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In doing some site optimization work for a client, I ran into a plugin that does replaces WP's built-in featured image functionality with a separate meta box allowing you to specify an image URL rather than importing the image into your own Media Library.

Recent updates to this plugin broke my client's site, where the posts that had external featured images would not display them. And examining the plugin code itself (poor documentation, direct SQL queries on the database) lends me to believe he doesn't quite know what he's doing.

For my client, I whipped together a custom plugin to loop through posts with that plugin's meta keys, import the image into the media library, and attach it to the post. Finally, it deletes the other plugin's meta key.

Now I have no qualms running the fix on my client's site, but I'm thinking of putting the plugin on the Wordpress Plugins Directory as well. And maybe even a "premium" version with monetization.

I scanned through the WP plugins code of conduct, but didn't see anything listed about modifying another plugin's meta entries. Is there anything unethical about this?

  • You may find more help in a Facebook group or maybe Slack since this type of question is open to interpretation and opinion. I think the undocumented "WordPress way" in this case would be to try to work with the plugin author first. If the plugin is on GitHub, edit the plugin itself and submit a pull request; many plugin authors welcome help. If not on GitHub, see how best to contact them not just to say "this could be better" but also "here's how." – WebElaine Jan 16 '19 at 22:49
  • As far as a monetized version, you would need to check the license of the original plugin. If it's GPL, as all in the WP repo are supposed to be, then you would not be able to create a monetized version unless you basically re-create the plugin from scratch and sell it as a substitute rather than selling it as an add-on that makes the original plugin better. – WebElaine Jan 16 '19 at 22:50
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    @WebElaine you don’t have to recreate entire plugin from scratch. Yoast SEO or ACF pro are not completely different plugins than their free versions. And they still are licensed under GPL - you pay for getting automatic updates and support - so they don’t violate GPL license. – Krzysiek Dróżdż Jan 16 '19 at 22:53
  • maybe i wasn't clear, and my apologies - i'm not using any of the other plugin's code - just undoing its hackery with my own plugin. i'm pretty sure GPL allows me to sell my own work. – Erich Jan 16 '19 at 23:20
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I don’t see anything unethical in this... There are many plugins that remove some data from DB as part of their optimization process.

Also there are plugins for some migrations (like qTranslate -> WPML and similar). They also can remove data of previous plugin after migration is done.

The only thing I would be very careful is to make sure that users know, what exactly your plugin is doing and that the data will be lost. Maybe even put it as an option, so that user decides that he want to delete these meta values.

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  • i'm currently identifying which posts/metas to modify based on the presence of that specific key, though i suppose i could also just add my own meta key to indicate "fixed" status and not touch the other plugin's. – Erich Jan 16 '19 at 23:23

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