The Trouble With WordPress

Recently it leaked on a blog (there are few secrets in Open Source) that elements from a design known as “Kubrick” by Michael Heilemann would be incorporated into the default template for the next version of WordPress. Kubrick is many things: a design, a set of templates, some plugins, and a removal of a lot of cruft currently in the default template. It makes things much friendlier for readers. Best of all Michael released everything under the GPL and submitted it to WordPress for inclusion. After it had had several iterations I checked it out and saw a lot of great ideas that would make WordPress a better product, especially for new users. Even though no decisions had been made and no code had been committed, a number of questions were raised in people’s minds. A thread was started in the forums that I’m not even going to link to because it’s not worth reading past the first page, if that. Many people seemed to misunderstand what was going to be incorporated and what wasn’t, even though that was stated pretty clearly in the original blog post.

Michael is primarily a designer, not a coder, and coding things in a way that works on the variety of platforms and setups that WordPress itself does is hard, so there are issues with that in the templates Michael has released. WordPress devs have a lot of experience with those issues, however, and anything added to the core will work just as well (if not better) than WordPress does now. Several others questioned the inclusion of graphics in a template. If graphics were included, how would people be able to edit it? We can’t expect people to have graphics editors, so if graphics are included in the final template (that hasn’t been determined yet) I’ve committed to providing an online interface on for people to customize the graphics to match their color choices without needing any software beyond a web browser. There were some questions about the CSS being used in Kubrick, but the CSS used for it in WordPress won’t be the same and will be treated like any change to the WordPress code, that is it will go through the normal QA process and be tested across platforms by the developers and the few dozen or so people who keep up with the nightly builds, and then extensively tested by the hundreds that use the beta releases once we enter that phase for 1.3. Any problems will be treated as bugs and fixed as such. Watching trends on the forums and continuing a high level of support is very important to everyone.

The problem was after all this was explained the thread continued long after all these questions had been answered with everyone talking past each other. If it shows anything it’s that people can be very passionate about the smallest of things. It’s interesting to note that while this all was occuring what has actually happened in WordPress development in the last week: Dougal wrote a plugin to slow down spambots, literally; Alex made a new style for the styles page; Kitten sent in another comment moderation plugin that’s going to be included in the core; Craig Hartel and Kevin Francis (amoung many others) did some great work on the new wiki; Michel is refactoring the XML-RPC code; we started the process of moving to a better source control system; Ryan is coding too much cool stuff to mention, but the next version of WP be the easiest to customize and template ever. That’s just off the top of my head, there’s lots of other exciting developments happening.

In other words, life moved on. It showed up on a few blogs, but that’s a price of popularity: bad news gets more buzz than good. Numerous examples are in the checkout line of every supermarket. (Not to mention the blogosphere.)

So what’s the state of the WordPress community today? I’d say it’s better. The number of people who actually got out-of-hand was only a handful, and personally I’m ready to apologize and move on. I’ve never been good at holding grudges. The things that make the WordPress community great haven’t changed, and several lessons have been learned. Hundreds of new WordPress blogs have been started, testimonials and donations keep coming in, I’ve noticed more people helping out on the forums, and best of all there’s a healthy amount of disagreement keeping the project young.

33 thoughts on “The Trouble With WordPress

  1. I agree with you Matt, design of the wordpress template is all up to the final user of the software. A simple customizable default will always work; and it’s up to the creativity of those who patronize wordpress to customize it to their satisfaction. I personally love Michael’s design myself and it was a wonderful experience just to implement it to my copy of WP(WordPress).

  2. First off, I love WordPress. I can’t say that enough. That whole thread on the Forums was a bit, er, well, odd… I just don’t see the big deal. I may, or may not, use that new Kubrick-esque template, but, as long as I have the other, more basic one, to fall back to, what’s the big deal? Folks sure make a ruckus about the darndest little things. I can only think that someone’s ego got wounded or something.
    Anyway, you’ve got a great tool here and not enough people telling you so.

  3. This is great news. I don’t frequent WP support threads but did read that one and it made me sick. Thanks for putting a much better spin on the whole thing and I’m very glad that the best parts of Kubrick are being considered for WP.

  4. Matt, first of all kudos to you and all WordPress developers! I think you do a good job and looking towards a better default theme for WP is a very good move. Don’t let the people that jumped to conclusions shouting all kinds of mostly non-sensical things deter you from the goal you have set: to produce a better product. You will never be able to please everyone, that’s just human nature.

    And while many people think that there are only graphics editors that cost a fortune (just like many think there is no choice but use an Operating System that is infested with security problems) there is such a thing as Free Software, and a lot of it is damn good! The GIMP doesn’t get “pimped” often enough, but it is what I use exclusively.

  5. This is some great news, especially after the arguments about Michael’s thing, and the whole thing about that. I love to see those plugins are going to be factory defaults – the tar pit is genious.

  6. Truth is, I haven’t followed the brouhaha very closely, though I saw some brief allusions to what was going on at the Support forum.

    Matt, thanks to you and all the other WordPress gurus and support staff who create such an awesome blogging program with so many capabilities. It’s just amazing and I’ve been having the greatest time learning how to work with it since I started months ago. I’m excited (as are many) to see what 1.3 will be all about.

  7. I’m glad to hear progress is still being made. I eagerly await the new default design for WordPress and I’m glad to hear about the incorporation of some of the “better” plug ins.

  8. Just dont heed those guys who seem to be envious. Gurus must be indulged in whatever they want, specially when working for free, and we can only thanks the great team of WordPressers that make this available.
    Continue with that passion and work.

  9. I’m not interested in which design you ship; just ship the code 🙂 Seriously, though, packaging and image is important. I personally wouldn’t use a design with lots of graphics, but I think a lot of new users would be swayed by the look and feel just as much as by the features of WordPress.

    I loved learning more about 1.3, I’d like to see more stuff like this on the dev-blog, which seems to have stranded…

  10. I guess you needed to post this, because some people didn’t half get their pants in a twist…

    Good to hear about the other details, I can’t wait for 1.3 (whenever that will be, care to shed some light?). As far as Kubrik stylings go… it all seems pretty common sense to me. The forum post got overcome by what I call Slashdot Fever/Aint It Cool Idoicy/Livejournal Drama.

    As you say, life has moved on.

  11. I think it’s wonderful what u’ve been doing… I was following the forum thread.. and it got silly at times. Actually.. the whole thread was silly..

    anyway… looking at the nightly build… Seems like the template has now been split into header and footer and the main body. Well… in some ways… it’s harder to configure.. but for the general people… I think it’s wonderful… and should make like a lot simpler… Wonderful job.

  12. You mentioned that Michel is refactoring the XML-RPC code, but didn’t provide a link or details. Is there some way I could reach him? I’ve a patch that implements MetaWeblog.newMediaObject and would like to work with him to make sure its included. I submitted it to the bug tracker, but it appears to have fallen on the floor.

    If anyone is interested in this patch, feel free to contact me (contact info on my website)! 🙂

  13. I don’t really understand what “Kubrick” is very well. But I read this post, and “Kubrick” seemed rather exciting to me, I’ll try it some day and see what it’s about.

  14. I was going to upgrade but with this change in template, don’t know how much I’ll have to change. Got behind on the nightlies. What is the reasoning for switching to includes?

  15. I’m still running WP 1.2 but my version is a little hacked up. My headers and footers are in a seperate file. My static pages include these same headers, they just don’t run the WP Loop. I understand that new users would want a default that looked nice, but I can just imagine that 80% of WP installs would just use the same template without ever changing them because they couldn’t get it to look as good as the original template.

    While I think there is some good reasoning behind having a good template, there is still a lot to be said for having a functional template that’s easy to use and easy to understand. Let people who want more eye candy do it themselves and provide them with the tools.

    Perhaps what the WP n00b community needs isn’t a good default template but rather a tool to be able to create well presented styles without learning CSS. From all of the WP installations I’ve seen people who are completely new and only begin to learn CSS (and HTML/XHTML) when they start to personalise their WP install. After all, the reason the internet has come to exist is that we can freely be ourselves, exchange ideas and be bombarded with spam (well, maybe no the last one).

  16. Then isn’t this the wrong entry to comment about it in? 🙂 — I’m guessing that Matt, like me, doesn’t think that any corporations, regardless of how evil they are, would bother with a single track. Especially a track which is by now, rather old.

  17. I recently looked at Kubrick, even made a blog posting about it. I sure hope that a future version of WordPress doesn’t include Michael Heilemann’s name on every page, the very demand he has made of users who download his template for current WordPress versions.

    While Kubric is a beautiful template, the concerns he outlined in his article titled Villagers Demand Credit are precisely why I cannot use his template on my blog.

  18. I just love WordPress. It provides all the necessary tools for us to design our website or blog in whatever theme we like. Plus, we as the end user will have a lot of satisfaction using it. The best part when I show my WordPress blog to my so called Techie friends, their eyes really open wide as they don’t believe I (dummy in pc) can create that kind of website. Who is the dummy now? 🙂