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Open Source Design in risk? 184

Posted by Hemos
from the oh-noes! dept.
Stylissimo writes "OSWD.org, the biggest source for free open source web templates, has been offline for several weeks, which has caused a dilemma for the large number of webmasters who rely on open source design. While some of the OSWD.org designers are doing their best to keep the open source design scene alive, others are worried that the absence of OSWD.org will hit the internet hard and maybe even kill the scene. Aaron Nikula, administrator of OSWD.org, has published a statement about the situation and the site may be back again."
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Open Source Design in risk?

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  • For once (Score:5, Funny)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudsonNO@SPAMbarbara-hudson.com> on Monday November 07, 2005 @12:12PM (#13969899) Journal
    ... its NOT the slashdot effect
    OSWD will be back shortly. We are experiencing technical difficulties.
  • by RootsLINUX (854452) <rootslinux AT gmail DOT com> on Monday November 07, 2005 @12:13PM (#13969907) Homepage
    They're already having trouble getting their site back up, and then you decide to go and slashdot them? Good lord, have you no sense of decency???
    • This is the site that has the capability to cache links and not destroy people's bandwidth fees but just won't do it. Decency? Ha, you're asking the wrong people.
    • by IamLarryboy (176442) on Monday November 07, 2005 @12:35PM (#13970089)
      Their server is going down hard. Here is the text.

      ***

      Hello everyone, I'm Aaron "MonkeyMan" Nikula, I've been running OSWD for the past 3 years, so here's your authoritative explanation.

      On Oct 13th our site was displaying a "Forbidden" error. We tried to contact our host (phpwebhosting.com), but despite our "emergency" support ticket it took them a week to reply to it and they do not have a phone support number. Turns out they had attempted to contact us through an email address that Frank used to create an account years ago. After all that was sorted out it turns out they disabled our account because the website was crashing their server. They have 196 users on that machine, 92 mysqld threads, and 33 apache threads, so I think we just used up too many resources for a shared (and cheap) host.

      Regardless, none of that has anything to do with the problems we're having now. A little bit of OSWD history first. OSWD was started by Frank Skettino about 4 years ago. I joined 1 month after the project was created (before we even had the OSWD.org domain) and that's when I started writing PHP code for the project. After a while (months) Frank started doing less and less and I started picking up slack. I think I've written 95% of the code that was running the website. I also maintained the website. About 50% of the designs were approved by me, 45% by various volunteers (Josh, Josh, Locke, and Skatters to name a few), and 5% were done by Frank in the early days. In fact, when I had to take a trip and was away from the internet for about 4 months, nobody maintained the site. There were hundreds of designs in the queue and nobody approved them until I got back. I also started the OSWD design contests, in fact (as Josh mentioned) we were in the middle of one when the site went down.

      After OSWD started to gain some steam Frank decided to add our first commercial venture. He added the template monster affiliate program to the website. It has been criticized in the past by our members because it's not open source and people confused them with our free designs. I think it's worth noting that he never told anyone how much money he made and he didn't share the money. He was paying for the hosting, so I was fine with that (although our hosting cost was $10/month, I can assure you he was making more than that).

      So, back to the present: all these things were making me upset. When the site went down I thought it would be a nice time to ask Frank to pass the website to me for the benefit of the project. He hasn't talked to me since. Also, I don't have access to OSWD or access to my email account. OSWD DOES have new hosting, the transfer was done 2 weeks ago. The problem is that Frank won't do the work to bring it back up. There are no technical problems anymore, he's just sitting on it. Also, he won't give the project to anyone else to do it for him, I think because he wants to keep as much control on the website as possible.

      So that's what's happening guys. I really appreciate all the offers of hosting, but that's not the issue here. And really, unless Frank gives up the website, there's not a whole lot I can do help. Hope that clears things up!
      • Then fork (Score:5, Insightful)

        by suso (153703) * on Monday November 07, 2005 @12:54PM (#13970232) Homepage Journal
        If a project is useful, and the people in control of the project won't help the project evolve in some direction or just sit on it and do nothing, you fork the code. In this case, you might not have access to the website source code, but I would think there would be an archive somewhere.

        This is the reason why there should be at least two independent people in charge of open source projects.
      • I'm certain that many of us who have benefited from you would be willing to drop you some cash via PayPal. I use a very responsive hosting company and have had no complaints so far. If you like, I'd be happy to help you get back up and running with a new URL. Just sign in and leave a private message on blog (URL above) and we'll get cracking.

        2 cents,

        Queen B
      • Wouldn't this be an appropriate time to tell Frank to "fork you"?

        --Rob

  • I suspect they're in trouble because they're not performing a valuable enough service. Linux never has trouble finding funding because it's so valuable to people that Linux stay in healthy shape. I've taken a look through OSWD before and found most of the sites were ugly. Not only that, they wouldn't adapt well to a site design I have in mind.

    So it goes.
    • I suspect they're in trouble because they're not performing a valuable enough service.

      I've never even heard of them until today. Maybe it's an exposure problem i.e. Not enough?

      • If you Google for "Web Design [google.com]" they come up as #4 for me.
        • If you Google for "Web Design" they come up as #4 for me.

          Thing is, every time I look for templates I search for 'web templates', 'css templates' or something of that nature. I wouldn't search 'Web Design' unless I was actually looking for a web designer, thus I've never heard of them either, until today.
      • If you had read the article, you'd have seen that apparently, the guy who registered the domain a few years ago, and is now out of the picture, doesn't want to turn over the domain to the people who have been doing the heavy lifting for the last while.

        Moral of the story - if you're doing a lot of work on something, make sure the contact info is up to date, or you can end up having your work "hijacked".

    • I suspect they're in trouble because they're not performing a valuable enough service.

      Is it really a funding problems? Sounds more like a lame technical screw up soap opera.

      Why is this on Slashdot? Some random site has some problems, and that gets a Slashdot front-page story? The fact that they have "open source" in their name doesn't quite merit it. And I love the popup-prevention-circumvention popups at the forum link included in the submission. Nice.
      • from the statement:
        After OSWD started to gain some steam Frank decided to add our first commercial venture. He added the template monster affiliate program to the website. It has been criticized in the past by our members because it's not open source and people confused them with our free designs. I think it's worth noting that he never told anyone how much money he made and he didn't share the money. He was paying for the hosting, so I was fine with that (although our hosting cost was $10/month, I can a
        • Well, it sounds to me like someone wants to retain control of their website that they paid for. Big deal.
          • Usually when I want to maintain control of something, I actively develop and/or manage it. I'm sure Aaron[?] would be okay with the site just going back up, since it seems he was happy doing all the work with none of the material pay-off before.

            I agree with the parent, Frank seems to just be being rather lazy and negligent, being that he refuses to fork over the (OS) project to Aaron but also refuses to do any work on his own. He should give a catagorical "NO!", and then DO SOMETHING, or cede all costs an
      • It's on slashdot because there is a huge overlap between web geeks (mostly PHP,Perl,Ruby scripters) and /.ers. Alot of these web geeks tend to have poor web design skills (just click on alot of the commenters homepage links and you will see), hence the need for web templates.

        Quite frankly OSWD.org was/is the best free web template website i've found. It has/had a nice little community, an neat interface and creative contributors who actually cared about standards like XHTML and CSS.

        You insensitive clod.
    • I will agree. Web site templates SUCK big time. I mean, if you cannot design a web site, then what are you doing trying to produce one? Also, isn't designing them the fun part? Worst of all, these idiotic templates are often full of bloated code and bad stock photos that lend nothing to the product except to make it look "professional". Good riddance. Replace it with a website on how to design usable web sites. And tutorials on how to never use a stock photo again.
      • Whomever just modded me down as flamebait -- you probably did that because on your last consulting job where you got PAID to design a website, you went to this site and grabbed a nifty template. It worked out too, since executives don't care about bad code and they just LOVE stock photos, especially ones of second rate models in corporate attire giving a laptop a steely stare. Plus the website probably plays sounds and all kinds of "kewl" stuff. I have seen it too many times in my professional experience
        • I mostly agree with you, so no flame here, perhaps its just how you originally put it.

          I have used templates before, but going with the OS model, I HEAVILY modify them for my own ends, until they are pretty much nothing like what they started as. And actually that is how I cut my teeth on HTML/design is finding the design I wanted, looking at the source, and ripping it apart until it does what I want. Only after that did I develop an aesthetic and style for myself.

          Its like art classes, first you study art
        • If you cannot design a website, or know enough to hire someone who can, then "resources" like this one will not cover your ineptitude. If you are a good programmer but cannot design well, ask for help. Learn how. Don't take a template and use it. By the time you make it fit your needs, you could have learned something.
          As someone who just had to make a new website for my employer in a rather short time period (3 weeks) using software I'd never used before (Joomla, used to be called Mambo) I can tell you
      • Making a good template for a site is not easy and not especially fun. Making one that uses CSS for more than changing your fonts and make it work in all major browsers and you've just been through hell. IE is seriously a nightmare to do thanks largely to it's lack of proper transparency support and lack of positioning support.

        Most site's need only the graphics and colors of their template changed from one of maybe three basic designs so it makes sense to reuse most of that code and to just change what needs
    • You might want to RTFA. The problem is not about the funding or technical issues, it is about a webmaster who does not want to give up control:
      The problem is that Frank won't do the work to bring it back up. There are no technical problems anymore, he's just sitting on it. Also, he won't give the project to anyone else to do it for him, I think because he wants to keep as much control on the website as possible.
      • If people cared enough, a replacement would pop up. That was my point.
        • If people cared enough, a replacement would pop up. That was my point.
          It probably will, but at this time no one but the guy holding OSWD in stasis has access to any of the files. It'll take a while to recreate the site from scratch so a replacement can't just "pop up" in this case. I'm sure the rest of the OSWD community will build a new site but it won't have as many templates as the old site for quite some time.
    • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Monday November 07, 2005 @12:47PM (#13970174)
      I suspect they're in trouble because they're not performing a valuable enough service.

      The cut-n-pasted statement in an above comment seems to suggest that they're in trouble because they're using more than their fair share of the shared hosting resources (according to the hosting company). This would seem to contraindicate the idea that not enough people are finding value in what they offer.
    • Websites based on templates!?! No wonder most of the internet looks similar...
  • by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Monday November 07, 2005 @12:14PM (#13969914) Journal
    If someone did died (permantly or not) it will be replaced as soon as it needs to be. Geeks tend to like to have tools ready when they need them. So if one is missing theopen source geeks will start to work on it. No matter the name or brand everything will return from it's death in some form.
  • by haplo21112 (184264) <haplo@@@epithna...com> on Monday November 07, 2005 @12:21PM (#13969976) Homepage
    ...I've been wondering. The site has been very valuable to me for several months now...infact it had become part of my daily, check this site for new stuff rotation. Hopefully they can resolve whatever dispute is keeping them offline soon, or the remaining interested parties will start a new site to replace it.

    Unfortunately its sounding rather like greed has reared up in the wake of the disaster...
  • If you actually read the linked article (yeah I know that is a lot to expect around here and all that) then you will find out the problem isn't the lack of hosting it is that the founder seems to be holding the site ransom without actually posting a ransom but it seems like he wishes to make the site more comercial.
    • Don't count on this story being about greed either. We've only heard one side of the story. Having nothing to compare that to there is no way to know the accuracy of that version.

      Though it wasn't the other party in question ("Frank"), someone did speak up for him. Look for the poster hatrisc in earlier replies. He claims that Frank is recoding the site.

      Again, who knows what the truth is but it doesn't make any sense to be adamant about your position (over someone elses) when there are insufficient facts at
  • by Phoenix (2762) on Monday November 07, 2005 @12:24PM (#13970006)
    If it is an open source movement and the web site is dead with the possibility of it never going up again, is it not in the realm of possibility that others will pick up the pieces and do another one?

    Isn't that the point of Open Source? The ability that others can take the source and do with it as they wish as long as the results are also open source?

    The death of a web site doesn't mean the death of the OSWD community...unless no one cares and they all let it die.

    Phoenix

    • If it is an open source movement and the web site is dead with the possibility of it never going up again, is it not in the realm of possibility that others will pick up the pieces and do another one?

      It seems that it should be possible. But it won't be easy without cooperation. And since the site owner doesn't seem keen to help create a site to supplant his, that cooperation is not forthcoming. This leaves those who wish to "pick up the pieces" with two distinct challenges.

      The first challenge is replicat

  • Wow, someone managed to mention 'oswd.org' four times in as little as three sentences and still get it posted to slashdot!

    Good marketing job, I must admit :)

    OK so this is offtopic, but honestly...what exactly is 'news' about some site that I doubt many people here have even heard of being offline for a few weeks?
    • Did you click on the link retard?

      It says right there in the article summary the site is down and has been a while. That's not advertising.... it's something else... dunno.. maybe NEWS?

      Wiping your ass is a conspiracy of the paper-making industry too. It has nothing to do with not smelling like shiat all the time.
  • by AnomalyConcept (656699) on Monday November 07, 2005 @12:30PM (#13970053)
    I know this is Slashdot, where no one bothers to read the articles, but after reading roughly 10 comments that were speculation (and completely incorrect based on the information presented in the links), I decided I had to steer the discussion back on track. Mod me down if you want.

    The reason (as stated in the articles) why OSWD.org is down is because the person that started the OSWD.org site, Frank, is trying to keep control over the site, although he isn't doing the majority of the work behind mantaining the site.

    Sure, OSWD.org had some hosting issues, but that's not why the site isn't back up; the (seems to me) Second in Command, Aaron, who is dedicating a lot of time and effort into maintaining the site wants to migrate the site to a new host (and has already had everthing set up), except for the content/backups, which Frank refuses to provide.

    There are some controversial issues:
    After OSWD.org gained some popularity in the beginnings, Frank added a "commercial venture" to the site, the 'templat e monster affiliate program', which was non-free. Aaron's concerns is that it was confusing people and because it was non-free.

    I think the issue here is more of "what happens if the project leader is unwilling to provide the content (or source code) for a project, and wants to maintain it tightly within their grasp?" I know the common first reaction would be to say "Fork it!", but how can you fork if you don't have the content or source? OSWD.org (presumably) has has a lot of templates submitted, for which a second backup copy may or may not exist. // If there's already another response like this, I apologize. It took me a while to write this.

    DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with OSWD.org, nor do I remember having visited them in the past. I may have, but all information above is from the articles linked, namely http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showpost.php?p=226 5475&postcount=40 [sitepoint.com].
    • The reason (as stated in the articles) why OSWD.org is down is because the person that started the OSWD.org site, Frank, is trying to keep control over the site, although he isn't doing the majority of the work behind mantaining the site.

      I run a few sites that get "maintained" by other people. It is bizarre to me that some /. readers apparently think it is reasonable that someone else would eventually have rights to my site simply because they maintained the data for a while. Is that some kind of unspo

      • by slackmaster2000 (820067) on Monday November 07, 2005 @02:25PM (#13971395)
        I've been in this position before.

        I was the only administrative-level moderator at a very popular website for several years. I also produced two successful commercial products for the site, and helped work on many new ideas.

        There was a problem, though. The site owner was a frequent no show. In fact, for the last couple years I was there he was virtually invisible...only popping up from time time to restart the server. He wouldn't respond to emails, even from me. He wouldn't respond to user requests or ideas, even when they were filtered through myself or other moderators. He wouldn't back up moderator decisions and the whole site turned very chaotic. He basically just disappeared.

        So there was a dilema. Yes, he owned the site and it was his to do with as he pleased. However, the vast majority of the content was produced by volunteers and users.

        The solution?

        I got in touch with another guy from the site who I felt was trustworthy and we started a small business partnership and started our own website dealing with the same exact subject matter. Since we were members of the original site since its beginning (or nearly), we ended up "stealing" a ton of its users. There were of course big moral debates and a lot of hot heads but it cooled off after six months or so. We just recently passed our two year mark and while the original site has like 30,000 members and millions of forum posts, we only have about 3,000 members and a quarter million posts...but that's ok because it's operating the way we want it to, and that's what it's all about. Our business model is successful too in that we haven't had to pay our high server fees out of pocket since the second month of operation. The original site didn't have a successful model of operation, it all depends on that one invisible guy to fund it with donations and advertising, neither of which are reliable sources of income.

        So one lesson learned: if you're willing to volunteer a huge amount of time for a project you believe in when somebody else is going to reap the tangible benefits, and then the project turns to shit.... maybe it's YOUR turn to go for it. You've already got the know-how and the drive after all. You don't need a terribly "unique" idea for a website either, there is a lot of room for good competition out there, which benefits everyone (as long as you're not doing anything slimey).

        Another lesson I didn't expect to learn: about a year ago I went through a very unexpected divorce, and suddenly my priorities shifted drastically. I went from putting probably 30-40 hours a week into my project to putting maybe a few hours a month into it. I suddenly understood things a lot better from that other owner's perspective...I didn't want to respond to emails...I didn't want to fix things...I didn't want to take care of anything, it just felt like a burden, but one that I couldn't let go of because it was my baby. Anyhow, the last couple months have been much better and I'm not sure I learned any specific lesson except perhaps some tolerance and understanding.
        • We just recently passed our two year mark and while the original site has like 30,000 members and millions of forum posts, we only have about 3,000 members and a quarter million posts

          If the original site has 10 times the users and traffic 2 years later, it doesn't sound as broke as it's being made out to be. Still, the point is valid: with open source, if you don't like the way something's being done, you're free to do it your own way...
    • ...Sure, OSWD.org had some hosting issues, but that's not why the site isn't back up; the (seems to me) Second in Command, Aaron, who is dedicating a lot of time and effort into maintaining the site wants to migrate the site to a new host (and has already had everthing set up), except for the content/backups, which Frank refuses to provide.

      Speaking personally, for any project that I was #2 on AND for which I was doing most of the maintenance... I'd have a complete local set of files, and/or my own set of ba
    • Aaron by his statement wrote most of the php code that ran, and perhaps crashed the site. That means that he had the user name and password for the site, and the user name and password for the database; because if your writing code for a website eventualy you have to upload the code to the website so you have FTP access bothways, and for the database

      mysqldump -hyourmachine.phpwebhosting.com -uUsername -pPasswd OSWD >DatabaseBackUp.sql

      works wonders. I've used phpwebhosting in the past and you can conn

    • Apparently, according to this announcement on oswd.org,

      I was looking to relaunch tomorrow, however, upon inspection of the data on the old server, I believe Aaron "MonkeyMan" Nikula has deleted the contents of the database. After reading some of what Aaron has posted on the SitePoint Forums [sitepoint.com], I am under the impression he has made a copy of the database before deletion.

      Aaron (the one who did a large amount of work) is the one holding the site ransom until Frank (the original creator of OSWD) agrees to t

  • If you guys read the statement, you will understand that the site is not down because of technical difficulties, but of because of "A Lazy Owner" and bickering between the volunteers, If they don't want to bother bringing the site back down, the least they could do is to distribute the content, so that other people can host it themselves. After the all the website belongs to them, but the content doesnt.
  • by linuxwrangler (582055) on Monday November 07, 2005 @12:39PM (#13970121)
    What open-source information and reference site(s) would you find it most difficult to live without? What if freshmeat just disappeared? Or osnews? Or Slashdot or SourceForge?

    Just curious.
  • Markets Adapt (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sweep The Leg (925950)
    I think the article is making a pretty bold claim. Most of these situations tend to resolve themselves eventually and something as trivial as a website doesn't cause death. This reminds me of the days when a major local warez bbs got busted and the scene was declared "dead." Yeah right.

    What especially strikes me is about the part "webmasters who rely on open source design." If you're a real designer, you shouldn't have to rely on anything like this except your own talent. Things like this site are certainly
  • We Can Rebuild It (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bugmaster (227959) on Monday November 07, 2005 @12:54PM (#13970236) Homepage
    Surely, someone has the relevant OSWD content cached somewhere ? If the site truly does die (as seems likely), how hard would it be to simply rebuild it from cached content, using Slashcode or Scoop or whatever lightweight CMS it was originally using ?

    I find it kind of ridiculous that one man appears to have the power to eliminate a valuable resource used by thousands of users. That just can't be right.

  • I know frank. (Score:5, Informative)

    by hatrisc (555862) on Monday November 07, 2005 @01:00PM (#13970293) Homepage
    I work with him, and he is currently re-coding the site and it should be up soon.

    I do not know anything about the 'political' drama that Aaron claims, nor do I know if it will be resolved.
    • Re:I know frank. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CaptainPinko (753849) on Monday November 07, 2005 @02:15PM (#13971276)
      if you know frank why don't you ask him to post a statement to inform the community or at least make some of templates available on an ftp server for the meantime.

      Why was this modded funny?
  • Real Shame... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CaptainPinko (753849) on Monday November 07, 2005 @01:09PM (#13970392)
    Looking at the site in the http://www.oswd.org/ [archive.org]">WaybackMachine it looks like I could have really used that site in the past. Apparently it was a collection of website designs with the HTML/CSS/JS posted. I love doing web-development (especially the back-end XML processing etc) but I'm not the most creative person out there so having a an entire collection of designs I could flip through all in one play wwould be handy for me to slap-together a oook of my own when I need to. I'm book marking that site just incase it comes back. Heres to hoping.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 07, 2005 @01:51PM (#13970974)
    http://www.freewebtemplates.com/ [freewebtemplates.com]
    http://www.4layouts.com/ [4layouts.com]
    http://www.freelayouts.com/ [freelayouts.com]

    etc. etc.

    Pretty mixed bag in terms of quality but they all have quite a few, and they're all "Open Source".
  • Domains are cheap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ofenza (928943) on Monday November 07, 2005 @01:53PM (#13970989) Homepage
    I'd say, buy a new domain and start fresh, Aaron. Do your thing.
  • The FOSS movement will manage to survive, without them.
  • Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by porkface (562081) on Monday November 07, 2005 @04:49PM (#13972977) Journal
    When Frank pays somebody to get the site back up for him, someone should just rip the designs and spawn a competitor the community can trust and participate in.
  • Licensing (Score:3, Informative)

    by suwain_2 (260792) on Monday November 07, 2005 @05:05PM (#13973146) Journal
    Right before the site went down, there was a lot of talk about licensing. People would sometimes complain that one design was based on another design; there were occasional incidents of people submitting copyrighted work. A discussion popped up not too long ago about the need for a clear license that submissions would be under.

    I found OSWD to be incredibly useful, but I hope that, when it comes back, it'll have an explicit license agreement.
  • I've tooled around the site a few times and really, it never impressed me. Maybe I'm jaded, but sites like kde-look [kde-look.org] seem to hit the mark much closer.

No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.

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