Is WordPress branding an asset or a millstone?

21 Comments

I think, before I get started, I need to help clarify a few things here, so you can understand the background of the story.

In the WordPress firmament you have two products sharing a trademark:

  1. a hosted blogging service which is known as WordPress.com and
  2. an open source blogging software package for self-hosted websites – generally known as WordPress.org.

This situation is, in itself, massively confusing – many people are confused as to the two products, and the relationship between them. The WordPress.org product is a largely technical product, of which the majority of core contributors just happen to be Automattic employees. The WordPress.com product is one which makes use of WordPress and many dozens of free open source themes and plugins in order to create a commercial blogging platform.

So, with that, we have a somewhat complex branding problem, but one where all the power and decision making rests with Automattic.

So why did I decide to write this piece?

First I want to make it clear that by and large I believe that Automattic, its founder Matt Mullenweg, and WordPress.com have been a very very good thing for the WordPress project. My rationale in writing this piece is to help make sure that this continues to be the case—questioning motives is important, always, because without questions we can never know if we’re going the right way.

WordCamps are now a controlled brand

WordCamps are community run WordPress related events run along similar lines to BarCamps—in essence free flowing, informal ‘unconferences.’ They are friendly events where people at all levels can share information and learn. These were once something anyone could opt to run, but are now somewhat more controlled and require prior approval to go forward with.

WordCamp UK is just such an event, and run successfully and with growing numbers of speakers and attendees since 2008. This year’s 2010 event was a success in spite of some legal issues (the setting up of a non-profit organisation to manage these events in the UK) which meant that tickets could not be offered more than a couple of weeks before the event.

2011, then, should be fantastic. Everything was lined up—the organisation, the structure.  They had been wonderfully set up by Tony Scott, Mike Little (who helped start WordPress) and various others.

However, at the end of this year’s event Jane Wells, who helps run the WordCamp side of things, was chatting with everyone and came up with a revelation that caused disquiet in the room—she stated very firmly that we could no longer call our events “WordCamp UK.” They could have city names, but national names such as WordCamp UK, New Zealand or Netherlands would not be allowed to use the WordCamp name. WordCamps, she said, are local, grassroots events. If there was a national event, some people could be dissuaded from running a local event and she felt that this would be a bad thing.  That’s her opinion, and she is of course entitled to it.

British apathy

Sadly, there was a danger in this. In situations where your average British are about to lose something they hold dear to them, they tend to react in one of two ways—with a great deal of anger, or with apathy. The scale of response depends, largely, on what will make the most difference. Anger works well with people who listen, but there’s a feeling in the WordPress community that Automattic don’t really listen. They talk, and they discuss, but once a decision is made the company tends to plough on regardless.  We’ve all seen this with the capital_P_dangit function that caused an uproar, broke sites, and remains in core.

So as a consequence, I felt that the danger here wasn’t the anger that Jane Wells initially faced in that room (and trust me, it was anger and it wasn’t pretty). The real danger, and I said this to her, was the massive British capacity for general apathy and disinterest. After all, WordCamps are important to us, but not that important. To the British person, if Automattic (or, as they will claim we should talk about, the WordPress Foundation) will stomp on any attempt to run a WordCamp UK then there’s no point fighting—just give up and find something else to do with your time.

And now, moving on to the organisation for a WordCamp [UK city name] 2011 we’ve had a request for bids for events to be run under the same umbrella as all past events but without the national branding.

Sadly, by the bidding deadline, the 2011 event has had just one bid, for Leeds. Consequently the deadline was extended and it’s all still a bit vague right now. There simply isn’t a mad rush of individuals looking to devote weeks of their time to running a WordCamp.  Partly, I suspect, because the kudos of running a WordCamp UK is much more significant than a WordCamp Bristol or a WordCamp Lower Peover.

The motivation for running a WordCamp is actually pretty thin—it raises your profile, but that’s about it. And most people don’t need or want their profile raising. You don’t make money running a WordCamp (and maybe you’re not expected to do so anyway) and there are all sorts of issues and problems that you need to address. You can be dealing with quite large amounts of money, and there are risks—what if you book a large hall and nobody turns up and you lose money? Will the WordPress Foundation help you out? Unlikely at the moment, but they’ll cheerfully take your surplus.

So, instead I will apply a little thinking that my reading on economics has taught me—that you should consider what the likely motivations are in order to achieve an idea of why things are like they are. So let’s do that. Step by step.

I’m also going to phrase this as if everything is driven by Automattic—largely, because it is. The WordPress Foundation, the WordPress project, and the WordCamp brand are all led up by the same person—Matt Mullenweg.  He may be an angel, but we have to assume that actually he’s human, just like the rest of us.

The WordCamp desire

So, why would Automattic wish WordCamps to be grassroots, local, and very much run along unconference models? The UK one, incidentally, being filled with more professional bloggers and developers and not really following this model.

I can think of a few possible reasons:

  1. Grassroots blogging is going to be much more about people who would use WordPress.com rather than self-hosted WordPress.org blogs. Perhaps there is a feeling that local events would help the WordPress.com product more than large national events which are largely run by and for WordPress professionals?
  2. Automattic have come to realise that professional conferences are a huge money-spinner. At my company Interconnect IT one of our primary clients makes a huge proportion of its money from running conferences. Perhaps Automattic have plans for higher level conferences for professionals from which they can profit? In fact,
  3. The WordPress Foundation stands to gain from donations made from profits that are made by WordCamps being donated back in. This will, in theory, help to drive the WordPress project forward but at the moment the foundation’s true aims and constitution aren’t well understood by anyone other than Matt Mullenweg himself—he is, in effect, the dictator for life in this.

None of these are in any way morally questionable, incidentally, and I prefer not to judge. I’m just trying to look at the motivations behind the decisions.

So what are Automattic up to?

You have to realise that primarily Automattic are a commercial company—their duty to their shareholders is to make money. That’s it. They can also add a few other things to their articles—for example, that the money has to be made whilst contributing socially, or to help fund Matt’s travel desires, or to further the world of blogging. But first, it’s about money.

And their shareholders have put a lot of money in—at the last count the company has received a tad over $30m dollars of funding. This is hard to confirm empirically, but various news reports suggest that this is public knowledge.

$30m needs to be made.  And Automattic’s primary products are given away free—the WordPress project itself, to which they provide the greatest contribution, is free. WordPress.com in its basic form, free. They have advertising on WordPress.com blogs that is so subtle most of its users are unaware of its existence. There are also various upgrades. But where I suspect money is to be made is in the selling of professional grade services—these, like VIP Hosting and Support, are high-margin items. $500 a month for hosting in a clustered environment and $15,000pa for the cheapest support package are very much at the enterprise end of the scale.

As I understand it, a significant number of the new hires appear to be working on VIP customers, with WordPress development taking place in downtime.

All of this is probably what brings the money in. And all of it revolves around the WordPress trademark. Thing is, the WordPress trademark doesn’t justly belong to Automattic. The project was always a community one with thousands of contributors. As far as I can tell (and I ain’t no lawyer) the GPL as applied to WordPress means that every contributor has a share in this trademark.

Which is incredibly awkward for a commercial company.

The community dance

The consequences of a commercial company dancing with a GPL project are complex, and not ones I’ll go into here, but the key thing is that an awful lot of people feel a sense of ownership. If the company antagonises the contributors they stand to lose an awful lot of contributions. So they need to let the community continue to feel this way. Matt’s answer was to create the WordPress Foundation.

Sadly, it’s not yet a proper answer, because it’s a pure dictatorship. He’s said this himself. He also happens to be the most important person at Automattic and the founder member. As a consequence, the feeling for many will be that WordPress is still 100% under the control of Automattic.

That could work, but with all but one core contributor being an Automattic employee, no open committee, no open membership scheme of the foundation, and no clear roadmap the feeling within the community may still turn.

A fork would be dangerous for Automattic, because that would dilute the perceived value of their VIP offerings.  Automattic do after all claim to be the creators of WordPress. Yet the trademark confusion is inherently dangerous to the open source ideals of the original WordPress project. You can sign up to WordPress.com and use features that are simply not available anywhere from WordPress.org. There is already an element of bifurcation between the two products and we at Interconnect IT have had our own problems with explaining to clients moving from .com to .org that some features they are used to simply can’t be added cheaply.

Conclusion

We’re stuck with the branding confusion, I believe, because there’s no real alternative for Automattic and the WordPress Foundation. They could turn the foundation into something that really is more than simply another Matt project by allowing contributing companies and individuals to be involved in its running, but then that would cede too much control and introduce new risks that wouldn’t make Automattic’s investors happy.

Automattic do after all claim to be the creators of WordPress.

It’s even debatable whether it makes that much difference on the ground. Most WordPress users never attend any sort of event about the software, and most don’t care about the trademarks, the licenses, or anything else. For them it’s enough that it’s good and free.

The only area where folk get jumpy are those that have built significant businesses around the platform. There’s no real partner network (and it’s still waaaay too small an application to have one) or other vendor support system such as those operated by bigger software companies. Automattic is still small fry—sixty employees is about the same as a typical large web company you’ve never heard of. And that’s what we must remember—their exposure is huge, but we can’t expect them to be perfect or to know every answer when it comes to brand, vendor and product management. As someone running a business based around WordPress all I can do is to make sure I mitigate any potential problems that may come up in the future.

And if I were in Matt’s shoes, what would I do? Well, I’d do two things. Once the trademark has finally moved to the WordPress Foundation, I would grant a license in perpetuity to use it for the purposes of marketing WordPress.com and ancillary services. This is quite a common situation for many trademark holders, and helps give business stability to the users of those trademarks. I would then seek to open up the foundation—give it a board made up of the key movers and shakers in the world of WordPress. They wouldn’t necessarily be people you’d heard of, and the criteria could be tough. With the right voting structure and membership requirements decisions could still be made quickly. Commercial interests could be represented by ‘paying in’ or they could be represented by the level of contributions made. Community interests could be represented by a weighted election of those who actively contribute.

Of course, this foundation would need a staff to manage it, to gather and deal with votes, and to distribute funds where necessary. It could pay for a good number of developers, and it would open up the decision making processes behind the project. It could also be careful in explaining the trademark issues and licensing deals in order to help users understand the situation properly. Nothing would be diluted, and Automattic would be the name at the top simply on the basis of the scale of their contributions to the codebase, so they would maintain their position as one of the primary movers in the project.

Let’s make no bones about this—Automattic has been a wonderful thing for the WordPress community at large. It’s just important that they don’t confuse the situation and make themselves potentially look like bad guys even when they’re not.

Do all this and you’d still have arguments, of course, but could this all help to clarify the situation and to make WordPress feel like a community project once more? Comments please!

21 thoughts on “Is WordPress branding an asset or a millstone?

  1. While this is a very well thought out and presented question/opinion there’s absolutely zero chance that it will have any impact on the situation.

    Even the most polite & calm critiques of Automattic fall on deaf ears, as your example of the capital P issue illustrate.

    The irony of the situation is that as Automattic continue to at best give a bit of lip service to “listening” or “discussing” issues with the community, more and more people are driven by their frustration to agree with my admittedly less polite rants such as Matt Mullenweg Should Resign (http://wpblogger.com/matt-should-resign.php).

    So I guess what I’m saying is that I think your post is incredibly reasonable and almost completely spot on. And while I hope I’m wrong, I suspect it won’t be long until Automattic’s behavior forces you over into my camp.

    • Hi Ben, and thanks for the comment.

      I really don’t expect anything to change. I’m not even necessarily seeking that – all I’m doing, really, is trying to explore the position and the options that Automattic have. They’re in a tricky spot, but not one that’s so unusual that there isn’t precedent. With a bit of luck they’ll work out their strategy and remove doubt from the market.

      The nice thing is that it’s all open source – there’s no traps, just so much freedom it can sometimes be scary to head off out there if you choose to!

  2. I’m in a similar boat running a commercial concern helping people with their WordPress sites. I think I’m helping build the community by supporting less technical people,whilst I earn a living.

    I’m the subject of increasing niggles about the use of WordPress instead of WP on my services and products, I understand that WordPress is a trademark, but do other open source projects get so shirty about using their name. I’ve never seen it.

    And don’t get me started on the backlash is you dare to not hump that camel with WordPress instead of WordPres 🙂

  3. I’ll chime in on WordCamps.

    As someone who’s helped organise three WordCamps, I’ll chime in. We were told earlier this year that WordCamp “Australia” wouldn’t be happening – it had to be WordCamp “city-name”.

    I was initially really pissed off about not being allowed to call our “WordCamp Australia”. The reasoning behind it was to be a But, well, to be honest, it doesn’t really matter. WordCamp Melbourne is happily being planned and everyone is involved and cheery just as it was WordCamp Australia.

    It was a letdown for the people helping outside of Melbourne, but well, really, something is better than nothing. I’m not one for red tape, but I really wish there was some kind of organisational board for WordCamps. Linux Australia is a perfect example of the model you talk about for the WordPress Foundation, and the way they handle linuxconfau every year is stunning.

    The failing right now for moving forward is time. We’ve got plenty of people involved, and I’m just limited for time right now with everything going on for me as a developer etc. Someone ultimately needs to be turning the weel and be dedicated to seeing it happen – which is what my role for Melbourne is.

    We’re even banding together with the folks across the tasman in WordCamp Wellington to have a dual WordCamp over two weekends in late February.

    I’m on a board of trustees for a trust we as WordCamp organisers put together for any WordCamp in New Zealand, and we’re registered as a charity. Linux Australia is sponsoring us for WordCamp Melbourne and we’re being put together as a board. People are willing to sponsor us, and all is happy.

    I think the approach here is aiming for a more distributed model for WordCamps, which I think we have demonstrated and will continue to demonstrate is a fine alternative – even across two countries.

    My aim for WordCamp Melbourne isn’t to make it appeal to everyone outside of Melbourne, it’s to make a WordCamp that has a distinct feel of, well, Melbourne to it – and I think calling it WordCamp Melbourne is exactly the right thing to do.

    However, in fact I do think Jane misunderstands the cultural nuances between the US and the rest of the world, and well, that’s something we have to work around.

    You can go on and on about it, but well, I organise WordCamps because they’re fun. I have no life for two months, but it’s a great way to meet people and to get involved. No one in their right mind organises a WordCamp, because it’s a ton of work and comes with a ton of anxiety and pressure – you really don’t think people are going to show up until the morning of the event.

    I don’t care about my commercial interest first and foremost. I’m not saying that organising a WordCamp hasn’t gotten me a few gigs that I probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t, because that’d be a lie. But it’s my way of changing the world and getting people involved in something that I think is awesome, and I don’t think anyone can take that away from me.

  4. I’m a bit confused on this and hope that some of this will be clarified. You’ve covered a wide range of issues and mixed up a lot of metaphors, and each of the issues are important to focus upon.

    Personally, I agree with the issues regarding the branding of WordPress, WordPress.com, and Automattic. I know that Matt and many in the WordPress Community have worked hard to clarify the difference, but it continues to be a slippery slope. I will, however, argue with you about the “majority” of contributors to the core being employees of Automattic (the “approvers” of the code, sure, but the contributors can be anyone from anywhere and many times the “little people” are ignored who make valuable contributions and are never heard from again). Matt has worked hard to convince people that Automattic is NOT the parent company of WordPress, nor the “founder,” but it’s often hard to separate the two.

    As for the money issues, in addition to massive venture capital, don’t forget that WordPress.com brings in a lot of income with their paid extras and VIP programs, not to mention the new features like the VaultPress.

    To my knowledge, Automattic is a privately held company, thus doesn’t have shareholders to be beholden to for profits and profit sharing. However, if they do go public, I’d invest in them. The team is amazing and I really trust their future thinking and strategies, even if there is still a lot of confusion from early business decisions. Have you looked into the history of the WordPress.com name?

    WordCamp is a different issue. I agree totally with you all about the naming of WordCamps. Some countries, such as New Zealand, Netherlands, Israel (though they just had WordCamp Jerusalem), etc., are just too small to host a city based WordCamp, and many have a strong and loyal national community of WordPress fans, so to name a WordCamp for a specific city appears to me to be disrespectful of the nation and favoring one city over another, which can lead to a perception of exclusion rather than inclusion. I recommend a serious rethink on that issue.

    There is a lot of worry that WordCamps could be commercialized. While some serious guidelines must be in place to prevent such commercialization, I worry that these same guidelines might prevent WordCamp enthusiasm. It’s a tough line.

    As for listening, you do the WordPress Community and its oversight team a huge disservice. There are many issues where the majority speaks and they listen, and a lot of issues where the minority are vocal but not representative of the majority. I know the team works hard to find the middle line when choosing which battles to deal with. They aren’t perfect. Honestly, many are thrilled about the inclusion of the forced “P” in WordPress and say nothing about it. They know it’s a sign of respect to have WordPress spelled right, and it helps the lazy. 😀 If only they would put in a WorpDress fix, too.

    My confusion lies in whether or not this is a discussion about WordPress branding, the difference between the WordPress Foundation and Automattic and their struggles to combine and/or separate roles, or about the serious issue regarding WordCamp naming. I know you wish to bring it all together, but we need to be careful lumping these rants into a single lump. It dilutes the power of the points you want to make, and they are really good and valid points.

    • “To my knowledge, Automattic is a privately held company, thus doesn’t have shareholders to be beholden to for profits and profit sharing.”

      Sure it does. Automattic has shareholders just like a public company does. The difference is Automattic’s stock is private, not public. It still has shareholders and investors that it is beholden to. Where do you think the VC money came from?

    • Lorelle – the thing is, some of the countries you’ve listed could in fact have multiple WordCamps. I’d really like to see multiple WordCamps in Australia and New Zealand, and there’s plenty of capacity for that – we’ve got the metrics to prove it.

      New Zealand, for example, could be considered relatively small – but it’s still a country of four million people and has a pretty good development community in general.

      I get where you’re coming from, but I think that the focus should be on putting together an awesome conference over trying to get a ton of people to show up – I’d honestly think that a WordCamp of 50 people would be better than one with 100. It’s much more intimate and laid back.

      What I’m going to try to do at the next WordCamp I organise – Melbourne in February – is to try to inspire people to do just that – organise a WordCamp or a local meetup (all three capital cities on the eastern seaboard now have meetups) – and the only way it will happen is if people are inspired, which in turn generates more interest. Keeping things centralised as you’re suggesting just doesn’t work.

      What I’d really like to see is somewhere central for WordPress meetups or a local community – which Drupal does really well with groups.drupal.org.

    • Hi Lorelle and thank you for commenting – first off, I’d like to think that my post wasn’t a rant. I’m not even angry with Automattic because, let’s face it, they’re usually a force for good. They’ve driven a lot of business our way. But I do know a lot of people are concerned. People with much weaker voices than mine. So I felt it worth bringing up this issue.

      You’re right that I’ve lumped quite a few separate issues together, but I believe they’re related. I may be wrong on that, but I felt worth going with.

      I also tried to be very careful to make clear that Automattic are just one of thousands of contributors and just happen to be the largest unit contributing to core. But looking at my phrasing, there’s a couple of places where I could have put that better, so thank you for pointing it out.

      In terms of shareholdings – as others have pointed out, a private company can still have shareholders who wield power. Interconnect IT, my employer, is also a private company, where the shares rest 75% with me, and 25% with my colleague James. You could only buy any of those shares by asking me, personally, rather than them being traded publically on a stock market – that’s really the primary difference between private and public. One interesting difference between private and public is that a private company tends to reveal a lot less about it’s strategy, controls and finances than a public one which has much stronger requirements to follow.

  5. The simple message Jane was trying to offer is that once there have been requests from potential organizers in multiple cities, it should be a clue to transition from one national event to multiple regional, local events. This isn’t about lack of understanding of cultural nuances, or anything of the sort. If a country can support more than one WordCamp, then a single WordCamp shouldn’t try to monopolize and nationalize. They’re designed to be local, so why the big deal? I recall reading that WC UK was supposed to rotate among three different cities. Why not two or three WordCamps, one in each city?

    It’s not a witch hunt in either direction: the idea isn’t to target WC organizers, and I don’t think the idea should be to target Jane.

    Also, not that I believe it would matter if they did, but four of the six active committers (including me) don’t work for Automattic, and most of the top contributors don’t, either.

    • Hi Andrew – sorry, I thought Mark was the only remaining core contributor. I stand corrected!

      Still, that continues to mean that Automattic has the greatest number of core committers.

      In terms of city versus state names – one of the reasons for deciding on the WordCamp UK approach was to avoid any one city becoming the ‘dominant’ WordCamp of the country. UK, and many countries, have dominant cities where many things tend to gravitate, even if that’s not always the best option. The risk could be that a WordCamp London would become the ‘big’ event of the year. Others could become provincial. By moving around a lot of money gets saved and we also get to enjoy a different city’s culture each year. It worked fabulously well.

      • Here’s my question: why should WPF(ino) even care that the UK WP community have decided that the best approach to WordCamps in the UK is different from what typically takes place in the US? Unless someone complains about monopolization of the “WordCampUK” name, and unless the “WordPress” TM is otherwise abused, why should the WPF even get involved? Aren’t there more important things to worry about (like the hundreds of web sites with domains that continue to violate the TM)?

      • I’m the organizer of WordCamp Indonesia.

        Indonesia as well. We have dominant cities where many things tend to gravitate. After two years with Jakarta, in January 2011 we have decided to move to Bandung. Glad to enjoy a different city’s culture each year. And if all goes according to plan, WordCamp Indonesia 2012, to be held in Jogyakarta, another big city in Indonesia. Yes, everybody’s happy nowadays.

        Agreed with Jonathan Harris:
        “.. single event, once a year, that’s more organised, has been able to attract quality speakers ”

        So, what should I do with this WordCamp naming issue? So far, I will stick with WordCamp Indonesia. Or, do i have to change “WordCamp” into different name? 🙁 *wait and see*

      • You’re confusing a few terms here. (You can blame me, that’s alright.) Core committers, there are six active ones as I said. Core contributors, there were 218 of them for WordPress 3.0 alone. Perhaps two dozen worked for Automattic.

        • Hi Andy – I’m not confusing them, I’m just typing them badly and not checking before hitting submit. My bad. I’ll blame tiredness rather than you this time 😉

          Heck, I’m aware we have at least one core contribution in WP 3.0 from within our team here! But those errors certainly don’t help in avoiding confusion from others, and that’s not good of me. I’ll try harder next time.

          I also believe that theme and plugin developers are also contributors to the project. This is where we show more strongly as a company, and intend to make an even stronger showing in the future. We also intend to start making more core contributions as and when we can get sponsorship to help pay for the costs of it. We have a number of clients who, for example, would like to see the workflow elements of WP improved somewhat. If I can persuade them to we’ll be able to extend what was already built with revisions and make it even better. Watch us 😉

    • Hi Andrew

      I’m the co-ordinator of WordCamp UK.

      Just the clarify one point – the event does not rotate around three cities – it can potentially be held at any location in the UK through a bidding process.

      WordCamp UK has, so far, been held in Birmingham, Cardiff and Manchester – see http://wiki.wordcampuk.tonyscott.org.uk/ for more details.

    • 1. There isn’t any clear evidence yet that the UK can support more than one WordCamp.

      2. As far as I’m aware there has never been a plan for WordCamp in the UK to rotate between three different cities, it’s open to any city/town/village/hamlet every year. The roving nature of WCUK does work very well, we get to see a new city each year, which shares both the costs, sponsorship and organisational burden to some extent. The attendees like it, it’s what they want. Shouldn’t that be the guiding philosophy rather than an imposed view from outside? If they don’t like it they won’t come, simple as that.

      3. The ‘requests Jane received’ from different groups have come to nothing concrete.

      4. People have been motivated to organise one evening get togethers, that’s probably the UK equivalent of local events, sharing information, experiences, networking over a few beers. They’re very useful and long may they continue.

      5. It IS partly about a total lack of cultural, social and geographical nuances. People will not travel more frequently than once a year I would suggest. Most people also won’t organise something themselves. They will however come to a single event, once a year, that’s more organised, has been able to attract quality speakers and sponsorship (that you wouldn’t get with a smaller local event) and it gives them an opportunity to catch up with people who live too far away to see since the last one. A larger event also has the capacity to offer different streams so we are able to attract the whole pantheon of WP users from the casual blogger to the developer to the commercial or massive state enterprises.

      There’s more than one way to run a successful WordCamp, it has to be right for the context it exists within. You can’t come in from the outside and impose a model that works elsewhere, purely because ‘it works elsewhere’. Surely the strength of the open source movement is its adaptability and a conscious decision not to be tied to doctrine or dictatorship.

      Sadly we’re not a ‘can do’ nation in the same way as some of our cousins. People are more apathetic. Maybe it’s the rain and grey skies. I wish I wasn’t the case.

      6. Have you any evidence that the current WordCamp set up in the UK has the express goal of monopolising? If you don’t then please don’t imply it. It isn’t as was implied a closed loop or a secret cabal. It’s a load of good intentioned people who take time out of their busy lives and businesses (and make a loss) to put on a yearly event.

      7. For the amount of people who attend and the distances travelled in an international context it is pretty local.

      I’m sorry but please don’t be an apologist for Jane. She put herself of her own free will above the parapet and publicly shot her mouth off. She has a public role within the WP community and as such is subject to critique and comment. It comes with the job.

      Jane did make some accusations and insinuations about the WC organisers, publicly, without having either the evidence or the manners to check with all of them beforehand. Whatever point she was trying to make, it was inappropriate, badly made and showed arrogance and a complete lack of understanding. The points or messages she had to communicate may have been useful and valid.

      But in the position she holds she should have known that it was the wrong place, the wrong time, she was obviously unprepared and didn’t have the common sense to stop talking when there were several opportunities to do so. She dug herself a hole, didn’t know when to stop digging. She then denied that she’d made some of the previous comments despite being videoed in front of 150 people. It was a car crash.

      It resulted in a great weekend ending on an extremely sour note. People had their balloons popped, they were angry, irritated and very disappointed. It was completely needless and didn’t have to happen. As far as I’m aware she hasn’t made any effort to apologise to the organisers.

      Whatever it’s called and wherever it’s held I think there will be a national event in the UK. I’d like to think that it will serve as a focus and spur for people to meet, learn, grow and network and then setup their own local adhoc meetings. The two can exist side by side quite happily.

      I would also hasten to add that I would welcome Jane or anyone else from the WPF or Automattic in a heartbeat. I’d even get the beers in!

      PS. They don’t have a trademark in the UK, and for reasons too complicated to go into here (and some mentioned above) it might be very difficult to justify and defend.

  6. I don’t have much opinion on the rest of the post, but there is just one thing I’d like to point out.

    Once the trademark has finally moved to the WordPress Foundation, I would grant a license in perpetuity to use it for the purposes of marketing WordPress.com and ancillary services.

    That has already been done, in fact. Pretty much exactly as you stated it. The announcement may have been less than clear, but this is a done deal and has been for some time. See http://wordpressfoundation.org/trademark-policy/ for more info. Also see http://ma.tt/2010/09/wordpress-trademark/.

    • Hmm, you were already approved to comment, so that shouldn’t be the issue. I don’t see anything in the spam queue. Sorry!

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