Automattic and WTC Should Focus On Quality, Not Sponsorship

99% of wordpress themes, sponsored or not, are crap and unusable.

It may offend you, but that’s reality. You’re not going to be able to go to WTC or the WP themes site OR any one of those large lists of WP themes and find a ‘quality’ theme in 5 minutes.

It takes time, and mostly it’s a situation of reaching an ‘acceptable’ compromise.

So what’s this about?

In the last few days it’s been fun to sit back and watch the trash talk fly towards WP because of their ‘decision’ to not promote sponsored themes through the platform.

A few things that I want to point out, stuff that most people have missed at the start:

  • The blogroll links are attribution links to the developers who had a hand in creating and developing WP. It’s quite similar to the ‘designed by’ theme credits you see on WP themes.
  • The theme crediting links are NOT the problem. It’s a ridiculous equivocation, and if you’re going to do a rant on it without reading up on the background you’re going to come out of this looking like an ass.
  • I think Matt Mullenweg truly believes that the move is good for the community (Mark Ghosh IMO did it because the sponsored themes pissed him off – he has every right to do so as he’s in the thick of it and must get tons of spammy submissions every day). You may disagree with him, but he’s serious about it (and there is a lot of support for banning sponsored themes in the WP community).
  • There’s a serious problem of definition – when Matt talks about sponsored themes he’s talking about the trash that the people at and Mark Ghosh at WTC are seeing. When we talk about sponsored themes we think of one link that’s removable in the theme. There’s a clear difference – see this article for an example.

Sponsored themes is an advertising model, and like all advertising models there will be some people looking to make a quick buck by peddling crap. So is the case with many, many sponsored themes.

My personal view on themes is that there should be a manual review – a quality review – of all themes, sponsored or not, and that WTC and should filter themes based on quality, not advertising models.

Are you going to seriously tell me that promoting sponsored themes will cause WP a problem with Google? You’ve got to be joking.

Matt’s taken the low-effort option on this, and once the furore passes we will invariably see one or two sites coming up to challenge WTC and the WP themes site.

Bottom-line – banning sponsored themes tends to ban a few good themes as well, while it does nothing to improve the quality of the existing setup, which is full of trash (99%).

If you want to do something for the good of the community, don’t promote trash, promote quality. Be the filter for us instead of hosing us with long lists of unusable themes.

Eventually though I think this has a lot to do with how the open source community treasures keeping free things free (or not-for-profit) as opposed to any serious objections to a single sponsored link that is removable if you choose to remove it.

Logically, if you produce a theme with sponsored links that can be removed via the interface, that should be ok for Matt and Mark. But I doubt that it’s about allowing removal – their base emotional reaction has been to the advertising model, not to how its implemented.

Props to both Matt and Mark, I realise how tough it is for both of you, especially since you’re at the center of the whole theme submission game, but could you please be proactive instead of reactive and prune themes on quality?

More reading:

Sponsored themes – Mark Ghosh (9th April 2007)

On Sponsored Themes – Matt Mullenweg writing at WTC (12th April 2007)

No sponsored themes on WTC – Mark Ghosh (10th July 2007)

To do sponsored links or not? – James at (11th July 2007)

No more sponsored links what a bunch of bullshit – Shoemoney (11th July 2007)

When the powerful pontificate, I puke – Ryan Caldwell (13th July 2007)

4 thoughts on “Automattic and WTC Should Focus On Quality, Not Sponsorship

  1. Sponsorship still is the burden: themers even don’t get the opportunity to update their themes to the new rules. And after deletion themers can’t even login to their account anymore.
    Read more here at Cory Miller.

  2. what good is a pretty theme if it doesn’t fit my needs? I’m not looking to ‘compromise’ on a theme design – I want something that fits my needs perfectly. In that scenario, 99% of the themes are not usable for me.

    And it’s personal opinion – I’m sure people disagree with it.

  3. Why are you saying that 99% of themes are useless and crap? I know that some of them aren’t good, but I would say the vast majority are really nice and acceptable.
    Have no idea what your criteria are for a good wordpress theme, but when I look at the top bloggers and when I look at most themes found on the official site, the only major things that are different are the colors or the images, which can very easily be changed for the taste.

Comments are closed.