Testimonials had a 2.16.0 release last week. It was the first to use a new basic framework to help cull some 1,500 lines of common code out of Axelerant’s WordPress plugins.

For the users that had current web host systems in place, it wasn’t a big deal. However, for hundreds of Testimonials’ users running PHP older than 5.3, it was a bad day for us all. Lots of frustration all around once they started encountering this particular error.

Parse error: syntax error, unexpected T_STATIC, expecting ')' in /home/TBD/public_html/wp-content/plugins/testimonials-widget/lib/aihrus/class-aihrus-common.php on line 44

The fix?

Easy, upgrade to PHP 5.3.

Rant Background

Within 24-hours of becoming aware of the PHP 5.3 issue, the page Most Axelerant Plugins Require PHP 5.3+ was set up to educate users for potential fixes. Also, entries about the PHP 5.3 requirement were added to the Testimonials Upgrade Notice section.

Throughout all of this, the WordPress support forum posts were responded to quickly regarding the user education page. Further, over the past week, all of Axelerant’s plugins got revised readme.txt‘s with enhanced Installation and FAQ/Support information regarding other plugin and PHP 5.3 requirements.

Why Rant?

This PHP issue has been covered over a 100 times, between Testimonials’ support on WordPress and Axelerant’s  support system in the past week. People are still calling or writing about this well-documented issue.

Given that PHP 5.2 reached an end of life in January 2011, and PHP 5.3 reached its end of life in March 2013, at some point, website owners and webmasters need to take responsibility for their web hosting environment. If only to ensure it’s reasonably secure.

To the users writing that my software or WordPress is !@#$. It’s not. Your web hosting environment is simply out of date. Keeping it current isn’t that hard. Often, you need only to email your web host’s support department requesting an update.

Throughout this past, it’s felt like everyone blamed me, Michael, the developer of a free plugin for crashing their site when I decided to use PHP 5.3. Software that reach its end of life, back in March 2013.

To website owners and webmaster

Did you pay for this free software? No.

Did you ever send a donation or kind words of thanks? For over 99.998%* of you, no.

Then, you got what you paid for. Therefore, by what reasoning must I drop everything and fix your problems.

To the 99.998%* who don’t appreciate

You only write to say, you broke my website; fix it.

I get it, I understand it, you’re frustrated and have fire-breathing bosses or terribly high pressure against you. You just want things to work. I don’t blame you.

As a single developer with popular plugins, there’s only so much that I can do on my own. Your lack of doing anything to help resolve or lessen the problem before reaching out or at least being courteous about it leaves me with seriously considering to stop free software development and support.

This is sad.

I love to write code and solve problems through it. I love making people’s lives easier through software.

Frankly, I’m good enough at writing software, in which I have sponsors. They ensure that I keep writing software and supporting open source so that I don’t have to work a real job. However, bad weeks make me wonder if users aren’t just taking advantage of me and if I wouldn’t be better off back in a positive corporate culture environment.

Why Charge?

Would you believe, I used to give away Testimonials Widget Premium by donation or to those who asked for it? Somebody gives me a dollar; I send them my labors. Okay, it’s not smart business practice, but heck, I’m a nice guy.

One ugly day, somebody charge backed a $ 5 donation. Can you believe that? That severely hurt me, not financially, of course, I could skip my glass of wine that day; but emotionally.

You as a donor should give freely. Though I figure, there’s a request coming, and that’s fine with me. However, to give and then take back? That’s just rude and inconsiderate. Would your mother be proud of you for doing this?

Thankfully, there was an important lesson learned from all of this. If you’re going to give me headaches, I’m going to get paid for them. Hence, the Axelerant Store.

In any case, similar situations aren’t as uncommon as you might think. Each one raises my hackles and makes me question my charitability to writing and supporting free software.

Investment

Most folks don’t understand how much effort goes into writing good software.

I’ve been coding since 1984. I have a clue about it. I’m not the best, but I’m good enough to have 529 testimonials of my own and normally have a 100% customer satisfaction rating.

Testimonials and Custom Bulk/Quick Edit easily represent over $ 10,000 worth of effort each. There’s years of knowledge and experience pushed into them. Further, as I gain more knowledge, skills, and abilities; I improve them.

Still, to keep my continuous improvement going, I need revenue (buy Testimonials Widget Premium), your kind words, and constructive feedback.

I’m Sorry…

I didn’t mean to break your website. I know this past week has been frustrating for you, many others, and myself.

Hopefully, though, you’ve learned to read upgrade notices, review documentation, or check the support forums for issues in the future before upgrading. Otherwise, you need to take some fault when things don’t go as expected.

In the end, I’m going to keep coding, but if the complaining gets too much, I’m going on vacation or moving to other projects where my talents are appreciated.

* Notes

  • 126 donors have contributed $851.47 year to date. Thank you for your support. You’ve helped pay for many months of diapers and for me to donate to other worthy developers and causes.
  • 529 notes of appreciation or thank-yous have been sent. To those providers, you rock! Please keep sending the constructive feedback. It helps keep developers like myself going long into the night. Much to the chagrin of our spouses.
  • 99.998% is derived by 100% less 325,000 Testimonials downloads divided by 529 testimonials and 126 donations. 1 in 5,000.
  • Yes, I’m a geek, I keep track of things. It’s just simple queries against open data sets.
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