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Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

WordPress and GPL – A Discussion

WPTavern has posted an interesting discussion in the form of a chat transcript pertaining to the issues surrounding GPL(and Non-GPL) licensing of WordPress themes. If you are a theme creator, or just have an interest in the legal aspects of GPL licensing of WordPress themes, I’d recommend checking it out.

It’s a fairly informal discussion between Ryan Hellyer (of PixelPoint.com) and an unnamed “specialist in copyright law”. And while Ryan freely admits to not knowing whether what this “specialist” says is true or not, the discussion is pretty interesting.

They get into some details that often seem to be overlooked when discussing GPL licensing, such as having a copyright to the design of a theme separate from the backend code, and beach of contract issues. Law geeks will probably get the most of out it, but it’s not too full of legalese, so most people should be able to follow it if they are interested to learn more about the subject.

Take it all with a grain of salt though, since the “specialist” is unnamed, and his opinion is just that, HIS opinion.

That said, what are YOUR thoughts on the matter of GPL and Non-GPL licensed themes?

Categories: Opinion, WordPress News

Plugin and Theme Licensing Wars

Since the inception of WordPress there have been fights over licensing plugins and themes. Some people believe that WordPress themes and plugins automatically inherit the GPL license, and others contest this, but does the licensing really matter?

I believe two things matter: what is in it for the developer, and is the community served?

I don’t believe that the GPL is providing for the developers nor truly living up to what the community needs.

Consider this:

You’ve just created an amazing plugin, it took you over a dozen hours, and you’ve given it out to the community for free.

Now they come to you for support, and you try your best to provide them with the answers they need, adding another two hours per week to your “work”. WordPress then changes in some major way, and you have to recode your plugin to work under the new “rules” of WordPress, adding another two hours of development time to your plugin.

All of this time spent is from the goodness of your heart, but it becomes tiring. One day, you decide to start charging for support. Each request is only two dollars, and you go from needing to spend two hours a week to only spending two hours a month on support related inquiries.

The problems didn’t disappear though, instead the WordPress community forums are littered with people asking for help with your plugin, and they are getting answers, thus bypassing your new business enterprise completely.

You feel frustrated that the hours you originally and continue to put have been rewarded in such a way, and in the end you never make back in community currency, links or actual money the investment that you had put into the project.

Where is the benefit to continue? You either end up discontinuing your work or finding ways to try to drive business to yourself, only to have your plugin removed from the WordPress Plugins repository for not being “GPL enough”. Someone else forks your work and continues on, paying no homage to the original idea creator, you.

Sound like fiction? I have no doubt that this has been the case for at least a few WordPress theme and plugin developers as the GPL creates a number of limitations with no business model set up to reward those that spend the time adding to the community.

Flip that around and remove the GPL, and the plugin author could have built a business around the plugin, while still remaining in the forefront of the community. The monetary benefit would have hopefully changed the market in two ways.

The first way would be that the plugin developer would have been more likely to spend time developing their plugin continually. The second change would be that popular plugins would have to compete in the market in both price and features.

I don’t believe that GPL is the great equalizer and protector, and I also believe that within five years, WordPress will see much of their current plugin and theme development rock stars move onto other platforms that don’t have such restrictive licensing.

iThemes now has a Movable Type store. How long will it be until more theme developers follow suit? Habari’s license allows the creators to manage and sell their work under any license they like, allowing for true business to be built around their platform.

Categories: Opinion, WordPress Plugins, WordPress Themes

Blog your heart out

Wired.com writer Paul Boutin recently wrote an article in the entertainment/web section about how blog writing is so 2004. He says that:

Writing a weblog today isn’t the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It’s almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.

I found myself nodding a little because I too have seen too many blogs that are more inclined to echo the hype about something great, something awesome or something to buy.  There’s a place for that, I know.  But sometimes I sense it isn’t just right.  Like if I use something and I blog about it, i believe that’s pure.  But if I write something and say it’s great but haven’t tried it, well there’s the rub.  But in the same breath I’d say too that I’ve read blogs that are deep, well thought of, sharing true-blue useful stuff.

If you want to start blog writing, go ahead.  Easier to setup now than way back 2004.  Write for others or write for yourself or for your community, your choice.  Just be aware that readers sense what your stuff is really about. And are wise to dismiss you with a click.  We are all just a click away.

I like Twitter, Facebook and Flickr too by the way.  

Is blogging sooo 2004 for you?  Tell me, tell me, tell me… 

 

Categories: Opinion

Social Networking for suckers?

 

CNet’s Loaded (Sept 10 episode) with Natalie del Conte is spot on when she says that AT&T’s and Verizon’s try on adding a social networking feature as add-on services for their mobile users are “unthinkables”.  She’s right, it is for suckers, why would you pay to access a social network on your phone when there are several ways you can do it for FREE.  AT&T’s “social life” and Verizon’s “my community” is charging its users monthly fees of $2.99 and $1.49 respectively.

(hey, isn’t this part of their wireless stake they’re trying to plant since way back 2007)

Both of them will allow you to aggregate your social networking accounts into one application and manage them from there.

At any rate, this seems to be a clear indication about the growth of social networks… blogging networks in particular too.  If big companies, specially the telcos, are now looking into making money with content (or easy access to it) you can predict that soon enough, they’d be digging their hands into content too.

Is that good or bad news for us… well, honestly I couldn’t tell now.  But my opinion would be these telcos will give us all a great service if they focus on improving easy access to content, and much sensible rates too… like FREE! :)  Or premium services for much more in return.

 

 

Categories: Opinion

Are Bloggers Feeling the Crunch?

Stocks values are falling. Big investment banks are filing for bankruptcy. A colleague on the Blog Herald recently wrote a piece on how blogs are weathering the economic crunch that’s being felt worldwide today. Easton Ellsworth writes:

The key lesson for blog networks and solo blogs alike in this time of possible recession may be this: Develop quick reflexes or perish. As McCord says, “In every good business, there comes a time when pruning is necessary.”

What do you think? How can blog networks and professional bloggers succeed in a struggling economy?

For most people who don’t blog for profit or income, perhaps they don’t directly feel the effects of the crunch on their blogging activities. But for us who are in the business of blogging, we would inevitably feel some effect sooner or later. Blog networks, being business entities, would most likely face some decline in earnings. But how about individual bloggers?

For bloggers who earn directly from advertising revenue and sponsorships, the worry here is that advertisers would cut back on their online ad spending. So whether it’s for directly-sold sponsorship spots or revenue shares in ad networks, there could be a decline in earnings.

For bloggers who work for blog networks, meanwhile, the big worry is job security. With the fear of blog networks folding up, the future might be bleak. Or at least with some blog networks restructuring their pay schemes, the question is whether this would turn out to be beneficial or not. Bloggers who perform well might find this a better proposition, but those whose blogs aren’t exactly popular might not.

In my view, though, blogs and blog networks are better able to weather economic declines compared to other businesses. For one, the overhead is small. Unlike brick and mortar establishments, we don’t have to pay any lease or rent for office space, office utility bills, and costs for other administrative work. Yes, we do spend for hosting, domains, electricity, design and development, and even equipment. And of course, for the moneyed networks, acquisition of online properties. But that’s as far as overhead goes. I would say that much of our expenditure is on creative staff, and hopefully the good output is there!

But still, the effect remains to be seen. Will we feel the crunch? If not directly, then perhaps indirectly–with rising costs of living and such. So Easton’s advice to develop quick reflexes makes perfect sense.

New media is ever-changing. So bloggers’ and blog networks’ ability to change and shift focus quickly should be quick enough.

Image source

Categories: Opinion
Tags: , ,

Re-inventing your style

 

I was talking with a young blogger this morning about writing styles.  He was a little worried that he’ll soon tire out his readers, or himself, if he continued the way he writes.  In honesty, I told him that I too needed coaching because I am in the same situation as he is.  We just found comfort to the fact that “pobody’s nerfect”.  And that asking for help is the first step to knowing where you are and knowing where you’d like to go.

I remember I had this conversation before with a great book writer, Francis.  I asked how he has reached his status as a much sought after speaker and writer.  He responded with just a word… “read”.  He said, “Jim, you cannot possibly give what you do not have.  You have to read, to write well”.  

Words of wisdom I know, but to tell you honestly, that wasn’t a light bulb moment for me.  :)  But because I respected him and what he says, I followed.  Good thing I did.

So going back to my young blogger friend.  I told him to …

  1. you guessed it… “read”.  And you know, this morning wasn’t a light bulb moment for him too, but I know time will come and it will be one.  “Trust me, read”… I know he will.  
  2. I told him to write a post to try to get his readers to comment on his writing style.  It doesn’t hurt to ask, and readers are very very honest too.
  3. I told him to write a post in three different ways… present each on his blog and get his readers to comment on it.  
  4. lastly, I told him to “be original”.  Don’t try to copy how others write, try to develop a style that you’re comfortable with.  Know your audience and know how best to communicate with them.

I admire a lot of blog writers.  Them from CNet, Engadget, DVice and Gizmodo… to name a few.  They write differently but I enjoy them equally with no favorites.  Not a day passes that I do not read these blogs to devour a whole gamut of stuff.  I just read and read these days.  And I do find it really helpful when I begin to write my own sets of posts.

 

 

 

Categories: Opinion

Update: The Olympic Blogosphere

Monday morning, I’m off to a happy start.  Got my cup of java to my left and my trusty mouse at the right, firing up my iTunes to download my daily podcasts.  Currently listening to CNet’s Buzz Out Loud online (episode 779).

Here’s an update from the Olympics post I made regarding China’s allegedly strict rules on internet information access to and fro journalists and “media” tourists covering/enjoying the Olympic festivities.  From a report by the New York Times, China has apparently heard and is “bowing to criticism from Olympic officials, foreign journalists and Western political leaders, and have lifted some of the restrictions that blocked Web sites at the main press center for the Games, although other politically sensitive sites remained inaccessible Friday.

The government made no announcement about the partial lifting of its firewall, and it was unclear if the change would be temporary. The International Olympic Committee also sought Friday to counter statements by its top press official, who had suggested that I.O.C. negotiators had quietly acquiesced to the government’s restrictions.   (from a report by Andrew Jacobs, The New York Times)

This is a great turning point that will surely have a direct affect on the Olympic spirit.  I am hoping that bloggers too would find it easy to access their blogs not only in media centers but also in public internet access areas.  Complementing facts and figures that mainstream media offers, the world will benefit from experiential writing/media that bloggers are known for.   I, for one, would encourage blogging to be a part of the Olympic experience.  While blogging hasn’t really made a mark in the past 2004 Olympics, I believe NOW would be an opportune time to include it as part of the the Olympic fodder.  Would you agree?

 

Categories: Opinion

The Olympic Blogosphere

Internet censorship

 

Read an article from Yahoo’s internet section regarding China’s censorship of websites for the duration of the olympic season.  China’s internet law includes even foreign journalists, teams and even tourists… they would all find it a little hard to open what once was just accessible sites.

OpenNet Initiatives published a study on China’s internet censorship law based on the 2004-2005 period.  While access was restricted to basically blocking topics that are political by nature, sensitive and controversial, it has evolved to include many other topics a little less trivial.

“China’s Internet filtering regime is the most sophisticated effort of its kind in the world. Compared to similar efforts in other states, China’s filtering regime is pervasive, sophisticated, and effective. It comprises multiple levels of legal regulation and technical control. It involves numerous state agencies and thousands of public and private personnel. It censors content transmitted through multiple methods, including Web pages, Web logs, on-line discussion forums, university bulletin board systems, and e-mail messages. Our testing found efforts to prevent access to a wide range of sensitive materials, from pornography to religious material to political dissent. Chinese citizens seeking access to Web sites containing content related to Taiwanese and Tibetan independence, Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama, the Tiananmen Square incident, opposition political parties, or a variety of anti-Communist movements will frequently find themselves blocked. While it is difficult to describe this widespread filtering with precision, our research documents a system that imposes strong controls on its citizens’ ability to view Internet content. ” – from OpenNet

What I am curious of right now is how this will all work with a worldwide media event.  Traditional media is one thing, the blogging media is another.  Tourist flocking the games will surely be a little frustrated that they may be restricted to visit their own blogs to post their time in China.  That is, IF their blogs have phrases or keywords that the Chinese government deem as “controversial”.

I would be interested to find out the impact to the blogging world.  I would probably venture a “free the blogs” campaign in the offing?  Who knows, it is likely to happen.

You can see more info on China’s internet policy here, here and here.

Comments?

 

 

Categories: Interesting, Opinion

Are URLs on the Path to Extinction?

A recent Wisdump commentary describes how marketing campaigns are asking people to search using keywords rather than type specific URLs.

I am sure you have at least one friend or loved one who has not grasped the concept of URLs and remains highly dependent on Google for finding their way around the web. If you’ll take a closer look at their web browsers, you’ll see why it really isn’t their fault.

The very nature of URLs seems to be another major stumbling block. Ordinary people don’t understand the use of a “www” and a “.com”, or that the “@” symbol is used only in e-mail addresses. They don’t know how to share websites through URLs either—unless there’s a button with explicit instructions that tell them how.

Add to that the explosion of all the domain suffixes like .me, .travel, and even .xxx. Not to mention all the malicious parties that wish to take advantage of their ignorance—stealing and spoofing personal information through misspelled URLs, search keywords, and deceptive e-mails.

For me, the analogy would be this. Using URLs to go to webpages is like giving an exact, specific street address. Like Number 5 Main Avenue, Gotham City, or the like. Going to a website via a search engine would be like giving landmarks and asking people to look for signages. It’s like telling a friend to go to Main Avenue, look for the big brown building across City Hall, with the green revolving door. At the ground floor of that building would be your shop, which is right next to the florist’s.

Complicated, eh? My point is that I agree with Ia’s commentary that this would involve some search optimization on the part of the website owner. What if the florist closed shop? What if the building administrator painted the revolving door red? Then your friend would have a hard time finding you. Two years from now, the building might even be grey or blue-colored.

Accessing sites via search engines works this way, too. Today you might be number one for the keyword blogging pro on Google. Tomorrow, we may not be.

Another analogy would be the use of telephone numbers. You can call or SMS me on my exact, specific phone number, complete with country code, area code and number. You can also search for me by calling a directory service or 411, but that doesn’t always work the way I would want it to. The phone company might have several people named “Angelo Racoma.” Or I might not be listed at all. And of course, some people would rather be able to contact me directly.

So are URLs here to stay? Of course they are. It’s just perhaps that a lot of people are increasingly finding it convenient to just key in a phrase or keyword onto that ubiquitous search box at the top of the browser window. No more keying in WWW or .COM. Even that causes confusion, with the multitude of top-level domains.

In the future, URLs might just take a backseat, with more and more people doing searches than directly keying in web addresses. I can liken this to AOL and Compuserve. Remember the old times, when companies asked you to key in AOL keywords to access their portals, rather than URLs?

Categories: Blogging Sense, Opinion
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