More Wordpress gripes

Screenshot 2018-08-16 10.26.11

I’ve kept a running list of more head scratcher moments with WordPress.┬áReturning to using WordPress daily after years away, I’m seeing these things with fresh eyes again. I’ll probably be adding more to this post over the next few weeks.

The idea of a media library

I remember using WordPress occasionally a few years ago, and wanting to quickly upload an image to a post but having to go through several steps of managing it in a media library. For the past week I’ve gotten quickly used to doing this for every post, but looking back I have to ask the obvious question: What is the problem that the media library solves for users of WordPress?

For almost every post, I like to upload a new photo or screenshot to go along with my text, and I jump through the hoops to make it happen. But I know I’m mostly bypassing the functionality that is presented to me on several screens, but thinking about what I see and imagining how someone would use it, it appears to be optimizing for blogs that re-use images. No need to upload them multiple times, since you can simply grab them out of your library time and time again.

But looking back on nearly 20 years of blogging at this point, maybe on PVRblog I re-used the TiVo logo on news posts once a month. Other than that, every upload for every post is a new image, across dozens of other blogs I’ve run.

For my simple and straightforward use, I prefer the way image uploads are handled in apps like Google Docs. You click an image icon in the toolbar, use an upload file system control to grab the image on your computer, then it uploads and posts immediately to your doc. It feels like 2 steps less than what WordPress asks me to do today.

I know the media handling has been around for many years, but maybe it’s worth rethinking, or offering people a way to bypass it if they’re always uploading new images?

Image resizing

Say you upload an image to a new post, but it’s too large and you want to resize it. If you click one of the corners to make it smaller, and hold down the Shift key, it doesn’t maintain the aspect ratio like it does in every other app.┬áProportional resizing is the default in almost all image apps, but the way it works on WordPress is opposite. You hold down shift to stretch only horizontally or vertically (but not both together). I get that most people might not know to hold down shift to maintain ratios, but after 20 years of doing it this way in every other app, this seems really odd that it’s backwards here.

Drafts on desktop

I want to start a new post but I don’t have time to finish it in one sitting and need to save it as a draft. There’s no button on the desktop web view, you just wait for an auto-save, then close the tab and check the drafts list later. That works, but it’d be nice if “Save as a Draft” was somewhere in the publish or post settings so I was sure it was being saved before I leave it. It shows up on the iOS mobile client when writing a new post, where you can either publish or save as a draft. I like having that called out somewhere.

Image display on your blog

Image handling is kind of all over the map on this blog. I picked a template from a set group of options on WordPress.com, but I never know if an image is going to display fully responsive or not. On the front page of the site, images seem to expand and fill the viewport, but some smaller images don’t stretch and I can’t tell why. I’ve been resizing images whenever I didn’t want them to expand to full width, but it feels like a confusing aspect that could be more clear to authors before they post. I know this is likely based on media queries but rather than comb through the CSS, why not tell me in the posting GUI that something will go full width or not?

HTML leaking?

Why am I seeing line breaks in HTML in a comment preview when using the iOS app on my iPad?

Uncategorized defaults

My blog has always had “uncategorized” as the default category on any new post, and that’s fine, but what I find odd is when I go to the trouble of looking up an associated category for a post I’m writing and then I hit publish, it maintains the uncategorized default, putting the post in two categories, one of which is hilariously uncategorized even though it has gotten a category.

Ev’s assholishness is greatly exaggerated

Team Pyra

There's been a bunch of stories lately about Ev Williams, co-founder of Blogger and Twitter upon the occasion of him leaving Twitter to do his own thing. Some are outright calling him an asshole. This Business Insider story of Noah Glass and Twitter's early days has a whole speculative piece on how Ev might be a calculating evil genius, cut from the same cloth as Monty Burns in the Simpsons, that cut investors out of the Twitter pie as soon as he could apparently by deceiving them about Twitter's potential (and mentions that an investor or two is thinking of legal action against him). That piece references the old NYT piece about Ev being "pushed" out of Twitter and recounts the whole Pyra/Blogger implosion at the start of 2001, which I was a player in.

I read all this stuff, and I have to call bullshit on quite a bit of it.

First off, I worked with Ev for almost a year and I saw him as a really amazing idea man and has the drive you want in an entrepreneur. His dream setup he talked of early on was building Pyra "Labs" where every awesome idea he came up with could be prototyped by a small team and spun off into products by other people or sold to other companies that are more into the execution side of things (Blogger was a spin-off from Pyra, the project management app). If you look at the past ten years, Ev's time after Google is much like that. Odeo was a good idea (I never got the appeal of phone-to-blog-post Audioblogger, Noah Glass' predecessor app) because podcasting was just taking off and I was most interested in the piece that let you record and mix audio using a browser instead of expensive audio software. Odeo went the way of the Dodo because iTunes simply added Podcasting natively and crushed it overnight. Ev went on to form Obvious, which seemed like another take on the Pyra Labs model, and Twitter was a product spun out from there.

Again, Ev is great at ideas, making prototypes and letting ideas blossom into things over time. He doesn't seem like a CEO type to me, and that's not a dig on him — I'm a CEO myself, even though I'm not a CEO type of guy either. Running a day-to-day corporation with tons of employees is a lot different than being an ideas guy, and it requires different skills.

So Ev leaving Twitter to try something new didn't come off as unexpected when I heard the news from the man himself.

This is my own speculation, but I think the core issue on the Odeo/Twitter thing between Noah and Ev was that their personalities clashed. I remember meeting Noah and him being a pretty intense guy and Ev was a quieter, mellower dude. I remember being surprised when I heard they were rolling Audioblogger into something new together but then I remember they used to be next-door neighbors and I thought maybe I was too quick to judge Noah from seeing him at a couple parties.

One key point that deflates pretty much the whole Business Insider piece on Twitter and Ev buying out his Odeo investors is this: I've spoken with a number of Odeo investors and one mentioned to me that when they were offered the buy back plan, there was an offer to roll your shares into Twitter, though Twitter was so new, no one really knew the potential (seriously, twitter wasn't a killer app at first. I hated it. Merlin hated it.). Ev didn't "slow play" his hand and dupe investors so he could own more of Twitter later on, Ev gave them a pretty amazing offer of continuing their investment and if I remember correctly I heard that everyone but one or two investors took the cash offer out of Odeo and turned down the Twitter shares.

That's an important distinction because it means the investors in the story aren't pissed that they were hoodwinked by Ev, it's because the investors passed on Twitter and combined with today's 20/20 hindsight, it looks like a bad move by almost every investor to take their short term cash back.

Going back to the NYT piece from last Fall, I was a little bit bitter for the immediate few months after i was laid off from Blogger in 2001 because I knew Blogger was a much bigger idea that had so much world-changing potential I didn't want to see die on the vine. By 2002 I buried the hatchet with Ev and admired his drive and hard work at keeping it alive by himself, and eventually growing it into something Google snapped up and improved upon (The NYT story says that unnamed former employees got nothing out of the Google deal. I'm one of the folks they were talking about, and still, there's sincerely no hard feelings).

I look forward to whatever Ev does next because he has tons of great ideas and can build a prototype faster than you think, but one thing he isn't is a calculating evil genius asshole hellbent on screwing over investors.

That's just melodramatic bullshit.

What? Fortuitous is back?

Everything I've learned about casual podcasting:
An exhaustive how-to guide on getting starting thinking about and recording, editing, and publishing your first podcast.

via fortuito.us

For the last few years, I've regretted letting my long essay/business tips blog Fortuitous go fallow, and I've been thinking of bringing it back many times whenever I feel the urge to write more. The other day I was helping a friend with his new podcast and I realized there wasn't a single resource online that contained everything I'd learned, so I decided to write it myself.

This essay is pretty much everything you need to know to get started podcasting with a Mac. I plan to do more of these, the next one will be on everything I learned after personally printing, selling, and shipping over 500 t-shirts in the past two years.

Maybe in a few weeks I'll return to more business-y topics too.

come break bread with us at the Old Timers Ball

SXSW is coming up and as it has gotten bigger, it has gotten harder to find friends, so Kevin Smokler, Kevin Newsum, and I thought it would be nice to throw an “Old Timers Ball” for ye olde school webloggers to meet, greet, and catch up with each other on the first Friday night. It’ll be at the Side Bar in Austin (map below) from 5-8pm. It’s a no-host cash bar (you pay for your beers, basically) and we welcome friends new and old to come hang out.

RSVP at Upcoming, if you like, but we look forward to seeing you there.

Details:

Side Bar (602 E 7th)
Friday March 11
5-8 pm

 

(Featuring a UB the DJ set: bring your iPod, iPhone or mp3 player and we’ll spin some of your tunes at the party)

 

Quick thoughts on Pinboard

I've been a Delicious.com user since late 2003, back when it launched. I was happy when it was sold to Yahoo as it meant (what I thought would be) a secure future. Recently, Yahoo revealed that they would like to shutter/sell the site and a rush for alternatives pushed a lot of people towards Pinboard.

I actually signed up for Pinboard about six months ago, intending to use it as a backup archive of my stuff on Delicious, with the hopes of someday using it natively. I recall being impressed that Pinboard could also pull my links out of Twitter, since I often feel guilty throwing interesting links into the wind of Twitter (Twitter is terrible at archiving and finding old tweets so I ask myself why I don't just use delicious instead of Twitter every time I drop a link there). It also pulls stuff I mark at Instapaper and stuff I share at Google Reader. Along with automatic Delicious backups, Pinboard works amazingly as a personal archiving service that lets me find old interesting sites using a variety of tags and search.

Always a but

But the site bills itself as "anti social networking" and "bookmarks for introverts". I understand some of the backlash over weird twitter/screenshots/popularity integration at Delicious, but like Twitter, on Delicious you choose your followers and once you find a couple dozen amazing web surfers marking up interesting out-of-the-way places before anyone else does, you might find like me that the /network/ feature of Delicious is a killer once-a-day visit that often leads to half a dozen interesting finds. It's odd to me that one of the principal features at Pinboard called out on their "Delicious vs. Pinboard" page is NOT being able to identify who is following you even though Pinboard will tell you how many people follow you. I found quite a number of interesting Delicious users from people that were "fans" of mine (I always liked that use of the word at Delicious, better than "follower" or "subscriber"). After the great exodus from Delicious to Pinboard last week, someone built a tool to try and locate people that migrated from one service to another, but it would have been nice if that was native to Pinboard itself.

Like I said, I can understand the reluctance to make Pinboard into yet another social media platform and I made a lot of arbitrary decisions in designing MetaFilter so that it's not gamed by morons but as a user of Delicious for the past 7 years, I've grown accustomed to the subtle network effects for the purposes of discovery and some of the features purposefully lacking in Pinboard rob it of some of that utility.

Two headed beast

So the thing I keep coming back to in thinking about Pinboard is that it's trying to be both a bookmark organizer and archive/storage place for your personal use but also a networked viewer of what your friends are saving (while lacking some functionality). It's a conflicting message to see the homepage of the site say it's anti-social and for introverts but the first few options in the site's navigation are pages of bookmarks from others: network, popular, recent.

Using the site, I find my /network/ view to be less than 100% useful, thanks to the cool archiving options mentioned earlier. If I follow someone on twitter and also at Pinboard, I'll often see links and tweets reproduced that I've read hours earlier. I've had to unfollow several people that elected to do the Twitter integration because of this, even though I myself set my account to do this (and for useful personal archive reasons). I look at my own Pinboard feed and imagine someone else reading it and there are tons of useless things in there, Twitter @replies to personal friends where I was sharing a link to something that makes no sense outside of me and that one other person on earth. Comparing my own Delicious feed to my own Pinboard feed I see this theme repeated: my Pinboard feed is personally useful, but socially uninteresting.

And there in lies the rub: Pinboard extends the functionality of Delicious to any links you drop in Twitter, sites you choose to read later at Instapaper, and interesting things you share at Google Reader, but like Instapaper, that works best as a personal archiving appliance that you use personally to dig up a story about raising kids you read six months ago at the New York Times. But when you combine extensive personal archiving with a public view mixed into a network of shared links from dozens of friends, you get a mish-mash of bookmarks, jokes from twitter, and wacky sites someone liked in Google Reader. As a personal archive tool, it's pretty impressive, as a shared space to find interesting bookmarks, it's problematic.

In the end, I'll likely continue using Delicious to track bookmarks with Pinboard as a backup/archive tool that I'll gladly continue to pay for. For now I'll continue to hit my Delicious network page to find new things and occasionally check in with the Pinboard network and popular pages to try and find stuff though I find them less useful than Delicious.

Gawk Gawk Gawk

I have to admit that at some point in the last few months Gawker Media turned a corner and is doing consistently strong investigative journalism* across all their blogs, the likes of which the Huffington Post used to do before they went all sensationalistic tabloid entertainment bullshit on us. I used to write Gawker off as tabloid bullshit generator but they don't have too many peers writing about similar insider leaks these days.

* ignoring that ugly "outing the Apple engineer that lost a phone" thing

Fewest days in the month = least commitment to sparkle motion

I'm going to try making a daily post to this site during the month of February. While Twitter has taught me to be fierce editor, I've spent so much personal time whittling down ideas to their essence that I never post anything more substantial anywhere else. The other day someone mentioned that I might be an expert on cellphones given the few recent posts here and I had to admit it may look that way even though it's such a minor aspect of my daily life, so I went in search of a solution.

To remedy my lack of posting and spending too much time on twitter, I'm going to do something here each day starting next week. I make no promises to how earth shattering the ideas, subject matter, or even length of posts will be, but it'll be something more than nothing, which is what I've been typically posting as of late.

Content sausage factories

This is new to me: seeing a friend's awesome (and creepy) halloween cooking idea (which is kind of shocking and disgusting looking even though it's good food inside) show up in content mills I hadn't previously heard of, like 2leep and odditycentral. The 2leep links show up at the tail end of posts at Inquisitr like this one

So it appears that one site pays another to redirect links to a third, which sucks up almost an entire post's writing and photos (with a teeny tiny link to the original, but there's no point in following), and all three sites are coated in advertising.

It seems like someone has taken the old anonymous image aggregator sites (typically no-attribution russian blogs with 200 images in each post) and propped up a business model on it, but at the expense of the original creators of the content. 

Softly relaunching

 Screen shot

So a long, long time ago I decided to both teach myself to shoot photos better and document my quickly changing life by creating a photo blog back on October 10, 2003 with the grand vision of keeping it going for ten years.

At the time, I was pretty busy with multiple projects, but thanks to moving all my photo management to a new mac and this new fangled application called iPhoto, I got my daily photo posting regimen down to about 10-15 minutes each day (which included download photos, select the best, edit in Photoshop, save to desktop, upload via FTP to site, then build blog post around it). It was a tolerable nightly chore, as long as my life stayed somewhat stable.

Soon after having a child a couple years later I started slacking a bit, then a bit more, until I didn't have 15 minutes a day to spare towards a little hobby site. I'd say the whole thing died sometime in late 2005 when I just gave up on daily posts. I streamlined the process further but the uploads and blog posting was too much of a hassle. I kept posting plenty to flickr, thanks to its ease of use with various photo uploading tools. In 2005, I started wishing for a way to make a photoblog powered by flickr entirely, which wasn't an option when I started.

Last year I stumbled upon Flogr, and I'd been wanting to try it out ever since. I finally got around to it today, and so it lives at www.tenyearsofmylife.com.

I'll start by saying I threw this together in about an hour, I tweaked the default template but know it has a bunch of annoying quirks (several I noted in Flickr's new App Garden thread linked earlier). The oldest photo seems to be dying and I haven't imported any of the 2003-2007 content that was previously on the site (I'll eventually do it). Also the feed sucks so I'm replacing it with a tag feed from Flickr. I'm not happy with the URL structure or even the idea of having an external URL for something that actually lives at flickr, but what I am happy about is the ease of use.

It's pretty much just a stream of my favorite recent photos posted to flickr and it really cuts down on the workflow to the point where a photo can go from my camera to iPhoto to the web and to this site in about four clicks within the span of a couple minutes. I'm no longer aiming for daily new photos or trying to make myself shoot one new one per day, I'd rather just keep it to as often as an interesting photo comes along that I feel like sharing which will likely be on the order of 3-4 per week.

Now that expectations are appropriately lowered, enjoy.