarkily says “how about a search” or “didn’t you read this other post?” Ultimately I get tired and frustrated of finding zero answers and lots of rude commentary – so I leave! Today I’m like Mike – use Google for the search.

  26. says

    So true. I have answered a few questions on the forums from time to time and have seen quite a bit of rudeness.

    Yes, WordPress is simple software – probably the easiest CMS to customize – however, that doesn’t mean that anyone can do it. I find that there are a lot of newbs in the forums asking for assistance, which might explain some of the rudeness. For example, it is hard to explain the intricacies of WordPress templates or plugin installation to someone who has limited experience with HTML or FTP.

    Either way, there are simple tutorials popping up all over the web, and the codex is expanding, so at least most of the information can be obtained without going to the support forums…

    Shirley´s last blog post – 36 Ways To Cure Writer’s Block

  27. says

    @Shirley – I think there need to be better resources for newbies and I think some of the new users need to learn how to help themselves or find a friend to help them.

  28. says

    I have had the joy of visiting the forum for support on a media gallery issue with 2.7 rc1 over the weekend. No problem with rudeness, just no answer. 24 hours and no one has responded. Also, the same problem has been reported by several others since rc1 and no one is answering.

    The whole forum needs an enema. Everything else about WP is first class, but the forum is like a 1994 usenet group.

    Mark Cahill´s last blog post – Sutton Chain of Lights 2008 Photo Gallery

  29. says

    @Mark – Lucky you. Do you think that maybe nobody knows that answer? I was on the forums some over the weekend and it didn’t seem like many people were on answering questions.

    LOL – “1994 usenet group”

  30. says

    It’s a common issue, and is most likely due to either permissions on either the images folder or one of the scripts. It might also be server related.

    I can see I’ll end up debugging the issue myself, probably tonight.

    Running a forum is like running a blog – you really shouldn’t let issues go unanswered, even if the first answer is (mostly likely) “we need more information.” When the forum name is “Support” it becomes doubly important.

  31. says

    I think WordPress are at that stage in their life where they risk a big backlash. A lot of folk are helping them for free and get involved in support. I often help WP users for free in various places, have provided an entirely free user guide (which needs updating yet again to cover 2.7, darn it!) to help new users to work the system. It’s all contributing to the WP community.

    And we build GPL themes too – yet have just had any links to our site blocked if we want to be in the WP Theme Library because we also happen to sell paid for themes. No rational explanation was given and e-mails continue to be left unanswered. As a consequence we’re left with something of a bitter taste in the mouth – should we continue to support such a well capitalised company if they won’t support us in any way at all? Maybe we should look at Expression Engine again…..

    David Coveney´s last blog post – WordPress.org Pull 200 GPL Themes

  32. says

    Hi David – Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    I just went and read your article before replying here. I am stunned. Did they pull all of the GPL themes from sites that also sell other themes? It’s understandable if there is a specific reason but a one sentence email is not acceptable. Especially after the entire theme partnership issue that you discussed.

    If it weren’t for users contributing to the community they wouldn’t be where they are today. I also think that WordPress was very lucky when Movable Type started charging with version 3 I think. Prior to that WordPress was not as big. But Movable Type users got mad and moved to WordPress.

    And WordPress isn’t even a great place to find quality themes anymore. Doesn’t make sense that they pulled so many out of their directory.

  33. says

    @Kim – it’s even worse than that! What they’ve done is to suspend all themes where the home page or author’s home page supports a premium themes service in any way.

    So Joe Fischler’s excellent Aeros theme has also been suspended because he dared carry an ad on his site for Woothemes.

    This smacks of trying to crush competition to their own plans to monetise GPL themes.

    As you say, MT lost the community support and lost out massively. Whether that was a good business decision for them is a different thing – maybe it was, but I’m in no position to know that for sure. What I do know is that if you want to profit from GPL, which almost always depends on the goodwill and backing from a lot of people who came before, then you really really need to play nice.

    Thanks for your support – I was worried I’d get a lot of flack for fighting on this subject but everyone’s been ultra-supportive so far :-)

    David Coveney´s last blog post – WordPress.org Pull 200 GPL Themes

  34. says

    @David – Everything I’ve read today seems to be supportive. Maybe I haven’t come across the other point of view. But the other side doesn’t really seem to be saying much of anything ;-)

    So, if I had an ad for say Thesis on my site and I released a free theme WordPress wouldn’t list it in their directory. It’s really hard to believe.

  35. says

    I had the weirdest feeling reading your article and the comments. It’s like deja vu. I was a user in the WP forums when I first started with WordPress.com a couple of years ago. I know a couple of the support helpers quite well (through the Interweb). I recall at first the forum was very friendly and I found it relatively easy to get the help I needed, people were polite.

    Frankly I admired any one who helped out to the extent that some did (and remained civil) sometimes in the fact of a lot of insults and very little appreciation. I recall some heated arguments that often it was just best staying out of…

    I did think that burnout was inevitable and that WP/Automatic/mods/whomever could have done more to support them, but that’s just me. I tended to cut them a lot more slack. There are only so many times you could tell people to please search. Even volunteers need some support and appreciation. I did feel that the WP forums degenerated somewhat when the original set of volunteers got fed up/burned out/”mushroomed” on one too many times.

    In the end I left because I went to self-host my blog…Wordpress.org was more mature, but it was hard to navigate and often deserted, however I have to say I did get help I needed. The thesis forum and threads are marvellous… so much so that when I see the odd condescending post it really stands out. However I also feel Thesis attracts a more mature user than wp.com – and it shows.

    Nicky Jameson´s last blog post – Want to Become A Blogger? Free Video Tutorials To Create Your Own Blog

  36. says

    Hi Nicky – Thank you for visiting and commenting. I was actually discussing the WordPress.org forums – I think they are different than the .com ones.

    You raise a good point. Perhaps the mods started out fine but were pushed to the negative point that they have reached. I just think they should stop offering support if they can’t do it without being snarky.

    Being appreciated makes a big difference too. I feel really good when I answer a question and the person replies back and thanks me because the solution works.

  37. says

    If it’s the wordpress.org forums then that’s a really poor show on their part. Yes I’d say it is different to the .com forums. I must have been lucky enough not to encounter rudeness there – fortunately I didn’t have to visit that often and I haven’t been there for over a year. And yes, if they can’t be polite and helpful they really should not volunteer.

    Nicky Jameson´s last blog post – Want to Become A Blogger? Free Video Tutorials To Create Your Own Blog

  38. Blake says

    Feel lucky you got a response at all. My last 10 or so questions stretching over the past year or so got zip, zero, nada. They were ranging from challenging to probably-dang-simple. Dunno if anyone is benefiting from wordpress support anymore, but if so, go you.

    • says

      Hi Blake – I answer questions more frequently than I ask them on the support forums but I haven’t had much time for it recently. I try to devote an hour a week but that doesn’t always happen.

      The problem now is that too many people are asking questions and there aren’t enough people to answer them. It’s free software and support is run by volunteers.

      I try to search the forums and the web for answers before I post a new question on the forums – it’s sort of like a last resort for me.

  39. Robin says

    Thank you for your post! I posted my first request on the WP forum today and was shocked by the rude response. I have been developing for 27 years and was curious about WP. I quickly found out that I don’t want to be a part of that group. Very unfortunate that such snippy, unhappy people lerk on there.

  40. says

    I just read this post (some years after the initial comments) and could not agree more! I also try to help folks on the WP support forums, only to often be “shouted over” with the snarky melodrama about “You’ve hijacked this thread!” or “Off – topic… go away” etc.

    It’s only a few voices – but they seem so melodramatic and jazzed up that I fear they are running newbies off. Being nice doesn’t really cost us anything – but these few are ruining the community for all.

    Well said (a bit late!)


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