Why WPMU DEV Membership is a SEVERE Business Risk

Why WPMU DEV Membership is a SEVERE Business Risk

My short-lived membership at WPMU Dev led me to request fairly simple customizations of their themes…and basically, I asked for code that would do X. Things like rollover graphics in their Nav, which while possible for me to figure out on my own…when you’re looking at complex themes…it’s just faster when someone who knows their way around the theme shares functional code.

My first 4 posts at WPMU Dev:

I used topic oriented technical writing principles, which means that I divided two similar topics into two posts. They would have 2 separate “answers,” and if someone were to follow, they would appreciate a unique title to find their solution.

Anyway, Tammie over there told me that I was talking about one thing, she wrote that I was confusing, and she told me to make one post out of 2. I said “can you share the code I’m looking for?” I also questioned the reasoning behind making a third post that consolidated my first two.

Basically, I was then told: “do as we tell you, or we will remove you from our community.” I was stunned…wow!

I made a fifth post and copied and pasted the topics from post 1 and 2 into it. Tammie felt better and started answering some questions.

Then I made a longer post, all with one theme, and Tammie said “please break this up into multiple posts.” And I was kind of like: first I’m supposed to consolidate the posts, now I have to create separate posts, could we concentrate on the tech solution I’m looking for…could you all just share functional code snippets with me that help me move forward?

Anyway, during live chat sessions, I had a GREAT experience with Aaron. Basically, instead of constant renegotiation of what I’m supposed to do, where I’m supposed to do it, how many posts a question is supposed to be, etc., he simply shared his expertise and code. With his help, I was able to create a version of taoofyouth.com that looked like this:

TaoOfYouth.com In WPMU's Scholar Theme

TaoOfYouth.com In WPMU's Scholar Theme

Anyway, the slideshow options don’t work in the theme, the widget area to the right of the slideshow is hard-coded (so they are “theme options” that are tough to disable), etc., and well…I’m a professional looking to release a professional and more than awesome, over the top cool, absolutely functional business-driving website that can be expanded into a thriving community.

So, stuff needs to work, I want answers fast, and I made it clear that I was willing to pay $2/minute for live hands-on code-sharing support.

Just for fun, I created http://www.microsoftesque.com using WPMU’s Studio theme. Again, I was testing things out, seeing what the support at WPMU DEV is actually like.

Here are a few shots of what I was able to accomplish using background images and the support at WPMU…however…again, WPMU threatened to remove me from their community, if I did not do as I was told. It was very strange. I was asking for code. I also said that I’m happy to make videos and share with others how I got the results I’d achieved…and well…I think WPMU would certainly get more customers, if people knew that BuddyPress install could look like microsoftesque.com, and if they knew that the procedure for how to modify studio was available in their member area.

In a healthy, happy and friendly community, where I am supported…I am more than happy to make and share such videos and give virtual high-fives to people who create awesome sites and communities and functionality.

Here are the screenshots of my microsoftesque.com test site:

2010-10-30_1245

2010-10-30_1245

2010-10-30_1245b

2010-10-30_1245b

2010-10-30_1246

2010-10-30_1246

…cool huh? Not necessarily what I made, but the fact that such a background graphic could be created that is seamless…that the Our Community Panel slides down like that…I mean…with real business graphics this set up could fuel sign-ups, sales, etc.

Well, again I was able to get that result because Aaron shared code during a live chat session.

During the next chat session with Tammie, there were two people there. Person 1 left after 30 min. The chat sessions are 60 minutes long.

this was my list
1. hover graphic
2. try out centering the menu items
3. remove the community item (pageMash?)
4. change the down arrow to dots (I can just change one graphic right?)
5. Activity stream under Latest News

…but at that point I only had 4 points.

1) hover graphic, was an attempt to make the menu of taoofyouth.com look a little “cooler” cohesive background image…and menu items that slightly dim the graphic and the text would brighten.

Tammie chatted that she would not cover that with me.

OK, I moved to #2, which was remove the Community menu item (at that time, my list was different). She said she had no idea what PageMash was.

I chatted this

OK, #1, you are not willing to cover it, and #2 you have no idea…

She wrote “please be civil.”

I wrote: “I’m just summarizing what you wrote”

I mean, she had literally just chatted that she would not cover #1, and that she had “no idea what PageMash” was.

I asked, are there points on my list that you’d be willing to cover?

…and it was pretty much a whirlwind for 30 minutes with no code sharing, and frankly, no business or technical support.

So, folks, BE VERY AFRAID of working with WPMU DEV. Very very afraid.

I went through my emails and saw that I had missed one from WPMU, and well…I felt kind of safe, because as unpleasant as my correspondence with Tammie was, Aaron seemed really cool and good at his job, and masonjames removed the first threatening post he made in the forums early on…and that was replaced by a much more professional post made by James.

So, I figured…well, maybe there are some people at WPMU that have a hard time working with professional needs, but at least the organization as a whole is functional.

James wrote me an email saying that I needed to stop “behaving inappropriately” or my membership would be terminated and my money would be refunded.

The thing is, if I’m asking for code, I’m asking for code, why is that inappropriate. If they say “hire someone to do X,” then that’s what they say, I don’t have any issues with that…however…when I’m told to reformat my posts, change multiple posts into a single post, then change a single post into multiple posts, then told not to do this, not to do that…I pointed out their sales copy, and well…receiving code snippets is pretty reasonable when their copy says “like having your own personal developer.”

I’ve worked with a good number of developers before, and it’s really fun…especially when they amicably and happily contribute code.

Anyway, to James I replied:

Please confirm that a refund is available to me, I’d like to think about your request.

Best,
Dainis

Last night, as I slept, I figured…eh…maybe I can still work with WPMU somehow…maybe their plugin support is kind, friendly, professional, respectful and upright…and maybe it’s just a situation with their theme support.

But, the reply I received from James was:

Hi Dainis,
Like I said on the forums, that was the last opportunity you had to
stop behaving inappropriately.

So, taking some time to think about “my behavior” is not allowed at WPMU, and asking for code is “bad behavior,” and if you so much as peep that you’d like them to be clear, that they could let me know what they do or don’t support…just so much as a peep from me of “hey, let’s figure out how to make this work for both parties…”

The message is “STOP asking anything of us, we are WPMU DEV and you are OUT!”

James also wrote that he’d issue me a refund, which I do not see on my CC statement, and it’s nice that he issued a refund

proportional to the amount of your membership left

Anyway, I’m off to try the Genesis Framework and will post on my progress.

I do feel, in a sense, that I am also an asset. That having me as a customer fuels your business. That I know how to create profitable web presences, and that if worked with, instead of argued with…I am really nice to have around.

So far so good with Genesis, it looks like they have clear guidelines in their signup process like

Rule #1
Please do not send Brian, Craig or the Moderators an email or private message (PM) asking for support!!! That is why this forum exists and quite frankly, you’ll probably get a quicker response if you post in the forums.

If you contact one of the Recommended Designers via PM, phone, email, or their website, etc expect to be charged for this. The support you purchased is covered in the Forums only!

I mean…at least at first glance, it looks like StudioPress (the creators of Genesis) are setting appropriate guidelines for their service…which I really hope will lead to a good and healthy cooperation.

Also…I mean literally…I was just asking for code snippets. I was asking for normal setup type stuff like “can your subscription widget be integrated with iContact?”

So, we’ll see how things progress…but as a professional community manager…I am issuing a heartfelt warning to anyone working with WPMU that they can and do remove people from their community. Regardless of my “behavior,” I mean…since they were deleting their own posts, and I can’t access them…I cannot guarantee that I actually wrote the posts that are under my name within the WPMU DEV community.

If they left my posts the way they are, you will see normal business requests, stated plainly. You will also see my asking them to clarify their policies and asking questions to figure things out.

Whew…glad that’s over…and I’d like to see that refund come through…

If WPMU wants to comment here, they are welcome to…I’m personally happy to open up my discourse with them to public debate and stand behind everything I’ve written and chatted to them.

I doubt that WPMU will allow me to publish what they actually wrote to me, which is why I am only quoting little snippets.

Business owners…beware of WPMU DEV.

I

27 Responsesto “Why WPMU DEV Membership is a SEVERE Business Risk”

  1. Steve says:

    Hey Danis,
    Thanks for sharing your experiences with WPMUdev. I am currently a member but really have received the kind of support from them that their marketing implies.

    Mason James has tried to help but I get the impression that he doesn’t know the kind of technical details that I need help with.

    He often gets other members to answer my questions. Again, not what I thought I was paying for.

    I don’t think I will be a member for much longer.

    • Dainis says:

      Hey Steve, wow thanks for commenting here on my personal blog.

      Before I got kicked out of WPMU Dev, I was going to say

      OK, well, I’m not going to ask theme related questions anymore here…because that seems to be ruffling feathers…and Tammie in particular seems to get really mad…so, I will just move to StudioPress for my theme needs and will use WPMU DEV for plugins.

      But that option did not present itself, and we can rest assured that my requests of the plugins would be just as business-oriented, just as “share code now” and just as focused as my theme questions.

      Basically, I’m about getting things done. Debating about whether I “should” be asking a specific CSS question here or there is not a part of my business plan. I cannot afford the time.

      My current experience at StudioPress is that “I am finding ALL I need there.” The community is sharing code and pointing me to appropriate learning resources where my skills fall short.

      THAT, is what I need.

      Also, when I ask a question that someone with certain coding experience can answer in 5 minutes or less (sometimes a few seconds), that’s where I really require expert assistance that will just give me the information I need instead of debating round and round in circles about whether my question was appropriate.

      A recent example of “what I need” at StudioPress was my figuring out how to isolate specific CSS styles per page on websites using Genesis. Frankly, IT ROCKS! A forum member explained that I needed to “nest” the CSS styles in the order in which they appear in the HTML and that I only needed enough elements to make the style unique for that page. Another forum member explained which CSS elements I need to put dots in front of and which ones I need to put hashes in front of…

      So, I can proceed. NO BS, just code sharing, appropriate knowledge, and a professional agreement up front that says “we share code and help each other and refer you to pros, if that seems to be the appropriate solution.”

      For now, StudioPress has not said “hey dude, hire a developer to help you,” because I’ve been asking very specific questions in a fashion that stems from my topic-oriented technical writing experience.

      That means, I point exactly to where I am stuck and an expert can say “whoops, you missed a space there.”

      Which is exactly what happened in one case…I had missed a space in the code. A space.

      I can’t debate with WPMU or any other tech team for however much time when what I need is functional code sharing and an experience of “getting unstuck” when for some reason, I’m not getting over a particular hurdle.

      Again thanks for your reply…releasing a site today so gotta go… :-)

  2. Princessa says:

    Sigh. I was about to sign up for WPMU DEV but after reading this, I’m thinking twice. The MarketPress is what I think I need. Basically an eCommerce plugin that can work on multisite, letting users create their own shop within one community.

    It looks sooo promising…

    By any chance, you know of an alternative plugin?

    Do email me if you do.

    Thanks!

    • Dainis says:

      Hi Prinzessa, yes it does look promising. For me, I really don’t like what I’m starting to call “EnticeWare” or “SnareWare” or “PromiseWare.” Basically, I’d expect the following: if you use a WPMU Dev tool and try to configure it like their materials suggest you can…expect that you won’t be able to do it.

      Then, when you post to their member community, expect to get the run around and experience code hogging.

      Then, expect to need to find a developer to work with your setup so that it actually works.

      I do not know of an alternative plugin, but “SnareWare” is not fun.

  3. Dainis says:

    As an additional note, I am having a very good experience with StudioPress and the Genesis Framework.

    GenesisConnect is a bit of another story, and you can join StudioPress, purchase GenesisConnect and then follow my posts in the StudioPress member area to see what I’m talking about.

    For example, the BuddyPress Activity stream flat out does not work properly. GenesisConnect won’t help.

    I figured out a very simple workaround, but not with the help of GenesisConnect.

    It’s really too bad to see developers take elitist stances and not share their code or experiences for the benefit of a group — even when being paid to do so.

    Anyway, I share. I even share code I’ve paid for. I share procedures, help, etc., and outright do not like working with code hogs.

    Developers who cultivate reciprocal and synergistic relationships are the type I enjoy working with the most :-)

    Oh, a recent very very very good experience was with XCloner (the developers name is something like Ovid, not remembering right now). Anyway, I sent him money, he was awesome, we got stuff done, no hedging no B.S. I know it’s not an eCommerce tool, but at least it’s a contact with a settled, capable, competent professional — who helps.

  4. Rhombus says:

    Personally, I was not impressed enough with them to stay past a one month trial. I didn’t have any experience of snippiness, but they were slooooowwww to respond to technical requests. Of course, if you’re on a one month trial, maybe their banking on you paying to stay longer just to get an answer.

    In the end, I just gave up and moved on. Something you should realize before you sign up is that WordPress is changing all the time, so the plugins need to be updated all the time. If you just sign up for a month and get the plugins, they will be outdated soon, and you would have to pay to get updated versions. Also, some plugin releases do have bugs in them when they’re released, so you can’t get the fixes without signing back up.

    I look for regular plugins to do what I want (and code hacks) but I only use higher rated and well developed plugins so I can presume they will be around a long time, and will continue to work.

    And, with WPMU gaining in popularity, you will find more and more plugins are being adapted to it. So, be patient and search your butt off for the plugins you want, or pay for an annual membership at wpmudev and hope for the best. They’re not bad, just forums are very slow to respond, and most developers are looking for a pretty quick fix, especially if they’re paying for it.

    My two cents, take it for what it’s worth.

  5. Hi Dainis,
    That really sucks that you had a negative experience with WPMU DEV.

    I just wanted to throw my experience in the ring because it has been nothing but great and I feel like I can understand part of why you might have had a bad take on things.

    In my opinion, it probably depends on what type of development and what type of site you generally work on. If you are building single sites and looking for help with small changes to themes, you are probably better off with one of the well-known theme frameworks, like you ended up using.

    But WPMU DEV have a huge selection of some really advanced multisite and BuddyPress plugins that simply don’t exist anywhere else. They have always been very quick at incorporating updates and code fixes into the next versions and have generally been pretty responsive in the forums. They work with the latest WordPress version within 24 hours of release and compared to other plugins are coded well and work pretty flawlessly. All software has its little bugs but compared to even the typical premium plugins, theirs are always top-notch.

    @Princessa – I had been searching for an ecommerce that works with multisite too and simply could not find one that works as well as MarketPress. Not that they sell things separaetly it would be well worth it.

    I had never seen them as a theme shop where quick answers are given to basic coding questions. If that is what you (or anyone else) needs, I can see where the experience might be different. But for anyone looking for stuff guaranteed to work with the latest multisite? I can’t recommend them highly enough.

  6. I have not looked at your page since summer and I am surprised that I can see something like this. The lyrics are fantastic and the graphics and pictures just wonderful! I can not take my eyes from your web page Feel free to look at my page!

  7. Edwin says:

    Just buy the $19 plug-in you need. Glad I read your post because affiliate marketing kinda muddies the water and we all need to read bad and good stories. wpmudev seem pretty expensive at $450pa and the themes are pretty redundant when you check out the latest responsive themes and great support at themeforest.

  8. Johnny says:

    Hi Dainis

    I have been a WPMUDEV member since 2010 and also ‘like to get sh&* done’.

    Why not search the endless wordpress forums on the internet for how to fix code and CSS. A concise google search term can usually find the answer.

    Personally I do not find the themes at WPMUDEV that exciting but their plugins rock!

    Hope you have got your sites up and running and are successful.

    Johnny

  9. AIV Toronto says:

    I agree with Johnny. I also like to get $*^# done! I like solid code, solid framework, and the company who made it knowing what they are talking about. I’ve no problem paying a premium if thats what you are going to get!

    Having said that, the wpmu dev themes are ok. Nothing I find superb. But as Johnny said..the plugins rock. I only joined for the plugins. Nobody makes a collection that solid anywhere else with such functionality in the WordPress realm. Joomla…yes, more common. But you pay through the nose for such Joomla components often. ZOO is the best CMS component I’ve ever used, by YOOthemes. But it’s $110.00 every 6 months for the membership. Over $200.00 a year for one component. Granted that one component does a LOT of different jobs.

    Anyhow I digress. The best “themes” I’ve ever used in WordPress are from MySiteMyWay. Superb framework! They only have 9 themes for now, but you can do so much with them and the skinning system combined with a truly modular framework make whatever you want to do within reality. The support team is awesome and is more than willing to “share code”. They have for me countless times on some pretty complex stuff. Therefore I get the best theme results I could ask for.
    But plugins….WPMU Dev for certain!

  10. Hein says:

    Hi,
    I’ve found support to be ok at best, but I have decided to walk a different way since they’ve just upp’ed the price so much!
    $99 a month is just not worth it. If you only need a few plugin’s just get them separately or look at others that have similar offerings. I was happy until they upp’ed the price so much.

    Good luck all :-)

  11. Nick Simpson says:

    Hey Danis, sounds crazy what you have went through there, because I have had the exact opposite experience. I have been a member for 2 years now and they have helped me with all sorts of customizations and have added all sorts of wp goodies to their offering. The one thing that really makes their service a must have from my (developer/hosting) standpoint is that all the plugins are guaranteed to be updated. I hate buying a great plugin only to find that it only worked with certain versions of WP and is obsolete in 6 months or a year from the date of purchase.

    Cheers and great blog,

    Nick

    • admin says:

      Hey Nick, I think you can tell I don’t really update this blog much, but thank you so much for your comment.

      With what happened at WPMU DEV, I really did not think they would last as a business. But, recently, I have been taking a second look at WPMU DEV.

      My experience, reported here, was almost 4 years ago. If WPMU DEV has survived, it is possible (and possibly likely), that things have changed over there — and it is also possible that my experience was a kind of “fluke.”

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