wheels spinning

More theme-related kvetching. You know, I’d post this stuff on the news blog itself if I thought it had a chance of getting past moderation.

We made a minor change to the theme that should help with IE when the sidebar content is too wide.

Translation: we threw up a theme that breaks when you put anything wider than 150px into the sidebar, without taking into account that at least one of our widgets is wider than 150px. Sorry, we just assumed that nobody cool enough to use this theme would be using that skanky apology for a browser. Hell, we’re so cool we can’t even bear to use it for testing.

There is no tag line, nor an option to change colours. That’s just how the theme was made.

OK, I get that you don’t want to mess with the sacred blue/green. Takes too long, and imagine if somebody wanted to make it pink. But if you try to tell me that you can’t take two minutes to chuck in and style the blog description because it would compromise the original designer’s vision too much, I’m going to have to laugh at you.

The best place to request new themes is on the forum.

Um, why? Apart from the fact that you don’t want them emailed to staff? It’s not like staff ever respond to those threads or actually install any of the themes requested. I’ve not seen a single forum post asking for Digg 3 column, but there are two separate threads asking for iTheme. If staff paid any attention to forum requests, iTheme would either have been implemented or somebody would have explained that it’s technically unsuitable for the setup we have here. I don’t care whether they add iTheme or not. I just find it slightly irritating that they’re passing these requests on to unpaid volunteers who don’t actually have the power to do anything about them. Half the time, said requests are going to get passed right back to staff anyway, seeing as how they’re the only people who can do anything about them. I know I am not the only person who finds this situation ridiculous.

If you don’t have time to take user suggestions on board, that’s fine. Most hosts don’t. I know it sounds so much nicer to say you’re open to ideas, just the same as it’s so much nicer to let people believe you don’t serve ads, but niceness isn’t everything. Honesty works sometimes too.

23 Comments »

  1. drmiketemp said

    The sonic widget is too wide as well. Haven’t seen a theme it works in actually.

    We were also told that theme requests go in via feedback and to tell folks who request them in the forums to do so. Just love how all the Automattic employees are all on the same page.

    Most hosts don’t.

    I pay attention to my paying customer’s requests. A quarter of my own support tickets for my hosting is for a 17 WPMu installs as they’re always constantly wanting stuff added in. (We went to a single install that gets copied. makes my life easier.)

    Honesty works sometimes too.

    Matt needs to learn that. I doubt it will ever happen though.

  2. Root said

    Further translation on the width: *Because we do not test in any browser and we do not know how to do the Box Model width calculations anyway. Coming Soon: The day Automattic realised that putting font sizes in px went out in 1990. And there is more:
    Coming Shortly: A 3 column theme with the post content first (we are going to use Trident but dont tell)*.

  3. now that IE7 can resize px font sizes for accessibilty, i dare say px are coming back😉

  4. sanjida said

    as a user, i hate it when a theme has no tagline. i will NEVER choose a theme that has no tagline. same with customizable header.

    and if colour can be changed in garland; and in regulus and andreas04 to some extent, my non-techie brain can’t figure out why other themes can’t have the facility. something tells me it’s not tech-related, as much as it is personality-related. those who design themes odn’t quite believe that bloggers need to look and feel like individuals.

  5. I think a clear distinction needs to be made between theme designers and Automattic, although I’m sure a lot of end users assume that all the themes are produced inhouse or contracted out. I wonder how many are aware that the designers of the themes they love so much don’t get a penny?

    The way theme designers deal with the fact that ‘bloggers need to look and feel like individuals’ is by designing multiple themes. After all, Garland with a pink header is still Garland. It has the same basic structure, the fonts are the same, the placement of the dates and titles is the same. It isn’t substantially different from Garland with a blue header or Garland with a green header. Theme designers realise that there is more to design than switching the colours around. There are so many themes out there that if you can’t find one to your liking, that’s really your problem rather than the designers’. The trouble is, Matt is so obsessed with licensing he now refuses to use anything that isn’t GPL (official confirmation), or even communicate with the people releasing under alternative licences asking them to relicense for use on wordpress.com. As a result, many themes are dismissed out of hand, regardless of their usability, popularity or aesthetic appeal. (Of course, this is entirely the fault of the nasty selfish designers for not doing as they’re told and giving Matt total control over their unpaid work.)

    The way Automattic deal with the fact that bloggers need to look and feel like individuals is first of all by trying to nudge them out of such silliness by giving them lists of approved topics and a limited range of themes. And second, if that hasn’t quelled their quaint desire for individualism, by making money out of it; either through charging people for the CSS upgrade or directing them to their affiliates to set up WordPress on their servers.

  6. drmiketemp said

    As a result, many themes are dismissed out of hand, regardless of their usability, popularity or aesthetic appeal.

    Re: The girly theme thread where not a single suggestion was reviewed until months later.

    even communicate with the people releasing under alternative licences asking them to relicense for use on wordpress.com

    I’d have to go looking but I remember Matt convining some theme designer to rerelease their designs under the GPL. Happened a few weeks before WordCamp this year.

    What bothers me about all this is previously they had added in themes that were not GPL’ed and had contained questionable links that had been removed. (And if anyone remembers which ones those were, I’d love to know.) Folks seem to have forgot that and miss that Matt has done a 180 on that topic.

  7. @drmike –
    that designer was small potato, the designer of said Digg theme currently being kvetched about😉
    Press Row is the theme that had the links removed. I can’t remember off-hand if there’s been any theme used that wasn’t GPL. then again, to ask matt, all themes catch the GPL from wordpress.

  8. Andrea said

    And don’t forget that many of the themes out there were designed for the stand-alone version of WordPress, *not* wp.com. So many designers have the opinion that if someone wanted to add a tagline or change their header they just edit the code.

    Which, naturally, you can’t do here.

    Come to think of it, I’m surprised autoMATTic hasn’t gone to hosting for the stand-alone version of WordPress.

    I’d be interested to see if this eventually makes a shift in released themes – ones with all kinds of fancy options that could be used at wp.com. Then again, that’s more of programming issues, not design. And there are tons of themes out there by great designers who are lousy to mediocre programmers. (Points to example of style.php, – which I know Root can’t stand😉 – where the same options can be added in functions.php without emptying the stylesheet.)

  9. 281(3) (the three-col version of 281, which Matt for some bizarre reason decided to rename ‘Twenty-Eight Thirteen’) was originally released under a CC-NC licence, which Matt took it upon himself to disregard, and the theme was temporarily withdrawn shortly afterwards.

    Not that anybody from Automattic ever admitted anything, of course. I’m reasonably sure the above was mentioned on the forums, but I can’t find any reference to it other than Mark confirming the theme had gone and not saying why. It was worse than the Garland thing, in a way; at least there he wasn’t actually breaking the terms of the licence. I don’t care if you think specifying non-commercial use is illegal; if the designer doesn’t want you making money out of their unpaid work you should respect that, same as you should respect their wishes if they don’t want you to port their GPL theme.

  10. @andrea –
    every single theme that has an options panel, with the exception of regulus, has had its options panel stripped when it was added to wordpress.com. in the case of misty look, matt said that he wants theme choices to be an aesthetic decision, not mired in functionality. so no, adding an options panel gets you bupkis. theme designers aren’t going to do anything for wordpress.com. the only people designing for wordpress.com are the people releasing sandbox skins.

  11. i somehow completely forgot about 2813. i contacted the 3-column-making guy, who contacted both matt and paul(the original designer). paul had been using the theme on his wp.com akismattic placeholder. apparently no one had realized that you can’t tweak a GPL (281, k2) theme, and re-release it as CC-NC (2813), nor did they realize that non-commercial would prohibit wp.com from using it. apparently that wasn’t the designer’s intention.

  12. drmiketemp said

    Andrea, the standard rate paid for a referral for those sites on the hosting page are about $105 last time I checked. There’s got to be some serious money made off of that single page, more money than would come into play of they offered their own hosting.

    Sunburn, if the themes in question are using that Toolkit plugin to do that options page, it doesn’t work with WPMu. There’s a replacement for the toolkit that makes it work. Not sure why they’ve never dropped it in though.

    Unless they did the same thing like with the audio player and stripped out all of the options for that as well. That plugin had an options page as well. Maybe they’re thinking of all the support requests that would generate if they had left it in.

    Re: The sandox skins. That’s unoffical anyway. I wouldn’t call it “designing for wp.com” as they’re not getting anything out of it.

  13. @drmike –
    you’ve repeated that to me ad infinitum. i know, i’ve read, i’ve seen the replacement, and i’ve seen other hacks that make it work. there are other options, the toolkit doesn’t work on PHP5 (which affects a lot of hosts), and misty look wasn’t built on the toolkit. the toolkit answer doesn’t begin to cover the situation.

    all designs for wordpress are unofficial, regardless of lorelle’s inability to comprehend the meaning of the words she chooses. i don’t expect you to grasp the concept of “designed for”. suffice to say that the customCSS tag on wp.com contains a list of themes that are designed and tested on wordpress.com.

  14. also, of late most of the optionable themes have been based on K2, which uses it’s own options panel. why are you still defending automattic’s cocked-up logic?

    that’s not the reason there are no options. matt’s stated explanation is above, and anything else is conjecture.

  15. I’m not sure I’d call making sandbox skins ‘designing for wp.com’ either, seeing as how Automattic won’t install the version of sandbox that everyone’s designing for, and would apparently prefer to implement a seven-month old theme that malfunctions in IE than any of the winning competition entries😉

    Potentially, they could get a few extra dollars out of custom CSS upgrades if they ever mentioned the fact that third-party Sandbox styles exist and made it easier to use them. But they’d rather forego the extra income than throw the sandboxers a bone. I have to believe that’s political.

  16. Andrea said

    “matt said that he wants theme choices to be an aesthetic decision, not mired in functionality.”

    Bleh, That doesn’t leave a lot of choices either, does it? Unless one is partial to BBH….😉

    In running my own MU-based site though, I *have* run into plenty of people who love a particular theme, but just need to tweak one little thing. We wrote our own, and it really doesn;t take much to skim over a theme, make some changes and enable it for users.

    I dunno why I’m trying to make sense of the wp-com logic though. Seems liek an exercise in futility.

    @drmike – and more money for no work too. Hmmm. That’s kinda scary how much they get.

  17. Root said

    @sbk: I dont think IE does deal with px as it should. It is more like Opera. And IMHO the IE 7 implementation will not trigger any reversal of common practice in this regard.

  18. Root said

    @Andrea: Where did I not like style.php. The Gemini Plus options panel gives about 12 different sytles and one set of templates.🙂

  19. drmiketemp said

    Sun, I don’t ever recall ever telling you that but please excuse me if I did.

  20. drmiketemp said

    Hey lookie. Looks like they’re looking for someone to offically replace me. Hmm, imagine that:

    http://automattic.com/jobs/

  21. Alan said

    drmike: …you were a happiness engineer? I thought the forums bred contempt, malice and frustration, not happiness.

  22. […] 14, 2007 at 4:38 pm · Filed under bubble, dot com, wank, cars, forums via drmike in comments comes news that Automattic have finally realised that support for a million users + whoever has […]

  23. Andrea said

    @ coulda sworn it was you, must’ve been the scorn that did it.😉

    (Gemini Plus is on my list for rolling in to my MU setup. Thanks.🙂 )

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s