Respect Requires Altruism

I’ve been noticing a trend as of late with some of my fellow WordPress developers. Many of them have all but abandoned the idea of releasing free WordPress themes to the community.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, sometimes money can make you forget about innovation. I think it also makes you forget that WordPress is, at its core, a community program … driven by the community … supported by the community … and sustained by the community.

So how is it that we sometimes forget to give back to the community?

There are Exceptions

There are many designers out there who really are 100% altruistic in their involvement in the WordPress community. For instance, with the exception of his Showcase theme, Small Potato has released every one of his themes free of charge. Not only that, but he’s all but guaranteed his readers that he won’t release any more premium themes for a price. They’ll all be free.

Likewise, Chris Pearson recently release a new theme, and instead of placing a link back to his site, he gave that link away to a good cause. Cool huh?

We can’t be completely selfless

Now, I’m not suggesting everyone take this position. In fact, most WordPress theme designers have families that require much more time than they can afford to give to releasing a slew of free WordPress themes.

But as time progresses, and more money is being thrown around, I think it’s good to reflect on the community that is making you all that money, and give a little back to them.

In my case, that means free WordPress themes.

Releasing Free Themes

I actually believe that in order to be considered a true “star” in the WordPress community, you HAVE to give back … no charge and no strings. Just giving for the sake of giving. Running around the blogosphere attributing notoriety to yourself doesn’t impress me much … and I don’t think it impresses very many other people either.

What impresses me is the quality and quantity of your free themes. Are you giving back? Are you throwing scraps, or are you giving your best?

So what am I going to do?

I believe in this principle with all my heart. If that means staying up half the night to work on free themes, then so be it.

And that’s what I did last night. I’ve been mulling over a concept for a minimalistic theme for the last 3 weeks or so, and last night I began work on the theme itself. I really like what I have so far! Here is a list of planned features…

  • An almost monochromatic color scheme. I want this to be really simple!
  • Obligatory Feedburner integration via theme options.
  • A really cool Title/Meta combination, inspired in part by Hemingway.
  • A nice header/title/menu combination, inspired by
  • 3 Sidebars at the bottom, fully widgetized.
  • Comment styles that mirror the same style as the post title/meta.
  • The theme is tentatively named “Stripped” 🙂

I may also do something that I haven’t tried before. I may offer multiple color schemes via the theme options available in a $5-10 upgrade pack. We’ll see. I think that by doing this, I can both give a quality, top-notch product to the public, while at the same time offering a low-cost “customization” service. It also helps me make a little more holiday spending money.


I really want to encourage the WordPress designers out there to release more free themes … especially those of you who are in the “top level” of the design community. The community is lacking quality themes of late, and I think we can all help solve that problem.

15 Replies to “Respect Requires Altruism”

  1. Sounding interesting, Nathan. Can’t wait to see it.

  2. Nathan,

    Great post and nice words to hear for those of us who have not yet jumped into WordPress theme development, but are avid WordPress “modders”.

    I look forward to seeing what comes next!

  3. […] Rice recently published a post titled, Respect Requires Altruism, in which he points to me as an example of a selfless theme […]

  4. I think you guys will like it 🙂

  5. I whole-heartedly agree Nathan. Although there are literally thousands of free themes out there – the quality is not on par with the number.

    I’ve been meaning to do another free theme myself. It’s been a couple months already. I don’t have any solid ideas yet, but I like the feeling of giving something back. I totally believe in the value of good karma. 🙂

    It’s difficult to juggle all the things that I want to do or that require my time though. Family, clients, blogging, side projects, self-training, etc… you know how it is!

  6. In the spirit of this post, I have decided that it’s time for me to take the plunge into WordPress theme creation. I have taken so much from the great members of this community, it’s time for me to give back.


  7. @One Eyed View
    Let me know when you have something. I’d love to see it!

  8. Will do Nathan, will do. I’m sure the first theme will be very basic;)

  9. I agree with all you said. It makes me sad to see this from these kind of people. Sometimes I think they do free stuffs just to get visits and page rank, and later when they get, the open source spirit die.

  10. Nice of you to show where you stand on free WP themes. Your work is much appreciated. Hope your altruistic spirit will catch on. Cheers.

  11. I am not sure that you need to release a free theme in order to be a “star” in the WordPress community. I agree you need to give back, but even for designers that doesn’t mean giving away a free design (or doesn’t have to).

    I have never made a free theme – at least not any that got any traction or that I put any real effort into. It’s a great way for new designers to get “noticed” but an even better way is to create a kick ass custom theme for yourself or for someone with a popular blog for free.

    I have written a few posts on my blog regarding how to make WordPress do magical things and I try to help people in the forums when I happen to stop by, but for whatever reason I have never been able to commit to making a full theme.

    Also – being “famous” in the WordPress community is relative. I feel like I am well known, but in reality I am only well known within my network of friends, acquaintances, and business partners. Most WordPress users have never heard my name.

    But anyway, good post 🙂

  12. The Free Community!?…

    I’ve got this “routine” every weekend to check out the blogs of some WP personalities, which I don’t necessarily subscribe to – either because they don’t post often or because I feel I subscribe to too many RSS feeds&#8230…

  13. Some of us still doing and releasing free themes. Isn’t that so!

  14. Hello! I from Tojiciston. It’s very interesting, but difficult to read your blog in English. Can you make it in Tojiciston Language?

  15. @Ravshan:
    Sorry, for the time being, we’re English only.

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