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CForms II GPL Scandal & Developer Appreciation Day «

CForms II GPL Scandal & Developer Appreciation Day

February 4th, 2009

Recently, I've been following the saga of Oliver Seidel (creator of the excellent CForms II plugin for WordPress) and his exclusion from the WordPress Plugin directory with great interest. Google "cforms II gpl" if you're not sure what I'm talking about.

Basically, his plugin didn't conform to the GPL licence that WordPress enforces and someone "ratted him out" which caused a great debate in the WordPress community and resulted in "King Rat" getting some hate mail.

There's 2 things I'd like to say about this issue, which I think, we - as members of a WordPress community - should try to remember:

Firstly, I really appreciate Oliver's work on the CForms II plugin. He's not a programmer and yet he's created one of the best plugins for WordPress. He's also personally helped me out once on his forum, so I recognise the time and effort he puts in. The "problem" was (as some saw it) in his plugin, he placed a backlink to his site which couldn't disabled without affecting some other functionality.

While some may see this as a bit unfair, the point is this: you can choose to use a plugin or not - if there's something about it you don't like, then seriously, just don't use it. There are other plugin alternatives (maybe not as good) which may do the job. Personally, for me CForms II is *the* form plugin to use with WordPress - how could you live without it?

I can fully understand Oliver's position about putting the backlink in, so I lalways eave them in. As I mentioned my my previous post about the Development issues associated with maintaining a WordPress plugin - a lot of people do not appreciate the time and effort that goes into building a WordPress plugin. While WordPress plugins may be free, but there is always a cost to someone, somewhere down the line. And, from experience, unfortunately people aren't as altruistic or as generous as we'd like to think (or would hope).

However, a little support can go a long way.

Since my last broadcast to my email list, I've had some wonderful comments from people which really do help to boost the spirit and make working on the FAQ-Tastic plugin project worthwhile. To those people who sent an email - "I thank you" - your appreciation, comments, feedback (positive and negative) are all valuable (and valued).

As you may remember from my last post I touched upon this very subject of "appreciating plugin authors" and it's interesting that this scandal came up after I wrote about it. Something in the air, maybe?

One of the good things that has come out from this "scandal" is that Matt Mullenweg from WordPress posted up a blog entry called "Thank a Plugin Developer Day" (you can find that on your WP admin dashboard) and it echoes my own sentiments. I don't know if his post was as a direct consequence of the GPL scandal and the events that unfolded but what I do know is that at least the issues are out in the open and it's made people think about the guys who work in the shadows!

Please, please, please take a moment to read Matt's post and to think about how you can say thanks to your favourite plugin developer (let's face it, if you've made it this far into this post, it probably means you actually *do* care!).
There are many ways you can do it - a donation; a backlink on your blogroll; constructive feedback; a quick email with a compliment... all of these things really do help (even though it might not seem like it). Small gestures like this help to re-establish the energy exchange... and let's face it, your favourite plugin has a better chance of being supported in the long-run! ;)
One person who I'd recommend sending some link love, kind words, donations and overall appreciation is a guy called John Godley from UrbanGiraffe.com who is quite simply a world class WordPress Plugin genius. He certainly doesn't get much as much credit for his work but should do. Check out his excellent collection of WordPress plugins and remember to find some way of demonstrating your support if you use them! Aside from that, he also helped build the FAQ-Tastic plugin that thousands of people enjoy using on their WordPress blogs!

Anyway, I'm digressing... Second point:

As for "King Rat". He got a lot of hate mail and nasty comments on his blog. Personally, I completely disagree with the *way* that a number of people re-acted to his post that pointed out that Oliver's plugin went against the rules. The over-reaction was completely unnecessary. All he did was to point out a "fact" and made a suggestion (which I think Oliver went on to address on his own site).

Y'know... it is okay to disagree with people. And to have differing opinions...

The thing is, it's so easy to leave comments on a blog. And this was King Rat's own, personal blog, on his own domain. He should be free to voice his own opinions without people coming and defacing his virtual property.

To put it another way: would you go up and spit on someone's house just because they had a different viewpoint to you? Probably not, right? Although, I've heard that there are some who might...

It's so easy for the voices of the mob to shout someone down. And it's easy to become part of the mob. Let's face it, history has repeatedly demonstrated the devastation that can be caused by mob mentality. But doesn't that go against the whole nature of what blogging is about? We live in an age where everyone can be the authors of their own reality. We have become publishers of our own opinions and no longer have to subscribe to mob rule. It's a double edged sword - as we liberate everyone's voice we will often hear things that we do not agree with.

As a reminder: if you really don't like what someone has to say - I mean, if it *really* gets to you - then why not post on your own blog and link to their post? Blog comments are useful to help people "participate in the discussion". There's no real point in leaving hateful messages as nothing moves forward...

To be honest, aren't there other things to worry about in the world? Griping about GPL and the loss of a plugin from the WordPress plugins directory doesn't really help move the world forward. Put it this way: there are starving people in the world who probably couldn't care less about GPL, Creative Commons or any other type of software licence. If something is really bugging you, then take a moment - breathe - and get some perspective.

In the words of Father Ted, "these are small... but the ones out there are far away!". The dramas are imagined. They're contextual. Shift your perception and you'll see that the situation's probably not as bad as you'd thought it was.

Anyway, that's about it from me (possibly for a little while). Thanks for letting me rant (and actually reading this far!) :)

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Written by edith on February 4th, 2009

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3 Comment on “CForms II GPL Scandal & Developer Appreciation Day”

  1. nikki says:

    Read it to the end ;)

    I hadn't heard about this until now, very interesting! I did see Matts post about showing some love to plugin developers but I never knew about the prior fallout!

    I do agree with you and to a certain extent I am a culprit myself; it's very easy to nip into the plugins directory, choose some cool stuff and change your boring WP blog into something special......without much consideration to the time and effort that went into creating that plugin!

    So - thanks to all of the plugin developers, you make our life much easier and although we don't always show it as we rush about - your efforts are incredibly appreciated! :)

  2. Michael Erb says:

    I think that cForms is one of the most powerful plugins for WordPress that I have used to date. Oliver has put over 3000 hours of time to develop the plugin and evertime I implement his plugin on a client website, I send him an Amazon Gift Card. He has helped my numerous times with support issues and I honestly don't understand how Oliver can say he isn't a programmer. He -IS- a programmer... just look at what he's created. It's brilliant. He has included so much functionality into the plugin that it boggles my mind. He has anticipated so much and built it in to the plugin that it can do just about anything imaginable for a plugin of this type.

    This is a FREE plugin folks. If you use this, you should definitely be thanking Oliver at the very minimum and or sending him a small amount in the form of an Amazon Gift Card. I can't imagine spending that much time and energy on a plugin and then expecting nothing in return. He deserves something for his work. http://www.deliciousdays.com/cforms-plugin

  3. Shustyteery says:

    Lots of of people blog about this subject but you wrote down really true words.

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