Analysis of the WordPress Stream Plugin

What is Stream?

Stream is a plugin for WordPress that tracks logged-in user activity organized by context, action and IP address for easy filtering. Developers can extend Stream with custom connectors to log any kind of action.

For non-techie folks it’s a list of all the activity on a site. Not of the activities of people who view the site, but those who build and maintain it.

How Stream is Used

  • As a web developer it is invaluable for seeing who did what that suddenly made the site crash, or all the text turn yellow, and I find it especially useful when letting plugin developers into the back-end to fix problems. –Ricky Blacker
  • … installed it on one of my biggest client’s sites, who in recent weeks have had issues with widgets mysteriously getting changed or deleted, so I haven’t “solved any crimes” yet, but I’m waiting for the chance to rely on it. –Dave Clements
  • What Stream does is a form of analytics. –Carl Hancock
  • Track how their clients use WordPress, either multisite or agency setting
  • Multi-contributor websites and blogs, where an admin can keep track of their various contributors / editors
  • Security / peace of mind, if someone breaks in (or is given temporary access, as is often the case with theme and plugin support) to the WordPress admin
  • An audit trail, often required by government / enterprise

Key Benefits of Stream

  1. Find and repair issues quickly
  2. Adds a feeling of security for webmasters
  3. Analyze administrator habits to improve performance
  4. Monitor temporary user access
  5. Create an audit trail for record keeping

Target Audience

  • Agencies who manage large multi-admin sites and/or numerous developers, authors, contributors, designers.
  • Freelancers or small shops who want a way to find and repair breaks quickly.
  • Government and enterprise organizations who need to keep a record of activity for legal reasons.
  • WordPress core developers could benefit from patterns and usability issues found by analyzing admin/author behaviour.

Recommended Improvements

  1. An obvious benefit is a view into problem areas. The use case for this may be a webmaster gets notified of some problem on the site, webmaster checks log for anything suspicious (depending on the issue). One hindrance to solving that issue is the lack of a link to the context in question. Within Stream anything I click on, even the magnify icon that appears in hover, links me to a filtered view of the record. That does not help me achieve my goal of  viewing the context and repairing the error. Why not use the WP hover to appear menu options?
    Screenshot 2015-09-02 10.32.39
  2. I used stream on my personal site for about an hour as a created a new post. I generated 47 records! I can’t even imagine how many records enterprise sites get. A condensed view may be helpful to some users. Perhaps group them by context, user, or date and click-to-expand for details.
  3. In a list so long visual cues can help users find what they are looking for faster. The user profile image is a good start, why not expand that? Add the icons used in the sidebar to visually enhance each context for better skim-ability.
  4. Admin analytics could be a growth area. By sorting and grouping stats on how users interact with the dashboard we can glean how long it takes to do repetitive tasks and perhaps improve the user experience for WordPress admins. More immediately, simple graphs or charts (that you can add to your dash) showing stats like who does the most writing or editing, how many posts or pages were created each day, or which page has the most changes would be fun and beneficial.
  5. When filtering for “Last Month” I got the records for this month.
  6. In the Summary column the change follows a “Title” Context Action verbiage (“Branding and Logo for The Let’s Play Chalet” post drafted) except for when I added a category to the taxonomy it reads “Design” created.  Be consistent.
  7. For record keepers, adding a download may be helpful.
  8. For Agencies who are monitoring temporary users, some ability to add alerts if those temporary users go into an unauthorized area may be useful.

 

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