Topically Distracted – Judy Dykstra-Brown

I’m reblogging this because today, I got a post sent from one of these at 11pm tonight, nearly 24 hours after it was sent. I don’t know what’s going on with WordPress’s mail, but comments are not showing up and their mail is very slow. Sometimes several days slow. I hope they get their act together because they are becoming a serious frustration in my life and probably yours, too.

lifelessons - a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

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Topically Distracted

When WordPress put us out to dry,
turning a deaf ear to our cry
not to suspend the Daily Post,
I think it disillusioned most.
Yet, so many rose to hear our plight
that now I labor day and night
to fulfill the prompts they host.
I fear offending if I don’t post.
So though outside the air’s a balm,
the flowers lush, the scene all calm,
I feel my obligation’s rush.
I feel each lined-up prompting’s crush.

Each jostles to be first in line
like a regular at opening time.
So though outside it’s tropical,
and therefore very topical,
I cannot feel the scene before me.
Sun, trees, water only bore me.
Even the palm trees do not sway.
No wind  rustles them today.
And though the prompt is “tropical,”
my mind is stuck on “topical.”
I must admit that I’m distracted.
With prompts, I fear…

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HIDING BEHIND MYSELF – Marilyn Armstrong

#FOWC — Hidden Identity

When I first started blogging on WordPress more than six years ago, I was still very into the book I wrote, so I took as my online address part of the name of my book and I called myself “Teepee 12” because the book is called “The 12-foot Teepee.”

A couple of years down the road of blogging, after I’d broken through and had an audience and all that, one day I realized no one knew my name. Everyone called me “Teepee.” I had never intended to be anonymous. I’d been writing publicly since I was a very young woman, so my name was published in a lot of places. If I’d sought anonymity, I should have done it a lot sooner.

So way back then, I switched and started using my own name. Why? Because I got really tired of being called Teepee. The book became old news and I seriously wish I’d taken Serendipity as the address for this blog because it would have saved me from WordPress’s shenanigans when a couple of months ago they decided to not bother to protect site names anymore. I’ve had to dig myself out of that hole. If my address had matched my site name, it wouldn’t have been an issue, but they were different and Serendipity was no longer an option.

So I had a secret identity entirely accidentally. Which was silly because I was at that point still a published writer under my own name, so having a secret name as a blogger while publishing as myself in magazines seemed a bit peculiar.

Thus I became me. A lot of people decloaked and became themselves at that point. It turned out that being yourself made you no more of a target than not being yourself because any hacker who wants to really know who you are will find out quickly enough. I could do it, but I don’t want to bother.

Hacking is like, you know, WORK. And as Maynard G. Krebbs used to say: “Work is a 4-letter word.”

Amen, Maynard. Amen.

WHY DON’T I “SWITCH TO THE IMPROVED EDITOR”? – Marilyn Armstrong

I see that moronic line every time I write something — in the old, old format. “SWITCH TO THE IMPROVED EDITOR” lurks above my editing every time I work. I would make it vanish if I could.

I had no intention of writing this. I was going to put together a photo post, but there was that aggravating line again. I just started to write and didn’t stop until I finished.

Why don’t I use the new improved format?

The new editor is definitely different, but it isn’t better. It’s more difficult to use. You need more steps to accomplish simple things.

Nothing has been done to really improve the limitations of the old editing format. The terrible spacing issues that have plagued every template I’ve used during the past six years are as bad or worse as are all the problems that come with pasting text from some other piece — even if it’s from another WordPress post.

Nor have there been any improvements for editing pictures. Even simple stuff, like properly resizing a picture from native to “web sized.” Internally within the post, you are stuck using the standard font or a header. The “blockquote” function is always the wrong size.

We’re still putting bandages on your “other” improvements

Lately we’ve all been battered with WordPress’s “improvements.” You managed to cause actual injury — rare even in this industry.

So I’m here to tell you:


Change isn’t an improvement. An improvement means you’ve taken something which wasn’t working and made it better. Easier to use. More effective. Maybe with more options. 


At WordPress, improvements do exactly the opposite. You take something useful and remove a piece of its functionality. I have to assume there’s a reason for this, but I have no idea what it might be. I remember when you removed “edit” from the template and we complained. One of your “happiness engineers” actually asked why we needed an edit function?

Um, because we’re writers? Editors? Artists? Do the people who create our format use it? Do they consult people who do use it? Typically, your improvements make functions work less well than before, which I suppose makes them a dis-improvement.

I have a monumental investment in my site and am at an age where starting over is – pardon the pun – a non-starter. You might force me to quit. You may push out all your “old timers.” There is always a bill to pay when you refuse to listen to your customers. You won’t be the first major tech company to slither down that open drain.

Personally, I think you are slouching down a long, gravelly road to nowhere. Like so many formerly great platforms, the power you now hold will dwindle. I hope by the time you vanish, someone else will take over.

As for my “SWITCH TO THE IMPROVED EDITOR” option?

You don’t actually believe your improved platform is better than the one we had. Anymore than you believe changing our font sizing option from “points” to “small” “normal” or “large” improved customizing. Or eliminating our ability to create our own colors made our templates look better. Or deleting all the challenges that enabled us to form relationships with each other improved our blogging and creativity.

You’re just following orders. After all, everyone needs a job.

RETROSPECTIVE: AFTERTHOUGHT AND FOND FAREWELL – Marilyn Armstrong

RETROSPECTIVE: afterthought & farewell


Do you remember when we competed to get the “Freshly Pressed” award? When there was a weekly prompt that they actually read and supposedly “judged” for quality and uniqueness?

Remember when one day, it vanished? We didn’t even get a marketing letter about that one. It vanished and never returned and Freshly Pressed went with it.

Can you recall when we got little prizes and bonuses for however many views we got … or the number of “likes” or “follows”? That was when blogging was what the platform was about. Almost every author I followed had an active blog on Word Press.

Gradually, all of that has dribbled away. With dissolving the last of it including the Daily Prompt which has got to be the most effortless prompt in creation (and is probably done by a generating app in someone’s laptop), they’ve taken a platform famed for its connectivity and unique friendliness and dropped to see if they can make two billion next year on top of the billion they got this year.

The Years of Serendipity

I know everyone says that “WordPress is free,” but how many of you do NOT pay a fee to upgrade your site? Most of us pay. It’s not the $49.99 a month they want for their business site, but most of us don’t have that kind of money and what’s more, we aren’t businesses. Authors, artists. Thoughtful people with ideas to share. Painters with art. Musicians.

Religious people and atheists share a platform and manage to communicate with each other in a world where this kind of communication is almost unheard of.

I would like to think that somehow, WordPress will still be the same place it used to be, but I doubt it. In every other blogging site where they have wrenched the soul out of it in the name of somehow making a lot more money, the results have been catastrophic. Most of those sites are gone — entirely. The rest have become something so different no one recognizes them. Remember when Reddit was the “hot spot” to get your work recognized? They changed it and now, it’s no kind of hot spot. No one cares if their material is there. It doesn’t matter.

Now, it’s all about monetizing your site. Monetizing? I am retired. I don’t sell anything. When I was selling things, I had a commercial site on a commercial marketing platform. I paid my way along with all the other business sites. In 2008, when our economy crashed, I ended that business. It was not a good business for those financial times.

I missed the extra money, but I was done with business. Meanwhile, I had been blogging a little here and there. GeoCities (remember when Yahoo did something?) and Storyline (I think that was the name — they sold themselves to Facebook which promptly dissolved them; they are gone). There some others until I hooked onto WordPress and found a home.

The blogging platform that is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

There were good years — 2012 through 2014 — and then they started urging us to make money. They would help us. Which was interesting because before that, it was illegal to try to make money on your site. We were bloggers, not businesses. Our goal was to talk about art and books and ideas. To be thoughtful, intelligent, creative.

Now … what will it be? If we aren’t bloggers – thoughtful and creative – then this is another Ruby Lane where businesses line up on a platform and everyone sells whatever they’ve got. I’m not a business. I’m not going to be a business. If I wrote another book, I could publicize it, but that’s not a “business” and anyway, writers don’t have a lot of spare change.

So this is a retrospective to what this platform was and I wish would remain. It is a sad farewell to something which is about to start its long slide to nothing special.

Should WordPress — against all odds — create a business audience out of 12-million bloggers (something no other organization has yet done), it won’t be “our” WordPress, just be another business platform.

Worse, it’s doomed to failure because this isn’t that audience. I keep saying it. The first and possibly ONLY rule of marketing is “KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.”

WordPress doesn’t get that.

And then, there is WordPress

I am linked to many of you as followers and vice versa. If you get my emails indicating I’ve posted, we will stay in touch. There are a lot of people trying to figure out a more direct way to keep in touch. I’m on top of that.

In the meantime it turns out money is what matters, forever and through all eternity. Ah-men.

A BLOG ABOUT NOTHING – BY TOM CURLEY

I haven’t written a blog in quite a while. For this I apologize. Or, depending how you like or dislike my blogs, you’re welcome. I’m been trying to figure out why I haven’t written anything lately. I don’t have writers block. I’ve had that before.

This is different. There are dozens of things a day that I either read about or watch on the news that would normally drive me to a blog. The problem is, any of the things I see that normally drives me to write a blog doesn’t work because I’ve already written a blog about it!

The president is nuts.  Done that. More than once.

Our reality can’t possibly be real. Done that. More than once.

The president is really, really nuts. Really done that. Really a whole bunch of times.

I mean, why write about the same thing I wrote about a year ago? It’s still as current now as it was then. Just repost the old blog.  That’s not writing. That’s clerical work. I need staff. I need people. “My people will call your people. They’ll do lunch.”

Then I thought, I’ll just write a blog about nothing. It worked for Seinfeld. That was a show about nothing.

But then I realized, it wasn’t a show about nothing. Every episode was about something! It was just a good marketing slogan that seemed to make sense. Unless you thought about it.

So, I’m right back where I started. I can’t write a blog about nothing because in order to write a blog about nothing I’d have to write a blog about something. And I got nothing. (Yeah, I know, it’s grammatically correct to say, “I’ve got nothing”, but lets’ get real. Nobody talks like that).

Then I thought, I could go through my notes! I try to write down ideas for blogs as soon as I think of them. Mostly because if I don’t, they’re gone in about 15 seconds. Most fall into the following three categories.

1 – Bad.
2 – Really bad.
3 – Oh my God, how much was I smoking when I wrote that?

But, I also get a lot of ideas that actually turn into blogs. So, I took out my notes.

Here’s one I jotted down on April 30th, 2018 – “Everything new is old again.”

My first thought when I read this was “that was definitely a category 3”. But then I realized it basically says the same thing as “Everything old is new again.”

It’s just a much more pessimistic way of saying it. Interesting, but no blog there.

Let’s see what else I’ve got. On April 18th, 2018  I wrote – “Women are taking over. Lysistrata 2.0. Enough is enough.”

Hmmm. It’s worked before. Lysistrata is a comedy by the Greek author Aristophanes. In it, the women of Greece put an end to the Peloponnesian War by denying sex to their spouses until they stop fighting. It worked.

Lysistrata 2.0 “You’re sleeping on the couch!”

Today, there’s the “Me Too” movement, the “Times Up” movement and the fact that record numbers of women are running for office and they’re winning.  Women, this is  a tool you’ve always had in your toolbox . And IT REALLY WORKS! It could be the next big movement. Lysistrata 2.0!  Think of the signs and slogans you can make!

“Deny your husbands dicks until they stop being pricks.”

It worked in ancient Greece. It’ll work today. But is that whole blog? I don’t know. Maybe.

What else do I have?

On Jan. 25th, 2018 I jotted this down.

“Trump is depressing and destroying real conspiracy groups with all his ridiculous conspiracies. Groups like the Illuminati, The Templars and the Tri-Lateral Commission are freaking out. Trump is way, way weirder then they are.

TEMPLARS: WTF! We’ve been plotting to rule the world and do evil things since the frigging Middle Ages! And this guy blows us out of the water in one fucking year????? Hmmm, again, probably true, but not a blog.

Anything else? Let’s see, there’s a whole bunch more here. But they all turned into actual blogs. Oh wait. Here’s one from Jan 5th, 2018.

“I want to write about new things, but I can’t. I’ve already written it. It’s not Groundhog Day. It’s Groundhog year.

I was surprised to read that. I forgot I wrote it. I only found  it in the middle of writing this blog. Great. Here I thought I had an original idea for a blog only to realize I had the idea months ago.

Damn you, category 3.

Anything else? Nope. That was it. I got nothing.

A blog about nothing.

Isn’t that something?

BLOGGING DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE – Marilyn Armstrong

WordPress’s new “algorithm” has made a lot of bloggers unhappy. I’m sure they regret our unhappiness, but I think what is really making them unhappy is that other companies — like Google and Facebook — are raking in fortunes — and they aren’t. It’s not that they aren’t profitable, but in this world, merely profitable is not enough. I’d like to say that Trump is at fault, but I think he is the product of greed, not greed itself.

They want it all. Big money. Bigger money. Now.

We aren’t the money machine they want and we can’t be. It isn’t that they don’t appreciate our writing. It’s that we are not bringing in business and their bottom line isn’t big enough.

They made an ugly mistake with the new algorithm. I am guessing it was supposed to show off “new posts” but instead, effectively “disappeared” older sites and thousands of posts.

Originally, it seemed like it was just me and some other “big” sites with a lot of followers, but it’s going around and hitting all kinds of sites. The only thing we have found that fixes it is to rename the site. This is unfair and annoying, but it works.  I am seeing posts from people whose sites have been missing so long, I thought they were closed.

A lot of people don’t check to see how they are doing in the search engine. I never did. I don’t like the Reader, but they have centralized their engine into it, so at some point, if you want to find other blogs  — and they want to find you — that’s where  you have to go. At this point, it is the central “finder” for 23 million blogs around the world. It doesn’t work well and they are always fixing it.

It never gets fixed because as soon as they get it settled down, they decide to take another whack at it.

WordPress has gone from two or three million sites when I joined to 23 million now and it includes every connected country on the planet. WordPress has grown too big. too fast. They are understaffed. Worse, WordPress believes — because their marketing people told them so (watch out for those people) told them they can attract young, chic, bloggers who are looking for a home.

The problem? There are no such people. That audience doesn’t exist.

Bloggers are readers. Most bloggers are past 40 and more or less settled. Blogging is time-consuming and requires dedication. Most kids aren’t readers. Sure, some are, but not nearly as many as there were back when we were younger. We didn’t have telephones, so we read books. And newspapers. And magazines. I even read the back of the cereal boxes in a pinch.

WordPress’s attempt to attract kids is doomed. Wrong audience. Youngsters look for short, snappy products like Twitter and Instagram. They want stuff that works on their phones and doesn’t take hours of thinking to produce.

For us, there aren’t many choices remaining.

GeoCities became Yahoo and they closed their blogging sites. There were a bunch of smaller ones. All but TypePad are gone and I really haven’t figured out what Medium is trying to do. I am not sure Medium knows what they are about, either.

All the others — aside from Blogger on Google — are expensive. If you’re in business, the expense is not outrageous, but if you just want to write and post lovely photographs or poetry or your art, $25 per month is a big chunk of change. Paid services (few though there are) have better customer service and technical staff, but they lack “reach.”

I hoped someone else would jump in and build something, but it hasn’t happened. Maybe blogging isn’t profitable enough. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon — they make money. WordPress? Not so much. WordPress was not supposed to be a sales platform, but that’s what they want to be today.

Blogging is something else. We aren’t selling stuff. In fact, most of us pay to NOT have advertisements on our sites. Few of us “monetize,” even though they have been trying to convince us to do that for a few years.

What’s will happen? Blogger with Google at its back, will hang in there because their platform is a small piece of a much larger enterprise.

A well-founded rumor is that WordPress is pressing for more business accounts, fewer bloggers. This bad new “algorithm” was one of many attempts to push that concept through.

That this has been a disaster from which they already are pulling back is temporary. They want money and international reach — like Google has.

Either they will go out of business and start over, or they will make it harder and harder to use them without paying much more. Some people can afford it, but many of us can’t. One way or the other, when the bottom line is money, they aren’t going to quit. They will keep at it until they are bankrupt or they find a way to get richer.

I hope we still have a place to write a few years down the road.

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