Archive for bananas

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)

sandboxing

@eksith: there are a whole bunch of sandbox skins at http://sndbx.org, though they’re a couple of years old and might require tweaking to work with the latest version of the theme. I have a few more oldish ones (including sandbox versions of other people’s themes) at http://ntuat.wordpress.com and devblog does them at http://sandboxskins.wordpress.com. If anyone knows any other sources, please let me know.

@Noel: are there any plans to deprecate older versions of Sandbox at any point? On the one hand I am lazy and want to keep my 0.6.1 skins up indefinitely (I like the ability to pick your layout through the admin panel, which later versions lack), but on the other I can see that having four or five versions of the same theme could be confusing for users. Also, could you possibly give us some idea of what has changed/improved between 1.1 and 1.6.1? Is there any added functionality, or is this just a functional upgrade to ensure compatibility with the latest version of WP?

Can anybody explain why this comment is deemed too offensive to appear on the news blog? I have a couple of ideas but none of them seem adequate:

  1. self-promotion. OK, but the fellow commenter was asking for examples of what could be done with sandbox and so I was providing some. I was trying to be helpful. I know, I know, Automattic have made it perfectly clear that they do not want my help, but eksith had made no such stipulation and it’s not really up to Automattic to make that decision on his behalf.
  2. asking of questions. I know we are not meant to ask questions in announcement posts, but nor am I allowed to ask questions on the forum, and frankly it does not seem urgent enough to pester Support with. If you have a major problem with my asking what has been changed and whether older versions will be deprecated, then please say so in your reply, rather than just pretending I never asked. (I don’t know exactly why anyone would have issues with my asking these things, unless of course they didn’t know the answers, in which case there seems little point in asking Support since they won’t know either.)
  3. it is official company policy not to allow any comments by me to appear on the news blog. That would be vaguely flattering but to be honest I don’t think I’m that important. They’re already compromising their professionalism enough by refusing me access to forum support.

This is why I don’t make many Sandbox skins anymore. I don’t mind having new versions sprung upon me with zero notice, but I would like to know how they differ from the one I’ve been working with, to save me and every other person who deals with custom stylesheets from having to examine the code independently and deduce for themselves what the differences are (and if there aren’t any, wow, thank you so much for wasting our time). It would be nice to know whether the older versions will ever be made unselectable for new users, so I know whether it is worth my time converting older skins. I’m providing a service for fellow users here; I don’t want thanks or recognition but a little bit of civility and the occasional smidgeon of help would be nice.

Seriously, I’m this close to taking http://ntuat.wordpress.com down altogether. It can’t be good for my blood pressure to keep banging my head against brick walls like this. I keep thinking of Brian Gardner’s point about the inadvisability of building a business on a platform that is actively hostile towards your aims. Obviously I am not stupid enough to try building a business upon custom CSS, but the same point stands. Automattic have done a superb job of killing any potential market there might have been for custom stylesheets, mainly by dint of drilling support staff and volunteers that users must on no account be advised to purchase the upgrade if they are not already fully-fledged code mavens. Which is odd, since people on blogger and livejournal appear to have no problems applying cut-and-paste templates without such expertise, nor in understanding that any support issues with said templates are best referred to the designer rather than to blogger or livejournal.

No: the real fear here is that people having already spent their $15 on the ability to customise their blog would be willing to hand over even more wonga to a third party willing to do it for them. Automattic are fond of protesting that they welcome people making money off the back of wordpress.org, but you don’t hear them saying they want anyone other than themselves profiting from wordpress.com. If they encouraged people to make and distribute free sandbox skins, sooner or later somebody would produce a ‘premium’ skin, or start offering custom designs, and, since CSS and images are officially not covered by the GPL, Automattic couldn’t stop them from releasing them under whatever licence they chose. I’m the thin end of the wedge. I know that.

OK, I appear to have answered my own question. Comments referring to the existence of third-party sandbox skins cannot be allowed to appear on the official blog, since this would raise awareness of their existence and other people might start making them. Of course, my skins are all impeccably GPL and I have never considered charging a penny for them, but since when has that made a difference? If theme designers are scum, then skin designers — mere parasites upon the greatness that is wp.com! — must be the lowest of the low and extinguished at all costs.

Like I say. I’m this close to giving up on wordpress.com and concentrating on platforms such as livejournal and dreamwidth which actually encourage users to create and share their own stylesheets. Sure, you could read that as exploitation (though no worse than Automattic have done for years with their commandeering of amateur-created themes) but it feels a lot more healthy and constructive to me than the weirdness going on here.

Comments (16)

the smiley liberation front

I am now so enraged by the mysterious disappearance of my beloved roll-eyes smiley, and the replacement without notice of ALL existing smilies with anaemic substitutes and the lack of any response to my bug report concerning same, that I need all you logged-in people to go along and rate this FAQ as Very Poor, at least until it stops telling lies. != .

(Yes, I know, there he is. But I need him in comments! And for some bizarro reason even though I can post VIDEOS in OTHER PEOPLE’S comment threads I can’t post an ickle 16×16 gif in my OWN, even though there is a clearly visible BUTTON in the edit window inviting me to insert an image. In what universe does this make any form of sense? I told you I was enraged.)

Would you go into my blog and change the font or header image without my say-so? No, you would not, so quit messing with our content and give us the option to choose the old smilies. We know they are not things of great beauty and they do not match the floofy backend, but at least you can see what they’re supposed to be.

Comments (17)

i <3 blogger

Hands up who’s in love with the fact that the corporate sponsors of wordpress.com’s first LJ-style competition host their own blog on blogspot?

Sadly, since the contest requires the use of expensive proprietary software (needless to say, I am not the only person to have noticed the incongruity here) there has not been a huge response from the freeloaders of .com and Automattic have had to resort to plugging it on ma.tt.

Looking at his new bloated uberheader, I’d say cod Dali is probably the way to win the hearts of the judges. Also, if you were wondering why there’s no linklove for the guy who converted the comps into code, it’s probably because he’s using a theme by somebody else and that’s never good for one’s credibility. And I’m really, really sorry, but I cannot resist pointing out its utter failure to validate. You know I would never normally be sufficiently assholish to mention that but hey, glass houses.

Comments (7)

here we go again

Late to this one (Christmas shopping, meh), but, yeah, if you didn’t already hear, Matt has, unilaterally and without prior notice, purged extend/themes of over a quarter of its content. As well as targeting premium theme sites, this allegedly includes any theme linking to a site which carries an affiliate link to WooThemes. Whether this ban also encompasses affiliate links to theme sites other than Adii’s, I do not know (though affiliate links to Revolution are presumably kosher, seeing as how wordpress.org was carrying one till they were called on it). How Joseph felt about his theme-vetting skills being publically dissed in such a way, I do not know. What the hell was going through Matt’s brain at the time, I also do not know, but it’s December again so we can’t go expecting too much in the way of rationality.

Somebody in the sacred inner circle really needs to point out to Matt that if he doesn’t let go of his obsession with persecuting theme designers it’s going to start seriously hurting the community. For a start, it should have been apparent to anyone with half a brain that premium themers were going to release freebies and submit them to wordpress.org as a promotional tool; partly for the linkage, partly to showcase their skills. If Matt didn’t want people doing that it should have been made clear at the outset.

Of course, there is no logical reason why he should not want them doing that. A GPL theme is a GPL theme, regardless of who designed it or the motives behind its release. And if it’s been made to persuade you to invest in the designer’s other work, it needs to be a decent one. Free themes by premium designers? What is so terrible about this, exactly? Nobody is forcing people to buy whatever other themes the designer or his/her affiliates has on offer. Nobody is even forcing anyone to keep the link to a profit-making site. The whole concept of GPL is that you can’t enforce these things, that it doesn’t much matter who originally created the code, and that you can take it and make of it what you will. Refusing to distribute a GPL theme (or plugin, for that matter) because you personally dislike what the developer has done with their website pretty much flies in the face of that spirit of openness. The code is rejected because of who made it, rather than judged on its own merits; and end-users are deprived of a free theme.

(Still, let’s face it, it’s a very long time since anyone involved in this endless GPL jihad bothered to think about the poor bloody users.)

People stipulating that you can’t remove their links? Also to be expected by anyone with half a brain. I mean, Michael Heilemann tried that with Kubrick, and that was apparently GPL enough to make it into core. If designers can’t be bothered to ascertain what the licence you’re imposing upon them actually entails, that’s their lookout. My understanding was that in submitting your theme to .org you render your theme GPL, because that’s what you agreed to when you uploaded it. And at this point it ceases to matter what you want people to do (or not do) with your theme. If you still care about things like being credited for your work, and you don’t want your free labour commercially exploited, then the only way to clarify your terms of use is to CC-licence your content and keep the hell away from wordpress.org. Come to that, it would be prudent to steer clear of designing for WordPress entirely and focus your efforts upon a platform that allows you to distribute your work under whichever terms you see fit.

I fully expect that the next offensive will be to ban links to non-Wordpress sites entirely, as was proposed for the abortive Marketplace. That could probably be handled on an automated level, and would prevent chucking the baby out with the bathwater and junking a perfectly good theme because of an iffy footer link. It would also prevent people from gaining any extra traffic or pagerank from designing a successful theme, not to mention preventing end users from following up on a theme they see on someone else’s blog. But then, SEO spamming is Serious Business and should be left to those with multiple PR8 and 9 sites at their disposal.

Comments (13)

answerable

I think we are all aware by now that Automattic are generally averse to having official policies on anything much, apart from affiliate links/adsense/spam/miscellaneous profiteering etc. being Teh Evil (unless they are doing it, in which case it is OK). Official policies, like, totally stifle your freedom to make the rules up as you go along. Hence, while having over a dozen tagegories on your posts probably will get you kicked out of the global ad tag pages and labelled a spammer, it’s ‘not a published rule‘ (in fact, the exact nature of the rule is a closely guarded secret) and the FAQ blithely insists there is no limit on the number of tags you can have. Who knows, one day Scoble might experience an urge to tagspam. It’s so much easier to change the rules if they’re obscure in the first place.

Inevitably, however, sometimes the freedom to invent policy on the hoof leads to staff inventing entirely different policies on the same thing without each other’s knowledge.

Last January, Mad at blog-well.com appealed for the ability to redirect traffic from their old wordpress.com blog to their new wordpress.org blog. Matt responded in comments with a workaround:

Did you try adding the domain to this blog, making it your primary URL, and then switching the DNS back to GoDaddy? It should redirect all visitors from blogwell.wordpress.com to the new domain on the new host, at least as long as you pay the 10/yr for parking.

Yay! Mad was very happy and grateful for this solution, as were several people who showed up later in the same comments thread. In response to the support issues arising from this thread, six months later Mad produced a PDF tutorial on how to make the move from .com to .org. Yay again.

Unfortunately, Matt appears to have neglected to tell his head of support that he has been promoting this feature, and when a year on from Mad’s how-to guide somebody shows up on the forums asking for clarification Mark censors the link to the tutorial, says it’s ‘unsupported’ and could stop at any time, then suggests that accounts caught doing it could be nuked. Raincoaster backs him up, having experience of seeing such blogs deleted.

Look, I know it can be hard for everyone to be on the same page because you’re all in different countries in different timezones doing different things, but your communication breakdowns should really not be the users’ problem. The original poster’s question was very simple: is it allowed, or is it not allowed? That should be answerable with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Qualified ‘yes’ and ‘no’, perhaps, such as ‘you would need to have hosted your blog here for x amount of time’ or ‘you would have to have bought your domain through us’, or ‘only if you opt out of global tags’. Or even, if that would be too boring and straightforward to fit with the way you like to do things, the standard business-blog response of ‘contact support detailing your individual circumstances so a decision can be made’. But still, you know, some sort of reasoning other than the whim of whoever happens to be answering the question today. People who are promoting solutions given to them by your boss can be forgiven for thinking the solution is company-approved.

Comments (15)

the faraway echo of fanboys cheering

It’s really unfortunate that BrowseHappy keeps getting hacked in this way, isn’t it? I suppose its artifically enhanced pagerank, along with its neglected state, makes it an easy and attractive target for spammers. It’s lucky that other people are keeping an eye on it, or those juicy little PR8 links would be hanging around indefinitely. And that would never do.

Maybe Matt should consider moving it to a more secure server. Or switch it to a secure CMS. Or get rid of the frickin’ spamlinks to his outdated little hobbysite altogether, except of course said domain wouldn’t then be worth nearly as much should he ever decide to sell it on to a browser manufacturer of his choosing. (Bubbles burst, you know; got to have a few insurance policies in place.)

If you don’t have time to maintain the domain, quit squatting it and hand it over to Mozilla already. That would be the beautiful, self-sacrificing, open-source thing to do. You could even write a beautiful, self-sacrificing post on ma.tt and the dead blog about it. I can hear the faraway echo of fanboys cheering already.

Comments (1)

impossibly related

Is anyone else in love with the fact that the ‘possibly related’ spam links at the end of this encourage us to equate usability testing with a cholera epidemic?

(BTW, Toni’s linked post appears to confirm that Hanni didn’t stick around for long. All 21 staff are now namechecked on the about page. )

Meanwhile, on the .com forums, mikecane and fromtheleft have been unpersoned for hating on Sphere and the new dashboard, and this poor guy got shunted over to wordpress.org before being shoved right back over here, none too politely at that (why yes, it was moshu, since you ask). He asked for help ever so nicely, too. It was quite sad.

Comments (25)

unhappy feet

A new feature for the Big Blue Navbar, possibly prompted by this forum thread

april penguin!

(I don’t know what on earth Isadora thinks is the main problem. I thought all the ‘bad elements’ were banned so as not to get in the way of her and the happiness engineers? Something’s scaring Trent and the happiness engineers off posting, and it ain’t me.)

Comments (23)

paradoxes are fun

[This was going to be a comment on my last post, but it was getting so unwieldy I thought I’d promote it]

Well, Matt seems to have these brainstorms every so often. It tends to coincide with the party season. Or, apparently, major conferences. Hard to see what Toni and the Happiness Engineers (hey! they sound like a Fifties girl group!) could do about that, other than fit Matt’s laptop with some form of alarm that starts wailing and locks down the keyboard when he mentions validation, grammar, or his own general fantasticness for giving ‘his’ software away.

Also, not all the code on wordpress.com is GPL. Nor is all the code in Akismet. Six Apart understand better than anyone else that Automattic are a business, and that letting people have wp.com out of the box or disclosing Akismet’s inner workings to spammers would make no sense whatsoever. But it looks like you’re trying to hide the fact when you refuse to concede the truth of it. Owning up to closing some of your source for sound reasons is a lot more open and honest than encouraging the fanboys to believe that everything you do is 100% open when it’s not.

Paradoxes are fun. Embrace them.

The most interesting thing about this whole brouhaha is Matt’s overreaction. He clearly feels far more threatened by Six Apart than anyone would have suspected based on, well, the facts and figures; not to mention the psychological advantage of his current success being largely due to their earlier failure. They must be really happy. It would be very easy for them to spin this as Automattic falling apart in the face of a renewed challenge from an older company that has already made its mistakes and learned from them. Or as Matt being not quite ready for the cut and thrust of big business. I think drmike is probably right in saying that it’s Toni’s job to mentor Matt through this period and stop him getting wound up by the competition, but I’m not sure he actually has the authority to tell Matt not to do anything, CEO or no CEO.

In a year or two, people may look back on this spat, coinciding as it does with the delayed release of 2.5 and the brokenness of .com, and say it was the point that WordPress jumped the shark. Certainly I’d never seen so many discontented people on the .com forums before this week. No wonder Matt is freaking out.

Comments (7)

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