Nerd sports? Sure, why not 🙂 Torque Mag is always full of great articles and analysis and their 2016 Plugin Madness tries to bring some of the hooplah from college hoops famed March Madness into the world of WordPress. I tweeted a few of my bracketology thoughts after Round 1 earlier this week and after some subtle social media encouragement from @TheTorqueMag have decided to dedicate a few blog posts to round recaps and plugin predictions. Round 1 is in the can, but there are (at the time of pressing that magic blue publish button) two days left before Round 2 wraps to get your votes in or try your hand at prognostication.

The Pressers

(W) WP Maintenance Mode vs NextGEN Gallery

Both had big wins in Round 1. As far as galleries go, I generally prefer the classic core style with the occasional enhancements from Jetpack’s photon features. WP Maintenance Mode is a regular in my toolkit both to tweak into a ‘Coming Soon’ splash page and for the on-going maintenance setup it’s marketed to.

Prediction: Maintenance Mode is moving on!

Simple Page Ordering vs (W) Post Types Order

I’ve used both and find they both do what you expect from them very, very well. A real toss-up match given the similarity in functionality and 300k+ active installs. I’ll go with Post Types Order if only because their compatibility listing is up-to-date to 4.4.2.

Prediction: Post Types Ordering up the victory


WP-DB-Backup vs (W) iThemes Security

I haven’t used iThemes Security, but hear many great things about it. I’d have a very hard time picking WP-DB-Backup FTW when I’m such a HUGE fan of the functionality that Delicious Brains offers in WP Migrate DB and it’s Pro counterpart.

Prediction: iThink iThemes will iWin


Wordfence vs (W) Duplicate Post

If Wordfence wins, my predictions say that would set up one heck of a security showdown for Round 3 in The Pressers regional with iThemes. But I won’t be duplicating that prognostication pattern because I recommend Duplicate Post on most every site where authors need to tweak off existing content / layouts. Straight to the point. Actually, why is this kind of functionality not in core already?

Prediction: Duplicate Post. Duplicate Post.


The Wordees

WP Mail SMTP vs (W) Disable Comments

Two solid wins in Round 1 at almost 70% of the votes for each. It’s a testament to how far WordPress has grown from it’s original use case as blog that a plugin like Disabling Comments, SO antithetical to that concept, has 800K+ installs. A little bit of personal preference in picking against WP Mail SMTP as I tend to use either Easy SMTP Mail or a server-based solution like sSMTP as Trellis champions.

Prediction: No comment, Disable Comments is moving on.

(W) Mailchimp for WordPress vs WP Smush

Another battle that I could see going either way between two plugins that integrate excellent external services. If I don’t come close to my 96% prediction rate for Round 1 (31 / 32), it’ll be because of tough choices like this one. Since MailPoet lost a big battle in Round 1, I’m going to give the nod to the other newsletter-related plugin still standing.

Prediction: Go Bananas Mailchimp, you’re moving on!


User Role Editor vs (W) WooCommerce

Discrete / isolated functionality vs the grand-daddy of eCommerce solutions. 300K+ installs to 1 million. 1 developer of 8 plugins vs a recent addition to the Automattic empire. Toss in another personal preference bias (Members) and I think you can see where this one is headed.

Prediction: Woo!


Clef 2-factor Auth vs (W) Akismet

The ONE upside to doing so much of my work with enterprise clients where there is a VPN fronting all traffic is that plugins like Clef and Akismet are not essential elements to my toolkit. That being said, Automattic has a lot of good entries still in the 32 and I want to see which side @photomatt would pick if the Round 3 battle is between Woo and Akismet.

Prediction: Akismet will Awinnit


The Extenders

BackWPUp Free vs (W) ACF

93% of people picked ACF FTW in Round 1. I think the stats will be similarly one-sided in this battle. Maybe if this matchup had been taking place circa v3 of ACF and it’s notable performance problems could have turned the tide. I’ve recently come back to using ACF v5 and am loving the versatility that repeaters and layout field types offer.

Prediction: Advanced Custom Fields Advances

Google Analytics Dashboard for WP vs (W) Ninja Forms

In NCAA March Madness – a bracketologist which team will win the game. But with #pluginmadness it’s almost a meta game of who do I think other people will prefer. My personal preference for this one is a world of hurt is in store for Ninja Forms for beating out that lovely little MailPoet in Round 1. But because the plugins all come from the repo, my form favourite – Gravity Forms – isn’t in the mix, I don’t know if the stat heads can carry on.

Prediction: Ninja Forms fights on for another day

(W) bbPress vs Widget Logic

As great as widgets and sidebars are – the fact that they need something like widget logic to make scale up to versatile use cases is another example of admin UI struggling on top of many overlapping feature sets of widgets, shortcodes and meta fields, Which one to use when and how to help clients understand the overlapping terminology?

Prediction: Not getting too logical with this one. bbPress wins.


Regenerate Thumbnails vs (W) Yoast SEO

Based on my one of the instigating tweets for this post, “Yoast will really have to optimize its way to the Phenominal 4 to beat ACF in THE EXTENDERS regional.” it should be obvious where I’m going with this pick. Theme changes causing thumbnail / layout problems are ever-so-slowly becoming less of a site migration nightmare as the move towards responsive design continues. Yoast update problems may come to cost them in later rounds, but not yet.

Prediction: Give a toast to Yoast!


The Installers

(W) Jetpack vs UpdraftPlus

Your photo booth at WCUS last year was AWESOME green screen fun. Happy Birthday Jetpack, you’re moving on to Round #3.

Prediction: Jetpack flies ahead

(W) WP-Optimize vs All in One SEO Pack

If I were just voting based on plugin names in cases where I hadn’t used the plugin, I would have thought WP-Optomize would be in the realm of SmushIt or WP Rocket. For some, the database is a strange and scary place they fear to tread. No two pages can earn top ranks for SEO and with Yoast already filling in my bracket above, all in one is all out of spots.

Prediction: WP-Optimize has its eyes on the prize


(W) The Events Calendar vs W3 Total Cache

An interesting little match-up this one is. The ~70% win rates in Round 1 says they both have strong followings. TEC was one of the original premium plugins I ever upgraded for and can’t say that they have ever really disappointed in what they deliver. There is more competition for caching plugins and server-based solutions that I don’t see W3 getting to R3.

Prediction: The Events Calendar has a date for Round 3


(W) Tiny MCE Advanced vs Captcha

Both of these plugins focus on areas that succeed and fail around the question I might phrase as, “Don’t we all kind of wish there was something just a little bit better?” It’s 2016 already dammit. We may not have flying cars but we’re making good progress on autonomous ones. If computers are going to be able to drive the masses, they better be able to know whether I’m a robot or not and how I want to format my content. But brackets can’t have ties so one must win.

Prediction: Tiny victory for Tiny MCE Advanced