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The future of my phpBB templates

Submitted by Jakob on 13 November, 2007 - 18:33.My Blog | phpBB | Templates, Themes and Skins

Many of you have asked me about the future of my templates for phpBB and when they will be ported to phpBB 3, the next version of the popular forum system. After much thinking and considering of my own priorities, I have found two ways to go ahead but I need your feedback. Please read this post and post your own thoughts as comments.

As most of you know, I have designed five highly popular themes for phpBB. There have been probably close to half a million downloads of these since 2002, not a bad number for a few designs which I just happened to make.

As popularity has grown, and as phpBB has developed faster, releasing security updates every second month, requiring me to spend considerable time and effort keeping these templates up to date, my interest in doing so has waned. The work of supporting these, responding to requests and emails has become something that takes considerable time and energy from tasks I consider more important in my life.

To port the current templates for phpBB2, doing it the way I imagine it should be done, transform them from their current state to something I could call outstanding would take close to a full month of full time work. In reality, it would take me three months since I never have the luxury of only focusing at one single thing at a time.

In my world, theres not the possibility of just porting them as they are, producing a decent or half-assed result. These themes are my creation and nothing short of spectacular would be good enough for me. So its either that one month, in other words at least 120 hours of work, or nothing at all.

Given the projected release date of phpBB3, which I expect around Christmas, and my current life situation being a half-time student as well as co-owner of a successful web development consulting firm, I have come to accept that theres not enough time to port these themes to phpBB3. Even if I would miss the release date of phpBB3 I doubt I would ever get the time, or have the energy, to actually get it done. Its unpaid work and sadly I cannot spend 120 hours or more doing freebies for people, its neither something I want nor can do.

Considering these circumstances, there are two ways to go and they arent mutually exclusive. I havent made up my mind yet, not until Ive heard what you think. So, before I go ahead, Id like to collect some thoughts from you who use my designs. Please read my plans and post comments below.

Public release

The first way, which I have considered for a long time now, is to release the templates to the public, for purposes that I are outlined further down. However, my main reason for doing so is simple: Id rather people took what Ive made and turned it into something useful than the files sitting on my hard drive unused.

Funded development

The second way is to let those of you who want me to port these themes to phpBB 3, and to what I consider the level of spectacular, fund it together. The reason to this is that my willingness to do work for free has a limit, a limit in terms of personal attitude as well as time available.

A lot of you use my designs, a lot of you ask me for features and when version x will be done. A fraction of you have have sent me emails, thanking me. Im always delighted to hear from you, and your words are important. An even smaller fraction has actively donated a little money. The symbolism of your gift, regardless of its size, means a lot to me. These expressions and gifts have been two the reasons why Ive wanted to go on, until recently.

For me to seriously consider putting down the not-so-small effort of updating and upgrading these designs, it needs to work out financially for me as well. Besides releasing these to the public, Id also like to open the possibility of you funding development. If many enough people show interest, I will set up a fund, a fixed amount for each template and once it has been reached work will begin.

The exact terms are yet to be worked out. An idea Ive had is to make contributors eligible for certain special features or goodies and access to graphics source files for the design work they fund.

If you use one, or several, of my templates and feel youd like to support keeping them outstanding, allowing them to raise them to the next level, contact me or post in the comments below and express your support and make sure you leave your email address (dont worry, spammers cant get it). I will contact you all once Ive got an idea of how much interest there is.

Purposes of a public release

For a public release, I have looked at using Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License with additional restrictions and terms. I think its important I explain the background and the purposes for such a release because any use of the publicly released files must be done with the purposes and background in consideration, and in so doing, respecting my wish and intentions.

My purposes for releasing the themes can be summed up in the following points:

  • Avoid leaving forum owners stranded without an upgrade path when phpBB 3 goes gold (i.e. the stable release 1.0 is made), allowing them to upgrade themselves and also share their work with the rest of the world.
  • Contribute to the world of forum designs by providing source files and something people can build on to make their own designs.
  • Retain copyright of these themes while allowing people the freedom to modify and create derivatives of my designs and release these themselves and be credited for their work for the purpose of attribution.
  • Forbid commercial exploitation of my work such as direct selling or leasing of my themes, or any ports (to website templates, content management systems or forums or anything else) or derivatives of these themes in whole or in part, while still allowing themes to be used on forums or sites owned by companies, organizations or individuals who make money off their site, directly or indirectly, however not making it from the theme itself.
  • Forbid modification of my themes, adding links, banners or similar, and redistribution of them for promotion or search engine optimization purposes and monetary gain.
  • Ensure attribution for my work. If you distribute the original themes or a porting, modification or derivative work of the original themes, you must make sure they display a certain piece of HTML code that fulfills the attribution requirement of the license. This piece of code may not be modified for any other purpose than keeping it clearly visible nor may it be obfuscated or made hard to read.

Your feedback

I have yet to decide on an exact course of action. First Id like to know what you think. I will make my decision in a few weeks time. Until then, you have a chance to post your thoughts as comments (see below).

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