The Old College Try

I’m not entirely sure why they call it “the old college try” or if it will work for me, since I’ve been out of college for five decades. That said, I’m composing this post on my iPhone using the Block editor.

I am not a total luddite or troglodyte or whatever term is used to describe someone who is technologically ignorant. As a matter of fact, when I was still working, I was a “solutions consultant” for a software and services company and I considered myself to be rather technologically competent. But I retired four years ago and now I must be technologically brain dead because this whole Block editor has me totally flummoxed.

But here I am, after saying that I was going to throw in the towel in this post, attempting to use the Block editor to write and publish a post. That’s because, since I published that post a few hours ago, a lot of you have called me a pussy and some of you have insisted that it just takes patience and perseverance to make it work. “Don’t give up,” one blogger commented. “Don’t let the bastards win,” another blogger advised.

So this old dog has been sufficiently motivated (or intimidated?) to learn a new trick. Now all I need to do is figure out how to add a category, a few tags, save the stuff, preview it, and publish it.

Wish me luck.

The Thrill Is Gone

Do you remember WordPerfect? It was the dominant word processing software for personal computers in the pre-Windows days. Before WordPerfect came out, I used to use WordStar.To say it was cumbersome and not exactly intuitive or end-user friendly would have been an understatement. But it dominated the PC market in the early and mid 1980s when MS-DOS was the operating system of record.But then WordPerfect was introduced and because of its simplicity and ease of use, it rapidly became the standard in the DOS market in the late 80s. What I liked about it was that it showed you a blank page and all you had to do was to put your fingers on keyboard and just start typing. It was, in a word, unobtrusive.

Unfortunately for WordPerfect, it lost its dominant position after it failed to come up with a decent version for Microsoft Windows. Microsoft Word [for Windows] rapidly took over the market and WordPerfect was no longer the standard word processing app by the mid-90s.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with the price of eggs. Well, I’ll tell you. The beauty of WordPress is that it’s unobtrusive. When you want to write a post, you simply click on “Add New” and you’re presented with a blank screen. You don’t need to be computer savvy. You don’t need to take a course, read a manual, or watch a whole bunch of YouTube videos to figure out how to write and publish a post.

Well, it used to be that way, anyway. Flash forward to 2020 (one of the worst years in the history of the modern world). The folks at WordPress decided to come up with something new. They introduced the Block editor. For a while, after WordPress first announced its Block editor (formerly called the Gutenberg editor), it maintained its so-called “Classic” editor for those of us who were used to and liked the easy, unobtrusive way we created our posts.

But this past week, WordPress officially retired its Classic editor and now requires us to use the Block editor. We are forced to learn a whole new paradigm for creating a post. And if you happen to use a smartphone for your blog, fuhgeddaboudit. The Block editor just doesn’t cut it on the small screen.

I’m just a hobby blogger. I blog because I like to write. I enjoy expressing myself on what matters to me in the world around us, dabbling with short fiction, and interacting with other bloggers. I don’t need a whole lot of fancy bells and whistles for my blog. I just want to be able to open up a browser on my iPhone and use its virtual keypad to tap away at whatever comes to mind, to add an image or two, maybe to put in a link here and there, and then to publish my post. Easy peasy, right? Not so much, anymore, I’m afraid.

There are a few “backdoors” to the Classic editor that remain available. WordPress claims that, for those of us who like the Classic editor, they have given us the “Classic Block” in the Block editor. Have you tried that? On a smartphone? It sucks.

WordPress offers a a plugin called “Classic Editor” that allegedly restores the Classic editor as your default editor, giving you the ability to bypass (or ignore) the Block editor. But in order to install the plugin you must upgrade to the Business Plan, which costs $25 a month. I’m retired, I don’t have or run a business, I’m not trying to use my blog to promote or sell anything or to make any money off of my blog, so I certainly don’t want to spend $300 a year for the Business Plan when I don’t have a business.

Alternatively, you can, as I am doing now, use the Classic editor on the “/wp-admin” site. And while it’s better than the Block editor, it is a bit more difficult to use on an iPhone than the version of the Classic editor that WordPress just took away from us. I’m wondering how long it will be before WordPress dumps this version of the “Classic” editor, as well.

Blogging on WordPress is starting to feel more like a burden and less like fun. I don’t know if I want to put up with the hassle of trying to learn a whole new paradigm for blogging, or to jump through hoops to be able to write and publish my posts, especially when I use an iPhone for blogging.

So as much as I hate to say this, I’m announcing that, after this month, I’m going to take a bit of a hiatus from blogging. I’m not abandoning my blog, I’m just not going to post as often as I do now. Maybe not even daily. I’m going to end a few of my prompts, like Fandango’s Provocative Question, Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge, Fandango’s Who Won the Week, and Fandango’s Dog Days of August prompt (which was scheduled to run only through the end of this month, anyway).

I have scheduled my daily FOWC with Fandango prompts through August 31st, and I haven’t yet decided if I will continue to post those after that. I also haven’t decided whether or not I will stop Fandango’s Friday Flashback.

This really breaks my heart because I love blogging. I love interacting with all of you and I will miss this — and you — terribly. But as the song goes, you gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, and know when to walk away. And when the thrill of blogging on WordPress is gone, it’s time to fold ’em.

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #21

Fandango’s Dog Days of AugustDo you need a muse to get your creative juices flowing during these hot, sultry days of August? Try a dose of Fandango’s Dog Days of August prompt.

At 6:00 am Pacific time each day this month, I will be posting a new theme. Today’s theme is “a lesson you learned.” What is a lesson that you learned along the way? How did you learn the lesson? Who did you learn it from? How did that lesson change your life, it at all? Share a story, a poem, a photo, a drawing, some music, or whatever you wish to share about a lesson that you learned.

If you wish to participate, please write your post, use the tag #FDDA, and create a pingback to this post or manually add your link in the comments.

And, of course, take some time to read the other responses to this prompt. See how other bloggers are coping with the dog days of August.

Fandango’s Friday Flashback — August 21

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of you earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year.

How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year? You can repost your Friday Flashback post on your blog and pingback to this post. Or you can just write a comment below with a link to the post you selected.

If you’ve been blogging for less than a year, go ahead and choose a post that you previously published on this day (the 21st) of any month within the past year and link to that post in a comment.

I’m breaking the rules a bit. This was originally posted on my old blog on August 15, 2014, not on August 21, but given the recent WordPress switch to the Block editor, I thought this old post was timely. By the way, when I wrote this post, I was still using a laptop for my blog. Now I’m using my iPhone, which makes the Block editor worthless. And when I did try to use the Classic block within the Block editor on my iPhone,  I got this error message and lost everything I had written up to that point:

Here’s An Idea WordPress: Beta Testing

Anyone who has worked with software is familiar with the term “beta testing.” Essentially, beta testing is a form of external user acceptance testing. Versions of the software, known as beta versions, are released to a limited audience outside of the programming team. The software is released to groups of people so that further testing can ensure the product has few faults or bugs before what is known as the “GA release,” where GA stands for general availability.

Beta testing is a tried and true process, and while it doesn’t guarantee that each and every bug or issue will be uncovered during the beta testing cycle, it does minimize the number of such bugs and also ensures that usability of the software hasn’t taken a hit.

There’s another software concept called release notes. These release notes document the changes that have been made, why they were made, and how to use them. My experience has been that release notes often accompany the GA release, so that end-users understand the changes and can adjust to them.

My 13 months of experience on WordPress indicates to me that neither beta testing nor release notes are part of the process. I admit, I don’t know this to be a fact. WordPress may have a whole cadre of beta testers behind the curtain and we just don’t see them. But if there are a bunch of beta testers, they’re not very good at their jobs.

Every so often I wake up in the morning and things are different on WordPress. Maybe it’s the way you add media to a post, or the way you resize your images. Maybe it’s the way you copy and paste text from a Word doc into your editor that has changed. I actually posted about both of these “unannounced” changes back in March.

WordPress has made some recent changes to both the user interface and the processes for writing posts. I call this the “Beep beep boop” user interface. Sadly, I don’t think it’s either funny or user-friendly. And it’s a lot slower!

Apparently, this change generated a maelstrom of criticism and protest, and, as result, WordPress offered a means to use the “classic” UI from the Dashboard to add or edit posts. But I’m concerned that this “classic” method will go the way of “Coca-Cola Classic” after the Coca-Cola Company introduced its disastrous “New Coke.”As long as I can still use the “classic” mode for adding posts via the Dashboard, I guess I won’t complain too loudly. But if you take that away, WordPress, you’d be making a big mistake…unless your goal is to reduce the number of people who use for their blogs. If that’s your goal, then you’re making all the right moves.

I will end this by reiterating what I wrote in my post back in March:

So here’s some free advice to you, WordPress. When you are thinking about making improvements to the blogging experience, consider soliciting bloggers who are interested in beta-testing your alleged improvements. And provide enough time to that beta testing to ensure that you get the bugs addressed before releasing these “new and improved” features to those of us who rely on you for our blogs.

Better yet, think about that old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

FOWC with Fandango — Design

FOWCWelcome to August 21, 2020 and to Fandango’s One-Word Challenge (aka, FOWC). It’s designed to fill the void after WordPress bailed on its daily one-word prompt.

I will be posting each day’s word just after midnight Pacific Time (US).

Today’s word is “design.”

Write a post using that word. It can be prose, poetry, fiction, non-fiction. It can be any length. It can be just a picture or a drawing if you want. No holds barred, so to speak.

Once you are done, tag your post with #FOWC and create a pingback to this post if you are on WordPress. Please check to confirm that your pingback is there. If not, please manually add your link in the comments.

And be sure to read the posts of other bloggers who respond to this prompt. You will marvel at their creativity.