Editor’s Column: WPBundle was more interesting as an independent

25 Comments

A weekly editorial, from Ryan Imel the editor of WPCandy

It was announced last week that WooThemes and WPBundle are collaborating, joining forces in a way, on the WPBundle project.

I’m not disappointed that WooThemes, specifically, is in some sense in control of WPBundle now. After all, WooThemes is clearly a great business doing great things. I’m disappointed that anyone but WPBundle is in control of WPBundle.

When WPBundle was first announced I remember being excited for something new.

“A MacHeist for WordPress” I thought. “How interesting.”

I recognize the irony of applauding an idea as new, when it was described as “MacHeist-like”.

New ideas, when it comes to WordPress themes, don’t happen that often. New ideas in general don’t come along that often. And while I really respect the work Liam and Spencer are doing on WPBundle, as well as their work on WeFunction, I’m not as excited about WPBundle now that it’s under the WooThemes banner.

I recognize the irony of applauding an idea as new, when it was described as “MacHeist-like”. That said, finding a way to make an idea work within a particular niche is still significant. But the strength of the idea feels diluted now.

What I’m talking about has nothing to do with the quality of the themes that WPBundle will be releasing in the coming months. I’m certain they will all be top notch. But is it best for these themes to be made, above all else? Possibly. But the themes are being built on top of the WooThemes’ framework, using their resources, membership, and support systems. Theme designs aside, the innovations WPBundle might have brought to the table seem lost now. The idea of a MacHeist-like WordPress website also seems lost. Can we hope for this, with such a strong affiliation with a major themes company?

In the end, I’m a sucker for indie projects. Being co-opted, officially or unofficially, by one of the industry’s big players just takes the punch out of the whole idea.

Do you have an editorial you would like to contribute to WPCandy? We’re interested in helping to promote the thoughts of the community, so get in touch with us if you have something to say.

25 thoughts on “Editor’s Column: WPBundle was more interesting as an independent

  1. The “bundle” sites like MacHeist, etc. are interesting because they typically bring together multiple developers and offer a wide variety of products for one insanely low price. That is what I thought WPBundle was going to be. But it sounds more like WPBundle is just another theme shop using the “bundle” as their gimmick.

    However, i’m not sure the MacHeist model could work for themes and plugins anyway. The thought of selling a thousand of copies of Gravity Forms and only receiving $5 or so from each bundle and then having to support a thousand new customers from that financial return isn’t exactly all that enticing to me. We would drown.

    • Carl, there’s definitely plans to release more traditional style bundles from multiple designers or developers in the near future. But we thought it might be a nice idea to kick it all off with a “home-made” bundle.

      People seem to really love our work, so on balance it made sense for us to put together a full bundle of our own. There’s not much of a challenge in asking a load of developers to contribute their own work so we can get some profit from them, we’re definitely looking to get hands on in every bundle we release, and what better way to show that than a 100% homegrown bundle?

  2. What an unnecessarily negative post, who are you appealing to with this? Companies buy other companies (or parts of them) all the time, why should themes companies be any different?

    I for one think that the monolith support infrastructure and marketing power behind WooThemes will actually make WPBundle better than it ever could’ve been by itself. WPBundle effectively just got itself a proverbial ticket to success.

    I would have responded far better to this article if you had structured it as a question or a suggestion open to discussion rather than a statement or overzealous opinion.

    • To be fair, it’s labeled as an Editor’s Column which is an Editorial. In that context it’s completely fair for him to express his opinion because that is exactly what an editorial is.

    • I said a couple of times that I think the quality of both WooThemes and WPBundle are top notch. I don’t mean to speak negatively about either of them.

      And “better” or “worse” aren’t really the words I use to describe the change I’m pointing out. “Different” is all I’m saying. Indies seem to me (even if it’s only me) to have something special about them, something I think is lost when becoming part of one of the big guys. I don’t fault either side for it, it makes perfect business decision. I was only hoping to point out the “what if” in this post.

  3. I understand your POV, I suppose, but let’s examine this MacHeist analogy. Forgetting for a moment that you’re talking about one developer/pair and not a grouping of various members of the community, the current partnership is actually much more like MacHeist than it would be without Woo.

    I know the MacHeist guys pretty well; I also have a good relationship with some of the developers/small indie shops that have had their apps featured in MacHeist. I can tell you two things:

    First: The work that Phil and John put into MacHeist is enormous. ENORMOUS. People think it’s easy to do a Mac bundle, but look at all the mac bundle competitions that are out and look at how many sell in any great numbers. Only the Indie Relief promotion for Haiti has had any sort of similar pickup, aside from the first two MacUpdate bundles. That isn’t a slight on the other bundles out there — on the contrary, some like Mac Bundles are really, really solid.

    Having said that, Phil and John do so much promotion and support for MacHeist that it’s really hard to quantify. In terms of exposure, Woo is very similar to the MacHeist team in their approach and their ability to galvanize, promote and spread the word.

    Second: The backend system/support/payments/etc.

    Now, on the MacHeist side, every single year there are minor glitches in the payment process and the team has to spend time sorting stuff out, automating serial numbers, keeping people updated, offering a place to download the files, etc. Over the years, the system has become a lot more pat, but if you get any sort of traction with these systems, it’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed and have a huge headache on your hands. With Woo handling this aspect of the system, a stronger system is already in place to handle sales, transactions, downloads, etc.

    On the support side, MacHeist doesn’t offer support but they do have forums that link directly to the developers. In this case, Woo goes one better because they already have their own support forums and ticketing system.

    Third: Future promotions/incentives

    Now this is actually where the MacHeist analogy falls apart, because it’s reversed in this case. Developers who are smart use MacHeist as a marketing activity and write off the cost of new customers as a marketing expense. You don’t get rich from MacHeist directly, but what you do get is much better recognition with the community at large and the ability to potentially capitalize on upgrades down the line.

    As an example, Realmac has offered RapidWeaver and LittleSnapper in past MacHeist bundles. RapidWeaver in particular was still eligible for the free upgrade to the next version. However, the upcoming RapidWeaver release (several years after the first MacHeist appearance) won’t be a free upgrade and a percentage of MacHeist users will pay to upgrade. That amount isn’t going to be substantial in the long scheme of things, but as a software company, Realmac has much better word of mouth and instant-name recognition.

    In that sense, if Liam and Steven want to do something sans WPBundle and sans Woo in the future, they’ll have built-up some recognition with the community.

    However, the real winner in this is Woo because users who might get drawn in on the “bundle” aspect can remember Woo themes for future WordPress, Tumblr, EE or Drupal needs.

    At the risk of making my comment way too long — to Carl Hancock — actually Carl, I think you COULD conceivably do a WordPress plugin/theme bundle with various premium companies involved. The trick would be that you wouldn’t offer lengthy support periods with the bundle.

    Now, admittedly, for a company like Gravity Forms that has pretty much one product, it would be difficult to do a bundle, just because you’ve got one product and one product only. However, as a pure marketing cost, if included with say, 3-months of support and X period of updates (say a year), I bet that’s something that could work.

    The better fit for these bundles would obviously be places that have multiple themes or plugins at their disposal. For instance, Envato’s birthday bundle. You get a bunch of files for $20. Updates and support related to those files isn’t guaranteed.

    Anyway, I understand wanting something to remain “indie” – but at this poiint, WPBundle has a much better shot at actually delivering because its partnered with people that have delivered in the past. Let’s not forget, the reason this happened was because the Kickstarter didn’t work out. That kind of spells out the need for real promoters to be involved.

    • Christina, I think you’re spot on with a lot of your points. One thing you touch on that we’re very aware of, is the fact that we’ve simply not got the audience to put together & sell a bundle of themes from other developers. This is why we are using our own talents to put together a bundle ourselves to kick-off with.

      Hopefully we’ll reach a point where we can look at putting together a Bundle from multiple developers, but even then it would be about finding new, or even undiscovered talents, and bringing them into the spotlight, rather than putting together a “pop” bundle.

      But for now, our main goal is putting everything into our own themes, and however you look at it, it’s still a bundle – even if it is all made by us.

      – Also just to pick up on the point where you said “he reason this happened was because the Kickstarter didn’t work out.” That’s not exactly true, we’ve not just partnered with WooThemes because of that happening. We’ve worked with them for years, I’d consider Adii and Co. friends.

      Also keep in mind that one of my first paying clients as a freelance designer was WooThemes, they’ve always been interested in my work, and always wanted to help out when and where they could, let’s not take anything away from that.

      Other than that you make some good points for sure.

      • Liam,
        My apologies for how the last bit may have come across. I’m familiar with (and am a big fan, btw) of your work and know you have a long history with Adii and Woo. It’s a great collaboration point.

        My only bit about publicity/Kickstarter was from personal experience. Somehow I managed to muss the initial announcement. Had I seen it I would have gladly committed tothe cause. Fortunately for everyone, with Woo, unsound we’ll have a lack of exposure problem! Loping forward to seeing how this shapes it and I can’t wait to see designs!

    • Wow, Christina—looks like we need to convince you to do some editorial writing 🙂

      You make great points. I didn’t come up with the MacHeist analogy, I was just using (and perhaps abusing) it in this post.

      I agree, WPBundle will be great with WooThemes. I’m excited to check out the themes when they are released, and to see them grow from there.

        • Come on John, are you purposely being antagonistic now for no real reason? Did you read what Ryan wrote above? He never said he didn’t think WPBundle would produce good work.

          In fact here is a quote from Ryan’s editorial above:

          “What I’m talking about has nothing to do with the quality of the themes that WPBundle will be releasing in the coming months. I’m certain they will all be top notch.”

          He merely stated he thought WPBundle was more interesting to him as a project when it wasn’t being absorbed by WooThemes. That is all. He thought being independent gave them that upstart David vs. Goliath kind of vibe considering guys like WooThemes are the Goliath of the premium themes market.

          He was hoping to see something new and he’s afraid WPBundle will just end up being WooThemes with a different logo slapped on it.

          • Are you just defending him for the sake of giving the finger to Woo? Cause that seems to be your standpoint on most issues. If Woo do something then you disagree with it / find it morally offensive.

            I think if this article was bashing Gravity Forms, not Woo, then you might have a slightly different perspective.

          • If you think this article as bashing WooThemes I think you need to re-read it because that isn’t what his editorial is about. Let’s take yet another look at what Ryan says in the editorial…

            “I’m not disappointed that WooThemes, specifically, is in some sense in control of WPBundle now. After all, WooThemes is clearly a great business doing great things. I’m disappointed that anyone but WPBundle is in control of WPBundle.”

            He is not bashing WooThemes. It’s not even about WooThemes specifically.

            I’m defending him because your attacks are unwarranted. As for me, I have no problem with WooThemes. I have a good relationship with Adii and Magnus and we have a working relationship between Gravity Forms and WooThemes. So your comments are way off base.

  4. Our collaboration with WooThemes won’t have any effect on the innovation of the themes. We started the project with the idea of making high quality, uniquely functional themes. We never planned on having a ground breaking way of buying the themes or anything like that; we were only ever focused on the actual themes from the start.

    So by getting together with WooThemes, we have been able to make sure we can stay on that track. Their distribution system, and support system, help us stay focused on making the themes innovative, powerful, and unique.

  5. Does anyone think that this is a precedent for the WooFramework to become a defacto WordPress theme admin?

    I’ve argued for a while that there should probably be a default admin panel for all developers to build off of.

    I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but by standardizing the building blocks of themes, developers might be able to make some serious technological leaps through extending the admin panel’s API, or even just focus whole-heartedly on the design of their themes, instead of splitting time on programming features that should probably just be standard (logo upload, etc).

    Any thoughts?

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