Matt Mullenweg on WordPress & OpenSource Development

Matt had a very eloquent monolog on WP-Hackers at the beginning of this month.

It’s something that is worth reading over several times and I’m putting it here so that you and I both have an oportunity to do just that. If you are involved in any type of open source development, this is worth reading.

Go ahead, it’s really not that long…
Original Source

I can’t speak for everyone, but all of my work on WP from the beginning
has been with the knowledge that someone would rip/sell/steal/etc any
and all of it. Just like giving people freedom to say whatever they want
means that they might say things that you disagree with, in the end I
think the inherent freedom is more important than control. In my
experience I’ve found the good far outweighs the bad. I’ve applied the
principles of “give as much away as possible” to other parts of my life
and it has been nothing but rewarding.

Even *if* there were some sort of awful license violation, in 99.9% of
cases it’s not worth pursuing. The time and cost of a legal battle (in
another country, to top it off) would be energy far better spent on
bugs, support, features, etc. Besides, if the features are that great
it’d be better just to clean-room implement them as GPL rather than
extracting them forcibly from someone who doesn’t want to share. (Not to
mention it would probably be 3-5x faster.)

I think supporting a platform you’re building on is a no-brainer
business decision though, natural selection will do far more than legal
action in the long-run for these types of cases.

I have always recommended people doing development around WordPress
license their work as GPL, as I think that provides the most long-term
benefit for both the individual and the community. (It’s a virtuous
cycle.) We’ve socially encouraged that with GPL requirements on
wp-plugins and in the theme competitions, and I think the flourishing of
those areas is a testament to the power of the GPL and open source.
(Thousands of examples are available outside of the WP ecosystem, too.)

When I see or hear about people who want to work for themselves or make
a living off of WordPress-related things but having trouble the problem
has never been with the license. If you want a Real Job with a Big
Company, don’t you think organizations like New York Times and CNET that
are putting huge investments into using WordPress aren’t crazy for
people who know the system really well? Watch Craigslist, Monster, etc
for listing with “WordPress” in them, they’re popping up pretty commonly
now.

For people just looking for some extra beer/server money from their
work, the biggest mistake I see is simply not asking. Make it *really
easy* for people to find your Paypal or Amazon wishlist. I won’t say how
many times I’ve tried to buy a book or something as a thank you for
people on this list and couldn’t for love or money find something on
their site that enabled me to. (As an aside, if you’re overseas try to
have a donation mechanism that’s easy for US folks too.) Have a mailing
list for release announcements. If you’d work on something more if you
got more money, then tell people. Provide amazing free support and put a
“if you found this useful” link at the end of every email. If you’re
open to people sponsoring features, or paid customizations, make that
obvious. Also consider publishing how much you get in donations, as most
people VASTLY overestimate donations, or they assume someone else is
doing it so they don’t need to. Outright charging is usually not the
most successful model.

Finally, I think striking out on your own can be incredibly rewarding
and is a great lifestyle and challenge, though I know it’s not for
everybody. Biggest mistake I see in this group is forgetting it’s a
business, just like anything else. Buy or check out as many books about
small businesses, finances, entrepreneurship, etc as you can. At the
same time, don’t forget to budget time for community. Before I left
CNET and started Automattic I knew about a dozen people doing
full-time WP consulting and work, names you mostly don’t know because
they were so caught up in their own work they weren’t improving the core
platform they were building their livelihood on. I swore I wouldn’t let
that happen, and luckily have found a model that allows 95+ percent of
work to be completely Open, but it’s something you have to plan ahead of
time because it’s very easy to get caught up. There are business models
around consulting, support, services, training, development,
advertising, and dozens of other things that can include and encourage
supporting Open Source. I will happily phone chat for 30 minutes with
anyone in the WP community who is fleshing out a sustainable business
idea to strike it out on your own. I’m happy to share what I’ve found
worked and what didn’t. If you need help, just ask!

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