Tag Archives: Themes

Selling A GPL product is a bad idea

I would not think this sort of thing would need to be explained to someone like matt mullenweg. Here’s the comment I left on his blog, which will probably not make it past the great firewall of matt:

I think I’m missing something –
so I make this “killer” GPL, CSS only theme. you sell it for $50, on the premise that it’s not a generic XXL poncho (I know you said pink, but what you meant was gray with a blue hood). Immediately on release, any self-hosted blog can download it and install it themselves. Since it’s CSS-only, anyone on wordpress.com can pay for the CSS Upgrade and start using it. Suddenly it seems like my theme is another XXL poncho, and the guy who bought it trying to get a unique design is seriously screwed.
I must be thinking about this wrong.

It’s not that there aren’t perfectly valid revenue models based on the GPL. It’s just that this is the only one that isn’t. Once a GPL slice of code is released1. There are (very few) projects that actually sell GPL-ed code. X-chat for windows is the one that comes to mind. It works because compiling source code on windows is such a pain. The more viable methods of making money from GPL software include selling support2, and selling proprietary add-ons.

The way the latter option works with wordpress themes is that the underlying PHP has to be GPL, but the CSS can be any license. Matt, instead is looking for CSS-only, GPL themes. This gets extra bizarre in that any CSS-only theme can be implemented by anyone with the CSS upgrade. Since the themes are GPL, automattic can’t even legally suggest that they shouldn’t do that.

Designing premium themes is already a tough market. At least designers willing to handle the storefront themselves aren’t further hampered by having to open-source their graphics. Arpit is right to question the sensibility of such a marketplace, and Michael Martin reaches a similar conclusion.

  1. Meaning, once it’s been bought, but in this context, Matt is saying that it will also be made available to self-hosted users (back ↩)
  2. CSS support on wordpress.com is currently volunteer-only, staff refuse to touch it (back ↩)

Walk in the Shadows for WordPress.com

This CSS design is an experiment in layout. There are two sidebars stacked vertically. The second sidebar stacks horizonally, visually making 2 sidebars out of 1.  


Walk in the Shadows


A List Apart’s article on typesetting (followed to the letter because IE sucks)
Joen Asmussen’s brilliant idea about adding columns without touching the markup
Dezinerfolio’s web2.0 layer styles
KDE‘s Oxygen icons project
Datestamps inspired by the cover of Eero Saarinen, designed by CoDe Communication and Design


CC-GNU <acronym title='GNU General Public License'><span class='caps'><acronym title='GNU General Public License'><span class='caps'>GPL</span></acronym></span></acronym> This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; version 2 of the License.


Walk in the Shadows CSS

Promised Land for WordPress.com

This design is a single column, fixed width theme, with 2 footer widget areas. 1 area contains 4 widgets that stack horizontally, the other area contains horizontal widgets that stack vertically. The main page highlights the first post, and shows the next 4 as links below the first.  


Promised Land Screenshot


Some abuse of a stock photo by Ryan Ford.
Based on “for elaine“, which became archGFX v02.


CC-GNU <acronym title='GNU General Public License'><span class='caps'>GPL</span></acronym> This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; version 2 of the License.

Creative Commons License

This design is dual-licensed as Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License. Where possible, please include a link to this page for attribution.


Select the Sandbox-10 theme (currently on page 4).  Then open the download link below, and copy the contents into the Edit CSS box, Making sure to check the “Start from scratch and just use this” box.


Promised Land CSS

Speaking of Sandbox themes…

WP Sandbox Logo

Hot on the heels of my own sandbox-based theme, Scott and Andy went ahead and dropped Sandbox v0.9 (0.7 only existed long enough for me to grab it out of SVN and build my theme off of it, and 0.8 had too many revisions to be released. 1.0 existed briefly, before being dragged back into beta-ville). The structural changes are much cleaner, so it’s easier to tweak the hell out of the thing.

The only new design element is that all of the example layouts now use a navigation menu. This is kind of an outgrowth of the skins menu being deleted: the menu HTML is always there, although it can be hidden in CSS (previously skins could disable the HTML).

And yes, the skins menu is gone. this means theme designers can now rely on the sandbox having a specific CSS. hello template: sandbox. 🙂 Accordingly, my skins have become themes:

The thin line uses about 4 lines of PHP to insert a credit link into the footer. The Joshuaink theme uses that plus the custom header API to help you add your own logo. Both themes are under Creative Commons licenses. Whatever waffling the wordpress developers may do about some themes being necessarily GPL, they can’t touch these themes, since they’re entirely CSS, save for API compliance (if API compliance transmitted the GPL, binary linux applications would be impossible).

Also, I’m discontinuing development on Sandbox Unsleepable. If I were to convert it to a theme, it would compete directly with the original, which is not my goal. Since the original has been installed on wordpress.com, there’s also no reason to develop the custom CSS version either.

I only see in infrared

(Click for more Screenshots)

I planed to finish this theme before i rebooted this site, so that I’d only have to worry about customizing my own version of it. instead, life got crazy, and i stopped working on it for a few months. So I’ve had to backport some things from this site, and i’ve developed a bunch of features for the theme, that i have yet to put to use here. So a month late, here it is: A fluid width, light on dark theme with lots of CMS features. Based on the rich semantics of the Sandbox theme

Read about the features | Check out the Demo Blog | Download


it bewilders me that this image is present on the header of Small Potato‘s recently added theme. Small Potato is a decent guy, and after it was pointed out that using the cover of a movie as a header image wasn’t exactly following the letter of copyright law, he announced that people should change it, and modified the theme to remove it. The theme is beautiful in its own right, without the header. How, then, did it sneak past the wordpress.com admins’ notice that the image shouldn’t be installed here?

you might think that they were distracted or confused by the recent license change at wpdesigner, (despite neo-sapien having always been GPL), except that as i mentioned, the theme isn’t available with that header anymore. given that matt doesn’t really understand the concept of relicensing, or why the GPL is such a pain in the ass for designers, i guess i shouldn’t be surprised.

then again, maybe i’m wrong. maybe matt did fork over some cash to Dreamworks to license their IP for all of us here on wordpress.com. personally, i’d think the money could be spent on something better, (like a lawyer) but i’m just a user.

Freedom 4 – The Freedom to claim others’ work as your own

The GPL is a pain in the ass. seriously. It seems that lullacons are the only GPL game in town. I went to check out the Microformats Icons, since i figured that an open standard would have to be devoid of attribution, and owned by a governing body. looks like microformats aren’t that globally minded yet.

they do have cool icons, though:


but they can’t be distributed with wordpress themes. It’s not that i don’t want to attribute the author. it’s the the FSF doesn’t want that to be a requirement upon users of the software. which is why most linux software uses the standard KDE or GNOME icons: it’s too difficult to find their own, or make an entirely new set.

In other news, after the last bit of ads-in-themes arm-waving, and free beer license wavingpointy-headedness, a solution from scott’s themes occured to me:

with a little bit of str_replace() and printf() magic (that i’m especially proud of learning), that input produces this footer:

footer credit

which of course, allows a user to maintain my credit or not, without having to touch code. of course, they could also take the opportunity to say ‘based on’, if they’ve modified it, but i’m not sure how likely either course of action is. It would solve the ‘ads-in-themes’ issue for most people, i would think, since it makes it dead simple to change/remove, if the ad is included the same way. except, of course, it won’t solve it for matt, who’s thinks he’s protecting google’s algorithms. for him, it’d have to be done in javascript. which i won’t do because

UPDATE: The tag icon is here. Here are some light blue ones to match the microformat icons:

tag square add tag tag rss

(obviously these are CC-by-sa, based on the work by  Wolfgang Bartelme).