WHO ARE YOU CALLING A CUR? A LETTER TO WordPress – Marilyn Armstrong

Dear NP – Happiness Engineer at WordPress,

You know, when my responses dropped by 50% in February, I said “Oh, they’ll fix it. Surely it’s not just me …”

By the middle of March, having gone from getting an average 400-450 hits a day to barely hitting 300 on a good day, I wrote a very polite note and got an automated response — and nothing more. A week later, I wrote a sharper note … and got an automated response saying you were “working on it.”

Two weeks later, I tried again and this time was told “the problem was a lot bigger than it looked and please be patient.” By then, it was April and the bottom had fallen out of my site. Previously, until the turn of the year, everyone could reach me with just “Serendipity”

Because, you see, I was the first person to use the name. It was mine. Always. From February 2012, I had always gotten ALL my responses on that title and never had a problem — so don’t tell me this has always been a problem all along because that’s NOT TRUE.

All through April, I waited. I got an occasional note from this or that “happiness engineer” that you had fixed it, but it was NOT fixed. The only fix I could come up with was to change the title of my 6-year-old blog to meet whatever are your new standards — the ones you never told anyone about.

That’s another cool thing you do. You just change stuff and it doesn’t seem to occur to you that your changes make a difference to anyone. Apparently we are all just cogs in your wheel.

I got a little snarkier and was ignored.

So finally, I got really ANGRY and I YELLED at you. Oddly, that worked. It may not be the best way, but the best way, the reasonable way, totally failed to get anyone’s attention. If you want polite users, try politely responding to queries. It’s a two-way street.

I tried nice. I tried polite. I tried reasonable. I tried patience and you IGNORED me. Now — I’m yelling? Well gee, what a shock. What did you think was going to happen?

I’m very angry about having to change the name of my blog after six years. You allowed people to take the same title and I was told there could only be one of each name. I know because I was turned down for a bunch because they were already in use, so I assumed that other people had the same requirements as I did, but apparently, not true.

You just said ‘Oh what the heck” and let anyone take any name without regard for previous occupancy. Yeah, it got me really mad and it got a few followers mad. They pointed out it was unfair since I had always gone by that name. To force me change my title so kids who jump on board for a month of freeloading and don’t build a blog, but steal my title are more important to you than people like me.

It isn’t just me. There are a lot of us, hard-working determined bloggers. We are the people who keep you in business. We pay our fees. We do the work that makes a site meaningful. We keep users interested and coming back for more. They aren’t coming back for the high school kid who will post a dozen blogs and abandon the site because it’s too much like work. We are the ones who do the job you need done and you honor us exactly how? By persistently altering the format to make basic blogging increasingly difficult.

You never consult us about the changes you are making. You just make them and tell us we’ll love it, but we don’t. You take simple tasks and make them enormously more difficult.

No one notices when I popped past half a million and I’m sure when I pop past a million, you won’t notice that, either.

Now my site seems to working. Until the next exciting new change blows it up again. But mostly, it’s working because I CHANGED THE NAME OF MY SITE so I could have a place in the search engine. It’s a very long title and I hate having to use it. It will cut into who can find me. Alternatively, I could abandon you but I don’t think I have it in me to do this on Blogger. Six years and 700,000 posts — and 675,500 hits. That’s a lot of writing, photography, commenting. I’ve involved four more writers and the result was really heartening. And exciting.

It’s like a real newspaper now with all kinds of articles by people of widely varying backgrounds. People read us. A lot more people than I imagined possible.

I went to my husband’s reunion last week. I’s a reunion of the media TV-Radio-Newspaper reporters and photographers for the Boston market — and they actually knew me because of the blog. Much to my amazement, they read us — and that means they also read WordPress. Consider that your company has gotten more actual feedback and probably business from me than maybe any other blogger in New England.

So – I am important to you?

How exactly?

What do you do for me?

Did you protect my site and my title? Did you jump in and fix the problem which really IS your database. Something ugly happened and you need to fix it. I guarantee — it will get worse. That was my specialty for 40 year in the high-tech biz and lemme tell you, if your database crumbles, eventually the whole organization put itself out of business.

It’s easier than you think. I’ve watched it happen repeatedly through the years. I could draw you a long list of companies who were hot, hot, hot and are now gone, gone, gone. Your search engine and database are the backbone of your organization. If it doesn’t work, nothing works. Sales will drop, your business will fall off and someone smart and new will pop up and say “Hey, guys, c’mon over here … we’ll take care of you …” and we will go, because you didn’t take care of us. You just love telling us how well you care for us, but you don’t.

I know you are changing the format again, too. Rumors abound and I dread what new awful software you’re going to shove out your door. I’m still hanging in with the old stuff because the new one is dreadful. It’s very cute and fiddly — and hard to use. Writers don’t want fiddly. We just want to write.

We want the spacing (still can’t get the spacing right, can you … that disappeared long ago) to work. I’d like back the point system on selecting fonts. I’d like to be able to find a picture more than 2 years old. I’d like to be able to find my own posts from 5 years ago or even three. I’d like the old custom format back where I could actually choose a color and not have it change two weeks later because someone messed with it.

I’d like to be acknowledged for the hard work I’ve done. None of the people with whom I’ve been blogging for more than five years have gotten so much as an EMAIL indicating that they meant anything to anyone at all. Shame on your company. You treat your most loyal customers the worst and then you can’t imagine why we get so angry. The only reason we’ve stuck with you is because no one else has given us alternative.

Fear not. Someone eventually will. There’s always someone who will offer a choice. YOU were one of those people, way back when. You cared, until you got too big to be bothered.

Wouldn’t YOU be angry? Or aren’t you sufficiently invested in anything enough to care what happens to it?

Sincerely,

Your not-nearly-as-faithful-as-she-used-to-be blogger

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
– Robert Hanlon

Marilyn Armstrong
Uxbridge, Massachusetts

DOCUMENTATION WITHOUT WORDS ISN’T DOCUMENTATION – Marilyn Armstrong

A couple of weeks ago I bought myself an iPad Mini. It was $100 less on Walmart because it had iOS 9 on it rather than the current iOS 11. Anyone who knows anything about Apple knows it doesn’t matter what iOS is on it.

The moment you turn it on, it will instantly update to the new iOS — even if you would prefer it not do that.

I bought it. Less than $300 with 128 GB innards. Nice cream color. Brand new and their 4-year support was only $40 instead of the $69 Apple charges. Moreover, it’s local. Our nearest Apple outlet is a long drive from here and has been one of the reasons I’ve been loathe to get involved with Apple.

But it turns out, getting customer service is hopeless anyway. Whether it’s local or in some foreign country, service will be awful. Given the awfulness, you might as well pay less.

So now I have this iPad Mini which I got the next day. Cute little thing. We were on our way to visit Tom and Ellen, so instead of unpacking it, I stowed it in my computer bag and took it with me. Tom set it up in a few minutes and voilà. A functional iPad Mini 4.

I looked at it. “So what’s next?”

The cover (yes, purple)

I have no idea what to do with it. I read and listen to Audiobooks on my Kindle. So what do I do with this? My theory had been that I wanted something small and light that would get me into my email and let me correct typos on my blog without hauling 9 pounds of Dell wherever I go. I love my computer, but it weighs like two cinder blocks.

Tom has an iPad (regular size) and he uses it for almost everything. Almost. He also has a keyboard that also works as a case and a stand.

“Should I get the ridiculously expensive Apple keypad for this?” I ask him.

“God no,” he says. I look at his. It was a Logitech. No problem. I’m good with Logitech.

I go home and look it up on Amazon. Instead of $159, it’s $69.95. Except if I don’t mind getting it in purple, it’s $42.50. Purple is good. Goes well with the lovely cream. I order it. This is my “less than $300 solution to the $2000 problem.” What I really need is a lightweight but powerful computer, but that’s big money and we have home repairs lurking.

Maybe more dark violet than purple

It arrived today. In a nicely padded envelope. I open it. Take out the box. Eventually figure out how to open the box (I hate packaging) and remove the item. I’ve read a lot of angry reviews on how easily it breaks. I look at it. Yeah, I can see if you mistreat it, it would break. But in my entire life, I’ve never broken a computer or a cell phone. I take care of my equipment. If it breaks, it’s something internal, not because I dropped it or stepped on it or abused it.

I did notice a couple of people who suggested if everyone would treat their equipment gently, it would last longer. My sentiments exactly.

On the back of the box, it tells me what’s inside — including documentation, the keyboard case and a charging cord.

“Documentation” with REALLY SHORT cord

The documentation is missing the one thing that means documentation to me. No words. It’s a piece of cardboard with small, incomprehensible pictures. Which I follow until I get to a point where all I can say is “WHAT????” I know they want me to do something, but I have no idea what.

Documentation and the cord. Could they have made it any shorter?

I have no idea how to get it to pair with the iPad. It’s a Bluetooth device and I’ve got other Bluetooth stuff. It’s usually pretty easy, but I’m baffled because nothing is happening.

Finally, I say “Screw it.” I open my computer and look for installation instructions for the keyboard. Online. At Logitech.com.

Logitech says:


LOGITECH

Before you connect your iPad mini to the Focus keyboard case, make sure it’s inserted correctly into the case:

1 – Place your iPad mini so the camera lines up with the camera lens cutout on the Focus case.
2 – Snap the corners of the iPad into the holder to secure it.

To connect for the first time

1 – The Focus case doesn’t have an On/Off switch. To turn on your keyboard case, open it and rest the iPad mini on the strip directly above the keyboard. The status indicator on the top right of the keyboard will glow green.
2 – On first connection, your keyboard enters Bluetooth discovery mode and the status indicator will blink blue rapidly.
3 – Go to the Bluetooth settings on your iPad and select Focus Keyboard Case in the Devices list.
4 – If your iPad mini requests a PIN, enter it using the keyboard (not on your iPad mini).

Once the connection is made, the status indicator will turn solid blue. Your keyboard is ready to use.


There were no illustrations. They didn’t need any.

There were other instructions in case you want to connect the same device to a different iPad, but I only have one. It took me about 3 seconds to connect it once I had WORDS as instructions. Two paragraphs of WORDS.

No tiny pictures. One picture in the original “document” which had words in it, but no amount of squinting and changing angles enabled me to read those teeny tiny 4 point letters.

Now I have a lovely purple keyboard case that types. It’s a bit small, but so is the iPad. If I can figure out what to do with the iPad, that will make me happier.

I could use it to play games, but I can play games on my Kindle and my computer. I could watch Netflix, but … why? This is basically the problem I have always had with iPads — not having any idea why I need one and what it can do for me that isn’t already being done by something else.

Tom says I need to mess around with it and find cool stuff for it to do. Okay. I’ll do that. Whatever cool stuff is. It is possible I’m not really cool enough for devices.

NOT MUCH OF A GARDEN OUTSIDE BUT … Marilyn Armstrong

I finally nudged my Christmas cactus to blooming in March. Now, I’m pleased to announce — I did it again!

Yes, indeed. I brought it back to budding and life. 

It’s the old “starve it then feed it” thing. You have to let it sort of almost die, then bring it back. 

You have to be really careful with your timing because if you let it go too long … even one day too long … you really will kill the plant.

But I’ve been practicing this for a long time and I think I’ve got it. Here are the pictures. 

CITY VERSUS COUNTRY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I lived in an apartment in Manhattan for over 40 years. I’ve lived in the woods in Connecticut now for over 25 years. I think I’m something of an expert on both life styles.

My apartment building in NYC for 15 years

It’s a common misconception that getting around is easier in a city than in the country or suburbs. I disagree. Having lived long-term with both transportation options, I’ll take my car and the country any time.

In the city there are often many things that are within walking distance. A small supermarket, a pharmacy, a dry cleaners, some restaurants and stores, etc. For those destinations, it couldn’t be more convenient (unless you count having to be outside in inclement weather as more than mildly inconvenient). But you can’t live your entire life within a ten block radius of your apartment or house. You always need to go downtown or outside your residential area. That’s where you get into trouble.

You have to walk to bus stops or subway stops, in all kinds of weather. Then wait for the next bus or train, whenever it decides to come for you. There are always delays of some kind. You get off the bus or train and again have to walk to your destination. Add kids in strollers and the logistics become mind boggling.

Another city transportation option is the taxi. First you have to wait to find one and then you have to sit in traffic – there’s always traffic in NYC. This is often easier but it can actually be slower, is less predictable and is definitely more expensive.

You can never be sure, in a city like New York, how long it will take you to get somewhere. You’re always at the mercy of factors outside of your control. My ex and I would have endless discussions about the best way to get to the theater or to a downtown restaurant on time.

So for me, going anywhere in the city was stressful. I dreaded having to take my young kids anywhere. I dreaded going out when it was very hot, very cold or very wet outside. (Weather is a big thing for me). I was ALWAYS rushing and always worried I’d be late.

Getting a kid and a stroller into a bus is not easy

In the country/suburbs, you just get in your car and go! Mine is in my garage so I don’t even have to go outside. You always know how long it will take to get where you’re going if you’re traveling locally. If you don’t, you can always look it up on Map Quest. There’s rarely traffic (unless you have to take the highway) and usually plenty of parking wherever you’re going. You don’t have to battle the elements for more than a few yards.

You may technically be farther away from the necessities of life. But I’m in the middle of nowhere and I can get to anything I might need or want, including movies and theater, in 15-20 minutes. Door to door. You can’t go anywhere on public transportation in NYC in less time than that!

And when I drive everywhere, I’m not only in control of my schedule, I’m traveling in style and comfort. I’m in my comfy car, listening to my Broadway Channel on Sirius Radio and singing along at the top of my lungs. I’m looking out the window at trees and grass and often a reservoir. The view going by makes me happy no matter the season. Snow is beautiful if you don’t have to shovel it. There’s nothing like watching the leaves come out on the trees in the spring, or watching them turn to reds, oranges and yellows in the fall.

For me it’s a no-brainer. Me in my car, singing and watching the beautiful scenery go by. No stress, no worries, no environmental issues. I’ll take that scenario over a crowded subway any day. Even if it means I can’t walk to the local market, restaurant or store. I can walk on my tree-lined road any time I want to commune with nature or get some exercise.

I always thought I was a city girl at heart. I grew up as a dyed in the wool, ethnocentric, arrogant New Yorker. But I’ve converted. I’ve seen the light – and the trees.