Things that baffle me about WordPress in 2018

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So I’m back blogging! And I haven’t used wordpress.com in ages, but I wanted to share my running list of WTF moments over the past week of using the site and service, both at work (we just moved our blog!) and here. I’m on the Premium plan, which includes CSS and custom templates stuff, but I don’t get any plugins, so if your response to this post is “just use the xyz plugin!” it’s not helpful. Full disclosure: I definitely have expectations after paying extra for the Premium option.

Submitting a comment to a moderated blog gives you no feedback

I turned comments on for <2 week old posts here, but I’m choosing to moderate every comment before posting. I notice a bunch of friends with WordPress blogs do this as well, and it’s fine to have to wait a few hours before a comment appears on the web.

What’s not great is when you leave a comment and you get zero feedback. You type stuff, press post comment, and then… nothing. That’s a bad experience and WordPress by default should tell readers their comment was received and went into a moderation queue.

If a post fails to upload on iOS it disappears instead of going to drafts

Over the past week I’ve written a bunch of posts while out and about using the iOS WordPress app, often with photos of things I was seeing. But unless I was on WiFi or had 5 bars of LTE connectivity, I would get a Posting Failed, Retry? message. The wild thing is even after hitting retry a bunch, it would still fail. And then if I flicked over to my draft posts folder, the post wasn’t there. If I didn’t keep retrying and instead clicked anywhere in the app, the post would disappear completely.

No drafts. No local cache. No local drafts folder to sync later. No opportunity to even get back to the edit screen! Just silent death, eating your post. After the third time it happened this week, I started remembering to copy/paste the post text to Apple Notes just in case it failed.

This is seriously a terrible bug and awful experience using the product and my current #1 peeve. In the basement of Pyra, when working on Blogger, I swear we had a cross-stitched thing on the wall that said Never silently eat people’s posts with our app, ever and every so often if we found a bug in our code someone would say “Hey! Don’t make me tap the sign again!”

Cookie details between accounts

I use WordPress VIP at work under a separate email account login, and wordpress.com for my personal account with my personal email account. I run two profiles on Google Chrome, one work (Google Apps), one personal (Gmail.com account). When I login to the work VIP account on my work profile of Google Chrome, when viewing this blog, I see edit/login/write new post buttons. If I click them, they fail, but how on earth are cookie details being semi-shared between two accounts?

Is there no keystroke for adding a link?!

In a desktop web browser, using wordpress.com, the editor doesn’t call out any keystrokes when mousing over buttons in the WYSIWYG toolbar. Is there really no keystroke for “I highlighted this text with my cursor, now build a link with the URL in my clipboard”? It’s surprising that I have to leave the keyboard to make links on blog posts.

Paste and don’t match style doesn’t seem to exist on mobile. Also, why is Paste and Match Style even a thing?

I copied a bunch of text from wikipedia and pasted it in the iOS WordPress client new posting form. It showed my text all styled like it was on the page I copied it from, with no obvious way to wipe out the styles. I want plain text in my blog posts, why is pasting clipboard text ever styled in WordPress? Why not clean all pasted text so it displays in predictable ways in my blog’s own design?

Highlight some text, hit the lists button, don’t get lists

The WordPress new post editing UI on a desktop browser seems to be lacking a bunch of things I’ve seen in many other editing UIs online. If you highlight a “stack” of six phrases in text, each on it’s own line, then hit the unordered list or ordered list button in the toolbar, you don’t get six items in an ordered or unordered list. You get all six as the first item. That’s… not great.

The taxonomy of categories and tags, why not pick one instead of both?

This is likely an old timer complaint, but blogs started with categories on everything and original wordpress was wedded to that, then tags came in and a decade since anyone heard the word Technorati, my WordPress posting UI seems to treat categories and tags as equally important, and it seems like a mess. Why not ask me to just pick one and go with it?

Burying links to Edit the post you are viewing

The WordPress toolbar across the top has a Write new post button but if I’m viewing a single post at a permalink URL, and I spot a typo, I have to scroll all the way down to find the Edit Post link. Why not put that up in the toolbar where it’s easier to spot and use?

What is an ampersand doing in the preview here?

This:

Screenshot 2018-08-14 18.08.45

Lots of little polish missing on the WYSIWYG desktop browser posting UI

There are loads of little niceties missing for me in the new post UI. When I expand my list of categories and the find-as-you-type UI is at the top, why not put my cursor into it by default so I don’t have to click to start typing? When I hit publish, why do I have to confirm it on mobile and desktop before it actually publishes? Why isn’t hitting publish once enough? I’m not sure if I like the multi-device preview being the default when I’m on a desktop. I usually want to see a post live on my site asap. On mobile, seeing a new post in my site’s UI is a bit of a pain, any clicks in the iOS app seem to push it into editing mode.


Overall, WordPress is a fine tool, but given the age of the project and the vast number of people developing for it and helping shape it, I’m a little surprised to get flustered every few days using it this past week when it does something I didn’t expect. Is it because there are only a couple of big paid blog CMS options at this point so competition is low?

 

 

My own reasons for leaving Twitter

I explained to some friends why I gave up on Twitter, and since there’s a lot more to say about it from a personal perspective, I realized I might as well share it in public too.

After a great deal of reflection, Twitter had three main problems for me:

  1. How much time I spent reading/refreshing because of a little red notification number.
  2. How much I wrote there instead of anywhere else.
  3. How problematic I find Twitter at managing their own aspects of community.

After the first couple years of Twitter being a “yeah, whatever, fuck it, post something there” place for friends it quickly became a thing I paid LOTS of my attention to. Any time I wasn’t doing something, I was reading my timeline. I was following over a thousand people, and I cared deeply about everything they wrote, and everything else they retweeted. At some point a few years in, I fell into the numbers trap of wanting more followers and likes and RTs for things I wrote. Even though I limited my notifications as much as I could, I was totally addicted to the little red bubble on my phone app that showed I had 5 unread things. I stopped doing whatever I was doing to check it every 15 minutes or so, basically every hour I was awake, for many years.

On the second point, it killed my desire to ever blog about things or write more than a few sentences about complex subjects. I would go six months between writing something 1,000 words long to put online when that was something I’d do every few days pre-Twitter. When Twitter moved to 280 characters, all hope was lost, since there really was no reason to have a blog for anyone anymore. I didn’t like that everything I wrote ended up being hard to find or reference, and even hard for me to pull up myself when I wanted, where a blog makes it pretty dang easy to see everything you wrote about in the past.

The third point is obvious, but in the past year, Twitter has gone to great lengths to engage the alt-right and give them blue check marks and allow them to organize rallies using the platform and appease conservatives and entertain their imaginary persecution notions of being “silenced by algorithm” and the last straw was them doing nothing about Infowars. When every social network decided to ban or block Alex Jones, Twitter chose to be the network where white nationalism could have a home. And that’s not where I want to put my words, so I deleted them all.

Rethinking everything

Twitter created something truly addictive and I found myself putting all my time and energy into it at the cost of everything else. Something famous authors often said about Twitter was they couldn’t believe people gave away their thoughts on it for free, and though I thought that was a silly notion when I heard it, I can’t say I ever got paid thanks to my twitter presence. It wasn’t entirely for naught, I did get really good at editing my own words. Forcing yourself to whittle concepts down to limited characters for a decade made me much better at editing my work, and helped my writing elsewhere. It was also a great network for underrepresented voices, and there’s a whole world of people I wouldn’t understand nearly as well until I got to read their daily thoughts. But this is also the company that killed Vine, an entire platform for underrepresented voices making their own media. On the whole, as much fun and information I got out of Twitter, being good at Twitter doesn’t translate into job offers or freelance gigs considering all the effort that goes in.

Up until a few weeks ago, the thought of deleting the twitter app or stopping posting sounded absolutely unimaginable to me. I have many friends that have taken twitter breaks and they often keep their break going way longer than they expected, and only return with lots of limitations and caveats on how they’ll proceed. I felt any of that was impossible, until I finally did it.

What I didn’t expect was to suddenly feel free. I used to walk around with a part of my brain wondering what I would tweet next. I would listen and observe and wonder if what I was looking at would make a good tweet. So when that feeling was finally lifted, it was being freed from something you were addicted to all this time but never could see in your own eyes.

After almost a week, I feel great about it. I am glad I started blogging more here, and it’s kinda fun to not really get much feedback. Twitter is a feedback firehose, both good and bad and whether or not you like it, it demands a lot of your time and can be overwhelming in a way a personal blog never will.

At work I started and completed three projects last week, where a project or two a week is my norm. It was nice to be able to crank on work for hours without interruptions.

I logged back into Mastodon but I don’t see myself posting there more than once or twice a day and using it mostly to stay in contact with friends. It very much feels like early days twitter over there, which is fun and lighthearted, but I never want it to become a thing that overtakes my life like Twitter did, so I’m going to keep myself from looking at it more than a couple times a day too (it helps that most of the mobile clients aren’t polished like Twitter’s).

I left Twitter and deleted all my posts because I no longer liked what the place had become a host for. But I also realized I let it overtake my life and the best way forward was to do something drastic to improve things, so I did. I encourage everyone to do the same sort of reflection of what it takes away from your life and think about what’s best for you.

Stargazing

Drove out to an open space 20mi south of Bend, Oregon to look up at the skies last night. It was dark enough that the Milky Way was clearly in view and we saw tons of meteors.

There was one annoyingly bright star above the horizon, so I used an app to identify it then took a long exposure photo with my phone of it: turns out it was Mars.