2hr Interview With Matt Mullenweg

wordpressweekly1On Thursday, December 18th, I had the honor of having a fireside chat so to speak with Matt Mullenweg. The chat lasted a little over two hours and then, Matt stayed around after the show for an additional two hours to field questions from anybody that asked them. There are a number of things that I have taken away with this chat with Matt and I’ll be listing those in an article in the following days but without a shadow of a doubt, Matt is a stand up guy. He answered all of my questions, even the tough ones which were submitted by the community. While there is room left to debate the GPL and what is or isn’t compliant, Matt answered the GPL questions to the best of his ability and in most cases, his answers are nothing more than his personal opinion since certain aspects of the GPL would be much clearer if there was a court case to stand by.

I really feel as though this two hour recording is the most important recording I’ve made yet and is the biggest contribution I have made so far, back to the community. If there was one podcast that you should listen to as it relates to WordPress, the GPL, Matt’s involvement with Automattic and the Project, this would be it. Special thanks to Matt Mullenweg for agreeing to come on the show to address all of the issues that were presented to him by me.

To get a sample of the information discussed in this episode, here are the list of questions that I asked Matt. After this list, he took questions from anyone that asked them either by those who called in or sent them in the chat.

Why were those themes removed from the repository and if you look back at the situation now, do you think you made a mistake by not making a public post about the removals?

Can you explain why the new guideline was added to the theme repository?

Why is it that so many people within the inner circle of the WordPress community believe you and Automattic don’t want anyone else profiting through or around WordPress?

In your opinion, do you think that premium themes have actually benefited the community by way of furthering the overall development of WordPress themes?

In a recent conversation, I saw you describe premium themes as propietary and how you felt that was a better word than premium. Why is that?

How many of these debates and the way things are done are a result of their not being a court case to go by?

Does it bother you at all to see countless debates on various WordPress theme author sites about the GPL and what is and not compliant with it?

Drupal and Joomla have decided the commercial stuff is okay but why not WordPress?

In November of 2007 hot off the heels of WordCamp Argentina, news came out about a possible theme marketplace where people sold themes through the marketplace and the theme author as well as Automattic each recieved a cut of the profits. Was that your way of trying to help premium theme authors and has their been any progress on the idea?

The Drupal community has debated this GPL/Premium/Theme issue for a while. And a solid understanding has come from it:

A theme is made up of several files – template files (ending in .php), CSS, images and JavaScript. The template files are considered a part of Drupal, which is licensed under the GPL, which means they are not restricted in their redistribution. You are free to share the .php files so others can benefit from them. However, the rest of the theme – images, CSS and JavaScript – is independent from Drupal and owned by us and licensed by you for one website per purchase. You may not publish or share these parts of the themes with anyone else. Please review our EULA for full details. (Taken from a Drupal Theme Developers page)

When the notion of making money by selling themes pops up at WordCamps, you are quick to explain the WordPress.com business model of selling services and building support/value around the prodcut but this model will not work for everyone. What is a premium theme author to do?

I’ve spoken to a few premium theme authors and they tell me that because of the GPL, nothing stops someone from picking up Brian Gardners themes, changing the footer link and then undercutting his business by selling support at a cheaper price. Is that a valid argument?

Redistributing paid themes for free, which is ok under the GPL thus, rendering the business model of selling themes useless, as I understand it. Yet, that hasn’t happened and I wonder if that is because most end users are not aware of the GPL, all they see is the single-use multi-use licenses attached to themes

Is there a way where premium theme companies such as iThemes and you or Automattic can come to a compromise?

Lets say I have a template generator that outputs GPL themes, but has premium features. It could be used to create freebie themes which would be eligible to be in the repository, but since the generator outputs themes with a link back to my site which promotes the premium services, which in turn may be used for creating themes suitable for the repository, but again those themes have a link back to my site.

Is it true that the notion of Child themes which appears to be gaining momentum can be viewed as a loophole as far as the GPL is concerned considering these are themes which are purele CSS and Image based?

At what point do you stop accepting good themes that comply with the GPL because of a connection an author has with commercial themes. How far does it go.

If WP.org is about the community, why are decisions made unilaterally, rather than by the community?

Just out of curiosity, do you get annoyed sometimes by people blaming or mentioning Automattic for the decisions or things that take place for WordPress.org? I mean, Automattic and the WordPress project are two separate things.

What is your role with automattic and what is your role with the wordpress.org project and is their ever a conflict of interest between the two?

In your opinion, how far does the GPL go? CSS, images, phpfiles,

Why have you not used the WordPress development blog to bring forth the issues of GPL and various other aspects of the project?

This whole show has pretty much been dedicated to themes but how does all of this effect plugins, the plugin repository and such?

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Length Of Episode: 2 Hours 11 Minutes

Download The Show: InterviewWithMatt.mp3

Listen To The Special Interview With Matt Mullenweg:

Chat log from those who participated in the chatroom: Special Interview Chat Log