An Apology and a Question

Earlier today I posted about the GPL and WordPress themes. I was attempting to make a point I feel is important and should be discussed, but obviously did so in a very poor way.

Regardless of my intent, in retrospect I regret the way in which I raised the topic and how I authored the post. I’ve never (intentionally) used this blog as a lightning rod or flame bait, and I didn’t intend to start with that post. My sincere apologies to the theme devs that have recently GPL’ed their code (WooThemes, StudioPress, iThemes and any others).

At the risk of sticking my other foot in my mouth (wouldn’t be the first time), I’d like to revisit one of the core issues around these paid GPL themes, using the following scenario as an illustration.

Imagine: a client comes to me and asks to me to build a site for them using WordPress and a paid GPL theme. The ciient also wants a set of customizations made to the theme and site functionality. Some of the custom functionality requested is different visual treatments for each post, based on the post category. This is a fairly common request for larger publishing sites, and one of the reasons we built the Carrington CMS theme framework (which automates this).

The approach I’d take here is to use the paid GPL theme, and integrate the Carrington framework for handling the post display with custom templates in the paid GPL theme.

Now (assuming the client is fine with releasing the code) I have at worst a reference implementation and at best a working theme that could be useful to other developers, end-users, etc. in the WordPress community.

Everything in the chain (WordPress, the paid GPL theme and the Carrington framework) are all GPL licensed. My preference would be to make this code available so that others can build on it as well. Developers love examples, and I think it would be useful to show how easily the Carrington framework can be surgically integrated into a theme to provide certain functionality and make their lives easier.

What would the reaction be if I released this code?

I think it’s clear from the comments on my last post, there are some people in the community that would think this “isn’t playing fair” or “shows lack of respect”.

Isn’t that the opposite of the spirit of Open Source and the GPL? Shouldn’t we be celebrating the ability to share code and build on what each other has created?

I obviously have a vested interest in the WordPress ecosystem remaining strong. I also want people to be able to make a commercial living in that ecosystem (my team included).

However, I don’t think it’s reasonable to build that ecosystem on the premise that we should ignore certain freedoms of the GPL – and I feel like some folks are asking for that to happen.

I think it’s worth discussing.