Behind The Scenes With Tidy Repo

I have found myself referring to Tidy Repo very often while picking a plugin for my own blog and sending out a silent thanks to them every single time, for all their hard work ( that has saved me a lot of hard work!).

What exactly motivates them to do this ?

Time to find out…

Happy to present Jason(Jay) and Jack from Tidy Repo today. They’re answering some of my questions and talking about their heroic venture – Tidy Repo

You can find them trying to “break” plugins on Tidy Repo.

How was Tidy Repo born?

Jay : Like a lot of side projects out there, Tidy Repo was born out of my own need. I develop quite a few WordPress sites in my day job, and I often rely on plugins for basic chunks of functionality. But the only way I’ve managed to find plugins that really work, and I mean work in all cases, is from trial and error and my own experience.

Before I started Tidy Repo about a year and a half ago, I searched for a concise list of plugins that work well. Anything I found was either outdated or too sparse, so I decided to create my own resource. At the time, I had no idea how much work it would be. I took it from a concept to a live site in about a month, and I’ve been plugging away (excuse the terrible pun) ever since.

How and when did you join this adventure?

Jack : I joined Tidy Repo in September 2014. Jay was looking for someone to work with and I was looking for a way to contribute to the WordPress community. It’s easy to take a free, open-source project like WordPress for granted so it’s important that people who use it heavily (like myself) give something back. Tidy Repo was a great way to do this and working with Jay is really good fun.

With Jack on board, how have things changed?

Jay : Jack joined up when I was starting to feel overwhelmed with the work that goes into Tidy Repo, and a vision for its future. Our first chat lasted over an hour, and I knew he could bring a hell of a lot to the table. He’s brought a new vigor and direction back into the project, and I’m as excited now as I was when I first started it up. In the first few weeks, we were able to flesh out all the different paths Tidy Repo could take, and settled on the ones that amped us up the most. At the moment, he is feverishly working on a new design for the site, which looks awesome, and helping me balance to day to day work with the big picture view.

You do some meticulous testing on your end, do you think its enough? What things would you still recommend people to check on their end?

Jay : When I test out a plugin, I really stretch it to its limit. I install it on a live server, and actively **try** to break it. If I’m successful, the plugin doesn’t make the list. I’d say in 90% of cases this is enough testing for people to be more then comfortable with using a plugin.

But certainly there are edge cases that even I can’t foresee. I recently heard Chris Coyier talk about a problem he was having with nested functions in code blocks in comments on CSS-Tricks while using the Jetpack Markdown module. That’s the kind of thing I can’t uncover. So there are plenty of things that I still recommend people do on their own if they can. I recently gave a talk that touches on these strategies, but the basic gist is simple. Never install a plugin right to your live site. Get it on a staging server, or a test site, or even your local environment. Set it up like you would if the site was live, and see what happens. Look out for conflicts, and pay special attention to what a plugin is loading into the front-end of your site. It takes about ten minutes, and it can weed out most problems.

You’ve mentioned receiving all sorts of questions from people about different plugins. In your experience, what bugs people the most?

Jack : You know, it’s a real range of things. We get all kinds of requests to write about plugin x or plugin y but I suppose we’re beginning to see more requests about plugins that promote a site in some way. I think as WordPress has evolved from a blogging platform to a CMS capable of running huge websites and even web apps, the requirement to promote these has increased. That and anything that customizes or makes the WordPress admin easier to use.

How difficult is it to refuse affiliate program requests?

Jay : Tidy Repo has never been a money maker for me. At the moment, it nets me zero dollars. I have plans to change that, but it’s always been a labor of love. Whether a plugin is free or paid, it gets the same vigorous testing. No exceptions. The last thing I want is for the site to devolve into one of those garbage web hosting ranking sites where made up ratings are just a way of getting people to click on affiliate links. I want to start exploring things like sponsored posts, but this will always be clear to my readers. People use Tidy Repo because they trust it, and I’m not going to betray that trust. It keeps things simple anyway.

If newbies land on your site, which plugins would you direct them to?

Jack : I think there are some core plugins that every site should utilize  There’s lots of variations of plugins that people swear by so I won’t name anything specific but ultimately, these boil down to the following:

* Google Analytics
* Forms
* Caching
* Backups

Since you list free plugins mainly, how do you find the inspiration to put in so many efforts? I read you promising 5 reviews a week. That’s a lot of work!

Jay :  It’s a ton of work. And inspiration is tough. I’ve been working on Tidy Repo for a while now, and there are some days when I just don’t want to go near it. If I let my guard down, a bad plugin can get through, and that’s not good for anyone. I have a cushion of finished posts that aren’t published yet, and I find that helps. If I need to walk away from writing for a week or two, I know content can keep on getting pushed out. And when I come back, I feel fresh and ready to go. Also, people have told me that Tidy Repo is helpful for them, and that’s such an amazing feeling.

As for the five posts a week, that’s all thanks to Jack. We’re not there yet, but once the new design is done it’s coming.

Which products have you purchased, based on other people’s recommendation that you later regretted?

Jack :  Some WooCommerce or Easy Digital Download extensions that weren’t needed or weren’t quite what the title suggested, maybe. I’m sure lots of people fall into this. It’s not the plugin author’s fault though. In general I think the WordPress eCommerce space is still finding its feet. Eventually it’ll sort itself out and things will be more clear.

You’re practically guaranteeing the plugins that you feature on Tidy Repo. Ever felt the need to include a disclaimer or something? Did anyone ever complain after using your recommendation?

Jay : It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve had to add a disclaimer here and there. There’s even been a couple of times that I’ve pulled a plugin from the site because of something I’ve missed. I’m far from perfect, so the readers of Tidy Repo have been extremely helpful. They point out things that I didn’t notice, and I add an update to the post. I like to think of my content as sort of evergreen, and I would like to keep them updated as a plugin’s circumstances change.

Of course, not all comments are constructive. I’ve gotten a few complaints. But no matter how a concern is framed, I’ll look into it and follow up with the plugin’s developer if I have to. I run a quality site, and that’s why people keep coming back. I’m very tenacious about keeping it that way.

Tidy Repo mainly discusses plugins, any plans to add themes too? Where do you see Tidy Repo, in say 5 years’ time?

Jack : I’m not sure about themes but we’re currently working on something coming in the new year. As we only write about the good WordPress plugins, people trust our testing and reviews process so we’re going to be offering this as a paid service for professional plugin recommendations, reviews and integrations. We’ve also got a great members-only area lined up which we think will be very helpful to lots of people and a nice companion to the support forums currently available at

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One Comment

  1. Lucky

    November 14, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    It always amazes me when someone manages to consistently keep up a project like this one , which is nothing short of ‘noble’.
    Hat Tip !


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