Who Does She Think She Is?

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Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Posted by Joni in General

This tempest in a teapot has been brewing for a few days now. The issue, at WordPress Theme Repository, is sponsored links. There’s currently a witch hunt afoot to ban sponsored themes from the theme repository. Matt Mullenweg, a co-founder of WordPress, has called for their removal and has posted this.

I find this:

… people participating in unethical advertising….

particularly galling. But it appears there’s a moral crisis going on there since the handful of featured themes that have been there for oh so many years is now gone as well. I’m not sure what to make of all this, except that it seems to me to be much ado about nothing and a feeble attempt to protect the dumb end user from his own folly. The original post stated that the presence of sponsored themes at the theme repository “confuses users.” Everything confuses the WP user. Just take a look at the Support Forum.

It’s also interesting to me as a web designer and someone who has created over a dozen free themes released on the theme repository that those same users who pretend to be so dumb that they cannot figure out how to change link colors have no problem whatsoever editing my “Designed by…” links right out of the footer.

Bottom line: I’m not really opposed or unopposed to sponsored links. If there is full disclosure, no one is hurt. If there is no full disclosure, whether it be sponsored links on a theme repository or hidden links on a CMS web site (cough), then I have a problem with it. Otherwise, just as with everything else in life, caveat emptor.


  1. hso

    I believe this reality check was necessary since there have been numerous folks claiming that linking to any ?unrelated site? would automatically drop your Page Rank. Sadly, most people using WordPress are not in the Open Source CMS business, so should they remove the ?Powered by WordPress? link? Sponsored or not, links to those who facilitated the creating of the work is done ?purely as a gesture of appreciation?.

    One big assumption we are all making is that among us, there are people using WordPress who are able to download a file, uncompress it, and FTP a theme to their server, activate it, customize it even, and yet they don?t know how to delete a footer link!

    The issue is more than just ?designers making money? I think; the buck stops with the designers, yet they get free file hosting, advertising and distribute the themes and that might be bothering some folks, especially since there is a big struggle to keep the repositories operating.


  2. Jay

    You do make some strong points that I do agree with. The biggest one is “disclosure”.

    If full intention about the links is disclosed and sneaky methods to prevent the removal on the links or attempts are made to hide them – then I raise an eyebrow to those ethics.


  3. Root

    Even worse is that dumb fuck Mullenweg has moderated (deleted) my very neutral inoffensive and anodyne comment. He does this kind of stunt regularly. The guy really is an ass hole.


  4. Matt

    Root, do mean this comment? Take a chill pill.

    Joni, you find it galling that I made a similar mistake? When I realized the purpose of the links and articles was to game search engines, not what the guy told me, I broke the contract took them down immediately.

    Do you think the links gaming search engines are wrong or not? You can’t condemn what I did and say link spam in themes is okay.


  5. Joni

    Matt, you’re not picking up what I’m putting down. If you read my post above, you’ll see that my view is basically, sponsored links are fine and dandy, as long as there’s DISCLOSURE. It’s the sneaky and underhanded way in which some of them are slid past users that I have a problem with. Ditto the 2005 Google incident. And what I find galling about it is its hypocrisy.

    Okay, so it’s behind you. Why are we having this big moral epiphany now? To the point where the featured themes were removed and we are now rethinking the default blogroll.

    And one more thing, link spam. Not all links in sponsored themes are spam so I think that is being extremely knee-jerk reactive. Again, a tempest in a teapot and much ado about, basically, nothing. :)

    What gives?


  6. Mark


    I agree with you 100%. And I love the title of your post. :)

    WordPress.org belongs to Matt, he can do whatever he wants; if he wants he can remove any theme, why just sponsored themes? I will not be angered with whatever he does; he has all rights to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.

    But what is pissing me off is the “reason” behind it, or the many who don’t stop acting like Gods or an epitome of morality or charity. I think to label everyone “unethical” just because those views don’t match with theirs is a stretch.

    Matt, I suggest let’s move on to the real issue behind this. It’s high time you charge us fees for being on your sites, now if you said what we do to you is “unethical”, I would probably agree, rather than allege we are “unethical” because we didn’t do something for the users as per the user’s terms and conditions for free. Free is free. If someone gave me a 2 day free trip to an “island vacation”, I would say “thanks”, I won’t say offer me a free trip to “Necker island”.

    Just FYI, users don’t even bother to keep designer links, so it’s incorrect to say that they can’t remove sponsor links, and if they can’t, how difficult is it to ask how to do it. We provide free support all the time, don’t we?

    Joni, I don’t feel interested to write on that thread anymore. I’m fine if the themes have to be removed, let them be removed. I’m not interested in a debate that starts with a verdict.

    On a different note, thanks for your email, it was sweet. :)


  7. Mark

    Whooami says:

    “The ultimate arbiter is and should, Matt. He pays the damn hosting bill.”

    Thanks, Whooami, for bringing that up. That’s exactly the point. It’s the hosting bill that is the real issue, not the links.


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