Yea, me too.
On an average, I receive over a dozen emails/comments a day regarding SK or WP-related support. A good 90% of which are usually RTFM-related and not in any way due to a bug in SK. Lately, I have spent upward of two hours, every single day, dealing with plugin development issues (mostly SK). Very often to come to the conclusion that the bug I’m going after has been introduced by some changes in WP’s code, user hacks, exotic server configurations or any of the hundred parameters I have little control over.
And this, of course, for the mere glory of it all. Because it is doubtful I will ever make a buck off it (and that’s really not the goal), nor is this type of development ever likely to impress anybody reading my resume (the kind of people who employ me usually, ignore until the very meaning of the word ‘blog’).
But this is quite alright.
The many thank-you notes, sincere props, pitches in the tip jar, as well as the personal benefit from using these tools on my own blog, definitely go a long way toward making it worth my time. And I am certainly not gonna start complaining because a project of mine gets some amount of popularity. User adoption is indeed the greatest form of appreciation for one’s work.
Why am I putting Spam Karma’s development on hold, then?
Well, because on top of being something I barely have time to do, developing SK has recently become one of the most excruciatingly irritating experience of my whole life as a developer.
Hang that on two reasons: 1) blogs 2) WordPress.
“Blogs”: because developing a blog-related tool means that, whenever a bug or incompatibility comes up, instead of doing the normal user thing and contacting the developer with some data regarding occurrences of the bug, most bloggers simply decide it’s infinitely more productive to bitch about it on their blog, addressing a readership that most likely can’t do anything about it and doesn’t care. This would only be half-irritating if not for the fact that the problem usually turns out to be coming from the user’s failure to read the docs or his less-than-standard setup.
Note that I even went to the length of explicitly mentioning this problem in Spam Karma’s doc. But then again, the people who jump on their blog as soon as they encounter an issue before posting the slightest comment or email are also the ones who usually skip on the doc-reading part.
Second and principal reason why developing SK is becoming more of a drag than I am willing to handle: WordPress.
WordPress is a wonderful tool, it is probably the best publishing platform available out there at the moment. Essentially thanks to the huge community that revolves around it: developing plug-ins, patching the code and guiding new users. Literally hundreds of people putting their time to the service of the community.
However, I have a serious beef with the way its development has been going lately: chiefly, I am getting sick and tired of discovering massive changes in ostensibly alpha-phase code, every other morning. Changes that are neither discussed nor announced on any of the main community channels. Announcing major alterations to the code architecture is not only simple courtesy toward the people working with it, it is also bloody common-sense, if you hope to keep them interested in contributing.
This goes along with the overal flakiness of the release scheme (there again: absolutely devoid of any communication) and the fact that, rather than fixing fundamental flaws, current development seems to focus essentially on adding trendy features, overlapping existing ones (please just do not ask me one more time why there is a wp-plugins.net and a wp-plugins.org) or making sweeping, untested and half-efficient last-minute changes to the code.
Well, the development leads are, after all, perfectly entitled to conduct development the way they see fit. It is their utmost right.
But it’s also my right to be pissed and tired of swimming against the flow: I am just not that interested in dealing with this particular brand of ego-tripping any more.
And this is why, until further notice, you can consider development on Spam Karma frozen.
I will try to release the last bug-fixing version I have ready, but this is nowhere near my list of top-priorities for the day. It is also unlikely to fix whatever has been broken by the latest release of WP alpha 1.5: consider SK officially incompatible with 1.5 alpha.
This is definitely not to say that I consider SK in its current incarnation to be an efficient and sufficient answer to blog spam: truth is, it is barely keeping afloat of the latest spambots (which is already better than most, but probably won’t last). I know very exactly what is needed and what could be done to bring it back up to a satisfying level of efficience: I might get back on it some day when I have both time and motivation.
I am not stopping all spam-related development. I actually plan to keep working on that project I have been alluding to for a while. If only because, at its essence, it is intended to be entirely blog-independent. Therefore avoiding me the kind of WP-related frustration mentioned above. We’ll see in the future about adapting it for WordPress or possibly even integrating it with an hypothetical 2.0 release of SK…
In the meantime, for all of you happy with the current release of SK, it should keep doing a decent job for as long as you stay away from CVS code. After that, I believe there should be many an alternative available.
Now if you will excuse me, I have a long awaiting date with a bottle of Bombay Saphire…
Note: I also want to use the occasion to introduce the awesome Documentation for Spam Karma kindly put together by Johnathan Abad. Definitely go check it out: it’s full of useful stuff for every level of users.