this was going to be a photomatt comment. it growed.

Basically, Matt wants everyone to sell him GPL stylesheets to use on wordpress.com and wp.org/extend/themes

I know. Why don’t you just support the CSS upgrade properly (i.e. take a few less months getting Sandbox up to date, stop telling people they need to be experts to buy it, maybe even provide a couple of nice copy/paste stylesheets to get them started) and build your market around that? Except, oh yeah, the people who are already producing CSS-based themes for wordpress.com (and not charging, since a) they just want to make the place a little less homogenous and b) it would get them ToSed) are evidently not the calibre you want to work with.

Basically, you just threw ntuat.wordpress.com down the drain. Nothing there is going to be eligible for inclusion because it’s not brand-new and I’m not a professional. (Some of it’s not even mine, they’re ports of third-party GPL themes that were either requested or which I felt filled a gap in the existing selection.) People are going to be even less interested in buying custom CSS if they can pay the same price and get an official theme that doesn’t need to be copy/pasted. Assuming that custom CSS is still available, of course, rather than having been removed because people are using it to rip off all these killer premium themes.

I do what the almighty Matt commands — I design stuff that is free as in both speech and as in beer, that requires people to give him money in order to use — and I still get slapped in the face. But that’s OK. I’m collateral damage. Ultimately this will be a really great way to screw more money out of naive .com users of giving people more options about how they want their blog to look. And when this fabled marketplace is opened to people outside Matt’s circle of friends, I may even chuck some skins in there at a few cents each. Because honestly? Seeing as how it’s GPL and the styles will be free for .org users, I would feel like a complete shill charging any more than a nominal amount.

8 Comments »

  1. options said

    but even charging by the nominal price only, would you really like to chuck away your themes by this particular way?

    if I’ve got it right, then themes on the market are not allowed to have a single author credit link even somewhere in the footer. neither for theme markup, nor its style, graphics etc.

    this effectively means those theme would look like nothing but ‘Designed by Automattic’ for the most of non-wordpress.com’ers. so, even if they’d like to use your theme/style on their wordpress™.org powered site, they’d have to knew the ‘id=”theme-link”‘ somehow (e.g. create a blog on .com).

  2. Kissing Bandit said

    Damn. I’m completely astounded by the new lows to which Automattic can reach…and just when I thought it wasn’t possible to get any lower. <hangs head and exits somberly>

    -KB

  3. It does seem that GPL’d premium CSS-only themes would have a strange co-existence with the CSS Edit upgrade. Unless the themes are a whole bunch cheaper than the already-cheap CSS Edit upgrade, it would seem foolish to buy individual themes. You’d think that copy/paste wouldn’t be much of a deterrent for bloggers of all people! :-) So maybe there won’t be much of a (for-pay) market for them, and sites like “not (that) ugly” will still thrive. Perhaps CSS+PHP themes will do better, as it’d take more work to port one of those to being a skin of another theme, and you could do much radical stuff.

    How about a market for copyrighted Sandbox themes? You could sell an exclusive license to a theme, so that other people would be legally precluded from copying it. That might be worth paying for.

  4. Root said

    Matt is entering an arena of business here about which he knows very little, and he has never given any indication that he is willing to listen to any one who does understand how the theme market works. I can’t add anything original to what has been written about by many people who are active in this field. This could end up going pear shaped. But it could succeeed if the format is right. The critical thing that Matt needs to understand is that what makes it work for him (loads of money) may not work as well in the long run as establishing a proper business relationship with themers. From that perspective every single aspect of the detail of his proposal looks highly suspect eg: 50% revenue split (cunningly disguised by Matt’s torturous and evasive use of the language).

  5. shep said

    Small Potato has a great post on the subject. Matt is becoming more and more of a joke with each new fantastic idea he has.

  6. but even charging by the nominal price only, would you really like to chuck away your themes by this particular way?

    Well, my free wordpress.com skins don’t have a visible credit as it is, since they’re CSS-based. (It would be easy enough to insert a logo in an image, or screw about with content:, but to be honest I can’t be bothered.) So in that respect the lack of credit’s not an issue. Denying designers the right to link back to their own site is petty, especially since existing wordpress.com do have links to the designers (although I fully expect Matt to start killing those too). But then if people don’t like those terms they won’t submit themes to the marketplace. They don’t have to. They can do what SP suggests and do it themselves, on their own terms.

    I’m not really sure what kind of designer he’s expecting to work for him. In my experience most people who are just starting out are insane about getting credit, because they’re so proud of their shiny new skills and want everyone to know it’s them that made it. And the professionals are looking at the revenue-sharing and going ‘pffft! how stupid does he think we are?’ So we’ll probably wind up with fanboys taking time out from commenting on photomatt to show us their unique take on the Big Blue Header, because they think it’s going to earn them a few extra dollars.

    50% revenue split (cunningly disguised by Matt’s torturous and evasive use of the language).

    Hell yeah. I wouldn’t have realised that was even on the table if the photomatt post was all I’d read. It’s a masterclass in how to say something without people realising you’ve said it. I don’t think 50% is going to be acceptable to many people outside the Matt community. Even I am thinking, do I want to be giving my skins away for two cents if one of them is going to go to Automattic? They still owe me $5, after all. ;)

  7. […] to one, baby, one in five,No one here gets out alive, nowYou’ll get yours, baby, I’ll get mine,Gonna make it, baby, if we […]

  8. […] But then, is the convenience of having the theme installed for you really worth even that much? As Mark points out, most bloggers, even the clueless ones that Matt is targeting, have mastered the intricacies of […]

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