When Free Plugins Ruin Your Life

The best thing about free stuff is that it’s free. The worst thing about free stuff is that they can indiscriminately change it up, mess it up, make you do things you didn’t want to do if you want to keep using it and pretty much ruin your life… okay, that last point is a bit over the top, but it did mess up the blog. lol

Expressions of Shock
Thomas Gehrke via Compfight

Today’s gripe is about a plugin called AddThis, which had been recommended to me in 2013 as a great social sharing program. Lots of people were using it, and it allowed me to get rid of the 4 independent plugins I had for Facebook, Twitter, Google + and LinkedIn, the only 4 sites I share stuff to. I liked its design and how easy it all seemed to be.

Then they went and changed things up. Deciding it wasn’t so convenient for them to allow you to make changes on your own blog, they set it up with their 4.whatever update that you now had to create an account on their website and manage things from there. I assume they did that so they could pitch other services to you that you’d be charged for, since I saw something there where you could get certain types of reports and education.

All of that might not be bad; I don’t know. What I knew was that I didn’t want that kind of change. I’m kind of an insular guy; I like fooling myself into thinking I’m controlling my own stuff. Thus, I didn’t want to go to another site to take care of my business.

That wasn’t the biggest issue though. The big problem is that the widgets disappeared from the blog. Right at the point where I’d had a blog post go live reminding people how hard it was for their content to be shared if they didn’t have these buttons, mine disappeared. Well, that was slightly embarrassing; actually, I wasn’t embarrassed since I didn’t know for a day or two and, when I discovered it, knew I hadn’t done anything wrong.

Actually, that’s kind of a misnomer. I did was most of us do, which was to immediately upgrade when WordPress said “Hey, there’s something shiny and new”.

I should know better. There are upgrades when it makes sense to immediately do it. For instance, if you have version 3.5.2 anything (just as an example) and the upgrade is 3.5.7, that’s almost always just a bug or security fix that doesn’t change the version any, and you should go ahead and upgrade. However, if the upgrade goes to the immediate next number, such as from version 1.1 to 2.1… that’s when you should take a moment, go to the website and find out what’s being added or what’s changing.

After things disappeared on this blog I went to check my other blogs, all of which were running the same plugin, and my widgets had disappeared from all of them; sigh… Oddly enough, within a few days they came back on one of my blogs but not all of them. I complained on Twitter, then went to Google to do some research, thinking that maybe it was an issue with me, and found that there were lots of people who were complaining about the same exact thing… it’s true, sometimes, that misery loves company. 🙂 And I wrote on Twitter how bad it was that a company didn’t respond to so many 1-star reviews.

Lo and behold they did finally respond to me, after I’d written them something on their website, and asked me to explain my issue. So I did, and they responded that it was their intention that everyone go to the website now to manage their tools, and asked why I’d had a problem doing that, which I had.

Here’s the thing. You don’t take something that was relatively simple and change it to where your users need a crash course. In my case I did try creating an account and going to the site where I was presented lots of different links, none of which said “manage your tools here”… at least I couldn’t find it. Course I was in a state of frustration so maybe I just couldn’t see it.

No matter. I’ve inactivated it and deleted it and now on this blog I’m using something called Simple Share Buttons, which was the 4th plugin I tried because, for some reason, the first 3 I tried after I shut down AddThis wouldn’t show up here. The look is a bit different but I like it, and it works!

Because, when all is said and done, the other good thing about free is that you’re always free to find something else that works for you without lamenting your waste of money. Who’s with me on this one?

18 thoughts on “When Free Plugins Ruin Your Life”

  1. I am still struggling wit my share buttons, and didn’t find my “perfect” choice yet, but will surely try the one you have mention. Thank you.

  2. I used to use Shareaholic and ran into the same fight for management rights of my own blog. Sigh.

    Now, I just do without. Maybe I will check out SimpleShareButtons. One thing I used to enjoy was finding PHP code snippets that did the same things as full-on plug-ins. The problem with that approach is that if I changed my theme, I would have to go to the old theme and try to find all the snippets.

    Even using child themes wouldn’t have helped if I went from themes created by WordPress to themes created by someone else. Nobody wants to watch another person’s child. LOL

    Good luck with this new plugin.



    1. Thanks Mitch. I know I have some weird stuff going on with this blog… actually, I have weird stuff going on with all my blogs for some reason. Still, I didn’t have an issue previously and know when it all started; stupid plugins… lol

  3. Oh, dear! I’ve removed Shareaholic too for this reason. I figured that the safest share buttons were those that came via Jetpack – one less plugin too!
    Visiting via Damien Riley’s Blog Safari!

    1. Good to see you here Corrine; I saw you on Damien’s blog. I think the one I mentioned will work nicely, and it’s got a few options where you can change the looks. I’ve make it look different on each of my blogs and so far it works well. Still, this is what we deal with; so many free plugins that have disappeared over the years, but we just learn what to do to move forward.

  4. It have been a while since I’ve left s comment, Mitch. You have a great point regarding free. Though, WordPress community is huge with probably a more than a million developers and there are a lot of alternatives. Of course, there is WPDEV, where everything is paid. It is true that many large corporation websites are based on WordPress, though this is just 50% of the truth. Most are based on WPDEV where plugins are never discontinued and if so can be amended.
    I personally always aim to OpenSource CMS in my work, as this reduce my customers ongoing expenses for maintenance and future development.

    1. Hey Carl! First, congrats on your blog finishing in the top 100 for technology. Second, I like free and admit that, but sometimes have to come to grips with something I got for free that I liked either going away or messing up on me. For instance, I really loved the app that connected posts to Ezine Articles; sigh… lol But it is what it is in the long run.

  5. Some updates can be quite useful but then there are some which are completely annoying.

    The Simple Share Buttons look pretty good and I might try it out.

  6. Man, don’t you hate it when stuff like that happens. It’s even worse when you have multiple blogs and it affects all or most of them.

    I have a lot of paid plugins but I also have several free ones. One of those is the social share button. I don’t know why but I refuse to refuse to pay for that one. I’ve tried heaps and am pretty happy with the one I have now.

    1. Peter, the thing is I did at least try signing up for an account to get to it and couldn’t figure it out. I figure I’m not a dumb guy so if it took me more than 10 minutes of searching to “not” find something I’m not interested. Heck, I gave it more time than it would take me to sign up for all these commenting systems I won’t use! lol

    1. Well, hard to tell overall but I see fewer comments and his Alexa rank dropped, though that could be due to the same thing this blog’s gone through with the almighty G!

  7. Hi Mitch Mitchell,
    You have written this post very beautifully. The use of free plugins is good but if we use premium versions then we will get most of the plugins.
    Do not download premium plugins from unknown sources like theme killer.

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