May 19, 2010
UPDATE: Comments are closed. I appreciate Jane’s response at comment #9 and yes, I give her the benefit of the doubt. I didn’t write this looking for or spoiling for a fight and now that I got a response from Jane that is materially oomphy, comments are closed. Blog about it on your own sites if you wish to continue but in the service to the truth make a note that Jane has responded.
UPDATE 2: Following a real-life conversation with Jane, this post is considered moot and have written a follow-up. This issue is over and done.
The problem with blanket policies [a very acerbic clause was removed on the advice of a friend] is that you end up causing collateral damage beyond what is, in retrospect, necessary to achieve one’s goals. The same holds true for writing policy statements that have wide-ranging effects on a particular activity. This morning, Jane Wells drops a hydrogen bomb on the WordPress community. The first paragraph is pablum, the second is where the bodies start vaporizing. I will scrutinize in a rarely-used format in tech blogging, called “Fisking.” (All emphases are mine.) Here we go:
One thing that we didn’t used to spell out but has become necessary to codify is that WordCamps are meant to promote the philosophies behind WordPress itself. Lately there have been a number of WordCamps accepting speakers, sponsorships, door prizes, etc from people/companies acting in violation of the WordPress license (GPL v2) with regard to their themes/plugins.
What is the tolerance limit here? When you say “with regard to their themes/plugins,” how do you know? What’s the disqualifying standard? Is it: “all themes/plugins made by a speaker/sponsor/door prize provider have to be GPL v2,” or is it “some themes/plugins” or is it “at least one theme/plugin”?
It is the official policy of WordCamp that WordCamps not provide publicity/a platform for such individuals/businesses.
“WordCamp” is an entity now? I understand that Automattic might want to claim the name as a trademark long after the fact, the way a “tweet” has been filed as a trademark by Ev. Ambiguous language.
They are welcome to attend, but WordCamps may not have non-GPL-compliant people as organizers, sponsors, or speakers.
So, there goes Microsoft and their wads and wads of cash that they handed to WordCamp NYC. Too bad it would be nice to court their sponsorship with every WordCamp, but oh well.
Events that want to move forward and include such individuals in these roles may need to use a name other than WordCamp if the appropriate adjustments can’t be made.
This preemptive declaration of personae non gratae is disturbing.
This is because WordCamps are seen as the place to gather for the official word on all things WordPress; providing a public platform and publicity in an official capacity for people acting in direct opposition to the official word just causes confusion.
Individual WordCamps already warns sponsors and speakers that is not “pitch time.” What is this “official word,” and why does the presence of non-GPL “people” assume “direct opposition?” If a commercial, non-GPL plugin or theme developer wants to present at a WordCamp about something that gives them no additional exposure aside from their work being mentioned (e.g. said person wants to present about CSS, or an improved workflow, or wants to share about how WordPress changed their lives) does that make them unwelcome? By Jane Wells’ Standard As Of May Nineteenth In The Year Of Our Lord Two Thousand And Ten, Anil Dash would’ve been unwelcome for the keynote event in WordCamp MidAtlantic 2009.
I have no problem with the last paragraph so I’m leaving it out. Now, a message for Jane. This is going to be stern, but I’ll keep it professional. There is NO room in official policy for “common sense.” It’s for this reason that when you want the top brass of the strongest military in the world to spend a shit ton of money on your brownies, you have to follow a 26-page recipe (PDF) that spells out very specific policy, down to the last standard of what nuts may be used. Official policy statements are like that. Having worked in government sales, and having filled up immigration forms to legally enter this country, ambiguity is the enemy. Now that you are the official liaison for all WordCamp organizing, you’ll learn that while it would be nice to have your word as the Law Of The Land, there will be people like myself who will challenge you to make your statements clearer. I want to organize a WordCamp one day. I do 100% custom work, and the only “theme” I released to the wild is a palette-swap of Classic, back in 2003. I license all PHP in my work under GPL, but not the CSS and images, so my clients won’t turn around and give away a custom work I made for them. Does that disqualify me? Will I have to disqualify someone who made one commercial, non-GPL plugin?
Laying down the law never means having the last word. It means leaving oneself up open to questions. While I may be “just a guy” I know the questions I pose are fair and I would like to get an answer, preferably blogged by Jane on her own site, that more people will see her response.