Our humble website, WPSnippets, is hardly the first stop WordPress fans will visit when they look up information regarding their beloved WordPress (I recommend visiting WP Tavern and WLTC for that!)  but I do still feel it is important to get the word out as a much as possible about this year’s:

WordPress Plugin Competition 2009

This is an annual competition which, I believe, began last year and has both directly and indirectly resulted in some of the most useful plugins for 2008 – I believe the concept behind one may even have been somewhat ‘integrated’ into WordPress core – it was that good!

The incentive for plugin authors across the world is firstly, a place to publicise their plugin in a forum outside of the WordPress Plugin Directory – particularly to non developers (including myself). Secondly, as WPEngineer pointed out (with thanks to WPTavern for the Retweet), your plugin will receive a lot of feedback. I think he sums it up nicely:

… your Plugin surely gets more attention and more feedback, as I have experienced in the past year. This year should be at least the same amount of feedback as last year, where each plugin was inspect by OZH. Also this year, you can expect to get some feedback from Ozh as you can see at contribution to the Plugin Competition. Sure, the opinion of Ozh can be different then yours, but his feedback is crucial. As a developer, I have learned a lot from last year, my knowledge expanded.

Just to recap on last year’s plugins, the personal highlights for me from 2008 were (in no particular order):

for the simple reason that they were really quite innovative and ones I personally found very useful (or potentially useful) for my own sites (fan and private club ones) and these were to name but a few of the multiple plugins that were submitted.

2009 has yet to receive the same level of submissions, which is surprising, given the incentives listed above and some lovely prizes to boot. Hopefully this is because all this year’s potential competition participants are furiously writing up a changelog before posting their entry. :p

As a non developer, some of the new submissions that have caught my eye to date are:

where Changelogger is a plugin that I believe really offers something that should be in WordPress core, and Advanced Export for WP and WPmu will be such an essential tool when moving or even revamping a site as you can select specific content.

The deadline for submissions is the end of July 2009, so – as a WordPress fan who loves plugin developers and their plugins – please can I humbly implore you to send in your plugin for the WordPress Plugin Competition 2009!

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Since posting Part 1 and Part 2 of the transcript of WordPress Weekly’s interview with Matt Mullenweg by Jeff Chandler, I have received some really encouraging comments from WordPress ‘enthusiasts’ such as Sophia Lucero, who simplified key questions at the start of conversation into a straightforward summary on WordPress Philippines, and also Monika, zaki, Margaret, Hafiz, and that girl again. A big thank you to everyone for taking the time to comment, as the comments really do cheer me on to aspire to greater things… like the completing the transcription :p

Aside from the usual disclaimer below and the note that words I couldn’t figure out are marked with three question marks, without further ado:

DISCLAIMER: Any inaccuracy or omission in this transcript that could cause confusion and result in an inaccurate reflection of Jeff Chandler or Matt Mullenweg‘s views on this topic should not be taken to be their actual opinions.

JC: When the notion of making money by selling themes pops up at WordCamps, you’re quick to explain the WordPress.com business model of selling services and building support and value around the product. But, this model won’t work for everyone, so what is a premium theme author to do, especially in light of these recent guideline changes and what not?

Matt: They don’t have to do anything different. Umm… one of the things though, I’m not in the business myself, so honestly, it’s more likely that they’re going to figure out the perfect model than I am.

But when I’ve talked to a lot of folks at these different WordCamps and said ‘Well, why did you buy this theme?’

I think you break the world down into two people: there are people who have more money than time, and people who have more time than money.

And so basically what they said was that they wanted a good-looking WordPress site, but they didn’t have time to tweak a theme and they didn’t want to figure something out, it basically looked like too much hassle. So what really drew, at least the folks I talked to, to the premium themes were the marketing of services around it.

One, if you look a lot of these folks, they have really nice websites built up around the themes. *laughs* They’ve got main ???, support forums, and really good screenshots of it, and ??? and everything like that. So there’s some really good promotion.

And two, if they’re having trouble, they’ve got really good forums or paid support, or something like that, so you know the forums are going to help you out.

I think people are totally willing to pay for that peace of mind, and also knowing that themes are going to be updated. So for example, when we had a new feature in WordPress like Threaded Comments or Gravatars, or something like that, the theme is going to be updated as well, so people are totally willing to pay for those things. And that… is where I see a lot of the true value being created, in these sorts of proprietary, commercial environments.

And I love what Revolution has done, where they say ‘Ok, so we still sold the theme, and we still bundle the support and everything like that with it, but it’s also available as GPL.’ So they’re able to, within the GPL framework, create a business and respect the underlying license of the community that they are building on top of.

JC: Ok, I’ve spoken to a few premium theme authors and they tell me that because of the GPL…

Matt: We should really separate it out from this point in the conversation, because Brian’s is a premium theme, but it’s not proprietary. So are we talking about proprietary people or non-proprietary people?

JC: Umm… in terms of who I’ve spoken to?

Matt: Yeah (x3) … we should, we should separate it out on how we talk about it.

JC: Let’s see… in this question, its proprietary I guess.

Matt: Ok.

JC: So, I’ve spoken to a few proprietary theme authors, if that’s the way we want to do it, and some of them have told me that because of the GPL, nothing stops… and they point to the example of Brian’s business model. And they say that nothing stops anyone from picking up Brian Gardner’s themes, changing the footer link and undercutting his business by selling support at a cheaper price.

Now, is that a valid argument?

Matt: Umm… sure. Nothing stops someone competing with WordPress.com by downloading WordPress.mu and setting up their own, but that argument also ??? both ???

Let’s say they claim that nothing is GPL, the entire theme is under a license. What’s to stop someone from downloading the premium theme, or buying one, and setting up a site to redistribute it.

I don’t think they have a very strong legal basis on which to prosecute that person that just made every theme available for free, because they don’t have a strong legal basis that their own licensing is built on, so they can’t really go after someone else for violating what they consider their licensing to be.

So it’s … I think that always *pause* there’s going to be situations where you say an evil person could do something bad to it. But that’s not how actually in the real world. What you’re looking at is a lot of things beyond just the commodities that may influence people’s decision.

So I know, that personally as a consumer, if I saw- let’s called it the Revolution theme…from Brian’s site – and then I saw someone else selling the same theme for cheaper, I would want to go to the author, because I figured:

A: I want to see more of these themes, so I want to give him the incentive to create more;

B: It’s the right thing to do, so I believe in that; and then

C: I would feel like no one in the world is going to be able support the theme better than he can.

So that’s just where I would put my business from a purely selfish point of view, I feel like I would get the best experience there.

And it’s still the same argument…where people say… the people pirating software argument. I’m totally annoyed when I download software and it treats me like a criminal, even software I paid for. You know, like Photoshop or something.

Photoshop is not a great example, but umm…. but I always had an Apple iTunes music…

JC: Like DRM on music.

Matt: Yeah, man. It drives me crazy! I’m changing computers all the time and I’ve got iPods and break em’ and I have to get a new one and something like this. And I’ve had it before where it’s like ‘You have reached your limit of number of computers.’ I’m like ‘What do you mean?’ This is my computer and music I paid for, and you’re telling me I can’t use it?

It’s because they’re treating me like one of the bad guys. I think a better model is to just, like I’ve said before, some people are going to pay for your stuff and some people do everything they can to not.

The people in the latter camp, you’re probably not going to convert. They don’t care whether it’s proprietary or licensed or what, they’re just never going to pay you.

So the thing to do is really embrace the folks who do want to pay you for the value provided, and treat them like super stars, like rock stars, not like criminals.

JC: Ok, so redistributing paid themes for free, which is ok under the GPL, thus rendering the business model of selling themes useless as I understand it? Yet, that hasn’t happened. And I wonder if that is because most end users are not aware of the GPL, and all they see is the single-use, multi-use license attached to the themes, and also maybe, because these people have spent 60, 70 dollars on the theme, they’re not going to go sharing it off, or redistributing it because they don’t want to, they’ve made an investment there.

Matt: *laughs* Yeah, I think you’ve just nailed it. One, there’s sort of a benefit to exclusivity, and that’s something that I think people are paying for as well.

But two, to the foremost point, and I think it already has happened and if you Google around you can find any of these themes for free.

JC: So… in your mind, with the whole GPL argument and rendering themes, or the business model of selling themes that are under GPL… I mean, I’ve been thinking about this, and when I’ve delved into it, and I’ve been thinking ‘If people can redistribute these themes for free, how are premium themes still in existence?’ I would have thought by now the premium theme market would have been eroded by everybody redistributing their stuff for free, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Matt: Oh, because I don’t think that the value is in the theme itself, I think it’s in the services and things they’re providing around the theme. That’s my true opinion. And honestly, if someone submitted one of those themes to the directory, we wouldn’t accept it either, because I also believe in respecting the wishes of the author or something. Just like I’m asking them to respect the wishes of the WordPress authors.

JC: Here’s a good question for you… well, these are all good questions… is there a way where premium theme companies such as iThemes and you or Automattic can come to a compromise? Is there a middle ground here between the way companies like iThemes do business and the way you want things done, or there is no compromise?

Matt: Well, one it’s got nothing to do with Automattic. *laughs*

JC: Ok, I’m glad you make that point.

Matt: So is there a way which… we can compromise with the WordPress.org community or me… is that the question?

JC: I guess that would be the question since it has nothing to do with Automattic.

Matt: Umm… I don’t know really. I think that the goals… of our themes aren’t really… there’s not a lot of grey area there: it’s either open source and it’s a benefit to the community or it’s not.

If something benefits the community: happy to promote it, happy to get the word out that and encourage people to check it out.

And I do believe that the support and customisation, all these services that people are doing around premium themes are truly valuable. Other stuff, like uhh… if it’s not really something that we would do ourselves with WordPress.org, it’s probably not something that we’d want to promote on that website.

And again, all we’re talking about is the stuff that’s on the website. *laughs* We’re not going out there and suing people, or doing anything like that; we’re just saying these are things we want to host or not.

And… there’s a million things we could do. There was this screw-up I made years ago about having paid links on the website…

JC: Ah yes, I’ve seen that on a couple of discussion areas. And uhh… these people, you know, I follow these discussions about what you’re doing and the decisions that are made, and you’ve sort of got people here who follow you around and say ‘Oh… this is what he did 3 years ago, he’s still evil.’ *laughs*

Matt: Yeah… I mean, I try to be at the bleeding edge of screwing things up. *laughs* Making it safe so you don’t have to. *laughs*

JC: *laughs*

Matt: No but, yeah… that was two and a half years ago before we had any sponsored themes, right? So it was really just the same thing… same mistake I had made, but now there are just a bunch of theme designers doing the same thing.

I think we just have to be consistent. You know, it’s not that dissimilar to Google’s Webmaster development. Google says you can do whatever you want on your website, but if you do something which drives… damages the web community as a whole, if you pee in the pool so to speak, they’re not going to include you in their index, or they’re going to move you down in their index.

It’s the same sort of idea, you can do anything you want. But the stuff that I think we should be careful about is the stuff we promote on WordPress.org, because to me, WordPress is something that’s… going to be around for decades – it’s going to be around 5, 10, 20 years from now – so the decisions that we make now are going to influence the direction it goes.

And you can look at other open source projects to see how this happens. I mean, what’s going to keep WordPress from becoming a PostNuke or even like a Joomla, where you go to it and it seems like most of the stuff is paid, and there are not that many free resources, which ultimately is going to hurt the viability of the underlying platform.

Umm… I think it’s really a commitment to what got us to where we are today.

It would be dumb to say ‘Ah well, yeah, we beat Movable Type, and they were proprietary and we were open source, and open source got us to this point, but now that we’re popular, we’re going to change our mind and say we don’t believe in open source anymore, we don’t want to promote that anymore just to make money.’

I think that would ultimately kill the project. We need to be true to what got us to this point in order to stay around, stay relevant.

JC: So, one thing, and I’m – you can imagine we have quite an active chat room here – but I want to make this point perfectly clear and that is: You’re dictating what happens on WordPress.org and the sites around WordPress.org; the theme repository, the plugin repository and what you actually promote to the community.

You… for instance, outside of that, let’s say a company or people who have a business selling themes, you don’t really care what it is they’re doing… it’s just that you won’t support them or promote them in the way that they’re doing things, is this correct?

Matt: Well, I care. But, I ultimately believe that market forces will… even things out. I don’t think it’s worth me going after people in sort of a … antagonistic way.

JC: Ok, because…

Matt: I prefer rewarding good behaviour rather than penalising people for doing the wrong thing.

JC: Well, because a lot of people seem to think ‘Well, in order to do things, you’ve got to do things Matt’s way or the high way.’ And… is that true, or is it just that your way is dictated with the way of …

You run and operate… you’re the project leader for WordPress.org and I imagine you’ve got these guidelines in place, and people have to follow them. And if they don’t follow them, they’re not going to get your support and the project support, right?

Matt: Yeah. And umm… but it’s not my way or the high way. You know, there are still lots of websites and lots of places, there can be other theme directories, there doesn’t only have to be one theme directory in the world.

It’s just on the platform I think we want to provide:

A: The best experience to users; and
B: Be true to our open source roots.

I did mention in Part 2 that there was the possibility that the original ‘3-part’ transcription may be split into more parts, and – learning from my naivety/over-ambitiousness about how much transcribing can be done in a few hours – this will be the case. However, the next part starts with Matt Mullenweg replying to questions posed by premium or proprietary theme authors, so hopefully this is a good place to pause for the time being.

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Following on from Part 1 of WordPress Weekly’s Interview with Matt Mullenweg by Jeff Chandler, it has been really a nice surprise to receive such kind comments from various visitors (including *the* Jeff Chandler) who appear to have liked my efforts at transcribing the interview, and really makes those 2 hours of work seem very satisfying and worthwhile, so thank you all!

Before moving straight onto Part 2, where Jeff and Matt continue their discussion of themes in the context of the direction Joomla and Drupal teams have taken, I must say again:

DISCLAIMER: Any inaccuracy or omission in this transcript that could cause confusion and result in an inaccurate reflection of Jeff Chandler or Matt Mullenweg‘s views on this topic should not be taken to be their actual opinions.

As before, words that I have not been able to figure out are marked with ??? and corrections are always welcome and appreciated!

In this transcription, JC = Jeff Chandler and Matt = Matt Mullenweg and starts 20 minutes into the audio file:

JC: In November, with regards Joomla… I used Joomla for over a year and a half and there are plenty of theme clubs for Joomla. It’s almost like, the situation with WordPress, for the longest time, I’ve been harping on the fact that the themes for Joomla seem so cool.

You can assign modules to the various places on the page, something I’d like to see with widgets. You can assign them to here or there, but in my opinion, the overall free themes in the WordPress world are… pretty crappy. And from my history of using WordPress, I’ve actually purchased two or three premium themes because they’ve offered a design and some features that I just don’t see in the free ones.

But essentially what you’re saying is that it’s getting to the point in the Joomla community… is that you pretty much have to buy for anything good, you have to buy for everything, and that’s completely against what the GPL is all about?

Matt: Umm… well, the GPL doesn’t say anything about whether you can charge or not. In fact, under the GPL it’s completely fine to charge for any ??? software, any ??? copies and everything like that. It’s really just about the freedom that the user and developer have. So, what the GPL says is you’re welcome to sell something, but you can’t tell someone they can’t modify it, or can’t redistribute it, or can’t do anything on top.

JC: Right… I think we need to stress that point that when we say GPL and free, we mean free as in freedom, and not free really as in price.

Matt: Yeah.

JC: Because a lot of the people get this notion that: if it’s under GPL it has to be free. No, it doesn’t. It just has to be able to be modified and released, (and) redistributed for free. I hope I got that right. Hope I didn’t just ??? myself there.

Matt: If we have a minute, I would actually like to read the four freedoms of the GPL. (Quick Guide to GPLv3)

JC: Yeah, we got all the time we want.

Matt: So the first one is the freedom to run the program for any purpose.

Number 2 is the freedom to study how the program works and adapt it to your needs. Access to the source code is a pre-condition for this.

Number 3, freedom to distribute copies so you can help your neighbour.

Number 4, the freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements and modified versions in general to the public, so the whole community benefits.

That’s really the core of the spirit and the intention of the GPL.

JC: Ok. And umm… in November of 2007, hot off the heels of WordCamp Argentina, news came out about a possible theme market place, where people sold themes through the market place, and the theme author, as well as Automattic each received a cut of the profits. Now, was that your way of trying to help premium theme authors, and has there been any progress on the idea?

Matt: Well, so… the whole idea behind that was two fold.

One, the most popular request on WordPress.com is more themes. *laughs* That’s the number one thing.

And also, I guess at the time we had around 1.5 million blogs, now we have over 5 million. Anything we offer to that community gets them… really… instant adoption. Umm… it’s not unusual that we offer new products, the next day there’s 50 or 100,000 people using it. So it just seemed like a great, sort of, opportunity for folks.

The second thing was that the trend I noticed, in both other places that have had paid or sponsored themes and everything like that, is that it’s very designer unfriendly.

The economics eventually end up in a place that benefits umm… quantity over quality. So if you look at something, even like Template Monster is probably the epitome of an example for this, is where … they outsource the design, they churn out as many as possible, so they have hundreds and hundreds, so probably paying these guys nothing.

So the only person really making money here; of course the designers are making money, but they are making money… it’s outsourced so it’s pretty little. Then whoever the guy in the middle – the Template Monster or whoever – is just trying to get as many as possible. So the designers are really marginalised, and I wanted something that could sort of re-empower designers. I wanted designers to make a lot of money.

The reason something like this happens on Template Monster is because they have the distribution. Now, because they have 500 themes, everyone goes to them to find… a paid website to get a paid theme. Whereas a designer might only create 3 or 5 themes a year, or maybe call it 10 or 12.

So those were the things I was trying to get around, by giving folks really good distribution, we could sort of… it’s almost kinda like record labels and musicians, right? It’s actually a very, very similar situation. And (in) most of the premium template world, you have these record labels that are essentially buying the talent and then taking most of the profits.

I want to re-enable the musician to ??? their own masters.

And that’s what’s ??? for music as well, so I was a little bit inspired by that.

JC: And back at that time, there was this statement made that Automattic would take 50% of the profits, where the theme author would get 50%. But I believe that was just an idea to kind of explain how it works. Because then many people, like premium theme authors said ‘Well, that’s too much. Why do that when I create a premium theme, sell it and reap in the full profits?’

Matt: Well there’s only one answer to that: it’s ‘distribution’. *laughs* And that’s still the same answer. Umm… you can create the same idea. Of course, we didn’t launch it, so there’s no chance to test this out, and we might have tweaked the percentage based on that, but half-and-half just seemed like a super fair place to start it, and we could tweak it over time?

But think about it, if you put a premium theme on your site, and 10,000 people see it per month or something, you might sell let’s call it … a thousand copies. Or if you put it into WordPress.org and 5 million people see it, it might sell tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of copies. The most popular themes on WordPress.com have half a million users, so there is potential there for a lot more distribution.

JC: In terms of working on the idea… it hasn’t been launched yet. Has there been any kind of progress or what’s the one thing holding it back from being released?

Matt: Well, we worked on it quite a bit. And it got to a point where I said: ‘Well, I don’t think it’s really right to do this before we, umm…. clean up the situation on the WordPress.org site.’

So actually a lot of the code is similar; we took a lot of the development we’d done and put it into WordPress.org. Because if you look at how WordPress.org works, you know you upload the files, there’s a moderation queue and everything like that. Umm… a lot of the same features we’d originally developed for the WordPress.com market place. And I just had Joseph, who had worked on that open source development, put it all in.

So, it seemed like, it would be good to get the WordPress.org site working first.

And the second thing is: I wasn’t really sure how to align the incentives properly. I’m still working on it. I don’t have a good, good idea yet. Because WordPress.com is a hosted service, nothing is ever distributed, which means it doesn’t actually invoke the GPL, so things on the WordPress.com repository are not required to be GPL.

And I was trying to figure out the best way to go about this. In the original announcement I said that anything that was in the repository also has to be GPL. Anything that we’re going to distribute on WordPress.com. And that works, right, because then on .org you get the same theme for free.

But I think it kinda creates a sort of weird situation, where… say there’s a theme that’s 500 dollars or a thousand dollars, or something like that. A user of WordPress.com could just go to WordPress.org and get it for free.

And we said ‘It has to be GPL, but…’ We’re just trying to figure it out, and obviously we haven’t yet (figured out) what is the best way to sort of…. align the economic incentives for folks who are using the market place to still align with the community incentives of WordPress.org.

It’s a tough problem. I mean it’s the same thing I was thinking of when I first started Automattic. I totally believe in all these things, and as long as I’m around, the company is going to do the right thing. But what’s the way to align the incentives so that even if I’m not around, the company will still be… still do the right thing.

For that what we figured out was having everything be open source and Automattic has no intellectual property, and separating out WordPress.org from Automattic and all that was the way to do it, and it’s worked really well. We are now three years in, but I haven’t figured out the way to do that for themes yet.

JC: I wanted to read you something. Getting back to the themes and what not. The Drupal community has debated this GPL-premium theme issue for quite a while now, and according to them, a solid understanding has come from it.

So I wanted to read you a little example that was taken from a Drupal theme developer’s page, and this is what they say:

A theme is made up of several files – template files (ending in .php), CSS, images and JavaScript. The template files are considered part of Drupal, which is licensed under the GPL, which means they are not restricted in their distribution. You are free to share the .php files so others can benefit from them.

However, the rest of the theme – images, CSS, JavaScript – is independent from Drupal and owned by us and licensed by you for one website per purchase. You may not publish or share these parts of the themes with anyone else. Please review the EULA for full details. (Source)

Umm… what do you think about that type of policy. Does that fall in line with being able to sell a theme whilst being completely under the GPL there?

Matt: So basically… what you’re doing in that situation is looking for a loop hole, where you’re saying ‘Ok, because we have to, we’re going license the PHP files as GPL. But all this other stuff that actually provides the value, we’re not going to.’

So if you could imagine, what if we distributed WordPress without CSS, or images or JavaScript. *laughs* I mean, who would use that? Would you use that?

JC: No, no I wouldn’t. *both laugh*

Matt: Of course the value is in the whole package. From a legal basis, I totally see their argument. The CSS is not linked in the same way, it doesn’t call internal functions of WordPress, and it does (is) not required to be GPL.

I think that on the Free Software Foundation’s website, they have sort of a weird thing where they say that JavaScript can invoke the GPL because it’s doing… within the browser’s DOM, it’s doing function calls across it. And if it’s not the intention, they recommend special exceptions to that. So there is an argument in fact that the browser is the execution model that’s ???. And that’s… honestly, I don’t care. *laugh* That’s not… that’s for a lawyer to figure and court cases to figure out and everything like that.

What I care about is what we have control of, which is a: what I do with all my open source projects, which is to make them entirely GPL. You’re never going to get a version of WordPress with differently licensed CSS or JavaScript.

And two, what we promote on the WordPress.org site. *laughs* So what we promote on this site are open source community projects. I think we should promote things that sort of embrace the same freedoms that WordPress itself does, and that’s all I’m really concerned about.

That really concludes Part 2. And as mentioned before, Part 3 moves onto more WordPress-specific questions about themes and actual questions from premium theme authors to Matt. Given the length of Part 3, it may be split (again, sorry!) to sub-parts, but we’ll see how the transcribing goes tomorrow.

Till then, thanks to everyone for your support so far! 🙂

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Photo courtesy of 赤子之心

It has only been 4 months since the Beijing Olympics 2008, but for some reason it seems to have happened so very long ago. Perhaps it’s because of the credit crunch and lots of real life things happening, but my online activity has really dwindled. This includes the continuation of the series on the Closing Ceremony, where this post has been in ‘draft’ for far too long without actually having ever been written up.

Above is a photo of the 7 sopranos who serenaded us all with their rendition of the Chinese folk song 今夜月明 or The Moon is Bright Tonight. Out of all the performances that night, I have to say this sweet love song was my absolute favourite performance of the evening (more photos of some of the other performances can be found at the end of this post) Their voices (and their outfits) were absolutely gorgeous!

This is the list of the soprano performers:

張也, 湯燦, 張燕, 陳思思, 雷佳, 王麗達,哈輝

The original plan was to introduce all of the singers individually, but I think it’s safe to say that they are all very accomplished sopranos and perhaps it will be fine to leave it at that, since on a personal level, the actual song and their rendition of this particular arrangement was the most wonderful part.

I have actually recorded the song from the BBC broadcast of the Closing Ceremony, and find it so very uplifting to listen to. The song is sung by a girl to a boy in the mountains, and she sings about the magnificently bright moon that has risen, which reminds her of the one she is missing. And as the wind sweeps up to the hills, she asks if he can hear her calling to him.

At least, that’s my interpretation of the original lyrics, although CRI Online has helpfully provided the names of the people who brought us this arrangement (卞留念、趙兆、孟可 and 尹宜公) I have decided to edit the original lyrics and post what the sopranos actually sang here:

(恩噠恩噠 哩羅來哩羅來)
(恩噠恩噠 哩羅來哩羅來)
月亮出來亮旺旺亮旺旺 (哪呀咿哪呀咿也 哪呀咿哪呀咿也)
在深山 (噠 噠 哩羅來哩羅來)
(哪呀咿 哪呀咿也 哪呀咿呦呀咿也)
哥想月亮天上走天上走 哥 (哪呀咿哪呀咿也)
哥哥啊 (來啦哩 來啦哩 來啦哩 來啦哩羅來哩羅來)
清悠悠 (哪呀咿哪呀咿也 啊呦呀呦 咿也)

月亮出來亮旺旺 亮旺旺 月亮出來亮旺旺 亮旺旺
亮旺 亮旺 亮旺 亮旺……

一陣清風 吹上坡 吹上坡 哥啊 哥啊 哥啊
阿哥 月亮出來 月亮 月亮

It is a little shorter than the original, and the words that you can see within brackets interweaves between the actual lyrics, and are nonsense if taken literally, but musically they are a perfect accompaniment for the song.

If you would like to be reminded why this song is so good, feel free to listen to the mp3 recording that I mentioned earlier from the BBC broadcast below. Alternatively, you can also download The Moon is Bright Tonight for your own enjoyment as well. It is really something worth listening , especially in the winter months, in my humble opinion, and it would be great to find out if you thought the same too!

Download the mp3 recording of The Moon is Bright Tonight from the BBC‘s broadcast of the Beijing Olympics Closing Ceremony or click on the ‘play’ button above to listen to the mp3 on the site!

Unless I get round to writing about the Handover to London, this may be the last post on the Olympics 2008 for the time being. But I think, as the BBC’s Matt Slater summed up so eloquently in his blog post:

The closing ceremony was absolutely in keeping with everything I have seen in Beijing over the last three and a bit weeks: staggering in scale, perfectly choreographed, visually stunning and absolutely on time.

p/s: Some of the other photos we promised at the start of this post from the Beijing Olympics 2008 Closing Ceremony including Jackie Chan, Karen Mok, Andy Lau, Joey Yung and other really big name (old-skool) celebrities singing 遠方的客人請你留下來 or Please stay, Guests from Afar.

Photo courtesy of 赤子之心

And some of the 75 acrobats mimicking flames as they performed on the 25-metre tall Memory Tower.

Photo courtesy of azzurri_nr1

Last but not least, Placido Domingo and 宋祖英 (Song Zuying) singing the duet of 愛的火焰 or Flames of Love together.

Photo courtesy of 赤子之心

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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here, apologies, but seeing as the 2 hour interview by Jeff Chandler of WeblogToolsCollection for WordPress Weekly with Matt Mullenweg was quite important in the WordPress community following the removal of 200+ themes from the WordPress Theme Directory, it seemed like an appropriate moment to re-emerge from the newbie wood work and try and contribute towards WordPress again.

The comments that followed the interview pointed out that a text transcript would be helpful, so vaguely inspired by what I have heard so far, I decided to take the plunge and make an amateur attempt at transcribing the rather long interview – over 1:30 hours in length – and what I have done is break it down into several parts. The first part, at least, deals immediately with the ‘FAQ of the moment’ about the removal of the themes and lasts approximately 15 minutes.

At this point, I would like to make a disclaimer and clarify that this is an amateur effort, so: any inaccuracy or omission in this transcript that could cause confusion and result in an inaccurate reflection of Jeff Chandler or Matt Mullenweg’s views on this topic should not be taken to be their actual opinions. I have tried my best to make an accurate transcription where possible, and there are even a few words that I couldn’t figure out (marked with ???), so anyone who can help with any corrections will be very much appreciated!

Cutting straight to the chase, where JC = Jeff Chandler and Matt = Matt Mullenweg:

JC: The goal for this show is to present as many clarifications as possible regarding a number of issues, a number of questions throughout the community. A lot of it has to do with the GPL, the license for which WordPress is filed under.

Premium themes, some changes that have taken place recently, and things of that nature. So, with me on the line, shows up as from California, but I think you’re in Houston, is the one-and-only Mr. Matt Mullenweg. Matt, thank you very much for being part of the show today.

Matt: My pleasure. I would also like to say thank you to whoever fake Matt Mullenweg was, because he was making me look good when it was actually sort of my stupidity (about) the time zone.

JC: *laughs* It’s funny, man. We had about a hundred people in here and we all thought it was you. I was putting a call out there saying ‘Matt, are you having trouble calling in?’ and he says ‘Yeah, I’m trying to get another cell phone because my calls keep dropping.’ So we waited and waited, and I said ‘well, let’s reschedule the show’ after about an hour, and it turns out umm… *laughs* it wasn’t you. He duped us all though!

Matt: *laughs* Well, he sounds like a nice person.

JC: So let me give a little bit of background history for a little bit here. What has happened up to this point: on the night of December 9th and the 10th – over 200 themes were pulled from the theme repository with no warning, and subsequently told that links to the theme author’s website will no longer be approved and as a result, the theme has been suspended.

Also the theme repository had a new guideline put into place and reads as follows: All themes are subject to review. Themes for sites that support Premium, non-GPL compatible themes will not be approved.

On December 12th, Matt responds individually to those affected by the theme removals.

After that, fights about the GPL, how to be compliant, speculation ensued, thus leading me to converse with Matt today on the show, and ask him to be part of this to figure out, (or give) clarification around all of these issues and the questions that I am going to ask you today.

So, first question I have for you, Matt, is: Why were those themes removed from the Repository. And if you look back at the situation now, do you think you made a mistake by not making a public post about the removals, because a lot of people seem to think ‘well, it happened behind the scenes – that’s not good’ and you know, was it made available and there wasn’t any public information.

Matt: Sure. So what happened was sometime I was going back to Houston for Christmas. I was going to see some my old friends, and so I was fixing up their WordPress blog, which was still on 1.2 at the time, *laughs* so actually it was on a version before themes had even existed.

So I started upgrading it, and I went to get a theme for it because he needed a theme. So I went across to the Theme Directory, and as I started to browse around, I actually got really disappointed and really sort of shocked: that the vast majority of the themes that I was looking at were horrible.

And not just horrible in like low quality, obvious that they had just sort of been, dashed off without really a lot of thought. Many of them had like: SEO links from the footer, linking to SEO sites or mortgage sites, and this was exactly the stuff that we had created the theme directory to avoid. Umm… so I definitely (was thinking) ‘Wow, what’s happened here?’

I got in touch with Joseph who works in the Theme Directory and said ‘Hey, obviously some stuff has slipped past the guidelines. It sort of made it past review and we didn’t notice, or that the rules weren’t clear or something.

I think he went through most of the themes or all of the themes; we ended actually removing close to 300 themes. It looks like of those 300, there were maybe 5 or 10 that were questionable. Where rather than being, I mean anything in the theme that was violation of the GPL or guidelines, the site that they linked to, was nothing but, you know, it was non-GPL… like that.

The question sort of became ‘Well, what if they’re just using the GPL theme as an advertisement – to point to something that we wouldn’t allow into the theme repository either, and should we link to that?’ and the decision we made then was ‘No’.

And umm… that wasn’t like a decree or a religious thing: it was more like ‘Ok, well, if we don’t want this sort of stuff, we don’t want this stuff in’ and ??? people I emailed.

JC: And because my next question was going to explain why the new guideline was added to the theme repository. And that guideline which is:

Theme for sites that support premium or non-GPL compatible themes will not be approved.’

And that has gotten to the point I… based on how I understand it – if someone were to create a fully compliant GPL theme, which was completely acceptable via the guidelines to be in the theme repository. If the credit link in the footer of that theme which pointed to a site which either has advertising for sites that sell premium themes to support non-GPL themes, or the theme author themselves sold themes on a different part of that site, those are also to be removed.

And you’re not allowed to that anymore. Is my interpretation of that new guideline correct?

Matt: The overall problem is that in the WordPress theme world: there are a lot of good guys; there are a lot of bad guys; and there are a couple of people in the middle. The problem is the bad guys sort of make it worse for the people in the middle.

So for example, you know… on the sponsored link thing. The guideline we put up was that the credit link should go to the author of the theme. The designer, the person who actually did the creative work in creating the theme.

So what happened literally the next day is that we get a theme that was designed by ‘Free Credit Cards’,*laughs* so what they have done is rather than just having ‘Designed by’ you know… ‘Justin Tadlock and sponsored by Free Credit Cards’ , the Free Credit Cards guys just paid whoever was designing the theme to put them as the designer. Any rule we make is gonna have loopholes and people trying to get around it, so ultimately we have to say ‘Well, it’s sort of a discretionary thing’.

The goal of the theme directory was never to have all the themes in the world. It’s never going to have the most themes or anything; it was going to have the very best themes. It’s a place where you can find super high quality theme that supported the latest features of WordPress, and looks good, works well, and it’s supported and updated.

That was the idea: it was never going to be a comprehensive list of all themes in the world. You can find those easily on Google and other theme directories.

JC: Ok, so with that said, I mean: if you’re a WordPress site, with that stipulation – is it advisable for a site not to actually accept or display advertising for people selling themes or…? I mean essentially if I create a GPL theme, and I link it back to my site, but let’s say on a different part of my site, I am also selling themes, that pretty much says ‘well, you violate the guideline, you’re taking me off”. Is that correct?

Matt: First of all, you can do whatever you like on any website. There’s nothing built in WordPress that’s going to you. I am not even going to tell anyone or tell you that you should change things. But WordPress.org is sort of a community hub where we’ve tried to promote the open source stuff.

So, just like I wouldn’t want to, I don’t know, umm… let’s say a commercial CMS, Expression Engine. Ok… I wouldn’t have links advertising Expression Engine on WordPress.org. I wouldn’t have links advertising other things that are not on open source, even ones that actively violate our license.

JC: Ok, so here’s the next question: Why is it that so many people within the inner circle of the WordPress community believe you and Automattic don’t want anyone else profiting through or around WordPress? It seems to be this notion, primarily from those who make a living selling premium themes.

Matt: *laughs* Well, I have said it before that it’s hard to convince anyone that the way that they currently making money is wrong, *laughs* you know, if you are paying your bills with the way you’re making money, you’re going to find ways to rationalise and… sort of believe in that. There are, at every WordCamp, there will be 100 people there, and there may be 20-30 there making their living from WordPress right then.

And it’s all sorts of different things: sometimes it’s developing sites, like their agency is a site developer or designers; sometimes they’re provide training services – education; sometimes they’re just working for a company and being like the sort of full time WordPress guy.

But if I had to estimate, there are probably tens of thousands of people out there that make their living either with or on top of WordPress, and that’s not even counting bloggers. If you talk about a network like Digg or ??? or TechCrunch or something, also built entirely on top of WordPress.

So I’m totally for that. And you know what, honestly, the GPL is very commercially friendly. It was designed to allow commercial enterprises to thrive. You know some people say it doesn’t work, but you only have to look at one, the growth of WordPress, and two, the growth of the open source world in general for the past thirty years to say ‘Wow, this is actually a very, very powerful force.’

JC: OK, in your opinion, do you think that premium themes have actually benefited the community by overall furthering the development of WordPress themes?

Matt: Well, there is certainly some stuff that I first saw in premium themes that I hadn’t seen at other places. Particularly around the sort of Magazine, CMS style.

JC: Yeah, well… I mean, I witnessed that craze myself. I started seeing different sites coming out with this cool, news and magazine layout – typically confined to the themes that you had to pay for. And then next thing you knew, you had… Justin Tadlock came out with the free theme called Structure and Options, which replicated many of those same features but it was released for free. And a lot of the other variants started to pop up. But, I mean, that’s just one example with this question, in terms of furthering the overall development of WordPress themes.

Matt: Well, to some extent it doesn’t further it in the same way that an open source theme would, simply because if I want to build on top of whatever the cool magazine theme was, I would have to basically start from scratch and have to be really careful not to be too close to what I am trying to emulate.

Compare that to some of the free themes that have rocked the WordPress world, including – the one we all know and love now, Kubrick – *laughs* and instantly on top of Kubrick there are a bunch of things. People started copying and pasting the code and tweak it, for the better, and you had some really fast innovation.

I don’t know if any of you guys remember the very first Kubrick versus what we eventually put into WordPress. It changed significantly, what happened was an open source community developed around it, and started tweaking the design, the code and everything like that.

When Kubrick very, very first came out, everyone loved it and wanted it to be the WordPress theme. And we all thought ‘No, no way we’re putting this in!’ because the code was horrible. *laughs* It just wasn’t very good.

But then the community around it actually made the code actually pretty decent, and the story was that later it became in default WordPress, so… I think that’s sort of a good example, and there have been others since then, where you really get the benefit of open source both in the quality; the users and the developers could both benefit because (for) the developer – people helping them out made the theme better – and users get this, sort of, rapid innovation, and two, a lot of themes based around the theme they like.

JC: So, in a recent conversation, I saw you describe premium themes as ‘proprietary’ and how you felt that was a better word than premium. Why is that?

Matt: Oh, because ‘premium’ is a little insulting to the thousands of people who have created ‘non-premium’ themes, because it implies its better, right? Why are premium themes better than free themes?

So, umm… I’m just not crazy about that, because that’s almost like saying ‘I’m not using WordPress, I’m using a premium CMS’, *laughs* everyone in the WordPress world would be like “What do you mean? That’s not ‘premium’. It’s actually worse!”

So I think ‘proprietary’ is probably the most neutral way to describe them, because they might be better or worse – it’s hard to say – but it’s definitely true that their licensing is proprietary and restrictive freedom.

JC: So I see, you’re talking about ‘proprietary’ in the sense that, people who purchase a theme are usually a purchasing a single or multi-site use license, so depending on the license structure of that premium theme, it kinda dictates, at least according to the theme author, they can actually redistribute that or not, or only use it on one site or not.

Matt: Ultimately it’s about freedom. It’s like buying a copy of Windows, right? You’re completely at the whims of Microsoft. Whatever they put in their license, you’re stuck with. And if they decide to change the license in the future, you’re stuck with that as well.

With premium themes, you could have the exact same situation you had with Movable Type, where one day they just wakeup and say ‘Ah… we’re changing the license. Do you want to upgrade etcetera? You have to comply with this.’ You have no control if it’s not open source, so ultimately your freedom is not guaranteed.

JC: Ok, so how many of these debates and the way things are done are a result of there not being a court case to go by in terms of all these GPL arguments and what not?

Matt: I think it’s important to separate it out. Although I have talked to many good lawyers before about these issues, I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t argue the specific legalities of things. So everything I’m talking about here, I’m not talking whether it’s illegal or not to do these things.

My personal opinion and the opinion of the folks I talk to is that: some things are not; some things are grey areas; and some honestly, like you said, haven’t been tested in a court case.

All I’m talking about is for WordPress.org – the site we run and host – do we want this stuff in there. And that’s where ??? speak authoritatively. (Note: The last sentence is really not very clear)

JC: Does it bother you to see countless debates on various WordPress theme author sites about the GPL and what is and not compliant with it. Virtually any site I’ve… I’m very participative in the WordPress community… and back in the summer, Ian Stewart on ThemeShaper, boy, there was a very long debate on GPL, what is compliant and what’s not; CSS, images, themes and what not.

And I see you on almost every one of these debates kinda chiming in with a comment here and there,…. umm… what does it mean to you, and how do you feel when you see everybody, these countless debates, over and over again, these never ending debates?

Matt: I think debate is good. Because the more conversation we have around these issues, the more sort of different ??? that get out there. You know I think, sometimes that people change their mind – not often- but occasionally they do.

So, I think debates are fine.

JC: I mean, does it bother you to the point that these people just don’t get it, or do you feel that maybe that if they would just simply comply with the GPL, or the wishes of the umm… licensee holder of the software, then all of this wouldn’t be debated so much?

Matt: Well, the only thing that frustrates me about them is that sometimes people turn the discussion of issues into attacks on myself or Automattic and anything like that.

JC: Oh yeah, that happens a lot. In almost every one of these debates, someone’s mentioning your thoughts or trying to think for you, and they’re always slinging around attacks.

Matt: And you know… that hurts. *laughs* It does, so that’s the only downside. If, when people are talking about this, let’s just try to talk about what’s going on, the issues – those things – rather than saying ‘Matt is evil’, ‘Matt doesn’t want us to make money’, ‘He’s just trying to create a monopoly’ all these things they say, coz that sucks.

JC: So, Drupal and Joomla have decided that commercial stuff is ok. But why not WordPress?

Matt: So, I took a look at this actually. Umm…because, you know, what other projects have done before is, I think, sort of a good model for us to follow in many ways.

I went to the Drupal site, Drupal.org Joomla site, Joomla.org, and I looked around and I couldn’t find any themes. Umm… so as far as I can tell, they aren’t hosting themes.

Then I Google’d for Drupal Joomla premium themes, and there are a… ton. Probably more than we have in the WordPress world, I mean just a ‘ton’ of premium themes there. And it actually looks like they have more premium themes than normal themes. That’s just my non-scientific sort of Googling around, but I was just… amazed.

They also seem to still have sponsored themes in their community. So I saw a lot of places where there was a free theme, but it either had a restrictive license that said you can’t change links, or redistribute or anything, and (it) often had advertising links in the footer.

So that’s where Joomla is. And then I checked out Drupal.org, which does host themes. I went to their theme directory, and I searched for premium and I couldn’t find a single one; except that there was one that was based on a WordPress premium theme… *laughs*

JC: Wow.

Matt: So as far as I can tell, that in the Drupal community, there aren’t really… and I’ve Google’d for Drupal premium themes, and I really got no hits. There was just like a forum there with someone asking ‘Hey, if I made a premium theme, what should I charge for it?’ So,as far as I can tell, Drupal doesn’t really have any premium themes in the same way that WordPress does.

So, looking in those two directions, I think Drupal probably hasn’t run into this problem yet, in the same way that we have. Joomla, as they say …’anything goes’, and the situation over there is that the premium stuff is really crowding out the free resources, which kinda makes sense.

I mean, if you aligned economic incentive, we are actually disincentivising anyone to … make open source stuff. That’s eventually what’s going to happen is, that over time, the community will be more and more commercial, and you get to the point, it is actually…

People I’ve talked to who have switched from Joomla to WordPress – the reason they were doing it, they’ve said to me ‘I’ve set up my Joomla site and it was nice, and then everything I want to do costs a nickel and a dime’, and you end up paying for every plugin and extension and theme that you’re going to try out. And ultimately that frustrated them so much, they ended up switching platforms.

The interview moved on to what I am terming ‘part 2’ with a little more detailed discussion on themes, further taking into account what direction Joomla and Drupal have taken. I found this section of the interview very interesting, especially as Jeff Chandler – being a previous user of Joomla – has more input here, and I am also someone who has migrated over.

Part 3 then returns to WordPress-specific questions and the latest developments of themes in the WordPress world.

I will certainly try my best to transcribe Parts 2 & 3 as soon as possible, but hopefully this amateur transcription may be of some help to others!

UPDATE 23/12/08: Please click here to read Part 2.
UPDATE 27/12/08: Part 3 is now available too.

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