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General advice on handling WordPress upgrades and when to install them

While I reported the WordPress 2.0.3 upgrade as soon as I heard about it, I held off on installing the upgrade (mostly because I didn’t have time right away). That worked out to my advantage as it turns out that some ‘buglets’ slipped through quality assurance testing and now they’re going to have to release a 2.0.4 version shortly to fix the bugs that 2.0.3 introduced.

This is not the first time that a WordPress upgrade has been released only to have it introduce new bugs and require another update shortly thereafter to fix the first upgrade’s bugs. See here, here, and here for examples of history repeating.

Given this history of WordPress upgrades sometimes introducing new bugs and headaches, I’d recommend waiting at least a week after an upgrade comes out before installing it. This allows some extra time for the developers and the community to discover any bugs that crop up and provide you with more information as to whether upgrading will be simple and smooth — or a pain in the rear that makes that interferes with your otherwise blissful WordPress experience.

Lorelle (a brilliant woman who provides spectacular WordPress advice) shared her thought process in deciding when to install a WordPress upgrade She writes:

The first thing I always ask myself when considering an upgrade on anything, not just WordPress, is “Are you sure?” I think about the changes, improvements, and new features, and consider if it is worth it. I always upgrade in the end, but I give myself time to debate about it.

This debate time spent on answering the “are you sure” question benefits me in several ways.

1. Waiting helps me decide if the upgrade is worth the trouble by taking time to learn more about it.
2. Waiting to upgrade allows me to schedule the upgrade when it’s convenient to me, and not upgrade in panic mode.
3. Waiting to upgrade forces me to check with the various WordPress Plugins and tools I use to produce my blog to see how this upgrade will impact them. Usually, it doesn’t, but sometimes it does. I’d rather check first than have things bork during the upgrade because a Plugin isn’t working with the new version.
4. Waiting to upgrade usually gives the developers time to fix the upgrade and clean up bugs and problems found in the upgrade before I get to it, as today’s example proves.

I think Lorelle has come up with a wise and well thought out plan that should be adopted by all when deciding when to upgrade WordPress.

Now, having worked as a software quality assurance engineer for Borland International for some years in the past, I know how ridiculously hard it can be to ensure that your release is genuinely stable before it goes out to the public. It is even harder for the wordpress team as I don’t think they have any specific QA team or test plans (like regression testing to make sure that everything that used to work still works once the latest bugs and enhancements have been added in). And let’s not forget that WordPress is free and that the developers are donating their time to make this awesome software available to you. Not only that, but I can tell you with certainty that retail software, no matter how expensive, always ships with known bugs — there is no such thing as bug-free software.

That said, while the developers are likely more frustrated about the bugs in WordPress 2.0.3 than any of us are, I think it is irresponsible to continue to offer WordPress 2.0.3 for download given the known bugs. Furthermore, I cannot fathom why the 2.0.3 upgrade is still presented in every WordPress dashboard and that the official post for 2.0.3 release has not been updated at all to reflect that users should hold off on installing the upgrade as some bugs slipped through and they are working on fixes at the moment. The bugs in 2.0.3 have been officially announced on Planet WordPress, yet most users wouldn’t know to check there — they see the WordPress 2.0.3 upgrade link in their dashboard and upon clicking it they are taken to the official WordPress development blog and told that the upgrade is, “The latest in the stable 2.0 series” — with no mention of the bugs or that it actually turned out not to be so stable after all. I know the developers are busy working round the clock trying to fix the bugs so that they can release an upgrade that resolves these new issues, but come on, can’t someone take the time to update the dev blog to let users know to hold off on upgrading??

Furthermore, for new users, why hasn’t the WordPress download page been updated (or rolled back) to list 2.0.2 as being the current stable release until the issues with 2.0.3 are worked out? Why are new users being told that the latest stable release of WordPress is 2.0.3 when its not, and that 2.0.3 is the version they should download and install? Why not give new users WordPress 2.0.2 (a truly stable release) to download given that it is now known that 2.0.3 is problematic?

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