I just published an open letter to WordPress on my blog and it might offer some interesting conversation fodder for this forum. I have copied and pasted the text in this thread but if you are interested, here is a link to the original page:
By Richard Finch / CameraBooru.com
I just had a most unpleasant experience.
For the past few days I have been waiting for my WordPress theme (Blogazine) to be reviewed for inclusion in the official WordPress Theme directory. WordPress.org has a ticketing system that allows theme authors (and the various volunteer reviewers) to discuss the status of theme submissions. I figured there would be some obscure technical issue that would delay my theme’s approval (and there was) and I was prepared to make the appropriate changes in order to pass the submission process.
However, I did not expect my theme to be rejected over a backlink.
I have a website called CameraBooru; it’s a directory where people can find local photographers and videographers. I also created a blog that features interviews with interesting photographers and filmmakers doing interesting things. I decided to make my website design available as a downloadable theme for WordPress. It wasn’t anything special, design-wise. But it had a few neat features for better embedding images and video…and I figured it would be a good way to encourage people to better use WordPress while also promoting my site via a credit link.
In the world of search engine optimization this is considered a “white hat” technique, a perfectly legitimate and above board form of marketing that neither users nor Google would have any qualms over. But WordPress didn’t like my credit link because it’s “not appropriate.” As per their Theme Review policy: “Author URI, if used, is required to link to an author’s personal web site or project/development website.”
But CameraBooru is my project development website. I replied:
I’m incredulous. I don’t understand why this is an issue. The theme is based on my web site. If people have support issues I want them to contact me through my website. If I release additional themes in the future, they will be announced on my website. What does it matter if it’s a business site/directory? WP listed themes link to web design companies and whatnot all the time. I don’t understand how you can favor one kind of enterprise over another.
I created a page CameraBooru dedicated to my theme and asked if a link to that would be satisfactory. It was not.
There was also a suggestion that I forgo receiving a credit altogether in order for my theme to be approved. But why should I forfeit credit for my work? The primary reason I released the theme was for self-promotion…just like any other theme designer. This is hardly anything new. Web designers release free themes so they can better market their design services and products. But I’m not a web designer, I’m an entrepreneur trying to promote a web site. I’m not some shady Internet marketer selling Viagra or online gambling. I didn’t load my credit link with ugly keywords like “Photography Directory!” or “Find a local wedding photographer. Click here!” I simply included, an unobtrusive link in the footer that read: “Designed by CameraBooru” followed by “Powered by WordPress” – Links that anyone is free to remove.
NOTE: Based on WP’s own theme policy, I shouldn’t be able to link to their site since they are neither the author of this theme nor a design firm…curiously they didn’t seem to mind.
…it is our prerogative to maintain a strict standard with respect to credit links, due to the sheer volume of Themes that get submitted with all manner of attempted credit link spam. If you are unable or unwilling to understand our policy, that’s okay; you’re always free to distribute your Theme from your own website.
I’m not unwilling to understand your policy, what I’m trying to explain to you people is that in this instance, it doesn’t make any sense. I was hoping you would demonstrate some empathy and try to understand my position. I am not a spammer. The credit link isn’t some paid ad arbitrarily inserted into my theme. Instead, it’s a link to my website–an inoffensive one at that! How is anyone adversely affected by seeing a link to my website in a theme that I created, released and support for free?
Rather than demonizing commerce and entrepreneurship, perhaps they nurtured and celebrated. That way entrepreneurs would have one less excuse for engaging in unsavory marketing practices. I think that would be a much better way to combat Internet spam.