end times

And it becomes clear why it was suddenly a matter of urgency to get the wordpress trademark out of Automattic’s hands, not to mention their newfound love for Internet Explorer. (IE? seriously? I remember when promoting open-source browsers was a core feature. I guess it depends who’s paying.)

Strangely, my comment on the latter post congratulating them on officially having sold out failed to make it out of moderation. Am I not allowed to say this until they announce they’ve been acquired?

Still, being eaten by Microsoft is way more impressive than getting swallowed by some random ad company nobody’s heard of. I suppose this means the squirrels lost.

Comments (22)

back into the shade

Somebody help me out here. Why exactly are we meant to be jumping for joy at the ‘news’ that the wordpress trademark has been taken out of the hands of Automattic and back into the hands of… um, Matt? I mean, yeah, obviously we didn’t want Google or whoever to get their mitts on it if Automattic gets acquired, but it’s not like it’s been gifted to the community or anything. If there is any evidence that anyone is involved in this mysterious Foundation thing other than Matt and whatever lawyer or accountant helped him fill in the forms, then Google isn’t giving it up without a fight. Jane wrote a couple of blog posts for it so maybe she’s involved in some capacity, but, really, everything is so hopelessly vague that there’s no telling, and when there’s no telling it’s generally because Matt has sole control and doesn’t think it’s worth his time to explain.

Where’s the accountability? How do we know that the ‘foundation’ isn’t going to use trademark violation as a weapon in the GPL jihad, using it as an excuse to shut down anyone promoting non-GPL code or documentation? We had a reasonable expectation that Automattic wouldn’t do that because they’re an actual legitimate business, with a board of directors and all that jazz, and the money men might have a shot at keeping Matt’s weirder impulses in check, but now nobody else gets a say in how the trademark’s used or how abuses (real or imagined) are handled. And somehow this gets spun as a great day for open source. Awesome.

Comments (22)

cutthroat

You thought all was forgiven now Chris Pearson finally got bullied into split-licensing Thesis? No, of course you didn’t. So here you go, more grudgewank:

Cutline was sold a few years ago and had a more restrictive license placed on it. The original author of the Cutline theme has gone on to produce other themes with more restrictive licenses. Using Cutline has been seen as a promotion of that work and that’s not something we want to do–so, we made something better: Coraline!

So yeah, by the sounds of it they’ve tarted up Cutline with some code from the new default, changed a couple of letters in the name and are calling it a new theme.

Stay classy, guys.

I’m not really sure why they chose the theme in the first place if it’s such ‘junk’, and I fail to see why existing users have to be screwed around. If you hate it so much, couldn’t you just deprecate it by making it unselectable as a new theme? Come to that, why do we still have three versions of Sandbox cluttering up the place? I can’t see what’s so difficult about hiding a theme option without removing it from existing blogs. All you would have to do is add a BIG WARNING to the theme description saying that the theme is deprecated, it is recommended that you upgrade, and if you do change themes, you will not be able to get the old one back. Simples! And then I would no longer be troubled by the continuing existence of Sweet Blossoms.

[ETA: unsurprisingly, though it was a surprise for them since evidently not all Cutline users lurk in the CSS customisation forum, existing users are not massively pleased about the whole being screwed around thing.

If I were the person whose theme changed halfway through a presentation, or I were having to fend off emails from my boss about why the company blog suddenly looked weird, and then I found out the only reason this happened was because some guy had a vendetta going against some other guy because of a disagreement over SOFTWARE LICENCES... wow. I don't know how I'd even begin to compute that level of estrangement from reality.]

Comments (20)

commentary

I appear to have become one of those people who does their blogging in other people’s comments threads. Oops.

So, here am I on putting the P into wOrDpReSs: 1, 2 and 3 (bonus link to camelcasers needing to get out more).

And whipping the dead horse of GPL just to make sure it will never rise again (oh, it just did):

All this debate does is make Thesis sound better and more important than every other theme that exists.

I feel sort of disappointed that this has sunk to the level of personal attacks. (On re-reading, I’ve decided I was a little harsh on Jane here. What actually irritates me about this post is the focus on how loud and aggressive and generally ignorant Chris is in comparison to gentlemanly Matt and sweet, altruistic Jane. He might be mean and you might be lovely, but it doesn’t follow that he’s wrong and you’re right. I hate to break it to you guys, but copyright law doesn’t care whether you’re nice.)

I wish somebody could build a time machine and tell Michel Valdrighi what a mess his decision was going to make years down the line.

and for the obligatory wordpress.com slant:

Seems harsh to get rid of wordpress.com themes purely on ideological grounds (no, I don’t know why permalinks to comments on Matt’s blog are broken either. Probably something to do with SEO).

I wish people would quit pretending this is a legal issue rather than an ideological one. Hands up who believes that a judge’s decision that themes did not have to abide by GPL would change Matt’s position, and that he would immediately throw open the doors of wordpress.org to non-GPL themes and quit badmouthing non-GPL developers? Nobody involved in this actually cares about the law, any more than the law cares about whether they are nice or not. Chris wants the power to licence his work as he chooses and Matt wants everyone else to licence their work as he chooses. And the GPL is obscure enough that it is possible to interpret it either way. Can we stop squeaking now? Thanks.

Comments (12)

there’s a dozen born every minute

OK, not getting this. Well, I get that Automattic needs to start converting the millions of .org users into cashflow, and there are precious few ways of doing this. Yeah, they’ve got the affiliate earnings, they’ve got VIP support, they’ve got a little bit coming in from Akismet licences, and they appear to be considering getting into the premium themes market (if you can’t beat ‘em , join ‘em); but .org users are undeniably hard to monetise, so you have to grasp whatever straws you can.

But. If your blog is that vital that you’re willing to pay insurance premiums on it, why are you not making your own regular backups? Why have you not installed any backup plugins? Why are you not with a decent host that will backup for you? Why are you not on wordpress.com already?

This is a perfect illustration that the ‘recommended hosts’ page on wordpress.org is just a moneyspinner rather than a list of hosts Automattic actually trust, but then I think we all worked that out a long time ago. Still, there’s enough fanboys and idiots around to make this worth a go. Kudos.

Comments (12)

on the founding of the founderation

Let’s have a Q & A session on the vaporware Wordpress Foundation! Here is Andreas Nurbo with the questions:

1) Any plans to make all the people involved at decision level with the foundation and their role public?
Yes. It is Matt. Next question.

1a) Will documentation of decisions, meetings be made public and easily accessible?
Matt is a busy man and cannot be expected to chronicle his thought processes in public, however I am sure that if he has any foundation-related ideas he will post them on a blog somewhere.

2) You write that you will support projects and ensure that stuff lives on.
2a) Who decides what gets support and what does that mean exactly?

Matt decides. If he likes you, he may give you money. Or a T-shirt. Or a mug. Or, if he’s feeling especially generous, a link in his blog.

2b) Which projects are suppose[d] to be “owned”, if any, by the foundation?
Wordpress. Duh. Well, not Wordpress the software, since the code is jointly owned by all the contributors and can be taken and messed about with by anyone, but the Wordpress trademark. That seems to be about it. Now the community gets the opportunity to contribute to the legal and administrative costs when Matt wants to take a WP-related domain off someone. Oh happy day!

2c) What will the foundation control, if anything, in terms of projects? Projectroles, websites, servers etc.
Nothing, unless at some point it proves financially advantageous to do so. You know as well as I do that setting up a non-profit is mostly done for tax purposes. Handing the wordpress.org website over to the foundation would hardly amount to relinquishing personal control, but changing the name on the domain registration seems an unnecessary formality if there is nothing more concrete to be gained by it than community goodwill.

2d) Will the foundation put up any rules for openness of the organization and decisions in the projects it decides to support?
Matt’s always been pretty clear about the projects he’s willing to support; their work may not be released under any licence other than GPL (other open-source licences are apparently a no-no, which seems offputtingly, well, religious), they should not be overly enthusiastic in the pursuit of profit, and they should respect his authoritah. As the plan seems to be to dole most of it out to Wordcamps, these demands should not be too onerous. Also, it would be kind of rich for an organisation administered inside one person’s head to demand openness and accountability from its beneficiaries, don’t you think?

I do not understand why even the most dedicated fanboy would be jumping up and down over this non-event. Are we meant to be excited about the revelation that Matt still runs everything and plans to subsidise selected Wordcamps? Seriously? And did anyone actually believe that this foundation would be some kind of committee that would administer wordpress.org for the benefit of the community? If they did, they obviously haven’t been around Wordpress for very long.

Comments (18)

bbpress dies

bbpress lives? I wouldn’t call being downgraded to plugin status living, exactly, even though I’ve been saying for years that it would work better as a plugin. As forum software it only appeals to existing fanboys who want to display their allegiance to the Automattic brand, and naturally they’re all running multiple installs of WP anyway.

I wonder whether talkpress will ever make it out of beta now? I wouldn’t be surprised if the idea of offering hosted forums has been shelved as being more trouble than it’s worth (illegal downloads and libellous content are far more likely to be disseminated through forums than blogs). Or maybe they realised that Vanilla had pipped them to the post, providing free forums with more features than bbpress could offer. Or maybe it’s going to be buddypress all the way. Who knows? Who cares?

Either way, Automattic have finally twigged that bbpress is an intrinsically second-rate product that is never going to make them any money and it’s no longer worth paying someone to work on it. Took them long enough.

Comments (2)

unasseptable

I don’t really have time for this (I am meant to be NaNoing) but, yeah. Here we have somebody getting banned from the forums for wanting their personal information removed from someone else’s blog comments, and wondering why staff were willing to do this a year ago yet not anymore.

I suppose we should be grateful that these blowups aren’t as frequent as they used to be. I’m not sure which is worse: leaving RL information up for the world to see or poking around in other people’s comments, but having had my comments messed with in the past I would probably agree with the most recent line that it’s the latter.

I still have no idea why people are never warned before they get banned from the forums. I’m not talking about obvious spammers; I’m talking about people who get censored purely for questioning policy. How long would it take to write a post saying ‘While you are welcome to ask or answer support questions on this forum, if you post about this subject again your account will be blocked and you will no longer be able to receive support from this source?’ I don’t know, a minute, maybe two. Anybody who’s ever watched Supernanny knows that you issue the warning before you dish out the punishment.

I think they’re worried that if they give a warning the person might actually comply, and then they wouldn’t experience the pleasure of wielding the banstick. Power corrupts, and that.

Comments (3)

warm and fuzzy

I’m wondering why the word ‘marketing’ has been substituted by the relatively meaningless ‘user growth’ in the title of Automattic’s marketing guy. Surely we are past the days when we had to worry about the open source fanboys fretting about commercialisation? Anyone who was bothered by that has long gone by now.

My own feeling is that the junking of ‘marketing’ is itself a piece of marketing, substituting a hard-edged business term with something altogether more warm and fuzzy. I know I’ve been advocating for years that they get themselves somebody who actually knows about this stuff, but somehow I had forgotten how annoying marketingspeak is. And if that is the reason Matt held out against getting the professionals in for so many years, then I have to hold my hands up and say: yep, OK, you running around making weird snarky comments on forums and comment threads may have been a PR disaster, but at least it had the virtue of being real.

(Also, I think WP might have been better served by hiring people to work on the security situation than by hiring someone to spout soothing buzzwords to try and stop users freaking out about it. But that is just the geek in me.)

Comments (4)

my latest way-too-offensive-to-appear-in-public comment on the news blog

Hang on to your hats people, this one may shock those of a nervous disposition. In response to the introduction of a new! improved! spellchecker that also polices your posts for grammatical errors and stylistic infelicities (I thought that was my job? what will become of my Sword of Pedantry now?) I enquire:

When you say ‘English’, do you mean American English?

I know, I know. I must hang my head in shame for daring to hint, yet again, that not everyone in the world is American. How can I express my contrition? I will just have to try my best to swap my ‘ise’s for ‘ize’s, spell ‘colour’ as if I were writing CSS, and then I should pass muster with the Homogenizer and there will be no more trouble. (Or should that be ‘troble’?)

Comments (15)

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