Archive for megalomania

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.

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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.]

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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.

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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.

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it is what it is

Even though graphics and CSS aren’t required to be GPL legally, the lack thereof is pretty limiting. Can you imagine WordPress without any CSS or javascript? So as before, we will only promote and host things on WordPress.org that are 100% GPL or compatible. .

Wow. Disingenuous, much? Your internet lawyers just admitted that the only elements of a theme covered by GPL are the PHP files, but you’re going to go ahead and insist on everything else being GPL anyway.

(What happens, by the way, if I give all the WP functions their own files within the theme, separating them from the html and calling them with a common-or-garden php include? Would index.php catch GPL merely by virtue of calling files that calls WP functions? OK, so nobody in their right mind is going to attempt this, but still.)

Actually this is pretty reassuring for anyone still clinging on to CC — they can protect their CSS and images if they choose to do so, freeing them to use third-party CC content such as icons, photos, brushes or backgrounds. HTML generally isn’t special enough to be worth protecting anyway. They can’t submit the resulting themes to wordpress.org — Automattic don’t have the resources to moderate them — but nobody really suffers from that apart from users who are too lazy to look beyond its heavily limited selection; it’s not like there’s a shortage of alternative directories.

Meanwhile, I feel vaguely sorry for the saps who bought multi-use licences for hundreds of dollars from the various premium theme developers, only to discover within months (or weeks, or even days) that those who only bought a single-use package are now getting exactly the same deal, and that anyone who downloaded a pirate copy for nothing has officially done nothing wrong. But they don’t seem to be complaining too much (or maybe their comments are being censored, or maybe they’re too ashamed to admit to their stupidity in public, who knows?)

I can see that the developers were pushed into a corner here; you can’t risk being ostracised by the company who own your platform, because without official backing people won’t trust you enough to do business with you. It was OK while everyone was in the wilderness together, but as soon as one sucked it up and toed the GPL line they all had to, or he was going to get the monopoly. If you make iPhone apps you’re at the mercy of Apple, if you build a business around wordpress themes you’re at the mercy of Automattic. It’s just the price you have to pay. I still don’t believe that the GPL was conceived with the intention of being used to protect the interests of big corporations and manipulate the little guys, but it is what it is.

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hating on netscape, those were the days

OK, who took their eye off the ball and let Matt post in the forums? You know he only ends up antagonising people.

Did anyone else look at the ‘acquisition’ of blo.gs and think of our old friend BrowseHappy, i.e. third party finds itself with domain it can’t be bothered to maintain and offloads it onto Matt so he can put backlinks on it? True, it’s only a PR6 at the moment — the site is so neglected it’s dissing Netscape 4 rather than IE — but that’s easily taken care of.

eta: turns out the stats issues were down to a code overhaul of which Matt was obviously unaware. Not in itself a problem — nobody expects him to be heavily involved in the day-to-day running of this place nowadays, any more than they expect him to read wp-hackers or write his own blog posts. The trouble is, when you post as staff that gives your answers the appearance of being authoritative, even when you have no more idea what’s going on than the average volunteer. I think that’s one reason why support staff prefer not to post on the forums if it can be avoided.

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spinner

More proof, if proof were in fact needed, that ma.tt long ago ceased to be a proper blog and is now a corporate mouthpiece. (I’d have linked to the actual comment, but no, we can not has permalinks.)

wordpress.tv itself is, exactly as you would expect, a wordpress.com blog with a bunch of videos, aimed at getting Automattic a monopoly on video tutorials and driving its rival purveyors of ‘spammy promotional videos’ out of business. (At the time of writing, wordpresstutorials.com is still top of Google for ‘wordpress video tutorials‘ — why else do you think Automattic are linking to this new blog so assiduously? Look at the wp.com version of the announcement and its eight links to the target site, it’s like SEO 101.)

Since I can read faster than most people can speak and am not a raving fanboy, I am not the target audience. Naturally, the only community-produced content is the wordcamp stuff (enough to keep the fanboys happy) and the instructional videos are all produced inhouse so there’s no risk of anyone promoting any themes or plugins that aren’t. I don’t know how much they’ll make out of the Adsense on this one but as many of the users will be totally new to WP and looking for all the information they can find on the topic, I imagine it will be quite the moneyspinner.

Comments (12)

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.

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revolution in the head

Can we expect to see a wordpress.com version of Revolution, then? Because I’m trying to think of what inducements Matt might have offered Bryan to adopt the One True Path — other than access to extend/themes, linkjuice from ma.tt and the withdrawal of his severe disapproval, none of which I’m convinced would have been quite enough — and hiring him to design a wordpress.com theme or two would be quite a good one.

(Well, there’s also ‘join me on the moral high ground so we can spit on Adii people from a great height’, but, again, perhaps not quite compelling enough.)

I actually suspect this was a case of the stick rather than the carrot. It is, to say the least, quite a risky enterprise to try and build a business upon a platform when the owners of said platform are known to be hostile towards your business and given to murmuring about its questionable legality. It would probably only take a couple of WordCamp whispers about Matt talking to lawyers to scare you into toeing the party line.

Comments (28)

slappage

Another day, another theme.

the bottom left bar is associated with your about page. Derek made it clear when designing the theme that he wanted that there.

Oh dear. Did nobody tell him that wordpress.com users don’t take kindly to being told what widget goes where? The kind of fine-grained control that professionals demand is a really, really bad fit with wordpress.com. You may know exactly what you want the sidebar to look like — search box at the top, categories below it, kewl javascripty thing — but your users are not necessarily going to share that view.

I seriously believe that before anyone designs a theme for wordpress.com they need to be sat down and forced to scroll through twenty random blogs, followed by a day or two on the forums. Then they will understand how people plan to mutilate their beautiful design with excessive numbers of pages with unfeasibly long titles, outsized widgets, crazy fonts pasted in from Word, video clips, photos the size of a bus and languages other than English. And, when they have finished sobbing, they will be able to take evasive action to make it slightly more difficult to break.

Meanwhile, yet another discussion on how it is, and will always be, evil in the eyes of the dictator to profiteer from designing for WordPress, wherein I challenge Matt to name his favourite GPL themes before belatedly realising that he is obviously referring to Prologue and Monotone. Like Matt would ever publically express admiration for a theme he wasn’t personally involved with.

Sometimes, still, I am so touchingly naive I am compelled to slap my forehead. Hard.

Comments (3)

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