Over the last year or so, I’ve been hesitant to open source Mayer. I mean, by default, the theme is open source, but I mean placing it on GitHub. Coincidentally, I’ve never had a problem open sourcing any of my plugins no matter how low-quality they were (at least at the time – I mean, I didn’t know any better!).

I still have a lot to learn but that’s a topic for another post.

Anyway, so what’s the rub? That is, why is the only way to grab a copy of the source code of open source WordPress themes to purchase them? It kind of feels a little bit anti-GPL doesn’t it (and to be clear, I do not want to start a debate on this)?

The current GitHub page for Pressware

The current GitHub page for Pressware

But the software should be freely available. It’s the support – and the other perks that come with that – that matters the most, right? And I’ve watched other people be wildly successful with open sourcing their work (Pippin Williamson being one of them).

To be clear, I’m not attempting yet-another-way to monetize or popularize a theme in hopes of making money. The short of it is that the theme will sell given the right marketplace. If someone wants to freely use the theme, that’s fine – why not? After all, it may result in some pull requests or other issues that will improve the core theme.

That’s definitely a win.

But those who wish to purchase the theme for the sake of support will still do that – I’ve no doubt about it as I’ve seen it play out in various avenues.

The thing is, over the past couple of years, I’ve always had this minor pushback inside me whenever I wanted to open source a theme (or even a plugin) that I’m selling even though the source code can be attainted in other ways.

So very logical, I know.

But seriously, we’re really good at convincing ourselves otherwise on a plethora of different issues, aren’t we? We tell ourselves things like:

  • If it’s open source, then it will cannibalize sales (which there’s evidence to the contrary that this doesn’t happen). Yet, we enter into a GPL-based economy.
  • I can manage all of the issues and bug reports myself (which assumes users will report them rather than ask for a refund and move on). Yet, we ask for help from beta testers and other users.
  • Why bother selling something if you’re just giving it away for free (despite the fact that this flies in the face of everything the GPL offers us). Yet, this is something that we arguably should be doing anyway.
  • …and more than I’m likely forgetting.

The bottom line is that you build the business up around the free software. There a tertiary services that can provide the means for a business other than the core software itself.

Besides, I – and any other theme author – has the right to reject any pull request or close any issue that they deem outside the scope, mission, or vision of their project. The thing is that GitHub just makes it so attractive to store, and to maintain, and so easy to publicly share things for others to get in on it.

And we know, from many examples, that the open source community is just as collaborative, if not more so, than many other software communities.

So when you take all of that into consideration, I think that it’s actually a harder sell to convince me not to make source code freely available.

But what does this mean moving forward?

As simple as I can make it, I’m going open to throw the latest version of Mayer on GitHub and make it publicly available. On top of that, I’m going to be publicly developing my next theme that will be for sale later this year on GitHub along with documenting the process as I go (at least, that’s the plan).

So on February 13th, 2014, Mayer will be available (though unsupported) on GitHub. Paying customers will always get the same level of support they always have, and the theme will continue to be for sold through the usual channels.

In the meantime, I’m curious to hear from those of you who have gone this route or who have not gone through route simply because I’m interested in your rationale as to why you have opted to do something (or not do something) and what your experience has been like.