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 wordpress.org, 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.
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.