Connecting Weblogging

Scoble and balance and heartbreak

I wrote this almost 20 years ago and stand by it, 100%. Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I was not going to write again about Matt and WordPress, because I didn’t see that there was any point: I wrote my two posts, I said my piece, people either agree, disagree, or say to themselves, “Matt who?”

That was before I saw the following in my aggregator this morning, from Scoble:

Shelley gives us the silent treatment for not being harder on Matt

Shelley Powers channels Jon Stewart and gives those of us who didn’t take Matt Mullenweg to the mat for his response a lot of heck with her “silent treatment.”

That’s the meme of the week: that bloggers aren’t tough enough on each other. Well, sorry, everytime I’m tough on some group or some person I get heck. “Be nicer” is what I’m told. I figured that linking to Matt is enough. I start my morning by assuming that my readers are smart and can make up their own minds as long as they have access to all the information.

I also looked at it and saw that Matt was being treated pretty harshly already, and didn’t see that responding with an even harsher comment would help anything out.

In his post, I wrote the following comment:

You completely misrepresented absolutely everything about that post and what I said.

You did so by such a margin that I have to assume that this was a deliberate attempt to smear me and weaken the message of what I was saying.

You didn’t link to the first message, where I said we should not treat Matt harshly, and then picked and tweaked what I said in the second until you found the message satisfactory to you — that Shelley is picking on that poor _boy_ Matt, and let’s put the bitch in her place.

And you most likely did so because I was critical of you in the past, and you never forget and you never forgive.

All you’ve done, is proved out everything I said in that post.

Every damn thing.

What I said in both posts is that people make mistakes, sometimes big ones, and we shouldn’t make them grovel or beg for forgiveness or go through hell as ‘punishment’ because the community feels ‘betrayed’. Why? Because it’s about damn time for the ‘community’ to grow the hell up and stop putting such faith and complete trust in each other.

Here’s a clue for the clueless: none of us can live up to all of your expectations. You’re going to be disappointed at one time or another in any one of us. There are no saints here, and the so-called heros pick their noses and step in dog shit, just like everyone else.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with questioning an event, or to be concerned, or yes, even angry at an event. Being critical of an action taken, or post written, or opinion given, is not the same as condemning the person, and shouldn’t be treated as such because to do so shuts down the conversation! It is the tool of the manipulator, the weapon of the outclassed.

In regards to Matt and the link farm, too many first reactions took the action and used it as wholesale condemnation of Matt, the person, and WordPress the product and community. Doing so discounted the good work that Matt and the same community had accomplished with this product, and the balance swung, wildly, to the negative.

On the other hand, legitimate questions were raised, and concerns expressed. People didn’t know whether they should keep the WordPress links at their site if the pagerank was going to be used in this way; Matt’s credibility as a leader in the fight against spam did take a hit, and the impact on this on the effort at large is a good point to discuss.

More, the perception of open source and free software, as it is popularly known within the weblogging community, was also impacted by this action–the question is raised that if open source efforts must resort to actions such as these to raise funds to keep the project going, what is the hope for this as a viable project type?

What happened with Matt and the WordPress organization’s web site has reprecussions beyond just this person and this site, and discussing this is a legitimate thing to do.

But rather than address these, we were given an odd message about buses and experiments and Wikipedia (oh yes, bring that word in, with all of its positive karma) not to mention vague slams at those who brought these issues up: references to never asking for money from your readers (i.e. Kottke), or let’s bring Six Apart into it, subtly remind people of that old controversy.

Did Matt say he was sorry? Yes he did, but in such a way as to generate more questions, than answers. But you can’t bring this up in the “Wordpress community” — to do so is to a) be a freeloader who doesn’t pay for the work of others; or b) an asshole who doesn’t understand that what’s important is forgiveness and after all Matt is a nice guy.

There is no balance in any of our communications. We’re either on one side or another, either with the ‘good guys’ or we’re bad. If we’re critical, some flock to our sides, and others villify us; but then if our opinions go another way on another action, we ‘antagonize’ those of our supporters, and the flow around us shifts again, as allegiances are broken and sworn.

Every time I express an opinion, the movement of bodies coming and going from around me damn near knocks me off my feet.

Each person must define their own expectations about those who read them but for me it’s this: if you read my weblog regularly, you should be doing so for the quality of my writing or the pretty pictures or the helpful code or the issues raised or even that you like me and see me as a person who you want to share a beer with–any number of reasons other than being completely aligned with my views and having absolute faith and unquestioning trust in what I write. Because if you read me for the latter, I’m going to break your heart someday, and laugh while you cry.

My two posts: 12.

Scoble’s two posts: 1 and 2.


I do regret that I wrote And you most likely did so because I was critical of you in the past, and you never forget and you never forgive in the comments–didn’t add to the conversation, and added an unnecessary emotional context. Regretted as soon as written — which is why I provide the post-comment editing facility.

Critters Places

The snooty turtle

I almost missed the daffodils at Shaw this year. I even thought I might give them a pass, but the weather was good and I needed a walk, so there I was, in the field with the flowers.

[image lost]

Yes, daffodils here, daffodils there, but not as many as last year, and not as many as the year before. It might be my imagination, but there aren’t as many flowers this year, same as there weren’t as many falling leaves last fall.

I suspect we should value the ones we have more, than. Instead we look at the fields in disappointment, muttering to ourselves, “That’s it, then, is it? A few scrawny blooms? Could have done better with the picture on a packet of seed. Where are all the bloody daffodils?”

[image lost]

But that’s not what this is about. Enough with the brazen flowers, I don’t want to talk about flowers, I’ve talked about flowers. And yes, even done the daffodil poem–you know the one. Clouds and stuff. No, today I want to introduce you to my turtle.

You see, the great thing about visiting Shaw throughout the year is that each time a different animal has its time in the sun.

There are the frogs, of course; the famous frogs you can’t see but you can hear by the great noise they make. And mustn’t forget the bumblebee and the butterfly, as they contend for the prize: the last golden flower in the field.

You have to walk far, part with a tiny sacrifice of flesh and blood for the insect life on the way, but I should mention the beaver, as it slips quietly through the mud for a bit of twig and stem. There was also the time with the baby snake I thought was a rattler but was something tiny and harmless, and scared to death of the big, ugly things hovering over it.

Birds, always birds, of course, and this trip was no different–especially this happy fellow, a mockinbird in a tree. I have a fondness for mockingbirds; they are the ultimate copyright thieves and I’ve long been amazed at the fact they’ve not been adopted as mascot of the movement.

But this trip was for the turtles. I’d seen turtles before, but from a distance and only one or two. Yesterday, however, the turtles were out on the cypress logs and stumps and roots in the water — big fellows, a foot or more across. Unfortunately, though, I could only catch brief glimpses, as they would dive into the water when I approached.

Except for one, my turtle. I found it sunning itself out on the remains of a cypress in the lake itself. I crept closer, closer, closer, and still it stayed. I even wondered if it had eggs and that’s why it wouldn’t leave, but I think the reason is, it just didn’t want to. I pulled out my long lens and took several pictures, not really able to see the turtle’s face through the lens. In fact I didn’t see the turtle’s face until I got home and loaded the photo into Photoshop.

Did you ever see a snootier turtle in your life? I have seen many photos of turtles, and they are a smug creature indeed, but none filled with such obvious disdain of the antics of lesser creatures. Now I know where the flowers are gone — I’m sure it ate them. Probably sat there and thought to itself with each crunchy bite, “HaHa stupid humans coming out for flowers. HaHa! *mumph* This is good! Tasty! HaHa, dumb humans. Now all they see is my poop.”

[image lost]

I took as many photos from as many angles as I could of the turtle before finishing my walk around the lake. At the end, amidst a group of trees was a great splashing and ripple of movement as what must have been hundreds of young turtles swimming for deeper water.

Well, I’m sure there were dozens of young turtles.

Five or six, I’m positive.

One, at least. Oh, yes, I am confident of one.

Or, maybe it was a fish?


April fine

Turning to a more enjoyable topic, the spoof sites that have popped up today are works of art.

First, American Street has a new look and new name. Be sure to check out the ground breaking book on email–how to read, how to delete. Then there’s the Michelle Maklin site (created by that leftist pinko commie Pablo lovin’ freedom speaking and *horrors*, knitterfeministe), and a classic: BoringBoring!*.

Yesterday, Pat Buchanan had salad dressing thrown in his face at a college campus. This wasn’t really funny (though this caption contest at Michele’s is), and a pretty stupid way to make a point (let ‘em talk, I say; Buchanan humiliates himself just fine). But I found the weblog that wrote an April Fool’s weblog post basically stating that “Today, salad dressing; tomorrow, guns” to be hilarious.

Hmmm. What’s that you say? This wasn’t a spoof? He’s an actual professor of law at UCLA?

Wow, guess the joke is on me.

And then there’s a new twist on “jumping the shark”.

(Thanks to Euan for pointing out the site.)


There is communication…and then there’s not

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.


I can’t leave this issue, if for no other reason that there’s more to this discussion than what Matt did or did not do at his web site. And though I think others who have supported the open source community could be, and perhaps would be more eloquent, I can’t depend on people to speak for me, so will muddle through on my own.

I wrote a few days ago when I heard about the situation with Matt Mullenweg and the link farm at, that we needed to basically separate the software from the action, and to remember that Matt is, above all, human. I had really thought that with this action, Matt would lose much of the respect he’s gained. Though it was a screw-up, it wasn’t one that he should pay harshly for.

What I did not expect, and which took my breath away, was how Matt, and the ‘creator’ of the software for the link farm, would put such spins on this whole event — making it more of a ‘experiment’ in social software, done for the good of the project; no harm done, a minor problem at most.

More, people are buying into it, and many have even added Paypal donations to help with the burden of, what is it? Getting legal assistance for the trademark of the WordPress name and business expenses? Oh, what’s that? You didn’t quite see that?

No one wants to see Matt out of expenses for maintaining the WordPress site, and if he is, then putting out a request to the community is not only fair, it’s the right thing to do — it allows the community to put back into the project. This is how open source projects have been managed since I can remember, and I’ve been in this field almost longer than Matt’s been alive. And if Matt wants to spin off a commercial aspect of WordPress, more power to him. I happen to support the idea of a fee-based version of WordPress, complete with support.

Also, as I said the other day, if Matt screws up, well, we all screw up — we are, after all, only human.

But what has happened is that not only have we seen the leader of an open source project actively enable that which is damaging the internet at a phenemonal rate, we’ve seen a community that not only doesn’t question it, but actively contributes to it–condeming those who would question the actions, blowing off the concerns as so much ‘noise’.

On one hand is the angry mob, out for blood and vengeance; on the other is the adoring legion of fans. What’s the difference? And where’s the balance?

Not with me, that’s for sure–after all, I just disagreed with myself. And in writing.


As regards WordPress and links farms, how not to respond to issues raised, concerns flagged, patient understanding gifted: title it with A Response to the Noise.

Diving in finds us this:

The articles hosted content thing was just a short-term experiment, an interesting idea (original and relevant Wikipedia-type content on the site) that was badly implemented. As an experiment it could have been conducted much better than it was. The content should have been more topical to WP issue, I should have kept up with the content that was going up, the links should have never had the overflow CSS, and I should have discussed it with more people. Each was a mistake and they combined badly — I’m very sorry. Originally I wanted to do a poll about it but I never got around to adding a polling add-on to bbPress and thus the poll never happened. In my mind there were more important things to spend time on (the 1.5 release, the plugin and theme directories, etc.) but I don’t offer that as an excuse. I didn’t give the ads much thought after the very beginning until about two weeks ago when I got a few emails about them. I did not know they had mesowhatever/asbestos content on them until Andy Baio messaged me.

*astonished silence*

The person who wrote the first post on the issue also posted an email from the company responsible for the articles. It said, in part:

I’m a garage software developer in the middle stages of writing a custom word-processing utility to help authors craft articles which are mildly search engine optimized. Nothing deceptive dishonest or black-hat — just providing authors with information about keyword balance. This helps them to see how a machine views their writing. When my software is ready, I plan to license it to companies wishing to develop website content.

Naturally, this requires an awful lot of testing so I’ve been placing test batches of articles on many website — which has been invaluable for learning about how search engines read pages. I approached Matt several months ago about putting a batch of articles on the WordPress site and he agreed — because he needed the income stream. For my part, I invariably place some advertising on such pages because I’m also not corporate sponsored.

It was a blunder that Matt used invisible links to connect to the Articles collection. It wasn’t necessary and I’m sure he regrets having done it that way. But please cut the guy some slack. A mistake was made and corrected. Matt has given freely of his time and effort for years without remuneration and perhaps the irony here is that he probably hid the links out of embarrassment that he needed to rent out a corner of his website. Sure, it was a mistake, but it was motivated by the fact that he’s a really good guy.

*more astonished silence*

“But hey!”, to quote Jon Stewart. Google returned the WordPress site’s Google rank, Matt refunded the rest of the month’s money back to the ’software developer who is creating new writing tools’, and you can still buy refrigerators for three bucks at Wal-mart–so all is well in the world.

I’m done on the topic of WordPress, sick of the topic of Google, and plan on turning my “gimlet-eye on technology” on digital identity next, since fresh meat is appearing on this topic. I’m tired of ducks in a barrel, time to look for some pigs in a poke.