the long and the short of it

Should I host another theme competition? asks Mr King.

The short answer to this is ‘no’.

The long and reasoned answer is: I doubt very much he can afford the time or the money. Yeah, people will bung him cash and/or server space, but they ain’t going to do any actual work on this. They may say they’re prepared to help out, but watch them disappear given the prospect of forty ten-file folders to comb for PHP errors and vulnerabilities. There are, like, five people in the WordPress community competent to evaluate the technical and design aspects of a theme (does it validate? is it accessible? is it easy to navigate? does it work across different browsers and resolutions? does it manage not to look like crap?) and they all have better things to do than comb through other people’s stuff for a pittance. However much random people say they’re willing to put up, it won’t be equivalent to consultancy rates.

People need to start getting real about this. You can’t demand the guy bankrupts himself putting on a competition just because you want another four zillion blue-and-grey two-col themes to pick from.

Besides which, unless 1.5 themes are going to break in 1.6/1.75/2.0/whatever the hell they’re calling it this week (in which case WP itself is kind of broken) we don’t need any more crappy themes. No, actually, even if they do break, we don’t need any more crap to wade through. Please.

Good themes get made regardless of competitions. Good themes get made because the designer sees a gap that the other themes aren’t filling, whether it’s aesthetic or technical or both. Crappy themes get made because a call for entries goes out and everyone thinks they have a chance of getting traffic/publicity/money because they slapped a new header and background on Kubrick and changed the link colours.

There’ll be a hundred or so themes that can’t be used on people’s legacy 1.5 installs (and if you think everyone upgrades the moment a major new release comes out, you are on crack) and can’t be used on wordpress.com because it will take Matt months to decide which (if any) are worthy of his Chosen Few.

Of course, if Alex King decides not to run another competition he kind of loses his status within the community (ok, being ‘template contest guy’ isn’t a great position, but it’s more prestige than most of the other ex-developers get) and also an awful lot of traffic, but it may also be time to acknowledge that amateurism has had its day. It was fine when WordPress was just a little b2 fork made by hackers for hackers, but it’s grown beyond that now. What they actually need to be doing is copying Blogger: asking professionals to design themes for wordpress.com (employing someone to design the site itself wouldn’t be a bad idea either, come to think of it) and paying them properly. A couple of ads and a few more Flock-style deals on the .com should cover it. Then I could replace this template with something pink.

4 Comments »

  1. you know i’m having a shitty day when i’m reading through your archives for a pick-me-up. ;)
    anyway, you’re right on all counts, if only terry had listened. of course, matt seems to have run an end-around with the custom headers, and made everyone happy, without shelling out for real designers.

  2. wank said

    Custom headers are a short-term fix which everyone is greeting as revolutionary because they’ve been trained to expect so little. If he thinks that level of customisation is going to cut it with paid users he’s dreaming.

  3. Like wank says, designs will come up to fill perceived gaps, and competitions only draw out more recolored K2’s

  4. […] Look, just go read this old entry, I can’t be bothered to make the same points over and over again. […]

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