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WordCamps Need to be GPL too now?

WordPress logoJane Wells from Automattic published an update on the WordCamp How To blogtoday which is a warm welcome to anyone wanting to host a WordCamp. I have been lucky enough to help organize a WordCamp here in the Netherlands last year and hope to repeat that this year -yes, you’re all invited :) – and anything and everything is welcome to help make that a smoother experience for all attending.

Guidelines

The newly drafted guidelines are in fact pretty much straight forward on most topic such but there there are some questions it raises.

  1. It’s about everything WordPress. The guidelines state that it for 80% should be about WordPress.
  2. Open to all, easy to access, shared with community.WordCamps are meant to be low-key local gatherings that are affordable — cheap, even — to allow people from all walks of life to attend, meet, share, and learn.
  3. Locally organized and focused. Showcasing local talent and helping local practitioners connect is one of the best things about WordCamp. The best WordCamps tend to have both local and visiting speakers.
  4. Volunteers everywhere. It is generally acknowledged that participating in WordCamps is one of the easiest and most fun ways to give something back to the WordPress community.
  5. Standalone event. The use of the WordCamp name indicates that it is an entire event dedicated to all things WordPress. WordPress “tracks” within larger events such as BarCamp or other conferences may not use the WordCamp name, as they are not standalone events, and it dilutes the brand of both events.
  6. Promotes the philosophies behind WordPress. People or companies in violation of the WordPress license cannot be accepted as event organizers or sponsors, as that would provide promotion to entities acting in opposition to the philosophy behind WordPress. Speakers need to be compliant with the license for the same reason.
  7. It’s not about the money. Most WordCamps use up all their sponsor and ticket money in planning the event, but when there is a surplus, it is expected to be used to benefit the community, not treated as profit to be pocketed.

Sponsors and Speakers

This all sounds very logical and it is good it’s written down, but I do see a few caveats. The first point about but do what do we consider to be about WordPress. Is the act of blogging considered ‘about WordPress’? May sound trivial to bring up something like this, but really, where do we draw the line? This could be interpreted as taking away your flexibility organizing a WordCamp when you already have trouble finding the proper topics.

The sixth point is where it get’s tricky however. “People or companies in violation of the WordPress license cannot be accepted as event organizers or sponsors“. Does this mean we have to block out sponsors as Microsoft and the likes? They are clearly not GPL compliant, and don’t get me wrong, I’m very much in favor of the GPL license, but this does not sound right to me. Same goes for speakers, what if you have perfect speaker and he or she is willing to help out, but because they work for a company that does not support the GPL they won’t be allowed to come? That can’t be right. I can understand that we should try to get behind the GPL as much as possible whenever a WordCamp event is being organized, but I don’t think it is humanly possible to conduct a background check on all sponsors and speakers.

Maybe I’m overreacting here, but having been close in the process of organizing a WordCamp I can’t help but raise these questions and wonder. What’s your take? Have you ever been to a WordCamp, helped out in organzing or just have an opinion about these new guidelines? I’d love to hear about them.

Categories: Opinion, WordPress News
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Comments

  1. David ) says: 5/19/2010

    I have a million more questions. How long is the statute of limitations here. I no longer promote non-gpl stuff, but I used to back before theme developers thought it a good idea to get in line. I’ve spoken up about GPL being a hindrance to the WordPress community. Who decides if a speakers opinions and previous actions can disqualify them from speaking at a WordCamp? Also, there are many companies that aren’t on the “good list” despite following GPL to the letter of the law. If they don’t embrace the “spirit” does that mean they are out too?

    Reply

    • Remkus de Vries ) says: 5/19/2010

      Thanks for weighing in David and yes, those are all good solid questions too. I have no idea what the answer to that one will be..

      Reply

  2. Jane Wells ) says: 5/19/2010

    There seems to be a misinterpretation making the rounds. The only time GPL comes into question is with the distribution of WordPress or WordPress-derivative works. So, a proprietary software company doesn’t use the GPL license, but if it’s not distributing WordPress or WordPress-derivative works (themes, plugins) under that proprietary license, then how they license their own stuff has no bearing. It is only in regard to WP code. The main thing is that it’s not okay for official WordCamp organizers to promote, or the WC sites to basically be serving banner ads (sponsor graphics/links) for, plugins/themes that are not compliant with the WordPress license.

    To the other question, there is a lot of variation in WC programs: some lean more toward blogging while others lean more toward developers, and still others tried to the address the needs/interests of everyone. There’s nothing wrong with some related/niche content. At some point, though, if you have more sessions about Twitter, Facebook, Wave etc. than you do about WordPress, then WordPress really isn’t the main focus of your event, and it should probably be called something else. It’s not meant to be punitive, it’s meant to reduce confusion. This particular point is in pure response to the feedback received from WordCamp attendees, who in some cases did not get what they expected because some past WordCamps have been more focused on social media and other platforms than on WordPress and its uses.

    Reply

    • David ) says: 5/19/2010

      I completely understand making sure that WordCamps are about WordPress primarily. That is not an issue at all. I also get that this is another piece in the campaign against non-GPL plugins and themes.

      The issue that I have is when you make these rules rather than suggestions, they do become restrictive and they just add a layer of confusion to the whole process.

      No one is forced to attend a WordCamp that doesn’t cover subject matter that they want. No one is forced to attend a WordCamp where non-GPL sponsors have made the event possible. I can understand not wanting to list it on Central, but beyond that, I think it is getting a little too “control freak” in my opinion.

      What I am saying is that it would be better to direct the community in positive ways, rather than blocking out the negative through rules and regulations. I bet if you polled your WordCamp organizers, approximately one third might not know the difference between a paid plugin and a non-GPL plugin. The common assumption still exists that Paid = NOT GPL.

      Education is something that WordPress and its community can do quite well when they are guided by a strong leadership. Rules and regulations only create frustration, confusion, and will only serve to reduce the number of great events put on under the WordCamp flag.

      In the end, even if there are non-GPL sponsors, and no WordPress topics, I know that attending a WordCamp is an opportunity to meet like-minded people that share a common interest with me.

      Reply

    • Remkus de Vries ) says: 5/19/2010

      Thanks for weighing in and clearing some stuff up, Jane.

      The main thing is that it’s not okay for official WordCamp organizers to promote, or the WC sites to basically be serving banner ads (sponsor graphics/links) for, plugins/themes that are not compliant with the WordPress license.

      I understand that this is what the goal is, and should be, but are you going to no to any and all WordCamp organizers who somewhere have Thesis running?

      There’s nothing wrong with some related/niche content. At some point, though, if you have more sessions about Twitter, Facebook, Wave etc. than you do about WordPress, then WordPress really isn’t the main focus of your event, and it should probably be called something else.

      Fair enough. I know of some WordCamp events where there were very little actual WordPress topics.

      I do think the communication about this subject (GPL) might have been better of with less room to argue of unclarity imho. I think David words it very nicely:

      What I am saying is that it would be better to direct the community in positive ways, rather than blocking out the negative through rules and regulations. I bet if you polled your WordCamp organizers, approximately one third might not know the difference between a paid plugin and a non-GPL plugin. The common assumption still exists that Paid = NOT GPL.

      Reply

  3. Ron ) says: 5/19/2010

    “Does this mean we have to block out sponsors as Microsoft and the likes?”

    How does Microsoft violate the WordPress license? The WordPress license only applies to software based on WordPress. Are they selling commercial WordPress based software (ie. plugins/themes) that is non-GPL?

    Reply

    • David ) says: 5/19/2010

      WordPress license and GPL have been interchanged constantly. Microsoft is not an entirely GPL friendly company. WordPress’ license is GPL (sorta). Hence the connection can easily be made that Microsoft can’t sponsor WordCamps. This is the type of confusion I talk about in my other comment.

      Reply

      • Ron ) says: 5/19/2010

        Is Microsoft distributing the wrapper? If they are just using it themselves, it doesn’t matter what license they have it under.

        If Microsoft wrote the wrapper themselves, they OWN it vs having it under a license.

        Reply

    • Remkus ) says: 5/19/2010

      They do wrap their software around a WordPress installation? I’m assuming that installer is not GPL’ed.

      Reply

      • Ron ) says: 5/19/2010

        Sorry, clicked the wrong reply link. My reply above was to the question asked by Remkus.

        Reply

    • David ) says: 5/19/2010

      Here’s the quote from Jane’s post:

      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. It is the official policy of WordCamp that WordCamps not provide publicity/a platform for such individuals/businesses. They are welcome to attend, but WordCamps may not have non-GPL-compliant people as organizers, sponsors, or speakers.

      See, they don’t mean companies in violation of WordPress’ license, but instead GPL.

      Reply

      • Remkus de Vries ) says: 5/19/2010

        See, they don’t mean companies in violation of WordPress’ license, but instead GPL.

        WordPress’s license = GPL, no?

        Reply

      • David ) says: 5/19/2010

        Yeah, I was just clearing it up for the previous person that thought WordPress’ license and GPL were two different things.

        Reply

      • Otto ) says: 5/19/2010

        No. I disagree with your strange interpretation. They clearly mean the WordPress license here, which, for clarification, is indeed the GPLv2.

        The two are the same wording, but they are not interchangeable. If I break the GPL on some other software package, WordPress doesn’t have the standing to sue me. I didn’t break their license.

        Microsoft is a GPL friendly company, for the most part. They’ve broken it in the past, but when they have done so they have then released their changes back in order to comply with the license. They’ve released much software under the GPL in the past as well.

        Reply

      • David ) says: 5/19/2010

        I guess my question then would be “do I have to have any sponsors that are related to WordPress in any definitive way?” I guess the smart thing for organizers to do would be to get companies like Microsoft, ISP’s, Web Hosts, etc to sponsor their events instead of WordPress product creators since then they don’t have to worry at all about the GPL vs Not-GPL issue.

        Reply

    • Franky Branckaute ) says: 5/19/2010

      How does Microsoft violate the WordPress license?

      Windows Live Writer is a Microsoft product offered ‘free’ to Windows users. Because WLW hooks in to a WP specific function this does require that WLW the GPL inherits.

      But as a Live.com service, WLW has an installation procedure integrated within the Live Service and does not come with GPL license (let alone a stand-alone file with the GPL).

      Thus WLW, and subsequently MSFT, are not GPL compliant.

      Edit: Corrected has no an installation… to has an installation….

      Reply

      • Otto ) says: 5/19/2010

        Ummm… No.

        Windows Live Writer, and other tools, implement the client part of an open API specification in order to talk to WordPress or other blogging tools.

        So while WLW is indeed not GPL, this does not make Microsoft in violation of the WordPress license. It is not a derivative of WordPress. Implementing an open spec doesn’t a derivative create.

        Reply

      • Franky Branckaute ) says: 5/19/2010

        Going back to WordPress Themes are GPL Too on the WordPress.org blog, the Software Freedom Law Center notes that:

        The PHP elements, taken together, are clearly derivative of WordPress code. The template is loaded via the include() function. Its contents are combined with the WordPress code in memory to be processed by PHP along with (and completely indistinguishable from) the rest of WordPress. The PHP code consists largely of calls to WordPress functions and sparse, minimal logic to control which WordPress functions are accessed and how many times they will be called. They are derivative of WordPress because every part of them is determined by the content of the WordPress functions they call. As works of authorship, they are designed only to be combined with WordPress into a larger work.

        As far as I understand, I am not a lawyer nor do I use Windows, the same applies to the WP functionality within WLW. Also because WLW offers the option to have a live view, WYSIWYG with display of your blog’s theme, thus certainly relying on specific WP functionality.

        Reply

      • Otto ) says: 5/19/2010

        I’m not intimately familiar with how the Instant Preview functionality works, however I don’t believe it “downloads the theme” in a PHP format.

        I think that it creates a special post on the blog with special tags, then downloads the HTML off the blog site itself, and removes the post. This allows it to display the preview and fill in the blanks, as it were, in order to display that. But it can’t render the actual content from the blog for any randomly given theme, so it has the blog render it for it then saves that end-result.

        It’s a neat trick, but not really a GPL violation.

        Reply

  4. David ) says: 5/19/2010

    Wow.. I think we got off topic and went back to the same old GPL vs not arguments of past which have little bearing on the conversation of this post. Any one specific example of GPL vs not doesn’t matter. In the end, the question is “who decides?”

    Reply

  5. Ron ) says: 5/19/2010

    @franky (since we reached the maximum thread depth) calling a function (ex. the_permalink() ) or adding your function to WordPress via the WordPress hook system (ex. add_action(‘init’,’my_function’) ) create a situation where “Its contents are combined with the WordPress code in memory to be processed by PHP along with (and completely indistinguishable from) the rest of WordPress.”

    Livewriter calls xmlrpc.php and uses it as an external web service via the HTTP_POST function. What Livewriter posts to the webserver is an XML file. At no time is any of Livewriter’s code loaded in the web server’s memory.

    Reply

    • Franky Branckaute ) says: 5/19/2010

      Ron,

      First I just added one more level to the comments. :)

      Thanks for that explanation, knowing this I gladly stand corrected.

      Reply

  6. Ron ) says: 5/19/2010

    @Remkus – The Microsoft installer is not PHP code. So, it definitely does not create a situation where “Its contents are combined with the WordPress code in memory to be processed by PHP along with (and completely indistinguishable from) the rest of WordPress.”

    Reply

    • Remkus ) says: 5/19/2010

      Yeah, I understand it better now. Otto gave a good example too at the WP Tavern.

      Reply

  7. David ) says: 5/19/2010

    Looks like there has been lots of great discussion everywhere. I guess the one thing I’ll say in closing for my own thoughts is that I hope these become suggestions, and I hope, as they’ve done in the past with Extend and whatnot, they’ll manage these issues through the sites that they control (WordCamp Central) rather than impose on other people and events.

    I also hope that I am not in the bad pile for any comments and whatnot from my past…

    Reply

  8. Eric Marden ) says: 5/20/2010

    The bottom line is that the new policies are meant to ensure the integrity and quality of WordCamp branded events, and while it did unearth the age old debate over GPL inheritance, at the end of the day, having more quality WordPress events is obviously good thing for the community. I blogged my thoughts about this in a more verbose form here: http://xentek.net/editorial/712/i-for-one-welcome-our-new-wordcamp-overlords/

    Reply

    • Remkus ) says: 5/20/2010

      Thanks for commenting Eric. I do truly appreciate that bottom line as I mentioned in my post, I just would’ve loved to see more clarity in the guidelines posts.

      Reply

  9. Adriana says: 2/25/2012

    thanks for share!

    Reply