the bbPress syndrome

Oh look, my half-baked ideas on default themery have won me a premium theme. Not of course that this was the intention, since I have no use for a premium theme (they are not .com-compatible, and in the event of this particular kitchen ever getting too hot for me I will be going the Habari route) I was just randomly spouting off.

It is true about Kubrick, though. Ever since I was at diaryland, I’ve believed that defaults should be a bit rubbish. It encourages people to branch out. Kubrick wasn’t quite rubbish enough a couple of years ago, which is why WP is still struggling to break free of the iron grip of the BBH. Also, it’s handy to be able to tell at a glance that the site in front of you isn’t worth reading. Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen an interesting blog using Kubrick. Anyone?

Also, here is Matt on wp-hackers studiously pretending that premium themes do not exist. Which is fair enough, since for the purposes of wordpress.org/extend/themes they pretty much don’t, and for that matter wordpress.org/extend/themes pretty much doesn’t exist either.

One day I will be done carping on this, but it will be because I am bored of saying the same thing over and over and over again rather than because anything has changed. Just this. If what is holding the vaporware marketplace up is really the impossibility of importing .zips into a user-friendly SVN setup, or the difficulty of building ‘a scalable payment system’ are these things an issue because they’re intrinsically difficult and time-consuming, or are they proving an issue because of the bbPress syndrome?

If you’ve ever spent any time at all in any WP support forums you’ll probably already have guessed what I mean by the bbPress syndrome. The bbPress syndrome is about not wanting to use anyone else’s code because you think you can do it yourself. I completely get this, because it’s why I have no use for a premium theme. It’s not that I think my own stuff’s better, it’s just that I can make my own themes so I will, even if they’re not as good-quality, or polished, or indeed time-and-labour-saving, as the ones I can grab off someone else’s shelf.

I have a really bad feeling that, rather than hiring or contracting folks with actual experience building scalable e-commerce sites (and, really, it’s not like taking money off people is something that has never been attempted on the internet before), Automattic are still trying to re-invent the wheel, keeping everything in-house and learning on the job. Which is a really great way of doing things, if you’re a hobbyist and the process is just as important as the end result. It is rather less great if you are trying to be a business, with investors and customers and a reputation to maintain. You’re wasting time, you’re wasting labour, and so even though it feels like you’re saving money you’re actually losing it.

I hope this isn’t the case. I hope that the bbPress syndrome was just a passing phase Matt went through on his journey towards being a businessman. But then I look at the forums and they’re still using bbPress. And I look at themes.wordpress.net and it’s still dead.

11 Comments »

  1. Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen an interesting blog using Kubrick. Anyone?

    This qualifies for me.

  2. nice work. if anyone deserved to win in that contest, it was definitely you. speculation and pontification indeed😉 .

    it would be hilarious if matt decided he needed to build his own GPL e-Commerce solution. although far more useful than bbpress.
    I’ve subjected myself to a few kubrick blogs, ironically from people tech-savvy in other areas (major nelson, matt heaton, etc.), which is probably the intended audience for such a default.

  3. Andrea said

    I’ve actually seen one useful blog using kubrick, although they did change the BBH to a purple gradient, but to be fair the subject of the blog is about lazy sewing and quilting tips. I figured if they were too lazy to even change the theme, they must have the best sewing shortcuts (ie; the lazy way).

    Although every time I visit I am tempted to design a theme specifically for them and just give it to them as a public service.

  4. Kissing Bandit said

    Phil, I don’t really think that would quality as “default Kubrick” since the BBH has been replaced with a custom image. On another note, though, I have come across three total blogs using the default Kubrick theme that were actually well worth reading and well written. Can’t recall them offhand, though. (Eventually stopped reading them b/c Kubrick did become annoying after a while.)

    -KB

  5. CodeScheme said

    WordPress Default Theme

    The idea resurfaces for a change in default theme, poor (old) Kubrick is seen as tired, also the issue of themes with added function (known by some as functionality).
    Well logic and display are supposed to be separated in any framework worthy of the na…

  6. Dave said

    I’ve seen a lot of interesting blogs that use Kubrick, though never without modified headers. Most of the people I read are pretty content-focused; WordPress is simply a tool for them, not an end in itself.

  7. Kissing Bandit said

    When a blog uses a custom header, it ceases to be Kubrick in a sense. Kubrick, in all its glory, is the plain BBH theme. All others are simply Kubrick-esque.

    I assume, when wank asked for a good blog using Kubrick, she meant Kubrick in its truest form — with no modification, not even to the header. (TGA, you’re welcome to correct me if I’m wrong.)

    -KB

  8. I assume, when wank asked for a good blog using Kubrick, she meant Kubrick in its truest form — with no modification, not even to the header.

    Yes. Like, Phil Ringnalda’s blog doesn’t count for me because back in the days of 1.5 somebody would have tried to pass that off as a new theme called ‘Peaceful Path’ or something. I will concede that for the especially pointy-headed, use of Kubrick may function as a badge of honour: ‘I’m so busy and important that I can’t spare five minutes from my schedule to pick a new theme, and so 1337 that my entire audience accesses my wisdom through their feed readers and comments in Twitter.’ Also that whole coder thing where they think that making things look pretty is superficial and beneath them. I don’t want to read those people, they annoy me.

    it would be hilarious if matt decided he needed to build his own GPL e-Commerce solution.

    It is hilarious, but based on past precedent it is worryingly plausible. Or maybe they’ll just buy Zen Cart.

  9. Well, at least this bbPress syndrome isn’t as chronic as it could be: they did get Happy Cog to do the WordPress 2.5 design.

  10. Yes, but who knows how much resemblance the finished product will bear to what Happy Cog actually designed? The mockups are top-secret, so we’ll probably never know. The signs are not encouraging: I doubt, for example, that any professional usability expert would be party to the use of target="_blank".

  11. drmike said

    The rest of that discussion about the mockups being kept out of sight is an interesting read. Gives a lot of weight to Matt’s statement of how they always listen to their end users.

    In that alternative universe where Matt lives, pigs fly and Automattic has ethics.

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