WPML: WordPress Plugin gone wrong

A few years ago I decided it’s time to offer one of my WordPress sites in more than one language. After researching a bit, I found the best product was WPML. I found references to it in the WordPress Plugin Directory, googled it, found and visited the website, and decided it was worth the $79. So I purchased it and started the long and painful job of translating my website.

My website was quite technical, and I found it difficult to believe the iCanLocalize translators would do it justice, especially considering the target language was Hebrew, which is a language with many horrible pitfalls when translating technical terms.

A good example of this is Microsoft Windows 95, which was very poorly translated to Hebrew. So poorly that it was the subject of many jokes when one of the first Hebrew translations appeared back in 1995. Screenshots with funny translations were circulated over Email.

So needless to say, I did not trust their translators and decided to translate it myself. I was of course very happy with the results, because the pages ended up not being a literal translation, while still carrying the same message. In fact I felt the translated pages were better worded than the original English counterpart, if only because I had to think about the meaning and how to say it better in Hebrew, and was quite successful with that.

But I digress. Fast forward two years later, and I find myself in a Mafia situation. The plugin has upgrades, but I can not upgrade my WPML plugin. Apparently I need to pay iCanLocalize some more money before I can upgrade the plugin. I decided to wait with the upgrade, and instead to follow their release notes and wait for a compelling feature that will force me to upgrade. Unfortunately, two bad things happened:

1. The bad: No compelling reason materialized for upgrading. It was all either security fixes, or minor improvements for compatibility with other plugins.

2. The worse: Security fixes were introduced, but I was not allowed to receive those fixes!

This pissed me off. Enough so that I decided to write about it and explain all that is wrong with their practice, and hopefully warn other WordPress site owners about this.

You see, If I can not upgrade the product, at the very least I do not want to be reminded about it. Every time a new version is released, my WordPress Updates Manager alerts me. And because I decided on principle not to pay the “Mafia” for upgrades, It angers me even more to see those warnings all the time. Why do I call them a “Mafia”? Because that’s just how the Mafia works: They throw a brick on your store, smashing your window front. A bit later, while you are still cleaning up the mess, the goons show up and offer you “protection” in exchange for a monthly “retainer” ($$$).

I believe that if you make a plugin, and decide that new features should cost more, that’s fair. Sure. After all, developers need to make a living. However, I also believe you have a responsibility to your previous customers. This is why Auto Manufacturers are forced to keep a stock of replacement parts for their cars for 7 years after the model is introduced into the market.

A bug YOU introduced, is YOUR responsibility, and you need to fix it for me or else the product I purchased is defective by definition. Security updates should also be part of the deal, and should be back-ported into my old version. I should not have to pay you just because you introduced a security flaw into your own product, and won’t fix that security flaw for your old users. That’s just totally irresponsible.

I eventually decided to remove Hebrew from my site and uninstall the plugin, effectively throwing away the original $79. It is the first time I throw away a piece of software I purchased for ethical reasons.

Elon Musk, Mars Colonization, and me

Imagine you have lots of money, what do you do? Do you give it all to charity? Do you keep it until you’re 80 and then let your children fight over the will? Do you perhaps setup trust funds with altruistic goals, that end up eating most of the money for management overhead after you’re dead? (hey, execs need their bonuses, right?).

What I like about Elon Musk’s choices and initiatives is that he’s putting his money and energy into humanity’s future. He is not investing in its present or past problems, and he is not getting his hands dirty with politics.

What I realized today, is that if I had all that money, I would probably want to join him as a co-investor, and at the very least, I would try to get involved into one of the projects, even if just to help him reach his goals sooner.

I think of the countless times in my childhood when I really wished I could travel to the distant future. I did not like what I was seeing around me as a child engrossed in Science Fiction books that described partially utopian futures. I spent a lot of time thinking about how far I would have to travel into the future until I reached an era that might be to my liking. I figured at least 200 years into the future until most resource and religion wars are behind us, and the majority of humans have evolved enough to become decent human beings, with advanced, friendly philosophies that promote exploration, science, and simply being good to others (humans and non-humans).

What Elon Musk is doing is admirable because his actions bring this future into our present. This is the kind of atmosphere I want to live and work in. When you actively build the future, you invite it into your present life, and you become part of that future as much as that future becomes part of who you are. And let’s not neglect the gadgets: When you build futuristic gadgets, you live in the future right now.

This makes me want to focus even harder on my own business venture, with the goal of making enough money to be able to join Musk’s adventures.

Let’s hope I succeed! But whether I succeed or not, I am at least proud to belong to a species that produces people like Elon Musk, who are constantly pushing the envelope. They stay a tree is as tall as its many branches, I say the tree is tall as its highest branch / leaf / flower.