Archive for bubble

end times

And it becomes clear why it was suddenly a matter of urgency to get the wordpress trademark out of Automattic’s hands, not to mention their newfound love for Internet Explorer. (IE? seriously? I remember when promoting open-source browsers was a core feature. I guess it depends who’s paying.)

Strangely, my comment on the latter post congratulating them on officially having sold out failed to make it out of moderation. Am I not allowed to say this until they announce they’ve been acquired?

Still, being eaten by Microsoft is way more impressive than getting swallowed by some random ad company nobody’s heard of. I suppose this means the squirrels lost.

Comments (21)

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.

Comments (22)

there’s a dozen born every minute

OK, not getting this. Well, I get that Automattic needs to start converting the millions of .org users into cashflow, and there are precious few ways of doing this. Yeah, they’ve got the affiliate earnings, they’ve got VIP support, they’ve got a little bit coming in from Akismet licences, and they appear to be considering getting into the premium themes market (if you can’t beat ’em , join ’em); but .org users are undeniably hard to monetise, so you have to grasp whatever straws you can.

But. If your blog is that vital that you’re willing to pay insurance premiums on it, why are you not making your own regular backups? Why have you not installed any backup plugins? Why are you not with a decent host that will backup for you? Why are you not on wordpress.com already?

This is a perfect illustration that the ‘recommended hosts’ page on wordpress.org is just a moneyspinner rather than a list of hosts Automattic actually trust, but then I think we all worked that out a long time ago. Still, there’s enough fanboys and idiots around to make this worth a go. Kudos.

Comments (12)

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.

Comments (18)

bbpress dies

bbpress lives? I wouldn’t call being downgraded to plugin status living, exactly, even though I’ve been saying for years that it would work better as a plugin. As forum software it only appeals to existing fanboys who want to display their allegiance to the Automattic brand, and naturally they’re all running multiple installs of WP anyway.

I wonder whether talkpress will ever make it out of beta now? I wouldn’t be surprised if the idea of offering hosted forums has been shelved as being more trouble than it’s worth (illegal downloads and libellous content are far more likely to be disseminated through forums than blogs). Or maybe they realised that Vanilla had pipped them to the post, providing free forums with more features than bbpress could offer. Or maybe it’s going to be buddypress all the way. Who knows? Who cares?

Either way, Automattic have finally twigged that bbpress is an intrinsically second-rate product that is never going to make them any money and it’s no longer worth paying someone to work on it. Took them long enough.

Comments (2)

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)

little helps

My response to the hastily convened sidebar poll (after people started whining about the front page redesign being an uninformative mess):

1. The tag cloud. I know they’re sooo 2007, but it kids people into thinking you care about the long tail.

2. A big picture of Matt in a sunny location, wearing a cowboy hat

Tags going from the front page is on the surface an odd decision considering how important tag pages are to ad revenue, so I’m wondering whether they got some kind of warning from Google about their SEO gaming? like ‘you can keep the obfuscated links in themes if you stop linking from the front page’? Or maybe they want to encourage internal users to use search instead of clicking on tags, so that the majority of tag traffic comes from outside the site and improves the ratio of clickthroughs per pages served? I’m just thinking aloud here. I know nothing about adsense optimisation or SEO, except that every design decision on a commercial site is ultimately motivated to maximising ad revenue, which is increasingly hard to come by nowadays. Also, of course, presenting yourself as the home of eleven VIP blogs and ignoring the messy penguin-ridden millions isn’t going to hurt when it comes to luring businesses away from Typepad.

In other news: how to promote your brand in a zillion tweets. Forget the guff about linkrot and fear of spam (if they actually cared about this, Automattic would have just bought tr.im or some other struggling minnow), this is all about being sad that link shorteners take your brand name out of your urls. (And squeezing an affiliate link to GoDaddy into your announcement post — every little helps…)

Comments (2)

dog’s breakfast

Quick question; if global tags are such a great thing, why do Automattic use internal tagegories on their own wordpress.com blogs? I know internal tagegories make a lot more sense, but if you’re inflicting the Way Of Stupid SEO Gaming upon everyone else you really ought to eat your own dogfood.

Comments (16)

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.

Comments (17)

boring stuff for no pay

Yeah, ok, we get that Matt Thomas doesn’t need any notice whatsoever to do WordPress design projects, but has it crossed your mind that this may be because it is his JOB?

Anyway, the way I read it, the issue with the has-patch marathon was not so much that people had no notice, it was that wp-hackers didn’t get a heads-up before the rest of the world thus making it uncomfortably clear exactly how unimportant they are. It’s partly this perception of their own irrelevance, of course, which necessitates these events in the first place; if your experience of submitting patches is that they get ignored or dismissed then you don’t have much incentive to keep doing it. It’s all very well to say they don’t need a deadline to contribute, but, hello, we’re talking about geeks here. They appreciate structure and measurable goals, not to mention reassurance that their efforts will actually be noticed.

I cannot shake the suspicion that this drive to get designers involved with the development process is an attempt to divert them from theme production. (We have enough troublesome theme developers already; the last thing Automattic wants is to encourage them.) Also, if boring things such as tweaking the user interface can be outsourced to students working for nothing, that frees up the inhouse design team to work on fun stuff like themes. .com users are always bitching about not having enough themes; why hire outsiders to produce them when you already have designers on the payroll?

The flaw in this plan? Well, I sort of wonder whether doing boring stuff for no pay is going to be quite as appealing to the community as doing fun stuff for no pay. We’ll see.

Comments (6)

Older Posts »