Dear WordPress: Your New Editor is Terrible

I’ve been running all of my personal websites on WordPress platforms since 2007. That’s when I moved off the Blogger/Blogspot platforms I’d been using since 1999, which had followed four years of cold-coding my sites via hand-crafted html pages FTP’ed into the ether over a slow modem. I’m long-time online, for sure. I’ve been happy with the WordPress experience over the years, and equally happy to pay for a $100 premium account every year for each website I still care for. That investment gives me advertisement-free experiences for my readers, enhanced media hosting capabilities, and various other behind-the-scenes benefits. Beyond my personal websites, I have either launched or relocated a variety of professional sites on WordPress over the years, and have recommended that others do the same if they want to create affordable, adaptable, easily-usable platforms for sharing quality content in pleasant formats online. I think I qualify as a loyal, trustworthy WordPress customer accordingly.

But as is so often the case in our technological times, WordPress has decided that what made its platform best for me, and many others, is not really what we want. They rolled out a new editor (e.g. the page where writers create, format and post content) in late 2018, and I found it utterly awful, clearly prioritizing quick-load, short-attention-span cell phone and tablet functionality over any other considerations for “big screen” users, who might actually have a vested interest in the aesthetics of their pages. But that was okay at the time, because as a long-standing user, they allowed me to keep using the “Classic Editor.” Good choice. Let the n00bs learn the new platform which, while trying to give everyone the ability to do things that 95%+ of them will never want or need to do, ends up doing the basic stuff poorly and in a most counter-intuitive fashion.

In recent months, every time I’ve created a new post in the Classic Editor, I’ve gotten a pop-up saying (essentially) “New ‘Block Editing’ Goodness Is Coming!”, but it has featured a “Not Now, Nope, Nuh-Uh!” opt-out button, which I’ve happily pushed, and gotten on with what I wanted to get done. Still no hurt, no foul. But then when I hit the “New Post” button a couple of days ago to create this, the crappy new Block Editing system (also known as “Gutenberg”) appeared before my dismayed eyes, without any opt-out options obvious. Dammit!

I waded with deep annoyance into the counter-intuitive morass, where it took me much longer to create a post than should have been necessary, and where there were things that I wanted to do that I couldn’t. Please note well that I’m an accomplished and sophisticated long-term communications technology user with strong computer problem-solving skills, generally able to figure out whatever I need to figure out, so this isn’t just a case of a dumb old person being befuddled by a shiny new application rolled out by and for the kidZ. It’s really just objectively bad. So I looked into how and whether I could return to the Classic Editor, and learned that WordPress was, indeed, offering an Add-On that would allow users that luxury — but in order to access and load it, I’d have to upgrade to a Business Account, at a cost of about $200 more per year that I’ve been paying. No Effing Thank You.

A quick survey via Google shows I’m not alone in thinking that this upgrade is a real stinker. Two of the most long-term and accomplished bloggers I know, Roger Green (15+ years of daily posting) and Chuck Miller (10+ years of daily posting) both beefed about it on their pages, and I feel compelled to join them in lodging my protest. I hate when companies do things like this. I hate change for change’s sake. I hate not being given a choice in how or whether to go along with such change. I hate that I have to waste a post telling you that I hate how I have to make a post. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Bad tech company! BAD!!! [rubs tech company’s face in soiled mess on virtual carpet, while hitting it with rolled up virtual newspaper]

As is typical, of course, nerds gotta nerd and geeks gotta geek, so folks are already figuring out some work-arounds. If you are an equally frustrated WordPress user, you can click on the links to Roger and Chuck’s pages in the preceding paragraph to learn about some of them. I’m using one now, happily clattering away in Classic Editor, without having to pay more for it. (Though I’ve learned that if I press the “Edit” button to tweak something on the post once it’s published, I’ll get jammed into Block Editor World again, so I have to go through several other back-of-house steps to avoid that). I suspect the work-around I am using will be short-lived, as I can’t imagine that WordPress will allow such a loophole to remain open once it spreads widely and cuts into their anticipated new Business Account revenues. Grumble.

I really have no desire to move my platform, and hope I don’t feel obligated to do so. But this is shitty customer service in support of a shitty product that people have been actively resisting for nearly two years now. I think it’s important that WordPress hears such sentiments from folks who have been with them since their earliest days, either paying them for the privilege, or generating advertising revenue for them via free accounts. Feel free to share, cross-post, or otherwise deploy this piece if helpful to making the point in your own sandboxes.

In closing: please don’t poke us with any more sharp sticks, WordPress. It’s not nice, not good for the community you’ve built, and not a worthy reflection of the technological face you want to show to potential new customers. Did I mention “grumble” and “hate it”?

“Anger” by William Blake. Because there’s a Blake painting for every mood and moment.

The Madness Of “With Which I Am Well Pleased” III

With so many things to be stressed, obsessed and/or depressed about in recent months, those little escapes, thrills and distractions that can brighten the hours and days are to be cherished, without doubt or question.

First and foremost in our family’s case, of course, is that none of us have had any medical emergencies to contend with during this our anno virum. Marcia and I were additionally pleased when Katelin called us earlier this week to tell us that she had received a very nice work promotion, demonstrating that her chosen work-remote situation in Nevada is clearly acceptable and sustainable to her employer, atop the satisfaction that she and John are feeling with their new Western lifestyle. We gave ourselves Six Parenting Gold Stars for that one. Very pleasing.

Marcia and I continue to have our own work opportunities to keep the mental juices and financial benefits flowing, I continue to find things to enjoyably think and write about, and we both continue to prioritize daily woodland and countryside walks of five-miles-plus to keep the body tuned along with the brain.  (I’m also cycling when I can to further that physical component, with ~650 miles covered over ~15 rides since May). We will be heading back up to Minnesota next week to see family in socially safe circumstances, so another change of scenery in Marcia’s beloved home state will feel good, for sure. Keeping on with keeping on, at bottom line. As one does.

Beyond those macro existential things, there are lots of smaller thrills that have delivered me the joy juice of late as well, so it seems fitting to provide a third installment to my “With Which I Am Pleased” series, building on this one and that one. As with the earlier posts, I feature 15 items in various categories, and commend and recommend them for your attention and (maybe) enjoyment as well. May they distract you from distress, alleviate your duress, and/or prepare you to safely impress your social (distant) circles with hot fresh content. Got recommendations for me in return? That’s what the comment button is for. Hit it!

FILMS

MUSIC

WEBSITES

Going Medieval

Daily Abstract Thoughts

The Diversity of Classic Rock

BOOKS

A Hunnert

Last December, as part of my 2019 Year In Review report, I wrote this about my website posting pace at the time:

This is the 70th post on the blog this year, up from 41 in 2018, 35 in 2017, and 27 in 2016. A very positive trend (if not as many posts as I used to poop out annually a decade or so ago), and a good indicator that getting off of social media (a goal established in last December’s “Year in Review” post) was a good way to redirect time and energy to pursuits that I consider more rewarding. Traffic was up a solid 40% over the prior year as well, confirming once again that volume drives reads, as long as quality remains acceptable. As satisfying as that is, given my own goals for the year, I doubt that I will hit the same high post mark in 2020, as I plan to work on some projects for potential professional or commercial purposes, and don’t intend to share them until I know there’s not a market for them. But I do have a couple of new ideas for public writing for pleasure knocking around in my brain, so I may surprise myself.

WordPress now tells me that this is my 100th new post in 2020, though my prolific pace is less a function of me surprising myself than it is a function of the world surprising me, and everybody else navigating our shared mortal coil during this our anno virum. Looking back, I first publicly mentioned COVID-19 on March 14 in my Florida Man (And Woman) report, which was my 14th new post of the year, a pace which would have set me on a similar clip to my 2019 numbers. But then everything changed, for everyone. That post seems like I wrote it a long, long time ago accordingly. I have a pretty good imagination, but I certainly would not have prognosticated at the time that we’d still be in such dire circumstances five months on, locked in a perfect shit-storm of dangerous infection and poor public policy, each maddeningly reinforcing the other in a seemingly-endless feedback loop.

Under the circumstances, I’m thankful to have an established creative outlet like this to explore other imaginings and ideas, when so many other projects and plans have withered and died under the pressure of pandemic. I’m even more thankful that the virus has not resulted in health emergencies for any members of our direct family, despite the seemingly wide-spread efforts of our neighbors (and the elected and appointed officials who misinform them) to cavalierly foster infection for no logical or ethical reasons. (Do you detect a theme of annoyance here?) Here’s hoping that both of those personal statuses remain constant through the remainder of 2020 and beyond, and that your physical and mental health, and whatever endeavors you’ve adopted to manage and respond to them, remain hearty and hale.

We were staying in this little vacation home in March 2020 as the Nation’s health began going to hell in a hand-basket. Writing ramped up immediately thereafter.

Self-Descriptor

I learned a new word this week: autotelia, which is the state of being autotelic. It’s a 20th Century construction merging the Greek roots autos (self) and telos (goal). No, that’s not a fancy soccer/football term for kicking the ball into the net your own team is defending, but is rather a term used by T.S. Eliot to describe texts which are self-contained and independent of the author, and later adopted and adapted as a clinical descriptor by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Per Wikipedia, Csikszentmihalyi describes people who are internally driven, and who as such may exhibit a sense of purpose and curiosity, as autotelic. This is different from being externally driven, in which case things such as comfort, money, power, or fame are the motivating force. Csikszentmihalyi writes:

“An autotelic person needs few material possessions and little entertainment, comfort, power, or fame because so much of what he or she does is already rewarding. Because such persons experience flow in work, in family life, when interacting with people, when eating, even when alone with nothing to do, they depend less on external rewards that keep others motivated to go on with a life of routines.”

This term and definition resonated with me as a good descriptor of how I function much of the time. Take this website as a good example, with thousands of posts written over the years, many of them later destroyed, with few of them created for any work purposes or financial benefits. I just like to write (among other pursuits), I regularly enter flow-state, I am happy when that’s the case, and many (most?) of my topics are not “useful” in any meaningful way, but are rather products of me becoming interested in or curious about something and wanting to process and/or preserve it. There have been loads of other examples like that over the decades, back to when I was a fairly young child, creating things (e.g. stories, games, songs, pictures, websites) for my own amusement, even if they look like absurd time-wasters to parents, friends, teachers, and work colleagues. I am a big fan of novels, stories, artworks and films that are fundamentally based in expert-level world-building, and I think that’s at least partially because I so enjoy building little worlds myself, even if I’m the only one looking at or inhabiting them.

I think another reason that autotelia resonates with me, at least in the ways that Csikszentmihalyi decribes it, is because it’s presented as an acceptable personal trait, and not something to be apologized for, or explained away, or to be given up or outgrown to free up time and energy “better” spent pursuing external rewards. I note that I do not mind external rewards when they are offered to me. I appreciate feedback on my little creations, and if someone wants to pay me for them, that’s fine too! But I seldom, if ever, make decisions expressly for those reasons when it comes to my writing and reading and researching and other creative activities. I just do them because that’s the way I am wired, finding them satisfying in their own rights as end products, even if I never share them, or even if I share them, then later remove them from the public domain. I’ve written online for over a quarter-century now, so I do have some strong sense of and data about what types of things are going to generate the most response from and interaction with my readers, but I very, very rarely expressly plan to write and post such things just to pursue such responses, excluding pieces written for work purposes or other publications, then reproduced here. (For the record: this type of personally philosophical post is not from one of my more audience-pleasing categories of writing).

I hope that being drawn to the concept of autotelia as a self-descriptor does not make me sound self-aggrandizing. I know that if I read an article by someone explaining how they were self-actualized (or worse, transcendent) per Abraham Maslow’s heirarchy of needs, my gut emotional reaction would be to want to chide them for being presumptuous and pretentious. Such an article would also imply to me that the author did not actually understand self-actualization (nor transcendence), the achievement of which would, by definition, preclude such public grandstanding about their ascension to a state of being that most of us never achieve. I feel the same way about people who unilaterally declare themselves to be successes in the material and public worlds without external evidence to the same, especially when they then want to teach you to follow in their footsteps, for a modest fee, of course.

In both of those examples, the claimed “higher plane” is something that can only be achieved through a lot of work and reflection, whereas I read autotelia to be something that just is. I have green eyes, most other people do not. I am tall and thin, many other people are not. I was born in South Carolina, they vast majority of people were not. And I am autotelic, which some other people are not, though I have no idea as to what that percentage may be. It’s just the way I’m built, and not how I built myself. I don’t perceive that as a value judgment, nor as a self-congratulatory back-pat, nor as a humble brag. In fact, it’s really easy to make an argument that being autotelic is a bad thing, at least as far as my writing goes, with me having given away product of value for decades instead of having parsed it out for paying customers or public acclaim. But it’s an accurate assessment of my personal quirks, and I like having a single word to describe something about myself that has more typically required paragraphs or pages to explain. Makes life simpler that way, yeah?

In closing, I need to acknowledge where I learned the word: it’s the name of a musical group, and I read a review of their new album on an excellent website I frequent. Which then led to a long online research effort to get a better grip on the topic, eventually resulting in this article, which pleases me, and may also please others, but that’s just gravy if it does. Did I waste precious time in this little endeavor? Or was my exploration valuable simply because I found purpose and satisfaction in the acts of reading and thinking and writing? I know my own answers to those questions, though I leave it as an exercise for the reader as to whether I’m right or not about them, or anything else stated herein.

Click the image to hear Autotelia (The Band).

Six More Little Poems

Note: As with the prior “Six Little Poems” post, these pieces were all written in 2004, and are copyright JES. And again, I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine what themes they might have in common and why I am sharing them today.

I. Lines

We live, like sailors, hauling in our lines:
the strength of many hands makes lighter work.
The older help the younger, many times,
we laud the strong and censure those who shirk.
And as we pull the lines that shape our lives,
we suffer searing shock when someone falls,
recoiling cables cut through flesh like knives,
we feel as though our sails are tugged by squalls.
In time, we right ourselves to stay the course,
we cry for those we’ve lost to give us strength,
which flows out as a primal, inner force,
and lets us pull our lines another length.
Unbroken and determined all the same,
with fewer hands we tug upon our chain.

II. Not As I Say

i.
that misguided amateur effort at
persuasion just points to destruction

ii.
an ethical reverence in practice plots
a path toward peaceful perfection

III. Preacher

His finest virtue is natural and simple:
good faith in the face of the fates set before him.
But deep in their fever of strife and disturbance,
the viciously spirited opt to ignore him.

IV. A Measured Response

i.
“Bang, bang,” he said
and smacked me upside the head.
So I played dead.

ii.
“Kaboom,” I say
and torch his dad’s Chevrolet.
He runs away.

V. Move on the Fields

Fly down, call me, a lost nation is moving.
One fistful of shells sparked a kindling star.
Pains great, pains small, be damned,
and distilled into tepid pale jelly. (Sleep, brother).
Once I am dead, would that I may speak,
and afterward, move on the fields.

VI. Hand Grenade

Careful with that hand grenade, son,
you just might go and hurt someone.
And once you do, it’ll be too late
to apologize and set things straight.
After you toss that hand grenade,
you’ll have to live with the mess you’ve made.
So unless you want to bring vengeance on,
be careful where you throw it, son.

There’s a William Blake painting for everything . . .

 

Bulk Content

This is my 62nd website post of 2020, with five months down and seven yet to go. If I keep up the current pace, that will produce about 150 posts by the time December 31, 2020 rolls around.

While that’s still a drop in the bucket for a lot of high-volume daily or near-daily bloggers, it does represent a bump in production for me. In 2019, I wrote 57 posts in twelve months, and considered it to be a productive year. The last time I went higher than 62 in an entire year was 2010 (101 posts), and my personal best was achieved way back in 2004 (432 posts, largely driven by my “Poem a Day” project, the fruits of which have since been removed from the public site).

I knew I would be writing more in 2020, though this is neither how nor what nor where I had expected that to play out. Having retired from my prior full-time job in November, I had intended to focus more on creative and commercial writing this year, and on re-building networks that had atrophied since I stopped regular freelance writing some years ago due to time and mental demands associated with my full-time work. The blog became less of a personal marketing instrument and more of a place where I wrote “for me” over those years. I could scribble here without worrying about commercialization or fundraising or whether my words would alienate or activate supporters or how well I was communicating important technical concepts. My professional writing was the complete opposite of that in many ways, and 2020 was the year I planned to knit those disparate threads back together, for fun and for profit, ideally.

As did so many other things for so many other people, that all changed a few months back. I had been registered for a pair of writing workshops that I saw as important steps in re-building those lapsed professional networks, and they’re both gone. I was graciously accorded this opportunity to focus on a key project, but that’s gone too. All the travel writing that I normally do? No longer possible due to multiple trip cancellations. The volume and quality of freelance opportunities available have also declined (and anecdotally, I’d say average hourly compensation has followed suit), even as a glut of formerly-employed creative folks are now in the fray to secure the jobs that do remain or emerge. Supply and demand curves in full effect, this is not a great time to be making a pivot in this professional sector, though that may change in the future as the world itself changes.

I’m certainly most very fortunate at this stage in my life to not need that planned writing work to meet my basic financial needs, though there’s still a certain sense of opportunity lost. I could, of course, be productively using all of my unexpected free time to hunker down and crank out the Great American Novel or develop a brilliant business plan or some other ostensibly “useful” writing-related activity. But I’m not, and I think that’s because given the psychologically stressful aspects of life during lockdown, I find it more important and comforting to write what I want to write, and not to focus so much on writing what I should write. It’s a pleasurable diversion and distraction to clatter away here, and its a nice bonus when some of the things that I put up on my public blackboard resonate with others in some way(s).

So as a result of that sense and those feelings, you’re getting content in bulk here these days, and probably will for the foreseeable future. I know from the wide variety of websites I follow, along with the number of recommendations I’m receiving from WordPress announcing newly-established blogs in areas of interest to me, that I’m not alone in seeing my unproductive public productivity increasing. As a result, I have expanded the number of sites that I formally follow over the past couple of months, and I’ve seen increases in the number of readers who formally follow me here as well. (Neither of those numbers are large, just for the record). Then there are the “guest” readers who surf around my site without leaving any marks and signs beyond ticks on the visit counter, which is spinning at a rate that will probably make my final 2020 visit and visitor numbers as high as they’ve been since the early 2000s, when the blog world was a very different place, and I was one of few, not one of many, paddling about in a high-profile fashion within that newly-formed creative pond.

A lot of the increased writing volume I see and read around the web is explicitly dedicated or related to COVID-19 in one way or another. How it impacts us. How we feel about it. What we are doing with ourselves as the world shuts down. How we feel about it again. And then again. And again. Lots of feels being shared, for sure. While I certainly reference COVID-19 in a variety of posts on the site, this one included, I have made a conscious decision to not write more explicitly or frequently about it here, in large part because the number of trenchant “hot takes” out there about it is exhausting, and I don’t have or offer any unique perspective that I feel warrants extensive public exposition.

In the early days of lockdown, I’d saved a draft blog post called “Post-Pandemic Pipe Dreams,” and occasionally I’ve added items to it on ways that I’d personally like to see the world change as a result of our current travails. Looking at that list today, lots of those ideas and reflections have been considered and covered at length in a wide variety of other online outlets, so it’s hard for me to want to elaborate on any of them, and I am guessing it would be hard for you to want to read them if I did, since they’d be so obviously agreeable to everyone.

We’d all like more space in restaurants and on airplanes, right? Duh. And everyone would like to see TicketMaster, FOX News, and a variety of other predatory-to-destructive businesses go under, yeah? Of course we would. Having watched the character of my hometown be completely destroyed by AirBnB operators hoovering up any available rentable properties downtown, and countless unique cultural destinations destroyed by the arrival of cookie-cutter cruise ship culture, I’d be happy to see those business models bite the dust too. Oh, and of course nobody should ever again spend $200+ million on turning a freakin’ comic book into a bloated soulless movie, especially if said comic book has already been expensively rebooted half-a-dozen times over the past few decades. If the studios would knock that nonsense off, then going to the theater could return to being an affordable and enjoyable enterprise, assuming people learn to put their cell phones away and stop talking during the movie. That one may be impossible, I know. Influencers? Gone. I am certain we all agree there. Also, no giant dogs allowed in apartment buildings. It’s cruel to the dogs and their neighbors. Stop it. And stop giving money to endowments without considering your favorite nonprofits’ operating needs too. There’s going to be loads of them that collapse because people put permanent restrictions on gifts in exchange for naming rights and other non-charitable incentives, while the “keep the lights on and do the mission” part of the enterprise is ignored. Everyone would like to see that stop, right?

Well, okay, so maybe some of my post-pandemic pipe-dreams aren’t quite in keeping the zeitgeist or popular public opinion, but still, I don’t see elaborating on them further as a productive or enjoyable process for anybody. Suffice to say I dream of and long for changes in how our country and culture function, some more needed and serious than others. And also note that I’ll work to support those who can bring such positive prospects to pass from out of such a negative time period, even if I don’t write in bulk about such activities here, preferring to produce my usual piffle and tripe instead.

For better or worse, that’s the niche I’ve established after 25+ years of having a public online presence, and dancing with the one what brung ya’ is always a sound play. Fortunately, I do quite enjoy cluttering and redecorating my verdant little wall grotto in the global garden of blogs, and when all is said and done, the little things that give us joy are important, perhaps now more so than ever. Here’s hoping that approach works for you too, both in your experience of visiting here, and in your experience of managing your own little joys in the face of the countless dislocations tearing at the fabric of our society today.

Don’t mind the overgrowth. The flowers are fragrant if you can find them.