Archive for dot com

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)

unasseptable

I don’t really have time for this (I am meant to be NaNoing) but, yeah. Here we have somebody getting banned from the forums for wanting their personal information removed from someone else’s blog comments, and wondering why staff were willing to do this a year ago yet not anymore.

I suppose we should be grateful that these blowups aren’t as frequent as they used to be. I’m not sure which is worse: leaving RL information up for the world to see or poking around in other people’s comments, but having had my comments messed with in the past I would probably agree with the most recent line that it’s the latter.

I still have no idea why people are never warned before they get banned from the forums. I’m not talking about obvious spammers; I’m talking about people who get censored purely for questioning policy. How long would it take to write a post saying ‘While you are welcome to ask or answer support questions on this forum, if you post about this subject again your account will be blocked and you will no longer be able to receive support from this source?’ I don’t know, a minute, maybe two. Anybody who’s ever watched Supernanny knows that you issue the warning before you dish out the punishment.

I think they’re worried that if they give a warning the person might actually comply, and then they wouldn’t experience the pleasure of wielding the banstick. Power corrupts, and that.

Comments (3)

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)

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)

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.

Comments (2)

more of the same

Reasons why I am glad I can no longer participate in the car wreck that is the wordpress.com forums:

  1. Sticky threads for spammers. How come this guy gets to have a URL signature when anybody else trying that particular way of cirumventing no-follow gets slapped on the wrists? Are forum stickies the latest way of promoting commercial partners who aren’t spending enough to get a link from ma.tt or the news blog? I thought the purpose of the support forums was supposed to be support?
  2. oh, wait, no, sorry, the purpose of the support forums is to sail in every couple of months and deliver the smackdown to the poor saps who are actually trying to do support, as opposed to plugging your sites. If this guy wanted a Polldaddy poll, he’d have implemented a Polldaddy poll. What he’s trying to do is a women’s-magazine-style quiz in which each answer carries a certain number of points, and if Polldaddy’s capable of that they really need to publicise it better because it’s news to me.
  3. Global tags redux. There is no point trying to argue about this, because the forces of logic are powerless against the might of the Google dollar. The suggestion of adding one’s username to tags to render them unique is a decent workaround, though.

The penguins are quieter nowadays, though. Do you think they’ve all gone to Twitter like everyone else?

Comments (4)

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)

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)

Older Posts »