A Simple Question For the WordPress Community

Matt Mullenweg likes playing the victim. But in reality, he’s using his perceived victimhood to evade the key question over sponsored themes:

Wouldn’t it be better to establish a *quality* criterion as opposed to a *sponsorship* criterion?

Another way of putting it is this:

Aren’t PressRow and Cutline damned good WordPress themes that have benefited the WordPress community?

Instead of answering these questions straight-up, I expect that Matt (and his WP fanboys) will continue to take the following copouts:

1. Cry victim and ignore this legitimate criticism

2. Claim “significant financial interests in seeing sponsored themes continue”

The fact is that both of these responses are irrational. Arguments can be sound regardless of who makes them. I’ve made an argument that you might refer to as reductio ad absurdem: the new policy has the brittle effect of wiping out great themes like Cutline and PressRow. That’s an undesirable effect. There must be some middle ground.

But no. We’ll throw the baby out with the bath water. And we’ll cry victim while we’re at it (and delete reasonable comments that make us look bad;-)

6 thoughts on “A Simple Question For the WordPress Community

  1. Hi Ryan –

    I write about WordPress, and use it alot (so, I like it), but that’s my only “dog in the fight.” I really don’t know Matt Mullenweg, and as far as themes for WordPress.com goes, I’d like to see a fair and good opportunity develop there. I’m all for an intelligent critical discussion of the plans that have been laid out. I’m all for intelligent critique of Matt and Crew (I think the 50/50 split should be 40 to Automattic/60 to the Theme Designer, for exampe), too. But we need actual premises backed by facts to present good criticism.

    That’s where the problem comes in your post. Where’s your beef?

    Here’s how what you wrote comes across:
    a) Begin with an accusation that is not supported. The link shows Matt writing about personal attacks — yes — but does nothing to prove that he “likes to play a victim”. You would have to show a pattern of this type of response to even begin to prove your point.

    b) Float an alternative to sponsored themes — a “quality” concept… then fail to explain or support it. “Quality criterion”? Huh? What do you mean?

    c) Cite two themes (PressRow & Cutline) and assume people are familiar with them, and that if they were, that would somehow support your vague “quality criterion” arguement. Why don’t you at least connect these themes to your criterion and explain how, what, why — anything that would help us understand your point? Why should we care if those two themes get thrown out?

    d) Attempt to predict responses that have not yet been given, then criticize these imaginary responses. Huh? How about just developing what exactly the major benefits to the WP Community would be if one were to go the “Quality Criterion” concept?

    Are you saying the direction WP.com is going would wipe out some really good themes? If that is your “beef”, (and really, I can’t tell if that’s your point), then why should we care? Don’t some things have to get left behind, inevitably, when an organization/community moves forward?

    Come on Ryan… if you’re really going to be effective you have to at least make a case here.

    Yours, Scott

    Scott A. Frangos
    Managing Editor, WebHelperMagazine.com
    BLOG: http://www.OpenSourceWebMaster.com

  2. 1 -a paragraph (at the wordress/themes page)explaining some of the issues with a ‘read more’ for those people who are clueless about what sponsored links can do.

    2 – a checkbox on the left that will allow us to search only for themes that are not sponsored.

    3 – Another checkbox for themes that are sponsored, but do allow for changes to made in template

    4 – and another checkbox for themes that are sponsored and do not allow for link changes.

    I know it might be a lot of work at first, but I think it’s the best way to make the most themes available for end users and educate, etc.. 4 steps for themes for everyone.

    I hate taking the time to find a theme and download it only to find some kind of crappy license forbidding changes (usually don’t find that until I’ve made several other time consuming changes).

    The sponsor of this post is random thoughts blog – the copyright terms of this post do allow for modification of the link, but not the content of the post. Thank you for your support – we could not make a living off of google ads if it was not for your page rank. LOL. You guys don’t rel nofollow do you?

  3. This situation reminds me very much of Google’s reaction to buying text ads. Mr Mullenweg has a free product and seemingly has that oh-so-pure-altruistic attitude towards the web, just like Google, but at the very same time neglecting the fact that the web is a place of commerce and free trade.

    Whether Mr. Mullenweg likes it or not, sponsored themes will continue. Ban them from WordPress properties if you want, but that will not address said ‘problem’. All this will do is push it underground when it could have been acknowledged and accepted.

    I agree with you Ryan, rather than nuking many stylish and popular themes that also happen to be sponsored, WordPress should be encouraging quality.

    Oh, one more thing! Need anyone be reminded of the past?

  4. It occurred to me that now’s a great time for anyone who wants to get in bed with Matt Mullenweg to do so (you might also benefit significantly from the impending Google partnership that’s just a bit further down the road than the horizon).

    Here’s how you do it. Since Matt obviously hates criticism (he deleted two completely reasonable and polite comments that I made simply because he couldn’t answer my questions) and he neglects to respond to rational arguments, and clearly enjoys victimhood…

    Make him feel good. Here’s the formula:

    1. Make a comment on his blog telling him how he’s made the right decision

    2. Write an insightful blog post agreeing with the sponsored link decision and link to his blog.

    3. Write a scathing blog post calling Ryan Caldwell an asshole and pointing out that Performancing has sponsored themes

    4. Remind him that he’s the victim and that it’s only a handful of people who are mean spirited, but most of the net thinks he’s great

    5. Don’t forget to remind him that everyone who disagrees with him stands to make money from sponsored themes

  5. Ryan, demagogy has always been close to democracy.

    How were it if you gave the entry the same demagogic twist?

    If tomorrow, WordPress.com signs a $700million deal with Google, using your themes and code, how would you, feel dearest designer and contributor?
    More even, what will you get or have you gotten, other than thousands of support emails and almost as many headaches?
    Matt(‘s company) got $700m. You? You had 3 banned designs or have invested hours invested in the code, code now used at WordPress.com. Matt thanks you (quietly).

    But of course you still love Matt and always agree with him, don’t you?

    Now that sounds better to me. That sounds more playing the popular voice.

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