After several months of discussion, WordPress.org’s Theme Review Team has decided to discontinue the Trusted Authors (TA) Program that launched in April 2018. The program, which was controversial from its inception, allowed certain authors to bypass the normal theme review queue after demonstrating an ability to submit themes with fewer than three issues. Trusted Author theme submissions went to their own dedicated queue that was handled by team leads.
The objective of the program was to streamline the review process and lessen the burden on reviewers. When it failed to deliver the intended results, the Theme Review team leads made a unilateral decision behind closed doors, implementing a change requiring TA participants to join the team and perform a minimum number of reviews in order to continue having their own themes fast tracked through the review process. This was loudly decried by other members of the Theme Review team who were blindsided by the decision.
“We are removing the Trusted Author Program,” team lead William Patton announced in the most recent meeting. “It has not fulfilled the intended plan and has caused more problems than it is solving.”
Fellow team lead Sandilya Kafle outlined the reasons in a post published today. The entrance requirements for the program did not ensure that participants were truly “trusted” authors, as many had to be removed for gaming the system. Reviewers also reported that there was a group of people releasing clones of themes every week.
“We got lots of help from the TA authors – for which we’d like to thank them,” Kafle said. “However, there was still gaming from some of the authors – which resulted in their removal from the TA program. One of the intentions of the TA program was to reduce the gaming by the use of multiple accounts. However, we still saw some authors having multiple accounts so this intention was not realized though the program existing.”
The TA program’s entrance requirements also did not ensure that participants were prepared to review themes at a high level, which resulted in inconsistent reviews.
“We strongly believed that TA members were highly familiar with the requirements but we found that was not the case for all of them,” Kafle said. “Additionally, some authors did not feel confident enough in their own understanding of all requirements to perform reviews and set themes live. Instead many TA reviews went to the admin queue after approval. This was an indicator that the quality of the themes by TA’s may not be as high as expected.”
Most of the Theme Review team members present in the meeting were generally agreed on shutting the TA program down. Alexandru Cosmin, the former team lead who introduced the program, was the only vocal outlier, whose acrid responses to scrapping the program reflect a long-standing frustration with the slow queue.
“Honest opinion, and I could bet on this: by the end of the year we’ll have 5-month queues and multi-accounters,” Cosmin said. “We’ll see how fair it will be when you have guys with 15 accounts and authors complaining in the main chat about how long the queue is.”
Today’s decision to discontinue the TA program restores the natural order to the queue, with all theme authors receiving the same treatment. Tying an incentive program to the review system was ineffective for taming the queue.
Long queues and gaming the system have proven to be continual struggles for the Theme Review Team, but the existence of these problems underscores the significance of the official themes directory for theme shops. Companies continue to use WordPress.org to gain users for their commercial versions, and the directory remains an important distribution channel for WordPress themes.