As Brad McCarty at TNW noted, the battle is officially over. Chris Pearson, who creased the Thesis Theme has decided to change the licensing to his product, so that it is now split under a partial GPL license. WordPress’ Matt Mullenweg seems to be happy with this compromise, as it allows the theme to be compliant with GPL rules, while Chris also seems satisfied with the split GPL option. Both have been tweeting about the debate’s end, and I’m sure followers on both sides of the issue are glad the debate is over, at least for now.
In case you have no clue what I’m talking about, you can read my original post about WordPress versus Thesis. Make sure you check out the comments section too, and also head to Mark Jaquith’s blog to read his post explaining the WordPress position on this issue.
While the standoff might be over, I do think there are some take-away messages to be had. It’s kinda my schtick – finding the life lesson in any news story – in case you haven’t noticed. Don’t worry; it annoys my friends in real life, too, not just my blog readers! Here are the top five things I’ve learned from the WordPress/Thesis debate:
1. Your community is important.
Matt talked a lot about the WordPress community throughout the debate, but another clear community emerged as well: supporters of Thesis. While I will say that I think both sides got a bit unprofessional at times, having supporters is a major advantage in any debate. Even more important? The ideas for compromising that emerged from both sides. When you have a community of supporters, they can introduce new ideas and help you see an issue in a different light. A community isn’t just about people cheering you on – it is about the added value that you get from both collective thought and from individual innovative ideas.
2. The world is about compromise.
I’ve seen a lot of people tweeting and blogging about the need to stand up for your beliefs, and how Thesis shouldn’t have backed down. While I do think that having strong personal convictions is important, being someone who can compromise with other people is much more important, in my eyes. That’s what makes this world turn, dear readers. When two people have very different beliefs, you can each do your best to accommodate the other, or you can start a war. Sometimes, you need to step back from a situation and ask yourself if you’re standing up for your beliefs or just being stubborn. There’s a difference.
3. The law wasn’t written for bloggers – be prepared.
I think this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to blogging and the law. This is a brand new form of media, relatively, and when the GPL text was written, no one could have foreseen that someday there would be an issue between a blogging platform and a theme developer. We also saw a big hullabaloo last year regarding a change in FTC rules regarding how blogs handle reviews, affiliate links, and so forth. Like I said, tip of the iceberg. As the blogging industry continues to grow and change, we’re going to discover even more laws that create gray areas because they weren’t written with this kind of media in mind. Bloggers need to be prepared for these issues to arise.
4. Bloggers need thick skin.
Regardless of who was right or wrong in this debate, or even whether or not the lead debaters (i.e., Chris and Matt) were professional, hundreds – maybe even thousands – of people from both sides weighed in with their opinions. Not all of them were nice. In fact, some of them were downright mean. In my opinion, we should all leave insults and name-calling at the door, but if you’re going to post an opinion online, you have to be ready to deal with this type of behavior. It’s definitely worse in some industries than others, but all bloggers need to be mentally and emotionally prepared to have someone totally attack their opinions. When I first started blogging, I’m not ashamed to say that a few comments brought me to tears. I was ready for opposing viewpoints and even negative reactions, but I had no idea that people who didn’t even know me could be so mean. Now, I’m more prepared to deal with rude comments, and I’m a better blogger because of it. More importantly, I’m much better at responding to mean comments without losing my cool, which is something all bloggers need to learn. When you respond in a really emotional way, you just become a joke. Point in case (warning, video has strong language):
5. Read all sides of a story.
This last take-away message is more for readers than for bloggers, but I’ve never met a blogger who isn’t also a supporter of other blogs, so it’s still relevant. Whenever you read about an issue where there are clearly two (or more) sides to the story, make sure you take the time to research what everyone is saying before you post your own opinion on your blog, in a comment, or on a social networking site. When the debate got really heated between Matt and Chris, one of the posts I saw referenced fairly regularly was on Jane’s blog. While I don’t think that Jane was lying about her experience, I also know that it would be impossible for her to go into the situation unbiased, as she’s a WordPress employee. I also think that this is just one view – I’ve also heard stories from people who say that Chris is a great person to be around, as well as people who have said negative things about Matt. The point is, if that was the first post someone read about the issue and the didn’t take the time to read anything else, they wouldn’t really be getting a grasp on the debate as a whole. Even with all the research I did, you can see in the comments section of my previous post that people added new information about the topic that changed the way I thought about it slightly.
When you read something, even if it is from a blogger you respect and love reading on a daily basis, take a moment to read other opinions on the same topic. You’ll be glad you did.
Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. Every time she writes a post that involves YouTube videos, she ends up lost on that site, watching funny videos for hours.