If you’re involved in the WordPress community you have probably heard of Ian Stewart. He’s the fellow running the ThemeShaper blog, home to lots and lots of posts on WordPress and its future. Ian is also responsible for Thematic, a popular WordPress theme that he proposes to be used as a framework for other themes.
And now he’s also responsible for a WordPress link site called Wpazo, and that was what sparked this interview, that also touches on his view of premium themes as well as the GPL and the proposed WordPress admin redesign.
Congratulations on the launch of Wpazo! Why did you feel the need to create it?
There were a few reasons. Mainly because there wasn’t any place like it in the WordPress community. Someplace that filtered out all of the link-baiting, system-gaming, garbage and merely pointed to the good stuff. Something like the best of delicious, digg, twitter, your feedreader and Google, all wrapped up in something incredibly digestible: hand-filtered links to the best WordPress stuff with minimal description, fluff, or cruft, posted as fast as it was happening.
Plus, it’s something I felt like I needed to do. Like a lot of bloggers, I’m cursed with the desire to share extremely focused, geeky information on niche subjects—don’t get me started on Comic Books or Rock ‘n Roll. Consequently, I’d been sharing a lot of information on Twitter that I felt otherwise diluted my ThemeShaper blog, like links to cool themes I had no part in, and short, but powerful, WordPress tips. I thought it was time to put it all in one place.
You’re known for the free WordPress theme Thematic. You’re selling child-themes for this, doesn’t that clash with the GPL license?
Not at all. The GPL places no restrictions on selling code. And the Child Themes I’m selling for Thematic are licensed under the GPL. The code can be re-used and re-factored in other projects.
What do you think about premium themes in general?
That’s a tough one! I like a lot of the personalities involved in the selling of the more popular Premium Themes and I like their work. But in general?
In general, I used to worry about them. I worried about the effect they’d have on WordPress in the future—a common complaint with CMSs like Joomla being that everything good costs—and I worried about Premium Themes ruining the future of WordPress theming.
Like everyone who’s ever made a WordPress Theme I started out copying GPL code from other themes. Proprietary licenses place a moral and legal restriction on this. That’s not good at all if you think redistribution of code is what’s really good for the WordPress Theme community.
The phrase used in the Scientific community is, “standing on the shoulders of giants”. Learning and innovation becomes a game of leapfrog where newcomers are leaping exponentially higher at every turn. That’s something that really excites me about Open Source Software. And whether we like it or not, WordPress Themes are Open Source Software.
In the end though, I’m pretty sure that all the PHP code in every distributed WordPress Theme—even the Themes you buy with restrictive licenses—actually is fully GPL code (the CSS is another matter). Meaning you can do whatever you want with it.
As a designer, what are your thoughts on the proposed WordPress admin designs that Automattic had us vote for a little while back?
I didn’t like them. I’m one of the folks that voted for keeping the current look! The current look is awesome. But then, I didn’t like the initial move towards the awesome Crazyhorse design pattern that became the current admin interface. What do I know?
Thord Daniel Hedengren is a designer, writer, and blogger, and also the former editor of The Blog Herald. He used to be a hotshot in the gaming industry in Sweden, but sold everything and went International. Most recently he wrote a book called Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog, and does loads of kickass design.