Turning the other cheek


My previous sponsored theme post followed by Matt’s support has generated a lot of buzz in the WordPress and blogging communities. readers’ opinion and the WordPress community’s opinion on this move are mostly positive and I appreciate your understanding and support. The sponsored theme community however, has been overwhelmingly negative and their dialog has degenerated into name calling and nastiness directed towards Matt and myself. Unlike Matt, some of the people that have berated me, called me names and disparaged my work, are people that I respect, who were in touch with me frequently and on whom I have spent a lot of time and effort on promotion in the past (and for the record, will continue to promote in the future). The negative responses were not fun to read through but the positives were also very heartening and encouraging.

Let me say that it is very hard for me to turn the other cheek but that is what I choose to do and I will not add fuel to the fire.

I will however, try to address a few of the legitimate concerns that I have read in the past few days. We will try to make every effort to check themes and links to make sure that they are not violating copyrights or infringing on another designer’s rights. We will make sure that themes are of higher quality and of greater value to our readers. This will reduce the quantity of themes and will probably reduce the number of theme posts but I think my readers will find more value in better quality themes from our news posts. Also, I acknowledge that it is almost impossible to know every theme that has been posted in the past and recognize every copyright violator. Mistakes can and will happen. I would like to request that theme authors report copyright violations and other errors as soon as possible either through the comments or via the contact form on the top menu. We will make every effort to correct these issues as quickly as possible.

I have also known that this move might hurt those sponsored theme designers who release high quality themes with minimal sponsorship and provide the ability for their users to remove the sponsored links[1]. These theme designers and promoters have made legitimate points in their discussion of this problem and have echoed my own private concerns. However, such designers are scarce and there is no effective, fair and consistent way of making exceptions to allow certain sponsors and certain designers without playing favorites, without hurting those that are not within the exceptions and without hurting the users of these theme. I personally feel that arbitrating sponsored themes into sponsored “allowed” and sponsored “disallowed” will cause more confusion and more friction in the community because any limits set by an individual or a group will only be challenged on one ground or the other. It will also result in copycats creating even more themes with “minimal sponsorship” to keep within the boundaries with very little differences between versions.

I would also like to clarify one of the notions that has been circulating around this discussion. I have no problem with designer credits as long as they are within boundaries. Designer credits at the footer of a theme are fine by me. But if you as a designer are linking back to your blog many times[2] from within a single theme, you will be asked to tone it down.

To re-iterate, if you feel that there is any error in a particular post of ours, or you feel that there is a copyright issue, please contact us and we will take the necessary steps as soon as possible.

[1] This was in the original post but was edited out by me because I could not find the right words and context. In hindsight, it probably should have been left there.

[2] This has been taken to an extreme and needs to be addressed.

PS: For the record, my last name is Ghosh.




  1. Trakin (3 comments.) says:

    Very nicely communicated Mr. Ghosh. You have support from majority of WP community and will remain so.
    Your efforts and stand are highly appreciated.

  2. Sean Yeomans (4 comments.) says:

    I figure, if you want to provide sponsored themes, then pick one theme, submit it here and hopefully your work is good enough to cause the person to click back to your own site and you can give away as many sponsoired links as you that so bad?

    Then once or twice a month release another one… build very good themes and HECK! you might even pop up on Google’s top 50 or something.

    I don’t get the issue.. frankly, a streamlined list of great themes on this blog, and less waste of time crap themes I see, the better

  3. Arpit Jacob (8 comments.) says:

    you have my support mark. kudos all this controversy has opened a really nasty can of worms. I been shocked by what some of the popular people have done also realised that a lot of people working in the background have done a lot of good work yet no one ever knows about it.

  4. Small Potato (19 comments.) says:

    Hey Mark. Have you gotten a chance to read the blog posts on,, and Like I said on my own blog, and were real eye-openers for me and they don’t resort to name calling.

    So far, what I’ve read from the “negative” side are: If you’re going to ban this or that, do it, but don’t try to justify it. Second, do something about copyright violations / rip-offs / etc. to help out the legit theme authors. Too much information to process shouldn’t be your excuse to justify rewarding those in the wrong.

    I hope that future themes featured on your blog will reflect your recent decisions and reasons to encourage better quality in WordPress themes.

    And, I appreciate your effort in trying to fairly promote everyone’s work, despite conflicting interests and point of views. Lastly, if WLTC ever need help from theme authors like me, just say so and I’ll be glad to help you out.

  5. hso (8 comments.) says:

    @ Mark Ghosh

    As I wrote in my post, its not personal, I have nothing against anyone, I commend your work and will continue to do so. With that said, I stick by my post and hope that the real issues are resolved. A new start that is better for users, designers and last but not the least, the moderators!

  6. Monika (40 comments.) says:

    Ok sponsored themes are out. I know that no one of my themes are named in one of the articles at weblogtoolscollection – nor in the theme viewer.

    So I can bring arguments without personal consternation.

    So much articles about sponsored links, but I can’t find good articles about all the theme user the delete the regular link to wordpress or the theme creator.

    So it looks like to delete the “thank you” [the backlink to the designers homepage] is ok for you all.

    I hope you understand my meanings.


  7. Kahil (1 comments.) says:

    Nicely said!! If people want to put ads or the like in their theme or site, let them do so on their own rather than be forced to do so just for using a particular theme or plugin.

    Don’t let them get to you. Your site your rules. If they want sympathy, its in the dictionary between shit and syphilis.

  8. Kahil (5 comments.) says:

    @ Monika,

    I understand what you are trying to say, but there really is nothing you can do to stop that. As much as it sucks, all you really can do is hope that there are more honest people out there who will give credit where credit is due. I personally think that what you are talking about and what this argument is about are two separate things, though they are similar. The linkbacks in the hearders should stay, or if they alter a theme so much but still base it off of yours, they should at least give you credit somewhere on the site. Putting ads in the themes and or plugins is something else altogether IMHO.


  9. Shawn Honnick (5 comments.) says:

    These designers have a profit (business) motive. To operate as a business, advertising should be part of their plans. Perhaps either another site or a section of this that showcases “sponsored” themes would be a solution. Maybe this has already been discussed?

  10. Monika (40 comments.) says:

    Hello Kahil

    ….is about are two separate things, though they are similar.

    WP Theme Blank:(texto . de) > 20K downloads ~ 107 Backlinks!
    thats the reality. ;)

    You wouldn’t promote plugins or themes with sponsore links or publisher code if hidden or not – I think this absolutly correct.
    You must not make an excuse for the wp community for your arbitration (?)to do this.

    If I read this article it sounds like: please understand me, don’t be angry with me.

    To take firm stand is always the better way.


    I hope you would like to promote themes without “creative html” and creative css hacks… ;)
    this is one of my daydreams if I read all the “help me” threads at our wp support forum.

    have a nice day

  11. michel v (1 comments.) says:

    Shawn: themes as freebies are an advertising support… for the designer’s business. One can operate a business on designing custom themes for a fee, customizing existing ones, or even fit a whole WP install for a client’s needs.
    There are many business models that can be used, that do not involve abusing users with ads or other shady deals… (but hey sure, they involve more work than just placing some spammers’ links once, abusing hundreds users’ search engines ranking and watching the pennies slowly roll in.)

  12. Network Geek (21 comments.) says:

    Well, I think the people who resorting to name calling are stinky stupid-heads.
    Honestly, when you first wrote about it, I had to go find out what you were talking about and when I did, I was appalled. Linking back to the designer’s site is one thing, but using unsuspecting bloggers as hidden, sneaky zombie link spammers is deplorable. So, bravo, sir, on taking a stand for ethics in a largely unethical arena. Bravo to you both.

  13. Kahil (5 comments.) says:

    @ Monika,

    I think you may have misunderstood me… What I meant was that people should leave the credit/backlinks that are in the theme’s header sections, etc. If someone changes a theme dramatically and removes that info, then they should at least give credit. What I think most people don’t like, myself included, is having links or ads all over the site that weren’t directly added by the site’s owner, etc. For me, if I am going to post an ad or link then it is going to be because I want to. When you post a link or ad like that you are basically endorsing that site, product, service, etc. I hope that makes more sense…


  14. Mark (2 comments.) says:

    On Dec 26, we first sent an email to the Undersigned to look into the ratings abuse.

    No reply.

    On March 2nd 2007, we requested Matt Mullenweg to investigate into the same issue.

    No reply.

    On the same day, I contacted a friend from Technorati to help us, and he suggested we pitch the scam story around to some high-profile blogs in the technology, software field with a big bunch of audience. So I contacted you (Mark Ghosh) at that time and I am most thankful to you for your prompt responses and willingness to help us always, unlike Michael Hancock, (the moderator who showed absolutely no interest in the report of copyrights violation provided to him).

    On 18th March, we contacted the Undersigned once again and as everyone knows, the rating system was out immediately.

    As if downrating and theme ripoffs was not enough for us to go through, one fine day, you labeled all sponsored designers as “unethical”. Had you written that on, I wouldn’t care, I would have taken it as normative and I would be fine with it. But I think you have a bigger responsibility when you write on WLTC and I was taken aback to see how someone of your stature made a generalized statement, followed by Matt. “Unethical” is a big word. Can’t you see the efforts we have consistently put in building good themes for the past one year? When we were at the receiving end of the stick, no one helped us; instead of punishing those who wronged us, the rating system got removed. We have worked hard with a high level of dedication, and we have real users’ real testimonials on our sites which speak about our service, we don’t need any rating system to prove our worth. Our honesty is our pride and we do not want anyone to insult our intelligence. If you have an opinion, so do we.

    As far as favoritism is concerned, the fact that you discriminate between themes based on footer links and not based on the design is favoritism in itself, (in my opinion), you may think otherwise. Inspite of knowing about 32 links in Jez’s themes, inspite of knowing about his aliases, you listed his theme recently on top of your blog without mentioning “Contains 32 links”. When I see such discrimination, I lose faith in the system and those who run it.

    I want to thank you for taking back the generalization in this blog, it does mean a lot to us.

  15. Kahil (5 comments.) says:

    Great post Mark,

    I don’t know the details that were taken into consideration when they made this decision, but I would think that it was a hard one to make. There are some themes where the only “sponsored” part would be a link in the footer. There are also those who put it all over the place, not to mention those that have adsense and the like put in there. To me there is a huge difference between the two, but I could also see how it would just be easier and less of a hassle to say no “sponsored” themes/plugins across the board. These guys would have to look at each of them individually, etc. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and generalize a little in order to avoid singling out people on a defined scale. You can see how all this has been taken on the general scale it is on now, just imagine how it woudl be if they said that some sponsored themes/plugins are allowed, but not those who do or have this or that, etc. Does that make sense? I may be reading into all this incorrectly, but thats what I get from it all.

  16. António (2 comments.) says:

    Amen to that. Nice tong in cheek :)

    What some people don’t realize is that you are providing free listings here. Make that free bold. If they want to make some business out of themes go find some distribuition platform that allows them to do so or pay google or someone to publicize them.

  17. Dan (1 comments.) says:

    I support sponsored themes but I still commend you. Hopefully the sponsored themes community will develop their own way to keep going. They deserve to get paid if their work is good and someone is willing and I think payment promotes quality. I’m sure it will work itself out.

  18. Monika says:

    Hello Kahil
    no I haven’t missunderstood you. I understand your meanings, but this are not different things, this are “two sites of one euro”.[I don’t know the correct figure of speech inyour language]

    why people delete credit links others set hidden links = both is unethical

    to delete credit links is unethical as set hidden affily links..

    but “nobody” is writing articles about the unethical of delete credit links..

    this is an imbalance in most of this articles –


  19. Kahil (5 comments.) says:

    Great point Monika!

    Credit should be given where it is due. I think that it is an issue for both sides, a problem that comes from both users and developers. I personally think that the happy medium would be if the only link backs were put into the theme header (like most themes have) and to leave it out of all other places in the theme/plugin. This would still give the credit of the theme/plugin author and give the end-user control over link-backs and ads, etc.

  20. Grumpy (1 comments.) says:

    Mark, Matt and anyone else who decides banning “sponsored themes” is a good idea. ME TOO!!! Thank you!

    If someone wants to put a link back to their site within a theme, thats perfectly ok with me. But putting sponsors on a theme that I use without the ability to remove them is just plain stoopid.

    I am usually more than happy to donate to someone who creates a product and puts it out there for all of us to use. I have spent money on plugins, themes and other packages because they are good quality products. If you try to force something on me, more than likely I will re-create a similar product and put it out there beside yours with NO forced sponsorship links or anything else. And I will advertise it as such.

    So Matt, Mark et al… thank you.

  21. Shawn Honnick (5 comments.) says:

    michel, I agree completely that there are other business models that are likely better and that these themes are, in many cases, just a method of abuse / misuse of unsuspecting people and of systems

    I’m pretty sure sponsored themes won’t stop though and it may be best to suggest to those who have convinced themselves that it actually is a good idea to go find or develop their own channels online instead of taking an elitist stand on the issue. There’s plenty of room for us all.

  22. Melissa (1 comments.) says:

    Bottom line…I appreciate all your hard work and the research that goes into making this site/blog great. Keep it going and ignore the negative ;-)

  23. Ben Hamilton (1 comments.) says:

    @Mark Ghosh: Well done, you have my support.

  24. Pi (2 comments.) says:

    I see no reason why there shouldn’t be a new website dedicated to themes with sponsored links in them; a commercial website where the designers – since they or their links earn money from their work – are required to pay towards the costs of promoting their themes.

  25. ThomThumb (1 comments.) says:

    Add one more supporter for you and Matt. I am more than happy to give credit to theme builders or give “based on” credit when modifying a theme. If a sponsor wants to pay for a link on a site that is onk too. Thank you all for your integrity in bringing this matter to the front lines for discussion.

    People out there writing software with hidden links…. shame! There is nothing smart or intellegent about deceiving unsuspecting people. There is no honor in what you do.

    Power to free (and honest) speech.

  26. James (4 comments.) says:

    Thank you for the clarifications and thank you again for taking a firm stance against a practice that is fundamentally against the freedoms of the GPL license.

    If designers stop and think for a moment about all the different ways they can ethically monetize their design efforts, loosing the ability to release sponsored themes at major venues is only a minor set back. IMHO, by pressuring designers to not include sponsored links it will actually help their image and add to their credibility as they release themes that are fully compatible with the GPL (i.e.: no encrypted PHP strings that end users cannot edit).

    I know all to well what it is like to face criticism in the face of doing what is right. My hat is off to you and you have my full support.


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