Archive for pointy-headed fanatics

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.

Comments (12)

the mother of invention

Lloyd is sad, because the cool kids at Six Apart and OpenID are having some sort of open-source standards-inventing party and Automattic weren’t invited.

Well, maybe they remembered Matt’s reluctance to support Atom 1.0? Or took note of his failure to provide any specs for the WXR export format and assumed he wouldn’t be interested in their venture? Just a thought.

I kind of love how the fanboys in that thread protest that it doesn’t need a spec because it was only ever intended to be used for ferrying content between WP installations anyway. (Who would ever deviate from the One True Path and switch to another application?) It reminds me a lot of how Matt refused for years to include any export features at all, because he thought it was the sole responsibility of whichever tool you were adopting to get your data out of his software and into theirs. Database dumps were considered a perfectly adequate form of export until wordpress.com arrived; if this place had never been invented, WXR would not exist. It’s not a standard. It’s a makeshift solution to the problem of shifting data from .com blogs to .org installs, and nobody at Automattic believes in it enough, or cares enough about data portability, to bother polishing or promoting it.

I have little doubt that the MT export format is technically inferior to WXR (I wouldn’t know, my head’s not that pointy yet), but it became a de facto standard because they documented it and encouraged people to use it. Back in the day, someone wrote a nifty little program to export Diaryland entries in MT format, and I used it to import a year’s worth of posts into WordPress. That didn’t benefit Six Apart directly, but it certainly benefited me. I think that’s probably what they mean by openness.

Comments (4)

you didn’t expect not to be punished, did you?

Following the phoning-home debacle, Matt, unsurprisingly, wants to kill wp-hackers. Or, at any rate, cut off its balls and allow access only to his friends ‘those who have made substantive contributions to the codebase’.

Everyone immediately starts debating whether the list should become a forum / become a newsgroup / be split up into separate lists / have moderators, as if it actually mattered what they thought. Bless. Once, the coders were more important than the docs writers and the support volunteers and the themers and the lowly bloggers who just use the thing, but now they’re just nobodies like the rest of us. I hope whoever ran off and tattled to Slashdot feels suitably contrite, now the toys are going to be taken away.

Comments (29)

it’s not what you know, it’s how many of you know it

One day of Slashdotting and hey presto, we have a privacy policy.

It takes me months to get that sort of result.

[sulks.]

Comments (13)

WP, phone home

The day before 2.3 is due to be released, hell breaks loose on wp-hackers as they fail to see why update notifications require Automattic to grab blog urls. Matt explains that they already know your blog url because they’ve been forcing you to ping Ping-O-Matic for years, and anyway it could be useful in the future. (Collecting information when you don’t really know what you want to do with it but you’re sure you’ll think of something? Yeah. That’s going to assauge people’s paranoia.) Hackers point out that Ping-O-Matic isn’t taking notes of what plugins and version numbers they’re using. Matt tells them if you don’t like it, fork. (I cannot be the only person who thinks this response is beginning to sound a little tired.) In response to pressure from Mark Jaquith, Matt racks his brains to think of something he could use the urls for in the future and comes up with some stuff about tying offsite blogs more closely into .org (He’s really not proving that good at this assuaging paranoia thing, is he?)

Doug Stewart’s explanation of how this isn’t going to play well with Techcrunch naturally goes unaddressed, because there isn’t really anything you can argue with:

If TechCrunch, Engadget, Slashdot, Kuro5hin, Linux Today, Ars Technica, etc. get wind that WordPress is “phoning home” and not notifying users that it is doing so (with some explanation as to the full ramifications), well, I think Six Apart’s recent issues with Open Sourcing MT 4 are going to look like a tempest in a teapot. Your reputation is something that is extremely difficult to build up, fairly difficult to maintain and EXTREMELY easy to lose very quickly.

Well, ok, I’m not sure about that last bit since the fanboys have been extraordinarily forgiving in the past, but I’m sure Six Apart could tell you that the more devoted the fans are to start with, the nastier they get when they think you’re screwing them over.

I don’t, as it happens, think this issue is as huge as they’re making out. If you’re so worried about security that you think people are going to hack into the wordpress.org database to find out what plugins you’re using, then why are you still downloading software in which holes are found every month from a server which was compromised earlier this year? And if you’re so worried about privacy, why are you using software that has a long-established history of ‘phoning home’ through hotlinked images and default pings? The majority of wordpress users are, by definition, fairly indifferent to privacy and security.

And the other thing is that, selfishly, I find it really hard to care what crap goes into 2.3 because I have no intention of having anything to do with it. Well, maybe some light theme testing, but it’s not something I’ll ever use. My main problem these days is deciding between Textpattern, MT and Habari.

Comments (62)

psychic squirrels!

Maybe other companies would be more willing to adopt WXR as a standard if the specs existed somewhere other than inside Matt’s head?

OK, so they should be smart enough to reverse-engineer it, but really, if you’ve just invented your own flavour of RSS and you want people other than yourself to use it, documenting it would seem to be the smart thing to do. Otherwise, they’re just going to go off, make their own version, and then bitch at you for not using their special flavour, which is superior to yours in at least thirteen ways which they are now going to enumerate for you.

(Actually, they’re probably going to do that anyway. That is what the world of feed formats is like.)

Comments (9)

code v. poetry, redux

I really need to start keeping copies of every comment I post on photomatt or the news blog. For example, last night I wrote a reponse to this, which touched upon the fact that plugin authors and theme authors tend to be coming from completely different places.

So: theme authors, in general (all of this is a massive generalization and there are always going to be exceptions) care more about getting credit for their work because they conceive of it as creative, and authorship is important in the creative arena. Demanding credit for your work is par for the course in the world of free blog templates, and a lot of the people doing it don’t even know what pagerank is. They do it automatically, the same way an artist signs the bottom corner of her paintings or a writer has his name on the front cover of a book. (Yes, I can hear you snorting, code guys, but may I remind you a lot of books and paintings aren’t that wonderful either?)

Plugin authors, in general, care more about the philosophy of open source and conceive of their work as functional. Hackers think making themes is easy — anyone can throw together some CSS and a Photoshop image or two, this stuff is child’s play compared to regex — and don’t understand why these people are being so precious. Designers admit that making a crappy theme is easy, but want them to acknowledge that making good themes, which are aesthetically pleasing as well as functional, is hard, and requires a measure of artistic flair and originality. Since hackers think ‘aesthetically pleasing’ consistutes a generic Big Blue Header and links in Internet Blue, it is difficult to get them to concede this point.

(As far as monetization is concerned, don’t forget that the people with the skills to write plugins are substantially more likely to have a decently-paid day job on the strength of them. Nor that your average plugin is quite a bit smaller than your average theme, making bandwidth costs not nearly as high.)

We all know which side of this fence Matt is on, and hence it is no surprise that my original comment appears to have vanished into the ether. C’est la vie. I know, I know, I should have trackbacked in the first place rather than rely on the comment actually appearing (what was I thinking?) but I thought I’d spammed you enough with this lately.

Comments (5)

but glue is sticky

This, I suppose, is the main point I’ve been trying to make:

Theme viewer is plastered with adsense and selling text links. It is cashing on efforts and hours spent by theme creators. WordPress.com cashes on user’s content by putting adsense on users blog. Moreover, WordPress.com’s TOS specifically forbids users to monetize their blogs in any way.

Isn’t this a trend where users & developers contribute to the community, and they are not allowed to make any money for their efforts. But, community owners make cash on the back of users, designers & developers.

And apparently bringing up Spamgate constitutes a ‘personal attack’. Whatever. I don’t think you can argue it’s irrelevant (though no doubt many fanboys would try). If nothing else, it explains the whole poacher-turned-gamekeeper stance. If nothing else, it is another example of Matt considering wordpress.org and wordpress in general as his personal property. If nothing else, it reminds us how the community, as a whole, were extraordinarily forgiving of how Matt abused their trust, and gave him a free pass for being a kid, and a Good Guy, and saying he was sorry. And how he’s not willing to extend the same tolerance to people who also might be young, and naive, and blinded by the dollars that SEO guys are waving in front of them.

Did Matt get kicked off wordpress.org for what he did? Don’t be silly. Mostly, he just learned he could pull any stunt he wanted and the fanboys would understand. After all, nothing he could do again would ever be quite that bad, whether it was ripping off other people’s templates without permission, or sneaking ads onto people’s blogs without warning them when they signed up, or that shady snap-preview-enabled-by-default thing. Most of that stuff is just screwing wordpress.com users anyway. Who cares about those no0bs? It would be so incredibly ungrateful of them to complain about all that great stuff they’re getting for FREE!

Which, in a sense, it would. I am not expecting this place to be run by moral paragons who are above reproach. What on earth would I have to write about, if it was? I just dislike the double standards, the sense that there is one rule for the people at the top and another for the ones at the bottom. I don’t like the holding of other people to a higher standard than that which you have set yourself, the expectation that they will behave better than you have done for less reward, or else be punished in a way you never were. I can’t, personally, accept that requiring linkbacks on a theme you’ve made yourself, or specifying non-commercial use, is ethically more dubious than stealing another person’s theme and claiming the credit for it, or advertising your commercial site in a plugin. Even though the lawyers might say that the former is illegal and the latter just dandy. I am not a lawyer, and this time there is no but.

Comments (8)

where are the women, part 2789369132

Me, leaping in to dispel the impression that Automattic is a woman-free zone? Wonders will never cease.

Although, if you will keep your sole female employee hidden on your corporate site while making public announcements about the appointment of pretty much all the others, you have to expect a little flack.

I can completely see why wordpress.com users unaware of the community issues with wordpress would be surprised by the lack of female faces. To them, Automattic’s just another 2.0 startup. They’re unaware of a context where women were getting involved, yes, but it was proving next to impossible to keep them involved. I wrote on some of the reasons for this last year, and I have nothing much to add to that; except that it’s become clearer in the intervening months that men are as alienated by the way the project’s run as women are. It’s just that women get switched off faster because they already know what not being listened to looks like, and it isn’t as much of a shock to them. The women who commented on that thread are testing Habari now. This is not a coincidence.

I don’t think Automattic should run out and hire a couple of token women because it would make them look better. They should think about whether it might be time to start hiring a few more people from outside the community, even if by doing so they ran the risk of them not understanding how things work around here. Because if they didn’t understand how things have always worked, then things might have to start working differently. And that might be good.

(In reality? If you don’t understand the way things work, you don’t last very long. Still, nice to dream.)

Comments (7)

battered fanboy refuge

Yeah, yeah, I know I promised ‘no more habari wank’, but, while it sounds lovely and utopian in theory the issues with welcoming all comers with open arms are beginning to become apparent.

If anything I said here helped create the general impression that Habari is a refuge for abused fanboys rather than yet-to-be-released blogging software, I’m really sorry, OK? Because I don’t think that image helps anyone. It doesn’t help Habari, because it makes them look like a project inspired and driven forward by the personal animosity of a bunch of guys towards Matt, and that is only appealing to a very, very small subsection of their potential userbase. It doesn’t help WordPress, because it makes them sound like an evil corporate monolith tyrannised over by a dictator who is cruel to fanboys; but a) this is a slight exaggeration, and b) a couple of the fanboys may have deserved it. It doesn’t even help the still-loyal fanboys who are given to saying that Habari only exists thanks to the personal animosity of a bunch of guys towards Matt, because the loyal fanboys are strangely reluctant to give anyone their URLs and consequently get no Google love. I don’t know whether they’re keeping schtum because we will laugh at their content-free blogs, or at their Kubricks, or because they fear an onslaught of rabid Matt-haters. Perhaps they just don’t exist. That would be reassuring.

Comments (21)

Older Posts »