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The Word of the Day is “Derivative”

Matt on the WordPress.org blog:

If WordPress were a country, our Bill of Rights would be the GPL because it protects our core freedoms. We’ve always done our best to keep WordPress.org clean and only promote things that are completely compatible and legal with WordPress’s license. There have been some questions in the community about whether the GPL applies to themes like we’ve always assumed. To help clarify this point, I reached out to the Software Freedom Law Center, the world’s preeminent experts on the GPL, which spent time with WordPress’s code, community, and provided us with an official legal opinion. One sentence summary: PHP in WordPress themes must be GPL, artwork and CSS may be but are not required.

This has been a discussion in the WordPress community for a little while now, with the rise of both sponsored and commercial themes and the authors of many of those themes claiming full copyright or a subset of Creative Commons over them in order to protect them from redistribution or changes. I’m pleased to see that there’s an authoritative word on it now, and also pleased to know that the WordPress theme directory (and as of 2.8, in-admin theme browser) will only contain themes that are licensed by the GPL or are GPL-compatible (for WordPress, this also means making the CSS and Javascript GPL).

The WordPress.org site now even has a directory of those theme developers/development houses that are selling GPL themes—there have been a couple of groups switching their licenses as of late—to help promote them and support their decision to embrace the GPL as a license structure for their themes. That’s a great idea, and I hope it convinces other theme authors to make the switch.

Some people might argue that it’s impossible to create a business structure based around something that is GPL-licensed, but if you take a good look around, there are many companies who now fully embrace open source (using the GPL, LGPL, GFDL, or even the OSL) as a way of life and a way of doing business who are doing quite well in offering consulting or expanded support, selling a base or preconfigured package, or offering other services that are built upon or extrude from their contribution to the open source community. Doing business this way earns you points, contributes to the Internet community as a whole, and gains you the support of dedicated volunteers to help make your product better. What’s not to like?

Brian Gardner points out:

This also clearly illustrates Matt’s view that people can (and will be endorsed if they do with it with the GPL License) make money using WordPress.

Of course they can. Automattic makes money using WordPress. There’s a virtual army of consultants out there who make money using WordPress. I’ve made money using WordPress. And the endorsement area on WordPress.org is no small beans. I believe that listing page will prove to be lucrative for those theme houses who have chosen to go GPL.

UPDATE: Daniel Jalkut speaks to the GPL as an imposition on those who might want to make contributions to a project:

Speaking of GPL succeses, WordPress is itself an example of monumental success. All of its developers have something to be immensely proud of. But whenever I am reminded that WordPress is GPL, my passion for it takes a bit of a dive. I’m more comfortable with the true freedom of liberally-licensed products. If a liberally-licensed blog system of equal quality, ease of use, and popularity should appear, my loyalties to WordPress would not last long. It’s your party, and you’re entitled to write the guest list. But take a look around the room: not as many folks as you’d hoped for? Liberally-licensed projects are booming. Speaking for myself, a developer who has been to all the parties, I’m much more likely to pass through the door that doesn’t read “GPL Only.”

His objections and points are noteworthy. One of the things that popped into my mind, however, is that WordPress is—for good or ill—bound by the GPL to remain GPL-licensed, as WordPress itself is a derivative of b2/cafelog, which was licensed under the terms of the GPL. (I think that’s how it works; I’m far from a GPL expert.)

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Matt responds to Daniel’s feelings regarding the GPL and restrictiveness:

It’s user freedom that the GPL was created to protect, just like the Bill of Rights was created to protect the people, not the President. The GPL introduces checks and balances into an incredibly imbalanced power dynamic, that between a developer and his/her product’s users. The only thing the GPL says you can’t do is take away the rights of your users in your work or something derived from a GPL project, that the user rights are unalienable. You are free to do pretty much whatever you want as long as it does not infringe on the freedoms of others. (Sound familiar?)

That’s what software freedom means to me, and it’s something I believe in strongly enough to fight for and defend even when it’s not the easy or popular thing to do. (Especially this weekend as we celebrate the original “fork” of the US from from England.)

(Photo credit: Untitled by flickr user elloa.)

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Every Good Game Goes into the Bonus Round

In my ongoing effort to create some kind of focus here on this blog, I’ve decided to create a “sub” blog (if you will) to hold things like my links posts and other little things that don’t really belong in this format. It’s going to be updated far more often than this blog is, so I hope you’ll also add it to your RSS feedreaders if you’re listening in on this one.

As I type this entry, it contains a single YouTube embed, but I plan to expand on it to include small anecdotes, quotes, pictures (maybe some moblogging eventually), and whatever other odds and ends I don’t think belong on this blog with this format. What will stay here are the longer-form posts that take more time and editing, as well as picture galleries and the like. Bonus Round is for trivial things.

It’s also using a WordPress theme called P2, which I’ve recently been experimenting with and I think fits this kind of an idea quite nicely.

If you like what you see, leave a comment. Since comments appear on the main page on the Bonus Round, I have moderation turned on. See you there.

(Photo credit: Galaga Game Over by flickr user Liquid Lucidity.)

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First Everything

I recently had to go back and come up with a few dates for a project I’m working on, and part of that was determining a few of the “firsts” in my life. I figured I’d share. (I also added a few things that are trivial just for fun.) They are in roughly chronological order. They trend towards the geeky.

  • My first home: The first house I lived in was at 13217 Mercier St. in Southgate, Michigan. It’s changed quite a bit since we moved out of it many years ago, but you can take a look at it on Google Maps here.
  • My first computer: The first “computer” in our house was a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A. I learned to program simple things in BASIC on it; we even had the speech synthesizer module (incidentally, the TI-99 was also my first video game console). The first “modern” PC in our house was a Laser 128, which was an Apple II clone.
  • My first movie seen in a theater: Follow That Bird.
  • My first job: My first place of employment was Six Stars Family Restaurant, also in Southgate, Michigan. I eagerly took a job at 14 (the youngest age at which you could work in Michigan) as a busboy and dishwasher. If I was lucky, I even got to step up and do some cooking once in a while.
  • My first car: My first car was a 1996 Chevrolet S-10 pickup. It had power nothing and was as simple as could be, but it got me from point A to point B and the ability to haul things was very useful. It died after surviving a tree falling on it and not surviving softball-sized hailstones.
  • My first Web site: When I was in high school (1996? 1997?), I first became fascinated by the Web, and my family first had an Internet connection. Wanting to learn more, I picked up a book on HTML 3 (I think) and learned from examples using TeachText on my Mac LCII. The first page I publicly released to the world was either in our AOL-hosted Web page space or on Geocities; I can’t remember which is correct. I vaguely remember the page having something to do with either Macross Plus or Star Trek, and I’m about 99% certain it committed a number of gross copyright violations and was ugly as sin.
  • My first blog: The first Web site I had resembling anything like a blog was created while I was in college; in 1999 or 2000 I first had a hand-coded site that I managed without the help of a database or any of those niceties, and later I actually worked out a front-end to a Snitz Forums 2000 installation that took posts to specific categories on the forum and translated them into blog posts. The oldest post that has survived to date is from April 13, 2001 and was the first post I made to LiveJournal.
  • My first degree: B.A. in Theological Languages from Concordia University—River Forest.
  • My first child: Joshua was born March 18, 2003.
  • My first WordPress post: I moved to WordPress as part of the mass exodus from Movable Type in early 2004. The first WordPress post I have from that move is dated February 18, 2004. This means I would have been using version 1.0, though I distinctly remember playing around with 0.72 before that.
  • My first house: I won’t give the address here, but Amanda and I bought our first house in October of 2006. I haven’t managed to bring it down yet.

That’s all I can think of at the moment, but I’ll throw a few more in here if I come across any other interesting ones.

(Photo credit: “A first street. STOP!” by flickr user cleber.)

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I Have a New Home on the Internet

In a remarkable effort to synchronize my Twitter username and my personal blog address, you can now follow my musings any time you like by visiting my new home here at https://ryanmarkel.com. (It should also be easier to memorize that way.)

I’m still in the process of getting everything set up and configured, and moving the posts from the old blog has taken some time, but I like it better here and I hope you’ll join me in having some decent conversation about—well—whatever.

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This Is Partially Because I Still Have Student Loans

Look—I know there aren’t too many people who read this.

I also know that those of you who might be reading either have your own blogs or know people who do, and I also know that most of you are likely using shared blog hosting with either Blogger or WordPress.com (if you are still using LiveJournal, shame on you).

I have been using WordPress for years now, long enough that I’ve seen it begin as a rather humble but impressive project, and grow into something really special. I think the 2.7 release that is coming later this month is a huge leap forward in user interface from the blogger’s perspective—and I think more people should be using it and experiencing the amazing support and extensibility of WordPress for themselves.

The facts above—and a few other things—combined in my head the other day, and so I’d like to make an offer to any other blogger who is reading this post: I would like you to contract me to host your blog and help you with setup and maintenance.

See, despite big increases in the ease of getting going with blogging, in too many cases, it’s still too difficult to get started, to understand how things work, or to manage upgrades to your blog. This is part of the reason that shared blog hosts are so popular – they get things started quickly, they don’t present you with the challenge of keeping things up-to-date, and you usually don’t have to worry about much.

The problem is that shared blog hosts often don’t have the extensibility of self-hosted blogging. There’s a lot more you and I can do with self-hosted WordPress than you can do on Blogspot or even on WordPress.com. There’s tons of plugins and other extensions that can be used to improve the usefulness of your blogging platform and provide services to your readers. I have extensive experience in working with self-hosted WordPress and I think you can take advantage of that fact to offer your readers a richer experience.

So here’s what I’m offering as a service—I will:

  • Install WordPress to a host and prepare it for you.
  • Install any theme from the “official” WordPress theme repository (or from a selection I can provide).
  • Install and help you to configure any plugin from the WordPress plugin repository. There’s lots of these, and they do many and varied things. This includes things like analytics to measure your site stats, content parsers (like RefTagger), and various other things like polls and comment-handling systems.
  • Make sure that your plugins and your WordPress installation are kept up-to-date and help you with any compatibility or other problems that may arise.
  • Offer you some support and knowledge in learning how to use WordPress if you’re new to it.
  • Anything else I can think of to make your blogging easier.

Essentially, I’ll take care of the hosting and all the hidden stuff “behind the scenes,” as it were, and all you should have to worry about is blogging and figuring out where in your theme you want your widgets and things to go. I’ll have awesome suggestions for you and will help you find the right add-ons for what you want to do.

So here’s what I’m asking in return:

  • A $20 setup fee to get things started.
  • $5/month if you have your own domain name (.com, .net, .org, etc.). I will give you the appopriate information to ensure your domain is pointed in the right direction and then make sure it’s set correctly on this end.
  • $7/month if you would like me to handle the domain registration for you.
  • I will help you move any old content at your current blog over to the new one.
  • A slightly higher, negotiable fee per month if you would like to do something more intensive, like podcasting. I can offer good expertise in doing such a thing and finding appropriate hosting/bandwidth for the audio files themselves. (This will also increase your setup fee.)
  • Custom theme development will be available on a limited basis and for a competitive fee (payable on theme delivery) to be determined if anyone actually asks me to do so (probably $100+).

As a side note, WordPress can actually make for some pretty impressive—yet simple—church web sites that you will be able to update yourself with a little coaching. Ask me about that if you’re interested.

If you want to know more, all I ask is that you email me at ryan@themarkelfamily.com and let me know. I will make sure I get back to you if you have any questions or want to know more about this idea.

There are two prerequisites that have to be covered first:

  • I won’t start the hosting until after the release of WordPress 2.7. Seriously; it’s that awesome.
  • I can’t start the hosting until I have a handful of people (read: more than one) who are interested in the service. It takes a certain number of people in the queue before I can afford the appropriate hosting and get people started.

Oh, and please note that this offer is made as a personal offer of assistance and basically “contract work.” This is in no way related to my day job, and I can’t respond to support requests during hours I’m normally at work. I want to make that clear.

I’m very interested in providing this service for people who might be looking to jump ship from one of the shared hosts available and move to something self-hosted and more powerful. I hope you will take me up on the offer. If you don’t want it, then please mention something on your own blog or to people you know regarding this offer to see if they are in turn interested (especially you Lutheran bloggers).

Once again, just email me at ryan@themarkelfamily.com if you want to know more.

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Sorry About Those Pages Up There.

Hm.

Rather unfortunately, it looks as though my template plans have been thwarted a bit by a bug in WordPress. Pages aren’t supposed to belong to categories or have tags, but all Pages created automatically have their taxonomy set to the default post category.

This has the unfortunate effect of applying that default category style to two of my pages, which is not cool. I have to use the default category for my flickr posts, as the flickr blog post feature doesn’t allow you to select a category in which to dump your posts.

(I hope someone at flickr is paying attention. Giving us control over post categories—like del.icio.us does—would be a welcome addition.)

So in the meantime, you are unfortunately going to have to put up with two of my pages looking a bit like crap. I would go in and change their categories manually, but PairLite doesn’t seem to have an interface available for browsing the database, and I really don’t feel like configuring that right now.

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WordPress 1.5 final released.

As announced here, the final version of WordPress 1.5 has been released.

This site has been operating with the beta versions of 1.5 for some time – even when it was still 1.3 – and I can fully recommend it, especially over and above 1.2; it’s a pretty big step up in terms of functionality and coolness factor.

If you are using WordPress 1.2, I would suggest you go ahead and move to 1.5 as soon as possible. Be aware that the default site template has been changed, but the updater should move your old template into a new directory and transition you into the new system with ease. There’s a lot of neat things that work differently in 1.5, and a lot of new features that are really useful – many of them are detailed on the linked post.

If you are at all interested in blogging, and use a different system, I would encourage you to move to WordPress and use it as your primary system. I have been operating with it for quite some time now; probably about a year; I used Movable Type before that, but Six Apart sold out, so I decided to move elsewhere. If you need assistance with setting up a WordPress installation, or even are a friend of mine and need a place to host it, I would be more than willing to help you out with that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and install 1.5 final myself over the nightly build I’m using now.

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Viva WordPress!

WordPress just closed an ordered list tag I left open without me having to do anything.

Nice.