My Thoughts on GPL, WordPress, Thesis Theme, and My Theme [Standard Theme]

We’ve been in the Official Commercially Supported GPL Theme on WordPress.org for a while and it’s been great.

And here’s the thing: The Standard Theme wouldn’t exist without Matt and his community-developed product WordPress.

A few personal thoughts on the current (and long-lasting) storm that surrounds GPL [An interview between the two parties]. If you want the “short” version, read this here, want some of Matt’s thoughts on GPL and Themes, click here, and if you want another perspective, check this out, and here too.

Anyways, here are my thoughts…

Respect WordPress

WordPress is one-of-a-kind. It powers websites from personal blogs to entire enterprise businesses within the Fortune 50. It even is used by the government and the military. It’s a robust software package that can create unbelievable results for these organizations and individuals.

Thank God for WordPress. Some people make their entire living off of it and they didn’t do anything to contribute to its existence nor it’s continued growth. As WordPress grows, so do their businesses. They profit directly from WordPress’ success!

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you!

Respect the GPL

WordPress was built on the robust licensing of GPL, which is one of the most popular Open Source licensing on the planet. It powers some of the systems and software that we use daily and without it we’d have much less innovation within the web and software space.

Thank God for the GPL. It has enabled me to be successful as a businessman and entrepreneur. It has given me a greater appreciation for the software community at large and has helped establish relationships and a successful business model that will provide for me (and my family) for years to come.

Respect the Community

WordPress is powered by the community and without it WordPress wouldn’t be nearly as awesome as it is today.

But, it’s all enabled by the founder’s choice to use GPL as it’s base and by disrespecting GPL you disrespect others, their work, and the community that supports and uses it day-in and day-out.

Once you understand the symbiotic relationship between GPL and the community you realize and understand something very human: Dependence on others and the value that collaboration brings.

You also gain a bit in the humility department as well.

Respect Yourself

Getting a big head about your contributions, your work, and your “place” in the world is lame, especially if your success is entirely built and dependent on someone elses work. If anything, you should have the utmost respect for their work and be eternally grateful.

You disrespect yourself and damage your own image by being pompous and wordy especially when your base argument is nothing more than that of a grade-school-like tantrum. Basing your business decisions on your feelings is one thing but it doesn’t change the legal evidence and facts, and your responsibility to be informed and above-board.

It also doesn’t give one the right to break the law.

Personally, I want to follow the letter, intent, and spirit of the law and I respect WordPress, the GPL, the Community, and myself.

The End Result

So, here’s the bottom line:

Finally, I firmly disagree with Chris Pearson’s position with his product, Thesis Theme, and will not be using it in client’s sites nor will I personally recommend it to others.

If you are using it I would highly recommend looking for an alternative because I’d imagine you’d like to represent yourself with the highest integrity possible, for yourself, your business, and for all those that you represent and relate to within your respective communities.

A Great Alternative

If you’re looking for a great place to start and a great theme to use for your blogging needs, try ours: The Standard Theme, which is 100% GPL-compliant. My team has done a phenomenal job of building something from scratch and creating a true “standard” in terms of a blogging theme. I’m so proud of our work!

We have a growing and thriving support community and have seen some real innovation with the product. We are also super close on releasing our next revision of the theme and you will seriously be blown away.

I can’t wait to show you…!

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  • David

    I have to say it’s really handy that this has happened. I’ve never fully understood the theory behind the GPL/GNU before. With all of the discussions and debates around about it now I think I’ve finally got my head around it.

    I’m relatively new in the area, only started developing using WordPress a few months ago, but even I have more respect for the work and community spirit behind it than Pearson seems to.

    And when it comes down to it WordPress has changed the face of publishing websites, and if they want to release it under that licence then people need to respect that. If not then they can go and create their own CMS, and licence that however they want.

  • http://Schellack.net schellack

    Christians are called to live with integrity – to be “above reproach”; there is no question about that. I do think the debate raises some interesting technical and philosophical questions, which are worth discussing.

    The WordPress Themes pages are very clear that their themes directory will only host “the best” themes that are licensed under “a GPL version 2 compatible license.” WordPress elsewhere makes it very clear that they have a strong affinity for open source, for the ideas behind making software free (gratis and libre). WordPress’s community is, also according to the WordPress.org site, based in part on these principles.

    So it’s easy to conclude that releasing closed-source/proprietary “extensions” for WordPress violate the spirit of both the software and the community. I think there is value in continuing he discussion beyond that point, however.

    Are extensions of or to the original, GPL-licensed software bound by the GPL? At this point I mean this at only a technical level. Think about it in a different context: if Twitter was actually open source software, releasing all of their source code under the terms of a GPL-compatible license (say, so you could host your own copy of their site, maybe because they finally grew tired of trying to fix all the fail whales on their own), would pieces of software that use the Twitter API have to also be open source, at least insofar as the software interacts with the Twitter software?

    Is using the themes API for WordPress different? I ask primarily because it’s important that those of us who write software understand these things. If you even think your new start-up business, which is (perhaps naively) based on Twitter’s API, can only succeed (maybe you want to be like TweetDeck? not that I know anything about their goals) if the source code is closed, then you would have to know whether or not this was legally ok. What if Twitter one day went open source and to continue working with their new software versions, you’d have to update your software after they changed their license?

    That may not be a great example, but I still think it’s important to have a civil discussion on whether or not use of an API is considered creating a derivative work that falls under the terms of the software’s (who’s API you are using) license.

    If you want to work with WordPress, then you should want to work with them, on their terms. I don’t know that I can say, though (and no, you didn’t say so in your post) that this applies to working with the API of an open source software.

    • http://Schellack.net schellack

      Wow, can I edit that? I typed it on my iPhone, which put the word “goblins” in there. That is NOT supposed to be part of the comment!

      • John

        haha! what would you like it to be?

        • http://schellack.net schellack

          I believe it was supposed to be “Christians are called to live with integrity”. It’s getting late now though, but I’m tying this in a web browser on a PC that has built-in spell check, not stupid auto-correct-to-words-I-would-never-actually-write.

  • http://tommcfarlin.com Tom

    If nothing else comes from the whole back and forth about Thesis, WordPress, and the GPL, it’s important developers – and active contributors – in the development community to pay attention to this and to take a stance (regardless of what that particular stance may be).

    In a couple of weeks (days?), this is gonna die down and people will on to the next flavor of the week, but for those who are affected by GPL, WordPress, and Thesis, I think this definitely affects decisions made on future projects.

    At any rate, having a level of integrity and knowing what we believe about a given piece of software greatly influences decisions on building, marketing, and/or supporting said software. If you work in this community, this is a relevant issue.

  • http://www.irishmark.net mark

    In this video: http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2010/07/14/wordpress-and-thesis-go-to-battle-mullenweg-may-sue/

    Pearsons comes across a buit like a petulant child. Especially when he uses the analagy of the Louisiana BJ law. It may not be enforced but it’s still a law and could be enforced by the police.

    Not following the GPL code is essentailly breaking the law. You cannot decide for yourself it just doesn’t apply to you.

    What if you wake up with psychotic tendencies one morning: “It’s ok, it feels right to me – in my mind to bludgeon children to death with a giant rubber chicken sits right with me and i don’t care who tells me otherwise” – That;s essentially how he’s playing this.

    I like Matt’s conduct through this. He’s been cool, calm and sticking to the root facts. He comes accross as being such a gentle guy but with also with great integrity – does he know Jesus?

    • John

      i don’t think so, but who knows…! matt handles himself so well… what a model.

      • http://www.irishmark.net mark

        to bludgeon children to death with a giant rubber chicken doesn’t sit right or you don’t think he’s being petulant?

  • http://twitter.com/jeffloper Jeff Loper

    Thanks for this information, John. Very insightful. I was planning on beginning development of my website today and was going to use Thesis, but you very well may have changed my mind. I’m going to check out your Standard Theme now. I’m already familiar with your great work as I used to work at Thomas Nelson and know you’ve done a lot of work for Mike Hyatt.

    • John

      thanks jeff! it’s been awesome working with him.

  • Kevin Cooper

    I agree John. The sole reason that businesses, entrepreneurs and developers are thriving in this economy is due in part to GPL. We can build faster and quite frankly better with CMS like Wordpres. For me, showing the power of WordPress to other businesses and corporations is great and a relief to smaller companies who don’t want or can’t afford a heavy developed site or app. It much more cost effective for them and us to hire someone to build out the site or product on WordPress or other GPL applications.

    To me, Pearson is getting a little too pompous with Thesis.

    • John

      totally agree kevin.

  • http://www.carusophotography.com Jay

    Ok, I am going to play devil’s advocate here for a second.

    Chris’s argument that Thesis is not a derived work is kind of weak. Thesis on its own is useless. It needs WP as a backbone in order to work.

    But, Chris also relies heavily on his affiliate network for sales and not the WP community at large correct? By going GPL, doesn’t that say Thesis is not a “professional” product and would allow Matt and WordPress to undermine his work under for “good of the community” if they wanted? If so, wouldn’t that hinder Chris in the amount of installations he would be able to sell since he’d pretty much have to make available all of his source code under the GPL license?

    As somebody that is not a developer, I don’t really have a dog in this hunt. If I purchase a premium theme, I just want the thing to work nice and be relatively easy to modify with my half-arsed coding skills (which is to say practically non-existent).

    By the same token, Matt could be seen as somebody that’s coming off a little like a bully. Thesis as popular as it may be, still makes up a small percentage of the premium theme community, so I don’t see why Matt is willing to go to court over this. I’d rather the courts stay out of it.

    Hopefully they’ll come to some sort of amicable resolution.

    • John

      no. absolutely not. my themes are GPL and I would say that they are the most professional as possible…! in fact, we’ve thrived under the GPL and have more sales because of it. Other theme developers would share the same sentiment (that they’ve been more successful under the GPL).

      good play devil.

      ;)

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  • http://www.platinumlynx.net Chas

    I just discovered this debate- where do things stand, now?