Will Gutenberg kill Wordpress as a writer’s platform?

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Almost every WordPress.com blogger has no doubt seen that irritating little blue blurb that keeps appearing at the bottom of the editing screen:  “A new editor is coming to level up your layout,” followed by a “learn more” offer that you can click on if you really want to learn more.   Over in the editor sidebar (where you find your status, post settings, categories and tags, sharing info, etc.) at the bottom is another distracting box offering you to try out the “new editor.”

Not many people like change, especially older folks like me.   Those of us who write for a living or just for fun who just want a nice big easy space to write in (like we have with the Classic Editor) don’t want to have to worry about “blocks” and dragging and dropping them around to “build a page.”  We just want to write, dammit.

Because essentially, what Gutenberg is, is not an editing platform intended for writers, but a page builder geared more for web designers or people more into building a page than writing text.   I know this because, even though I haven’t tried Gutenberg yet myself (and hope I never will have to),  I have watched many tutorials on Youtube about how it works, and have done  a lot of reading and research on it, including the user reviews over at WordPress.org., where users have already been forced to adopt it — unless they install a “Classic Editor” or “Disable Gutenberg” plugin so they can continue to write their posts the old way.   And, not surprisingly, the “classic editor” plugin is, at the moment, the most popular WordPress.org plugin ever, with over a million downloads already.   That’s a pretty clear message for the WP staff, but they appear to not care.  Like Trump, they’re just going to plow ahead and do things the way they want, and to hell with the people forced to adapt to this unwanted change.

People hate Gutenberg, at least people who want to just write, and that’s most WordPress users.    Since most WordPress users, both at WP.com and WP.org, are writers and bloggers first, and were attracted to WordPress in the first place due to its user friendliness and intuitive writing platform (meaning you can easily figure it out on your own without a user manual or tutorials) that worked almost exactly like the popular Microsoft Word, which almost everyone already knew.  People happily chose WordPress when they were promised, “if you know how to use Word, you will be able to use WordPress.”  And it was true.   The classic WordPress editor is almost ridiculously easy to use and that’s one of the reasons WordPress is still the most popular content management system (CMS) around.

Gutenberg does not give you a nice clean WYSIWYG screen that can be easily toggled to an HTML screen (if you prefer entering your own code or have custom design), with all your editing choices neatly and clearly contained in an easy to read toolbar at the top and your other options in a sidebar well away from your text.     Instead, Gutenberg uses a system of “blocks,” in which every feature of your post must have its own block, even down to individual paragraphs and titles.   That means you cannot see your entire page all at once, and the blocks are too small to see much of your writing at a time.   Few writers can write well if they cannot see their entire post at once, because much of writing involves being able to see the whole thing in its entirety and then cut and paste and move things around, including pictures and captions.  The classic editor allows us to do that easily with one or two clicks, by highlighting text or graphics and then moving it or deleting it or whatever.    The classic editor is intuitive, meaning that you can learn it on your own without any special instructions.

In contrast, Gutenberg wastes your time by forcing you to work within a “block” and while these can also be moved around the page and edited, it takes more clicks and is much more complicated to do so, and involves things like hidden menus, cryptic symbols, and odd toolbars at the top of each block, and hidden icons that only appear if you hover over them within the block.   Some of these icons and toolbars actually block the block itself, so you can’t even see what you have written in the block.  If you are a writer who needs to be able to see the entire post to know how you want to edit it, forget it.   There’s no way to see your entire post in editing format.  To do that, you have to create a draft or preview (and then go back in the editor and edit the blocks, somehow remembering what you saw in the draft or preview, or keeping it in a separate tab).   Also, each time you hit < enter > it creates a new block which you then must delete.  There have been many other complaints about this system that I’m not even including in this post.   You can read the complaints for yourself in the link I have provided below.

Most of the comments I read said Gutenberg is much slower and clunkier than Classic editor, and has turned something that’s a joy (writing a post) into a dreaded and time consuming chore.   It’s complicated and nonintuitive, so it’s difficult to figure it out on your own.

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Huh?

 

WordPress is trying (again) to fix something that isn’t broken.    I understand the system is still in its “beta” version and therefore has bugs which will probably get fixed later.  I also understand the company wants to remain tech savvy and up to date, and evidently, “block” editors like Gutenberg are the wave of the future.   In its desperation to be “relevant,” WordPress wants to throw away something that works so they can be more like Weebly or Wix (platforms which use block editors like Gutenberg).  But since most WP clients are writers, bloggers, or just regular folks trying to share their art, photography, or conduct business through their website, not web designers and page builders,  WordPress is really jumping the shark by forcing its users to adapt to such a drastic change that will require them to climb a very steep learning curve and take time away from actually writing or conducting their business.   I feel ultimately, WordPress users are going to go elsewhere that fits their needs better.

It feels like they are force feeding this change on us.  In fact, it feels almost like a form of internet fascism, with the staff at the WordPress.org review page showing little to no empathy for its users’ complaints and concerns, even blaming them for “resisting” having to learn something new, or belittling them for not liking change.    They are told to suck it up because that’s how it’s going to be, whether they like it or not.   Then they are “reassured” with a formulaic sentence telling them to install the classic plugin (when it’s actually Gutenberg, which is still full of bugs because it’s still in beta format, that should be the optional plugin) if they hate Gutenberg so much.   In the comments that don’t specify exactly what the person hates about Gutenberg, the staffer asks the user what the issue is.  Okay, fair enough.   But in the many other comments that DO specify, often in great detail, what the issues are, the staffers NEVER address the issues, only the user’s attitude and the only “help” given is to tell them to install the classic plugin.

Even if you don’t mind being condescended to and gaslighted by the WP.org staff, the plugin solution is only a temporary one.

Because the ultimate plan is to completely do away with the Classic Editor by 2022.   In three years, like it or not, we will all be forced to use Gutenberg.   There won’t be another option — except using a platform besides WordPress.  (Already, there is something called Classic Press in the works, created by WP defectors, for people who can’t or won’t use Gutenberg — I may be looking into that myself.)   I’ve seen enough of how Gutenberg works and read enough about it to know I will never have a good relationship with it.   If it doesn’t work for most users at WP.org (who tend to be a bit more technically savvy than WP.com users, since their websites and blogs are self hosted), then it’s going to be an absolute nightmare for us WP.com users.   Frankly, the whole idea of it terrifies me.

Here is a screenshot of the rankings of Gutenberg by WP.org users (and keep in mind that many of the five star reviews are actually bad reviews that were accidentally given five stars. I know because I’ve read many of these reviews):

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In spite of the obvious bad reviews of this product,  one WP staff member (I will have to paraphrase since I can no longer find the post), in their usual condescending way, scolded one user who pointed out how many one star reviews there were.  The staff member actually said the review system was invalid and shouldn’t be believed.  Even more unbelievably, the staff member said that most people who loved Gutenberg (obviously, almost everyone) just weren’t writing reviews or ranking the product because happy people don’t write reviews or give stars.  WHAT?

WordPress.org appears to be gaslighting and shifting blame to its own users, and straight up making shit up to make themselves look superior and their own review system look invalid!    That’s crazy!  It makes me wonder if the people running WordPress.org are on the narcissism/Cluster B spectrum (someone else actually mentioned this to me).   I can’t say if they are or not, but blaming the users of a product for disliking a change because it doesn’t work for them and is making their writing experience unpleasant seems profoundly undemocratic and callous.   It seems that WordPress somehow knows it will benefit from forcing this change on people, even if most of those people wind up taking their websites somewhere else.   You gotta wonder who is paying them off.

So far, these changes haven’t been forced on WordPress.com users.  Yet.   But it’s coming.  We are reminded of it every time we open our editing screen.  When it finally is,  I intend to switch to the Classic Editor and keep using it as long as it’s still an option.  As for 2022, I’m not going to worry about that yet.   A lot can happen in three years.

Gutenberg has been compared by many to New Coke, another example of “fixing something that isn’t broken.”  Hopefully WordPress realizes their mistake decides to keep Gutenberg as an optional plugin (for people who actually like playing around with confusing blocks, like page builders and web developers), and Classic Editor as its default, rather than the other way around.    Gutenberg is NOT FOR WRITERS.

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Trump is full of rusty nails and swamp gas.

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Trump, unlike other US presidents, has never uttered a word that’s inspiring, brilliant, encouraging, comforting, intelligent, wise, insightful, humorous, compassionate, or even pragmatic. He is a man without value, an empty shell full of rusty nails and swamp gas.

Merry Christmas!

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You made it through this year…

I fell in love with this cartoon by artist Kelly Bastow.

You can purchase her art and see her other cartoons at her Etsy account (Moosekleenex).  

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This Christmas is kind of a bummer for me.

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The house is  all decked out for the holidays more than it’s been in years, thanks to my daughter’s efforts.  But a couple of incidents have occurred in in the past  24 hours that have really put both of us in terrible moods and darkened our holiday spirit with worry and sadness.

I don’t really want to talk about what happened, because it’s not really a huge issue (no one died or is deathly ill)  and like all things, it will pass, but it’s ruining her Christmas so much she has been in tears for 24 hours.  As a person that is much more empathic than I ever used to believe I was (I think some of my natural empathy got freed up through therapy and self analysis), her low mood is affecting my own emotional state in a very negative way.    Any Christmas spirit I had feels like it’s gone.

I’m trying to make the best of it, going through the motions, and by tomorrow perhaps I will feel better and be able to enjoy Christmas day.   Gift giving is always fun and I have prepared a wonderful lasagna (my own Christmas tradition) and have a delicious buttercream chocolate/peppermint cake for dessert.

Another issue is I have drifted away from my church and religion in general (long story) and although I want to attend Christmas morning mass tomorrow, I doubt I actually will.

I’ve been having a lot of doubts about Christianity.   I blame much of this on the way Christianity has been poisoned and corrupted by American right wing evangelical/dominionist preachers, politicians, and megachurches.   Like a person with a specific phobia of elevators whose phobia generalizes to include all enclosed places, my entire outlook on Christianity (even the good kind that actually follows Christ’s teachings) is becoming poisoned.

I know the cure for this is to resist my negative feelings and go to church anyway, but every week I say I will go and then I don’t.    I can certainly understand why so many people these days are becoming atheists, especially younger people.    American right wing Christianity is turning good people away from God completely.  And why wouldn’t they?    Sociopathic people in power have made a God in their own image:  a merciless God that is sociopathic, cruel, punishing, impossible to please,  narcissistic, and who takes sadistic pleasure in endlessly and cruelly punishing the hapless humans he demands worship from.   I know that’s not what real Christianity is about, but the compassionate, Christlike Christians don’t seem numerous enough, and certainly aren’t loud enough.   Instead of fighting back, they turn the other cheek.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Winter Solstice celebration.  I hope you are happy this holiday no matter what you celebrate and aren’t bogged down by stress and worry.

Oh yeah.  That reminds me.  The Winter Solstice.  The days are growing longer now, and that makes me very happy.

Why do people read (and comment on) blogs they don’t like?

Every blogger I know has had to deal with this. There’s always that one troll who obviously hates your blog, but keeps reading it anyway, and commenting negatively on everything you write. Here’s a post I wrote about that. (My own hate-stalker disappeared for the most part, but still shows up on occasion to remind me they are still there, watching and judging).

Lucky Otters Haven

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This is going to be a pretty short post.   Someone who I won’t name had been commenting frequently on my political posts, and their views are almost the polar opposite of mine.   I can’t say this person is exactly a troll, because their comments weren’t offensive or abusive enough to qualify as troll comments, but their views were certainly at odds with mine and he/she wasn’t always very nice about it either.

I asked this person why they were reading my blog since what I have to say seemed to anger them so much, but got no reply.    He/she would be silent for a few days, and then make another negative comment.

Now I get that not everyone is going to agree with me, and I don’t expect them to.   I wouldn’t even want everyone to agree with me 100% of the time, because that’s boring.   Healthy debate is…

View original post 190 more words

Why Twitter has made me a better writer.

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Twitter has made me a better writer.

I’ve always been a good writer (my teachers always told me so).  To me it’s not work, it’s pleasure.  I write largely for the fun of it.   English composition was always my best subject in high school, and creative writing comes to me naturally.  Always has.    So it’s no surprise that I wound up with a career in medical editing and (technical) writing for several years until I started a family.   It wasn’t exactly creative writing, but it was still writing, and therefore enjoyable to me.

Off and on throughout my life, I’ve dabbled in creative writing: fictional stories, fanciful memoirs, imaginative prose, all kinds of descriptive writing, poetry, and even a novel I refuse to show anyone and today sits in a rotting cardboard box in the back of a closet.   And today, of course, I blog.

In college I really enjoyed my creative writing class and made high grades, but my professor had one big problem with my writing:  my tendency to use “purple prose.”

Purple prose is overwrought writing.  My sentences used to be overly long, way too descriptive, and filled with a lot of unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, and flowery, overwrought descriptions.

If I could have written the perfectly serviceable sentence, “A black cat jumped over the fence,” I’d write something like this instead:

A lithe feline creature as dark as a starless midnight, so dark its fur absorbed every color that might have surrounded it, virtually shape-shifted its grace-infused body into a spread eagle form and effortlessly soared over the wooden obstacle that no other creature could have breached without seriously injuring itself.

What the hell was that all about?   A cat jumping over a fence or some supernatural shapeshifting thing?  It’s hard to tell for sure.

I think my point is clear.   Publishers and editors hate purple prose, but it is fun to write.  It’s just that no one else wants to read it.  Why use 100 words to make the same point that can be made in 10?   Purple prose is also often emotionally overwrought and a bit nausea inducing.   You can write the simple sentence, “her face crumpled and she began to weep silently” but a purple prose writer might write something more like:

Rivers of clear, salty tears poured from her Caribbean colored eyes (made even more deep turquoise when they were puddled with tears), and as they made their journey, they traced the fine lines of age just beginning to etch themselves into her cheeks, then divided into smaller rivers, and finally into streams, creeks, and small brooks before they finally dripped off the precipice of her chiseled, bony chin and splashed onto the bodice of her magenta velvet dress, and sat there, like clear glass beads, rather than being absorbed by the fabric.

Ugh.  The simple sentence somehow has more emotional impact and doesn’t make you gag.

There’s nothing wrong with simple writing that doesn’t use a lot of big descriptive words and gets right to the point.   Good writing has more to do with the way you string sentences, paragraphs, and ideas together, not how long and descriptive you can make a sentence.

If you enjoy writing long, flowery, descriptive passages, that’s great, but your writing probably won’t get read.   That kind of writing went out of style about 100 years ago.  That’s why novels written in the 18th and 19th centuries are so wordy and descriptive.  Classic novels can go on for ten pages about the physical attributes of a single room or even a piece of furniture.   Back then, people weren’t always rushed and they actually enjoyed reading extremely descriptive writing.   Today it’s all about the action and the dialogue.   Today (unfortunately or not), a novel that starts off describing a single object or a person’s face over several pages would go into the slush pile.

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Twitter cured me of my tendency to write purple prose.   Many people think of Twitter as shallow because how meaningful can you make a tweet that can only contain 280 characters?  (It used to be worse:  until a year or so ago, you were limited to 140!).   And to some extent, that’s true.   On Twitter, there’s a lot of cotton candy in prose form: shallow “ideas” or strings of words with no nutritive value for your soul or your mind.  But there are also brilliant tweets that contain more meaning and depth than an entire book.  Think of some of the most famous and profound quotes you have ever heard.  They tend to be quite short, don’t they?  Sometimes just a few words.   But they are remembered, and used for decades or even centuries after they were first uttered.  Twitter is a virtual quote factory, if you can bushwack your way through all the fibrous, sugary fluff that obscures the meaty, nutritious stuff.

And if you really, truly need to make your point in more than 280 characters, you can always  thread a series of tweets together.   It’s very easy to learn how to do this (though Twitter addict Donald Trump, not too surprisingly, appears to not have mastered this skill).  Each tweet stands on its own, but is connected to the other tweets in your thread, making an entire article.   Being limited to 280 characters for each tweet within a thread makes it virtually impossible to write run on paragraphs which can make your writing boring and hard to comprehend.  Many tweet threaders number their tweets so there’s no question about what order you’re supposed to read them in.

Writing good tweets that have actual meaning (or are uproariously funny) is an art form and a discipline.   If you write good tweets, they tend to get retweeted by others a lot.   People recognize a good tweet when they read one.   They are relatable, meaningful, and either very true, very funny, or very profound.  They never use lots descriptive words because they can’t.   Forced brevity tends to enhance the message you are trying to get across.   It’s all about the meat and bones of an idea, with all the fat trimmed off.

So, because of Twitter, I have learned to write my ideas or observations without the fat and gristle that could obscure my message.  This has improved my writing in general, and now whenever I read over a post I just wrote, any purple or overly descrptive prose sticks out like blobs of gristle hanging off a pork roast and immediately get sliced off.  At first it was hard to do, but over time it gets a lot easier.

If you’re a writer, don’t knock Twitter.   Expressing an idea using a very limited number of words works wonders for your writing, especially if you are like me and tend to be too wordy or descriptive.

*****

Further reading:

Is Your Prose Too Purple?  (includes a test to find out if your prose needs to go on a diet

I’m terrified of losing my healthcare.

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I’m freaking out right now.   The GOP is going after ACA (Obamacare) AGAIN.

This time, some federal judge in Texas (whose actual name is Reed O’Connor, though that hasn’t been widely reported) said the law is unconstitutional and therefore needs to be repealed.

There was a detailed article about this from the New York Times.  I had it linked here but the link no longer works so I removed it.  I’m too disgusted and angry to try to explain why this judge thinks the ACA is unconstitutional and don’t really understand his logic.  I think it’s all bullshit, frankly — just another way the GOP can try to strip healthcare away from 20 million Americans and ratf*ck the sick, poor and elderly.

I happen to be one of those Americans who will be affected should this cruel law be upheld (I have heard it will probably be appealed and not be upheld, but I’m not getting my hopes up).   The ACA is the only way I can afford health insurance.  I’m way too old to risk not having health insurance (though I’m fairly healthy, I know I won’t always be), and I’m still too young for Medicare.  The way they keep raising the age for eligibility (they want to raise it to 70, I believe right now it’s 67),  I may never be “old” enough to get it.

This predatory regime wants the elderly poor and working class dead.   I’m convinced of that.  All their actions and their lack of empathy and general cruelty makes it obvious.   Once we’re too old or too sick to make money for the oligarchs and corporations, we’re just “useless eaters” (using one of the GOP’s actual terms for us).  Taking away our healthcare is a sneaky way to kill us off when we lose our usefulness to them.

Hopefully the new Democratic Congress, headed by Nancy Pelosi (I’m very happy she will be the Speaker) can work out something that will allow us to keep our healthcare, or maybe even work with the less partisan Republicans (do they exist anymore?) to come up with something even better than the ACA.

More people than ever, even some Republicans, are demanding Medicare For All (single payer healthcare, like other developed countries have).  Maybe one day that will actually become a reality and we can stop worrying about dying or going bankrupt should we become sick or disabled.   At my age, it’s a very real worry, and right now, I’m absolutely terrified that I could lose my ACA with nothing to replace it.    I do not have a job that offers health insurance, I’m not married so no one is paying for me to be on their plan, and there’s no way I can afford the premiums on my own without the ACA.

Certain things should not be privatized or not at least have a public option (such as education).  Healthcare is one of those things.    Some things are necessities that benefit the common good and should be paid through our taxes, meaning that We, the People own these things, not private shareholders and individuals.  Those things include national parks and monuments, fire and police, education (though private schools should and can be available as well), the post office, healthcare, the military, and prisons.  Privatizing these things (or not having a public option for them) leads to nothing but further inequality and fascism.

Pinterest interest.

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I was just looking at my stats, and while they’re not what they used to be (my viewership is less than half what it was two years ago when it reached its peak), I was surprised to find that I get most of my hits and new views through Pinterest!

A few months ago I decided to start sharing posts on Pinterest (I already had an account there, but never used it), after StumbleUpon changed its name and format and was no longer an option for sharing my posts.   I had been getting quite a lot of views through SU, but Pinterest beats that.    I wish my Google ranking was higher, but I’m pretty sure that’s my fault, for not posting nearly as much as I  used to.   (I used to average 2 – 5 posts a day!)  Maybe one day I will post that much again.

If you’re a blogger who wants more views, add a Pinterest sharing button (it can be found in the WordPress.com widgets), start a Pinterest account, and share your posts there.

The white squirrel of Brevard, NC

Brevard, North Carolina, is just to the southwest of where I live, in Transylvania County.

Transylvania County was named that because of its physical  resemblance to the Transylvania area of the Carpathians of Romania.  In fact, the movie “Cold Mountain,” which takes place in western North Carolina during the Civil War, was actually filmed in the Transylvanian part of Romania due to the less developed, mountainous terrain which would have resembled western North Carolina during Civil War times (also because it was cheaper to film it there).   Even today, the appearance of both areas are strikingly similar, as the below photos show.   They also share a similar climate and rural mountain culture.

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Transylvania, Carpathians, Romania

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Whitewater Falls, Transylvania County, NC in the autumn

 

It rains a lot in western North Carolina, but nowhere does it rain as much as it does in Transylvania County, which is actually classified as a temperate rainforest.  Transylvania is also known for its many waterfalls.  Within this temperate rainforest lives a unique creature that lives nowhere else on earth:  the white squirrel.    It’s not an albino, because its eyes are pigmented, but other than its unusual color, it’s a perfectly normal squirrel.    No one is quite sure why the squirrel (also known as the Brevard squirrel) evolved a bright white coat in an area that doesn’t normally get an abundance of snow.