Recently, I came across discussions on Twitter, and a blog post about ‘hidden links’ in my WP-Cumulus WordPress plugin. Quite frankly, I’m a little embarrassed by this, and I’d like to explain how the situation came to be, and what I plan to change in upcoming versions.
Whoa, millions of incoming links…
Then, Cumulus started catching on. I moved it to wordpress.org, where it made the top 10 most popular plugins a few times. People were starting to port the plugin to other platforms, and I started getting tons of support requests. Some days, just answering these would take hours. I was overwhelmed. Around the same time, I started noticing an increase of traffic on my blog. At first I thought it was because people were googling for the plugin, but it soon became apparent that there was more going on.
As an unexpected side-effect of the ‘no flash’ link, my blog now had thousands of incoming links, causing it to rank well in Google. Because I sometimes write about things like hosting, advertisers were starting to show interest, and I have to admit I jumped at the opportunity. As time went by, it became increasingly ‘difficult’ to remove the links. Here I was, making a little extra money because of a link I forgot to remove somewhere along the way. But even so, I no longer feel comfortable with the current situation, and have been planning to remedy it for a while.
As you may have read on this blog, I’ve been trying to get more people involved in the project. It needs a better programmer than I am to keep it up to date. Unfortunately, this has not proven very easy. As a result, WP-Cumulus 2.0 has been in development for over a year, and one of the things it aims to fix is this ‘hidden links’ situation. I’ve decided that any link in the alternative content should be optional, and disabled by default. And it should probably point to the wordpress.org page instead of this blog. By default, it makes sense to show the regular (html) tag cloud to users without Flash. Version 2.0 will probably do it that way.
I’ll be working on Cumulus 2.0 this week (with one of the best software developers I know, whoohoo!), and I hope to have a rough version some time this month. It’ll put you in control of what is shown to users, search engines and everthing else. As it should have been all along.