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Problematic Users, Do I Keep Coding? (A Vent)

Asia, Cambodia, Earth, k

Testimonials had a 2.16.0 release last week. It was the first to use a new central framework to help cull some 1,500 lines of common code out of Aihrus’ WordPress plugins.

For the users that had current web host systems in place, it wasn’t a big deal. However, for hundreds of Testimonials’ users running PHP older than 5.3, it was a bad day for us all. Lots of frustration all around once they started encountering this particular error.

Parse error: syntax error, unexpected T_STATIC, expecting ')' in /home/TBD/public_html/wp-content/plugins/testimonials-widget/lib/aihrus/class-aihrus-common.php on line 44

The fix?

Easy, upgrade to PHP 5.3.

Rant Background

Within 24-hours of becoming aware of the PHP 5.3 issue, the page Most Aihrus Plugins Require PHP 5.3+ was setup to educate users for potential fixes. Also, entries about the PHP 5.3 requirement were added to the Testimonials Upgrade Notice section.

Throughout all of this, the WordPress support forum posts were responded to quickly regarding the user education page. Further, over the past week, all of Aihrus’ plugins got revised readme.txt‘s with enhanced Installation and FAQ/Support information regarding other plugin and PHP 5.3 requirements.

Why Rant?

This PHP issue has been covered about a 100 times, between Testimonials’ support on WordPress and Aihrus’  support system in the past week. Yet, people are still calling or writing about this well documented issue.

Given that PHP 5.2 reached end of life in January 2011 and PHP 5.3 reached end of life in March 2013, at some point, website owners and webmasters need to take responsibility for their web hosting environment. If only to ensure it’s reasonably secure.

To the users writing that my software or WordPress is [email protected]#$. It’s not. Your web hosting environment is simply out of date. Keeping it up to date isn’t that hard. Often, you need only to email your web host’s support department requesting an update.

Throughout this past, its felt like everyone blamed me, Michael, the developer of a free plugin for crashing their site when I decided to use PHP 5.3. Software that reach its end of life in March 2013.

To website owners and webmaster

Did you pay for this free software? No.

Did you ever send a donation or kind words of thanks? For over 99.998%* of you, no.

Then, you got what you paid for. Therefore, by what reasoning must I drop everything and fix your problems.

To the 99.998%* who don’t appreciate

You basically only write to say, you broke my website; fix it.

I get it, I understand it, you’re frustrated and have fire-breathing bosses or terribly-high pressure against you. You just want things to work. I don’t blame you.

As a single developer with popular plugins, there’s only so much that I can do on my own. Your lack of doing anything to help resolve or lessen the problem before reaching out or at least being courteous about it, leaves me with seriously considering to stop free software development and support.

This is sad.

I love to write code and solve problems through it. I love making people’s lives easier through software.

Frankly, I’m good enough at writing software, that I essentially have sponsors who ensure I keep writing software and supporting open source so that I don’t have to work a real job. However, bad weeks make me wonder if users aren’t just taking advantage of me and if I wouldn’t be better off back in a positive corporate culture environment.

Why Charge?

Would you believe, I used to give away Testimonials Premium by donation or to those who asked for it? Somebody gives me a dollar, I send them my labors. Okay, it’s not smart business practice, but heck, I’m generally a nice guy.

Anyways, one day, somebody chargebacked a $ 5 donation. Can you believe that? That seriously hurt me, not financially of course, I could skip my glass of wine that day; but emotionally.

You as a donor should give freely. Though I figure, there’s a request coming and that’s fine with me. However, to give and then take back? That’s just rude and inconsiderate. Would your mother be proud of you for doing this?

Thankfully, there was an important lesson learned from all of this. If you’re going to give me headaches, I’m going to get paid for them. Hence, the Aihrus Store.

In any case, similar situations aren’t as uncommon as you might think. Each one raises my hackles and makes me question my charitability to writing and supporting free software.


Most folks don’t understand how much effort goes into writing good software.

I’ve been coding since 1984. I have a clue about it. I’m not the best, but I’m good enough to have 406 testimonials of my own and normally have a 100% customer satisfaction rating.

Anyways, Testimonials and Custom Bulk/Quick Edit easily represent over $ 10,000 worth of effort each. There’s literally years of knowledge and experience pushed into them. Further, as I gain more knowledge, skills, and abilities; I improve them.

Still, to keep my continuous improvement going, I need revenue (buy Testimonials Premium), your kind words, and constructive feedback.

I’m Sorry…

I didn’t mean to break your website. I know this past week has been frustrating for you, many others, and myself.

Hopefully though, you’ve learned to read upgrade notices, review documentation, or check the support forums for issues in the future before upgrading. Otherwise, you need to take some fault when things don’t go as expected.

In the end, I’m going to keep coding, but if the complaining gets too much, I’m going on vacation or moving onto other projects were my talents are appreciated.

* Notes

  • 126 donors have contributed $851.47 year to date. Thank you for your support. You’ve helped pay for many months of diapers and for me to donate to other worthy developers and causes.
  • 406 notes of appreciation or thank yous have been sent. To those providers, you rock! Please keep sending the constructive feedback. It helps keep developers like myself going long into the night. Much to the chagrin of our spouses.
  • 99.998% is derived by 100% less 325,000 Testimonials downloads divided by 406 testimonials and 126 donations. Basically, 1 in 5,000.
  • Yes, I’m a geek, I keep track of things. It’s just simple queries against open data sets.
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Hello, I'm Michael Cannon, Peichi's smiling man, an adventurous water-ratchief people officer, cyclist, full stack developer, poet, WWOOF'er and world traveler.