WordPress.org account problem & lack of appeals process

It started because I had the personal account I had recently created restricted and I couldn’t log into it. So I reached out to see why it said it was restricted as I hadn’t been sent any kind of email or notification. I had three accounts (one was an older mistake) but only the most recent one had been restricted and wouldn’t let me log in.

Created in 2008 and had forgotten it until recently. I think I stumbled on it trying to use the same email address for the personal account (and I wasn’t trying to keep this one but I’m disclosing that it existed and that it was a mistake account with nothing on it):
https://profiles.wordpress.org/fascination-design/

Correct business account (created 2010):
https://profiles.wordpress.org/fascinationdesign

Personal account (created 2023):
https://wordpress.org/support/users/hilarybaumann/

I created the personal account because I wanted to get more involved in the WordPress community and wanted to access the WordPress Slack account as myself.

But I wanted to keep my main business brand account in case I ever created any plugins and wanted my business to support that and have more flexibility to scale.

The response to asking why the personal account was restricted was: https://wordpress.org/support/guidelines/#do-not-create-multiple-accounts

I was then point blank told I wasn’t allowed to have both a business and personal account.

Screen shot of an email that says:
"> Seeing as it looks like personal accounts and business accounts are
allowed,
No, they are not. There is a very limited use case for that and this case does not qualify. Just pick one account and we will unban that account.
Going forward just use the one."

And things did not get better from here.

What this has made me very aware of is that:

There is also no obvious appeals process in this type of situation.

It appears to allow judge and jury by one volunteer.

IF a WordPress.org volunteer deleted my account entirely…

The Good:

Deletion of my WordPress.org account would not prevent me from using WordPress or the plugins for my site or client sites. Which is good and really vital for an open-source project in my opinion.

The Bad:

IF I had plugins or themes on WordPress.org I would however lose something if I were banned. Anyone using those would lose the ability to autoupdate via the normal methods. THIS is deeply troubling.

Get on the wrong person’s side while you have a plugin or theme on the wordpress.org directory and it could look like you’ve abandoned a project.

I really do not like single points of failure and I see the lack of appeals process as a single point of failure with regards to the WordPress.org plugins and theme directories.

This is a serious flaw in WordPress.org in my opinion and needs to be looked into.

Summary of where my account stands if you don’t want to read the lengthy timeline:

  • I was initially told I could not have a company account.
  • I deleted all other accounts in order to prevent the volunteer from deleting the one that was important to me.
  • As of Feb 18 2024 the anonymous volunteer has now just contradicted what they said claiming my accounts were personal accounts and told me that what I have left IS a company account. I’m not allowed to post as a company in the forums (not what I was requesting in the email but apparently they didn’t want to read what I wrote.)
  • So I’m going to attempt to set up a new personal account since my company account is not allowed to post in the forums. I’m not up for that tonight but I will update here if more changes happen.

Key points from the WordPress.org website that I brought up repeatedly:

https://wordpress.org/support/guidelines/#do-not-create-multiple-accounts
“A company may register a brand account with a verifiable company email.”

https://wordpress.org/support/forum-user-guide/faq/#can-i-have-multiple-accounts
“Individuals are not permitted to have and use more than one account on WordPress.org, in order to maintain accountability for actions and to prevent anonymous abuse.

Companies are permitted to have a separate account to own and manage their plugins and/or themes.”

Past this point my formatting needs some work but it’s a full timeline of what happened AND the thoughts I had as this nightmare correspondence unfolded

Read the full thing after the break…

We left off at….

I was then point blank told I wasn’t allowed to have both a business and personal account.

Screen shot of an email that says:
"> Seeing as it looks like personal accounts and business accounts are
allowed,
No, they are not. There is a very limited use case for that and this case does not qualify. Just pick one account and we will unban that account.
Going forward just use the one."

But that’s not what the guidelines say or how I read them:

Screen shot that says:
Do not create multiple accounts

Individuals are limited to a single personal account.

A company may register a brand account with a verifiable company email.

We do not allow individual users to make multiple accounts, and consider this a bannable offense."

Literally right there I read that as a single personal account (but) a company can register a brand account. https://wordpress.org/support/guidelines/#do-not-create-multiple-accounts

You are in violation:

Screen shot of an email response that says:
"WordPress.org is a community project that is staffed by volunteers. There are no businesses here and we don't host your site. We just support opensource users for free.
When you post or reply in the support forums, you are not doing so as a brand or company or business.
You are doing so as an individual. That you choose to use a username such as fascinationdesign does not change that.
Your account has been reactivated on WordPress.org
Please be advised, you are expected to follow all the forum guidelines found here:
https://wordpress.org/support/guidelines/
All restored accounts are flagged for moderation, meaning all your posts will need to be approved before they show. This is so we can ensure you have, indeed, understood the issue and will not make a repeat violation. The moderation will go away on it's own, as long as you're active on WordPress.org -- there is no need to ask for it to be removed.
Be aware, if you make the same errors going forward, or violate other major aspects of the guidelines, you will be suspended again, and this time you won't get your account or posts back.
If you have any questions, please let us know."

This was dismissive & quite frankly hostile about why I wanted to keep my older account.

It also says you’re allowed one mistake and then we’ll just ban you if you make another. I’ve been using WordPress for 15 years (and building websites since 1996) but I’m being talked down to and… threatened. And the only account that had been restricted, the personal account, had not in fact been reactivated.

I don’t actually appear to have been in violation with that personal account. (The 2nd business one from 2008 that I didn’t remember existed until recently might have been but not the personal one that had been created in 2023 and been restricted.)

So I filed Data Erasure requests

on the 2008 account and the 2023 account because that appears to be the only way to “delete” an account. https://wordpress.org/about/privacy/data-erasure-request/

Why did I go ahead and do this even though I believe I was in the right for wanting and having a business and personal account?

Because I didn’t want to give what looks like a power tripping volunteer a reason and excuse to delete the wrong account.

This is also why if you click on a couple of those account links above they now redirect to anonymous user accounts.

But I’m posting about this on my personal website because the way I read the guidelines, I was not in the wrong here.

And if I am in the wrong, then I still believe that there are good reasons to allow people separation of business/brand accounts and personal accounts and I want to voice that and make my case.

This experience and unnecessary hostility and finger wagging has really impacted my interest in getting more involved in the WordPress community. Plus the WordPress Community slack account I had is now gone.

I know there’s some turmoil in general from the podcasts I listen to but this interaction should not have been this level of bad even with all of what I understand is going on.


Below this point edited / added to December 16, 2023:

There is also no obvious appeals process in this type of situation.

And the volunteer is anonymous which makes it problematic to reach out to any single person involved in WordPress.org too.

I seem to have gotten judge and jury by one volunteer? That is deeply troubling. And I have been trying to think of the best way to reach out to some of the team on this but because the volunteer in the emails is anonymous it means I don’t know if the person I might reach out to is also the person who wrote these things.

The anonymous volunteer component leaves me with a need to reach out publicly / in a group setting where more than one person can be involved.

Part of the reason I have this on my website is the public component. And so that I can share what happened with a few people instead of just one.

I got a very “anti-business” attitude from the volunteer responding and I need to talk with someone who understands that, for example, the existence of Woocommerce means that WordPress isn’t just some platform solely for personal blogs.

Business components are deeply embedded in the project and have been for quite some time.


Below this point added Dec 18, 2023:
Looking at what would break if I were banned and what my next steps are to fixing this situation.

IF a WordPress.org volunteer deleted my account entirely…

I do not appear to lose anything major currently since I do not have any plugins in the directory yet.

The Good:

Deletion of my WordPress.org account would not prevent me from using WordPress or the plugins. Which is good and really vital for an open-source project in my opinion.

The Not-Great:

If I were banned and had no account, it would mean that if I had issues with a plugin I would have to find the plugin developer another way. So I highly recommend plugin developers have a second way to contact them in some way shape or form. (Github, contact form, their own forums or channels. If you’re like me and don’t want any single entity holding you hostage, make sure you have a second communication channel.)

I would also technically lose access to the WordPress.org slack channel if I was banned from the WordPress.org forums but since I never set that up with my business account (and I didn’t want to because that just doesn’t make sense to me and was the main reason for setting up the personal account to begin with) and I lost access to slack when I did the data erasure on my personal account.

The Bad:

IF I had plugins on WordPress.org I would however lose something if I were banned.

The major component here being that automatic plugin updates are “solely” done this way … though not exactly since I’m seeing what looks like a couple of projects that could potentially do automatic updates from files hosted at GitHub.

I’ll be coming back to this later because I want to see what developers are using this just because I use one paid plugin I wish would implement something that did auto-updating and when I asked the dev said they couldn’t do the auto-updating because of the wordpress.org component (which means I may have found a solution for that dev and others IF what I found works.)

I really do not like single points of failure.

So still digging and trying to figure out how I want to approach this desire to have a business account and a personal account …

I came across yet another WordPress.org page that says I should be allowed both a single personal account and a business / company account:

https://wordpress.org/support/forum-user-guide/faq/#can-i-have-multiple-accounts Screen shot in case this gets changed:

Screen shot of page that says:
Can I have multiple accounts?
Individuals are not permitted to have and use more than one account on WordPress.org, in order to maintain accountability for actions and to prevent anonymous abuse.

Companies are permitted to have a separate account to own and manage their plugins and/or themes. However in those situations, the account is only intended to be the owner of the plugins/themes, and is not permitted to use the forums.

Individual user accounts are to be appointed to the various roles used such as contributors, support representatives and similar. Developers who abuse this privilege will have it revoked.

Please read Using the Forums and Special Roles and Capabilities for further details.

So ok, here’s where I’m not currently in compliance to have a business and personal account (even though this was NOT the reason given in the email from the volunteer.)

I HAVE used that fascinationdesign company account to make some posts in the forum because:

  • Back in 2010 to who knows when, these were not the rules.
  • Back in 2010 it made sense for me to only have a business account. Businesses DO evolve & change.
  • Back in 2010 there was no Slack channel that required a WordPress.org account to access it (honestly I’m not even sure when that showed up because I honestly only became aware of it in 2023.)

So I have ~8 posts in the forum from 4-7 years ago and 1 plugin review using the FascinationDesign account.

Ok so maybe I just delete these and set up the business account the correct and compliant way and then set up a personal account as well. I don’t really care about what I posted 4-7 years ago.

Simple? Nope.

Deleting posts and reviews in the WordPress.org forum does not appear to be possible.

I do not appear to have the option to resolve & clean that situation up on my own.

Many of these things are terms & conditions that absolutely came along well after the setup of my fascinationdesign wordpress.org account.

So let’s entertain the flip side of this:

Maybe my account should just be a personal account and forget having a business account. (NOT what I actually want here but just doing the “what if” side of this.)

Forget the idea of ever potentially hosting a WordPress plugin on WordPress.org and just go with Github if it ever comes up (though that’s limiting but not the end of the world. I AM good at SEO and marketing.)

Next fail: IF I were to only have a personal account I can’t just simply change my account username from FascinationDesign to HilaryBaumann.

I lose that 2010 component of the existing account AND the history of the few posts I have if I want to change to HilaryBaumann because it looks like I HAVE to start over. I then have to re-favorite that set of plugins and themes IF I even care about that (which honestly at this point that is a component I don’t care about since I have all of that backed up and bookmarked elsewhere now.)

I DO however kinda care about the proof there that I’ve had a WordPress.org account since 2010.

IF I’m going to have any account at all I kinda want it to remain that one.

I started a testing site in WordPress in 2005, started using it for my business site in 2007 or 2008 and then really started using it for clients in 2010 and that’s reflected in the date of that account.

So what now? I guess I have to join the WordPress slack with the business account and go from there…

Or it least that’s the option that seems the least likely at the moment to get me banned?

But at least I’ve explored the negatives of what could and couldn’t happen if a single volunteer at WordPress.org does decide to ban my account.

It’s time to get on with:

  • getting someone to help get this fixed so I have a business account and a personal account
  • accepting that my fascinationdesign account is now my personal account I guess / I don’t have a personal account and only exist in WordPress as my business?
  • OR getting myself accidentally banned.

Dec 19, 2023 update on progress:

I assumed I needed to go to Slack for this because of https://wordpress.org/support/guidelines/#contacting-the-moderators

Screen shot that says:
Contacting the Moderators
If a post needs moderator attention, there is a ‘Report this topic’ link on every thread. That will add the post to a queue moderators watch and follow up with many times a day.

If immediate action is needed, or the situation is not limited to a specific post, users should come to Slack and post in the #forums channel. (please consult the FAQ before contacting the moderators)

The word Slack and FAQ are links.

But when I created the Slack account again I noticed that welcome message I was sent said the following:

Screen shot of Slack welcome message from WordPress.org that says:
Forums Welcome
WORKFLOW  7:31 PM
Welcome to the #forums channel, 
@Fascination Design - Hilary Baumann
, where the volunteers that maintain the various support platforms for WordPress come together to collaborate.
:speech_balloon:  All are welcome to join the weekly team meeting in Slack – check the time & date in the channel topic.
:exclamation: If you wish to discuss actions from the forums, such as a flagged account or similar, please instead reach out via <span 
                data-original-string=fo**************@wo*******.org. Doing so will let the team quickly identify your account, and treat the conversation, and any associated information, with confidentiality. :bulb: You may quickly find what you need at one of the following pages: The make/support blog - where asynchronous posts and status updates are posted. The support team handbook - The routines the support team follow, and useful information for contributors. Getting started with support at a contributor day - If you are at a contributor day, and starting out with support for the first time, this is a great place to start! :grey_question: In addition, we recommend familiarizing your self with the guidelines and Frequently Asked Questions section of the support forums: Frequently Asked Questions Support guidelines IRC Guidelines :exclamation: Please note that there is no end user support here on Slack. Instead, you will need to use the WordPress.org Support Forums or #WordPress IRC channel for any support related to your site. " class="wp-image-10264"/>

I REALLY don’t want to email because what I talked about with there being one anonymous volunteer making decisions at certain points and how I feel the need to call attention to this situation to more than one person. I want to talk to a group so the two key links are the last two at the bottom:

So I think my new starting point is:

https://wordpress.org/support/topic/before-posting-in-everything-wordpress/

Screen shot that says:
Have questions about WordPress.ORG as a volunteer organization. Want to get involved? Don’t know how the Theme/Support/Training/Documentaion/etc. teams work? Here is the place to ask.

Also noting that https://wordpress.org/support/welcome/ says not to worry about getting the wrong support forum because they can help or move you to the right forum.

I should go ahead and add that not all emails from the volunteer were screen shot above. I also received one from the volunteer that involved dialog about sock-puppeting which implied I was setting up accounts “used for deceptive purposes” when that was in no way my intention or purpose. That should be clear by this post I hope.

I have debated including those screen shots … they honestly seemed even more hostile than what I’ve already posted and I want to make progress instead of focusing on that portion. But do need to mention at this point they exist and can be posted if it’s vital to the conversation.

This is my forum post:

https://wordpress.org/support/topic/wordpress-org-account-situation-that-turned-into-a-bigger-volunteer-issue/

Screen shot - text will be added later because I think one of the email addresses was messing up the code and page presentation here for some reason. I need to upgrade this site sorry.

Update near midnight :

welp that post was deleted by someone. It’s just gone.

I mean maybe business accounts flat out can’t post now? But this all started because my personal account was restricted so I couldn’t access it and not the biz acct.

So I guess next is the email address I didn’t want to use and slack after that?

And if that doesn’t work I’ll start reaching out to WordPress podcasts that have multiple hosts?

The anonymous volunteer component means I don’t know who I can trust.

Open to suggestions on resolving it still but it’s starting to feel like it’s just not worth bothering.


Dec 21 2023:

Decided to go with Slack first to see if there’s an appeals process I haven’t found.

Why did I decide to start with Slack instead of the remaining email address? Because I don’t like the idea of getting the same volunteer and getting a judge and jury deciding to delete my company account without someone else seeing and maybe being able to say something about the decision.

I don’t know what the process or oversight is or isn’t with regard to what volunteers can and can’t do or what permission levels may or may not exist.

Screenshot of what I posted (and I’m not actually experienced enough in Slack to know if they can delete this):

Screenshot of Make WordPress Slack for the #forum channel. Post made by Hilary Baumann says:

Trying yet again to resolve something but shorter and a new location (my post in forums was deleted without notification or explanation): is there an appeals process for when a WP .org volunteer makes a decision on something that’s in conflict with what’s published in the forum Guidelines and FAQ?

Even if it doesn’t get a response there, at least I posted it and it’s possible for more than one person to see it.


<need to dig out my screen shots from the slack interactions – they were all fine>

Apparently the forum post deletion was supposed to send me an email message that I never got. Checked spam and nothing was there.

But a volunteer in the WordPress slack channel sent me a DM copy of the message regarding deleting that post so at least there was supposed to be something that indicated why.

It however became obvious I was going to have to try email again and I didn’t want to do it around the holidays so… I put it of.


Feb 17, 2024

I sent the following email:

Screen shot of email with full text below the image.

Screen shot of email says:

“Let’s try this again. Past attempts to get this resolved resulted in false assumptions by the volunteer responding to me. I still want to get things cleared up though.

Companies are permitted to have a separate account to own and manage their plugins and/or themes according to these terms and guidelines:
https://wordpress.org/support/guidelines/#do-not-create-multiple-accounts
“A company may register a brand account with a verifiable company email.

https://wordpress.org/support/forum-user-guide/faq/#can-i-have-multiple-accounts
“Companies are permitted to have a separate account to own and manage their plugins and/or themes. However in those situations, the account is only intended to be the owner of the plugins/themes, and is not permitted to use the forums.”

I created my company WordPress.org account in 2010. It’s not like these rules were exactly the same 14 years ago but it’s not like I have screen shots of every page of the entire site from that long ago either

I was legit trying to clean up and create a clear separation of business and personal for the potential to create more for WordPress when my (now deleted) personal account was restricted

Which leads me to the following where I see there may be additional cleanup in order to be in compliance:
– I can’t delete the few posts made years ago.
– I can’t even delete the review I made in more recent years that was made without realizing the policy changes.
– I would be fine with those POSTS and the single review associated with
https://profiles.wordpress.org/fascinationdesign/ being deleted to be in compliance with the rest of the current guidelines for company accounts.

I want to KEEP this account as my company account for potential plugin and theme development.

I want(ed) to create a separate personal account for use with the WordPress.org slack (I deleted what was supposed to be my personal account when the last attempt to get help with this was being misunderstood and assumptions were being made about my intentions.

Is there anything else that I’m missing that needs to be addressed in order for me to be in CURRENT compliance for having a company and a single personal account?

Is there another email address I should have contacted instead?

(Yes, I am aware that I waited more than a month before trying to get this resolved again. I decided I didn’t want to try again during the holiday season when people are more stressed as well as more likely to be sick and not thinking clearly.)

Please let me know what the next steps are that need to be taken in order to get this resolved.

Thank you for your attention in helping to resolve this matter.”

Feb 18, 2024

Message I get back:

Screen shot of email with full text below the image.

Screen shot of the email says:
“Why are you creating new emails? These are the basic facts.

• In the past, company accounts were permitted to use the forums.
• This lead to many problems and not a small amount of abuse.
• Going forward, when we see a company account request it cannot use the forums.

That’s all there is to it and that is not changing. Yours is a company account. This is already resolved.”

So they are now contradicting how all of this starting and confirming https://profiles.wordpress.org/fascinationdesign/ is a company account. They also ignore a significant amount of my email content and were again hostile.

And they are not going to help me keep this from happening again since the whole entire reason I contacted anyone to start was that the personal account (the one I deleted after the interaction in December) had been restricted, not the company account.

I was not asking to post as a company (though I did once only because it was the only account I had left.)

So, since they suddenly have now confirmed that it’s a company account, I’m going to attempt to create a personal account again.

But to try and reduce the odds of yet another overzealous volunteer deciding that my account can’t be a company account because it at one time posted in the forums years ago AND I can’t seem to delete the things that are in violation of modern guidelines, I have posted the following on the company account:

Screen shot of WordPress.org profule page:
Bio
Founder, Hilary Baumann

This is a company account with no intention of continuing to post in the forums.

The purpose of this account is for potential future theme and plugins development.

The guidelines were not the same in 2010 as they are now and it used to be that company accounts could post in the forums. I asked for old posts to be removed in order to be in compliance but was told the matter was resolved and I do not see a way to delete those old posts.

I am posting all of this so my intentions are clear and assumptions don’t continue to be made since someone previously claimed I had two personal accounts and company accounts were not allowed.

Having a company account and one personal account meets the current guidelines two places:
https://wordpress.org/support/guidelines/#do-not-create-multiple-accounts
“A company may register a brand account with a verifiable company email.”

https://wordpress.org/support/forum-user-guide/faq/#can-i-have-multiple-accounts
“Individuals are not permitted to have and use more than one account on WordPress.org, in order to maintain accountability for actions and to prevent anonymous abuse.

Companies are permitted to have a separate account to own and manage their plugins and/or themes.”

I am now going to go create my personal account which was in fact the account restricted last time when I was trying to clear things up.

WordPress Origin Story
Short version been using WordPress as a CMS since 2005.

Text says:

Bio
Founder, Hilary Baumann

This is a company account with no intention of continuing to post in the forums.

The purpose of this account is for potential future theme and plugins development.

The guidelines were not the same in 2010 as they are now and it used to be that company accounts could post in the forums. I asked for old posts to be removed in order to be in compliance but was told the matter was resolved and I do not see a way to delete those old posts.

I am posting all of this so my intentions are clear and assumptions don’t continue to be made since someone previously claimed I had two personal accounts and company accounts were not allowed.

Having a company account and one personal account meets the current guidelines two places:
https://wordpress.org/support/guidelines/#do-not-create-multiple-accounts
“A company may register a brand account with a verifiable company email.”

https://wordpress.org/support/forum-user-guide/faq/#can-i-have-multiple-accounts
“Individuals are not permitted to have and use more than one account on WordPress.org, in order to maintain accountability for actions and to prevent anonymous abuse.

Companies are permitted to have a separate account to own and manage their plugins and/or themes.”

I am now going to go create my personal account which was in fact the account restricted last time when I was trying to clear things up.

I don’t have the energy to do it tonight. I will post updates if someone decides to try and ban me. At this point I’m also going to take this content to several podcasts because I’m done. If my company and/or personal account get deleted it just proves these problems are seriously bad.