ANONYMITY AND ANECDOTAL TALES: FANDANGO’S PROVOCATIVE QUESTION 92

Fandango’s Provocative Question #92 -Anonymous or not?

I’ve been scammed, had my identity stolen not once, but twice and that was when I was anonymous. These days, it simply makes no difference. I’m not going to publish my address and phone number (though a hacker can easily get them if they want to) – or my driver’s licence – (thought it’s even more easily obtained).

Today’s question is …

I’m pretty sure if we use the Internet for anything other than posting the occasional photograph, anyone who wants us can get us. The last time I got “got” was through Facebook who sold my private information to Cambridge Analytica. No matter what anyone on Facebook says, I’m sure it was no accident. They simply sold a lot of information and in exchange, got a lot of money.

Garry at home in brilliant fall colors

I often think it’s my fault. I worked for companies who designed data mining software. It was pretty sophisticated stuff more than twenty-five years ago, so I can only imagine how amazing it is now.

Any privacy we had, the advent of online shopping, credit agencies (I mean seriously, Equifax got hacked and they are the ones supposedly protecting us!), data mining, and any place we have entered our “private information” doesn’t need to be hacked because they sell our information to anyone with the money to buy it. Unless you want to live  alone in the woods without electricity and the technology we depend on, you will get hacked.

On a more positive note, credit cards do not make you pay the hacking bills anymore. They have, after many years of denying the problem was their fault, given in. It IS their fault. It always was.

As a tech writer, I was an anonymous author (with one exception where I got credit) for more than thirty years. I thought THIS time, I wanted to be me. I’m old enough to feel it’s time to get some of the credit. I’m not going to live forever and this is my last time in the spotlight, such as it is.

Whether or not your name is on your website, you are in the public eye.

Personally, I can’t hack your data, but I’m not a hacker. Anyone who has the skills, even minimal skills, can get to you. If you were even a little bit famous, you’re out there. You will always be out there because nothing disappears from the virtual world. Garry was on television every night for more than thirty years. He doesn’t worry about getting spotted on Serendipity. People recognize him anyway even though he has been off the air for almost 20 years.

By the way, a suggestion you might consider is to NOT  fill in those cute little “mini contests” on Facebook. That information goes straight from your fingers to hackers in Russia, China, India, or Pakistan — and who knows where else. For all we know, Equifax is a hacking service. Probably so is Google and we already know about Microsoft. We merely have suspicions about Apple. Basically, every single big business that asks us to fill in forms that have nothing to do with what we are doing at the time (filing out our warranty, usually), know they are going to sell that data. Even if you don’t fill out all the information, your name, address, email and phone number are more than enough.

Barney Google – The History

Data mining rules the world. That’s the purpose of that “discount card” at your local grocery. They could just as easily give you the same discounts without a card, but the card registers your choices with corporate folks who want to know what you buy and where you buy it.

I won’t buy things at stores that require I give them a discount card. I know all my information is out there, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Because Garry and I are planted here and have been for a long time, anyone can find us. If you want to be harder to find, move frequently, and change your email and phone numbers regularly. We intentionally try to not change emails or phone numbers because it’s such a hassle. When you start changing it your online life can get messy.

Facebook assured me it wasn’t going to be a problem. They wrote me and TOLD me that. Liars.

As far as your house goes? You can find our house on Google. I found the house I lived in on Derech Hevron in Jerusalem on Google. I couldn’t find the house I grew up in because it’s not there anymore, but I found every other house I’ve ever lived in. From above. From the street. Any old way. I even found the place I lived in as an infant because remarkably, it’s still around.

I know that most of our information is already available. The best I can do is avoid known scamming sites like Facebook. Which is okay because they’ve banned me for running articles by people whose politics they don’t like. Not my stuff. Reblogged stuff. That’s why you won’t find Facebook on my connections. I really hate their nasty, arrogant butts.

By the way, this whole “thing” Trump is pulling with Google? It made me laugh. When Theodore Roosevelt was president (September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909) in his enthusiasm to end monopolies (1901), he won. It didn’t matter. Standard Oil which became Esso, then Exxon, and now is Exxon-Mobil, ignored the court and kept doing their thing. Which was making money and they’re still doing it today. For those who ask what happens when someone doesn’t feel inclined to obey a court order?

If it’s me or you, you wind up in jail. If you own Standard Oil or Microsoft? You laugh and call one of your thousands of lawyers.

And now the dope is mostly legal most of the time …

So about taking on Google? The government (Obama? Trump? Bush?) wanted to take on Microsoft, then gave up and dropped the suit. I figure they will wind up doing the same thing with Google. Google might be even bigger in its own way than Microsoft. Not as rich (yet), but they are huge with Googly fingers in every pie, in every country. We have their television streaming network — and who doesn’t use them to find stuff on the Internet?

Google isn’t going anywhere. In a hundred years, they will probably own Congress and the President if they don’t already.

REMEMBER “LOOK ALIKE, FEEL ALIKE”?

“Look alike, feel alike” used to be the motto of the User Interface area of software development. The idea was that as you developed a product, each new version should “feel the same way” as the one that came before it. Doing this made it much easier for users to understand additions and fixes to the software they owned and when properly trained, developers understood how to “tune” the software to make the lives of customers easier and better. That was way back in the days when software engineers and company owners still cared about customers. Making good software was what they wanted to do — not necessarily squeezing the last dime from each and every customer.

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I worked for (mostly) newly-hatched development companies. A lot of them never got their products to market because when the “dot com” bubble burst, they lost their backing. When an economic bubble pops, it’s like dominos going over. Nothing stands alone. The little 10-person company for which I worked is being funded by another, slightly larger company, funded by possibly several somewhat bigger organization. Many of the products we were working on eventually did come to market after going bankrupt, but the same people found new funding after the economy righted itself. Always and forever, our goal was to create software that could be easily understood by the customer, NOT just by the developers.

This is why I did so much testing as part of my job. I had to make sure that whatever the developer was attempting to do actually worked the way he or she said it did. Developers don’t test the way users need products tested. Developers have all kinds of shortcuts so they don’t have to go through every step of the process. Their “quick tests” are fine for them, but users MUST go through every step of the process because they have a job to do and they can’t cut chunks of their work out to get to the end result without doing all the parts in the middle. For example, since I worked most of the time on databases, the end point of the process was that a company would enter its products and all of the pieces that were part of the product into a database. You could call up the product and see all its parts, or you call call up any of its parts and see the larger product. It didn’t matter whether it was a truck or an engine, or a part of an engine or some kind of aviation monitor. In order for the database to do its job, ALL the parts of the product had to be listed in a variety of ways to make it possible for the customer to find the piece — even if it was the nut on a screw — he or she needed to fix something. And this had to work quickly and be extremely accurate. It had to be easy to remove an old part that had been redesigned or eliminated from inventory as it was to enter a new product and all its parts.

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The easier you made the product, the better ratings you got. Most of the little companies I worked with who invented stuff were ultimately bought by larger companies who took new stuff and included with existing technology. That was how business was done.

It wasn’t unusual for these small companies to be funded by larger companies in the first place. It gave the baby company a lot of freedom to invent products that bigger organizations would never have created. But — at no point did anyone produce a new version of an existing product that would require a corporation to retrain an entire organization to use it — which is what WordPress has done. In a real business world scenario, this would probably put them out of business and if the market for blogging weren’t so minimal, I don’t think they’d survive this current scenario.

So for all of us who find ourselves pushed into a corner and having to use the block editor for work that doesn’t need a block editor while discovering a post now takes twice as long to complete as it did before, welcome to what we used to call “badly designed software.”

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I didn’t just write documents. I was part of a team and worked with developers — each of whom had a specific area to develop — to build software which was intuitive (read “easy”) to use and as bug-free as possible. Upgrades always included real improvements to functionality or major fixes to bugs, not just glitzy overlays. It had to integrate with a previous version and add VALUE to the software.

These days, many products are so overlaid with bells and whistles no one wants or needs, the functions of the customers (us) are lost beneath whatever a developer thought was a “really cool idea.”


Thus when you find yourself using the “classic” block in the editor to get an imitation of what you did before and you wonder what the point of all of this confusion was? Money.


In this case, it’s trying to make the editor able to build something that imitates a fancy, commercial magazine site. It has nothing to do with what most of us do. The developers who have been doing the work never asked us what we wanted or needed. They are developers who have never written a post or a photograph.They have no understanding of writers or artists. If you ask them, they also don’t care.

Yes, the “classic” block more or less mimics the older classic editor — leaving one with the sour taste of why they couldn’t leave us that to use if that’s what we wanted. If you buy their higher priced packages you CAN get the classic editor back, by the way. You just have to pay more than twice the price for something you used to get as part of your package. You just have to love price gougers, don’t you?

The “classic block” is not the classic editor. It’s an imitation and they can take it away, just like they took away all the high quality customizations we originally paid for and that’s why I am very loathe to pay them more, even if I had the money. I used to get all this same stuff for the price I’m paying, but they stripped it out and put it in a more expensive package. They did it once and they will do it again. You can’t trust them.

This IS what I did for a living. I didn’t just write manuals. I worked with a team of developers to create software which did what customers needed done.

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The point of setting up this kind of process was to make the software “intuitive.” Things that worked in tandem were grouped together. It should not take more than 10-minutes for a user to grasp how an upgraded editor works. It doesn’t have to be this way. Properly done, new software can and should be easier to use. Also, the result of the effort ought to be a better product or why bother with an update at all? Oh, right. I forgot. Money. I keep forgetting that this isn’t about customers. It’s about money.

Still — why make it harder? Usually, it’s because no one is in charge who understands customers. There is no excuse at this point in the software development cycle for creating a stupid User Interface. It’s not as if we went blindly into the interface biz. What the software does “underneath,” its essential functionality, is one thing. How it’s presented to the user is done by developers who specialize in designing a user interface.

This isn’t 1982 when we’re figuring out how an editor is supposed to work. We’ve been there. Done that. If WordPress listened to their customers, this didn’t need to be such a mess. It didn’t need to have so many pointless complexities. I shouldn’t NEED to go searching for the “sticky” function. It should be grouped with other publishing tools. It’s sloppy work at its best and it will be years before they get it sorted out IF they sort it out. They fix bugs only when they consider them bugs. Just because it’s inconvenient and hard to use, they don’t have to fix it.


It’s not a bug. “It’s a feature.”


Since they often just leave things (no matter how poorly thought out), but keep adding stuff on top of stuff that doesn’t work well, issues lurk. It won’t matter how much money you pay. Badly designed software gets worse over time. It only gets better if and when someone cares enough to make it better.

MY BEST-EVER JOB

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #30: MY BEST JOB EVER

I had been looking for a job that would let me flex my hours so Garry and I could spend time together. It was difficult. He worked terribly long hours, gone before the sun came up and not home until it was dark again. Ironic. Most people think reporters work “a few minutes a day” because that’s all they see on the news. Not true.To get those few minutes of finished news on the air, they drag themselves through every kind of weather — blizzards, hurricanes, bitter cold, unbearable heat — and endless traffic, from one end of the state to another. They are often on the scene of the worst imaginable horrors before the first responders arrive. They have to look good while doing it without a break for lunch or even a trip to the bathroom. Someone once commented it’s like being in the army, just without the uniform.

His days off were Wednesday and Thursday. That meant we had barely a few minutes after work to meet and greet each other. Everything else waited until vacation. By which time Garry was exhausted and needed two weeks of sleep to recuperate so he could go back to work again.

The good part of his job? He loved it. I think everyone in the news business is an adrenaline junkie. The thrill of getting the scoop, tracking down the story, coming up with a different angle on something every other station is also doing and sometimes, finding new information to crack open a case. Garry loved his work. He didn’t love every single moment of it, but he loved most of it, loved knowing he could make a difference, shine a light into a dark corner and fix something that had been broken. When I married him, I married his work. No whining about him missing all the family events, never being around to help with the housework or the shopping. I knew from the get-go I’d be keeping his dinner warm for whenever he got home. That was the deal we made. We didn’t spell it out, but we both understood. We were social equals, but his job came first. Period. End of story.

One day, I got a call. A large HMO was looking for a technical writer to put together documents for their various computer programs. Aimed at users, this was entry-level stuff. For me, used to working on really complex software, it was a piece of cake — with icing. I went to the interview. Bad news? It was a part-time job, paying a retainer. I would be paid for 20 hours a week at $25 an hour, which was less than my usual rate.

The good news? It was a retainer. All the freelancers out there know there’s nothing better than a retainer. I might work all 20 hours, or no hours, depending on what was going on. I would not be required to go into an office. Ever. I would work from home or wherever I and my computer might be, including the back porch of the summer-house on the Vineyard. It was half the money I’d been earning, but I could take freelance gigs to make up the gap.

I took the job. This was a gift from Heaven. I figured I’d be working most of the 20 hours. It turned out, there wasn’t any work. Or almost none. Weeks and months went by. I would call to find out if maybe they’d forgotten me and didn’t they want me to do something? No, everything was fine, they said. No problem. We’ll call you. Once in long while, they did call and for a few days, I worked. It was almost a relief. Even though it was writing I could do in my sleep. For five years, I got a steady paycheck for which I did essentially nothing. I did a bit of free-lance stuff here and there and was obliged to bring a laptop with me when I went on vacation, just in case someone needed me. I was getting paid for free.

One day, I picked up the Boston Globe and discovered the division for which I worked was being disbanded. Apparently someone noticed that no one in the department actually worked. So I called my boss, Anita.

“Anita,” I said. “I was reading the Globe this morning. Does this mean I have to look for a new job?”

“Yes,” she sighed. “We all do. But you’ve got three or four months, so you should be fine.”

I couldn’t believe it. They were taking away the best job in the world. I was going to have to go to work, show up at an office. I would have to stay there all day. What an awful thought! I went job hunting and found what would turn out to the best real job I ever had. Wonderful colleagues and a great boss, but it was work. I had to think a lot. It was like getting a masters in advanced database building using object linking. After I synthesized what I needed to know, I then had to use that knowledge to write and design documents. I was back to meeting deadlines. My 5-year paid vacation had not eliminated my skills. I was as good as ever.

I was spoiled.

Never again would I feel comfortable working a 9 to 5 job although I worked them for twenty more years. I got terribly restless. Merely having to be in one location for all those hours made me twitch. I got my work done and done well, but I wanted my freedom back. I wouldn’t get it until I retired and that was a long time in the future.

I was ruined for the real world.

STATS FOR THE FIRST HALF OF 2019 – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Stats

This is a good time of year to look at statistics. It’s just past the middle of the year and in theory, it should give you a reasonably good idea what the year will look like. But my stats have gotten pretty erratic and I have bursts of big numbers, then occasionally surprisingly low numbers … and we are still hoping to go on vacation next week which will probably mean a nearly zero week for the numbers game.

July’s bar chart (it’s still early today …)

I really shouldn’t care. I’ve been at this a long time and I know that stats don’t mean much except when they dip very low and I realize WordPress has disappeared me from their database.

Again.

Overview. I had 1500 additional Facebook followers a couple of weeks ago as well as 2000 more Blog followers. I wonder where they went?

I’ve had years when I got a huge explosion of big numbers from them and years when I get almost nothing. For reasons I don’t understand, about 1000 of my Facebook followers have recently vanished along with about 2500 blog followers. Not sure what that’s all about but I haven’t cared enough to follow the trail of crumbs and see what’s going on. It would require yet one more annoying conversation with their Happiness Engineers.

Aren’t those people embarrassed by that title? I would be ashamed to tell anyone I was a Happiness Engineer for WordPress or for that matter, for anyone.

Yesterday’s reading states. For unknown reasons, it was a good day.

But I suppose a paying job is a paying job and these days if you get one that pays the most of the bills and keeps and your family living in a house with heat, light, and a roof that doesn’t leak, you’re doing fine.

We used to have higher standards, but as time as marched on and things like “raises” have become scarcer than hen’s teeth, we are just happy if we manage to keep even.

Now that we are on a fixed income, we can’t even count on staying even. In theory, Social Security pays “cost of living” raises to its recipients, but whenever Congress is feeling poor, the first people whose “cost of living” that mangle are retirees. After all, we are old and therefore we don’t need anything, right? Like … you know … food. Medication. A home. A car. We just need a little, dark room in which to quietly disappear.

If we would just stop doing annoying things like voting, we could be completely dismissed.

Except we do vote. More than any other age group, we vote. Moreover, we think about voting well in advance of doing it. We actually watch the news with all the advertisements for medications we can’t afford, reverse mortgages that will ultimately leave us living on the sidewalk, how to sell off our life insurance, and how to sue people who have ripped us off.

Can we sue the Federal Government? They are the biggest ripper-offers of all time.

In God we trust. We might as well trust in God because we sure can’t trust the people we elected. Or other people elected. I’m sure I didn’t elect them!

Stats. I have pretty decent stats. I don’t work at them anymore and when the numbers drop into low digits, I shrug. Tomorrow will be better. Probably. If it isn’t, does it matter?

Basic numbers

All of this mattered more years ago when I was trying to establish a “base.” Now? I’ve got one. It isn’t gigantic, but it’s not tiny, either. If I keep writing, someone will read me. Maybe someone who matters will read me. Maybe I’ll make a difference.

I would like to make a difference, though I’m not sure what that means anymore. The world in which I live is twirling on its ear and the future is looking a bit abbreviated.

SOME NOT-SO-BAD NEWS, THE LOCAL EDITION – Marilyn Armstrong

Sometimes complaining helps. All the people who complained that they can’t use the new format have been offered the option of retaining (forever, apparently) the “classic format.” I was up at the Forum and there were tens of thousands of complaints, mostly from long-term bloggers.

The thing is, there IS a Classic Editor plug-in, but you can’t use it unless you are a Business Plan user — which is a $25/month hit for retirees. Most of us really can’t afford much more than we already have.

I certainly can’t do it. Forget about the minor detail that I don’t have a business nor have I any plans for one. WordPress is going whole-hog for getting a lot more money. I guess they figure Google, Amazon, and Facebook are rolling in the big bucks, so why shouldn’t WordPress be rolling in it too?

WordPress is not hard up for money. They are earning more than enough, but in today’s world, there’s no such thing as enough money.

Greed is good.

Remember when “good” meant doing something kind and generous for someone else? Now “good” means getting it all for yourself and keeping it while making sure no one else gets any.

It’s an international trend. Not, I think, a healthy one.

But — just this once, WordPress is willing to offer anyone who asks for it (you have to go to the forum and complain officially, but they may make this available for everyone soon) the option to dump Gutenberg and keep the classic. They admitted there’s a strong possibility that even business users may not want such a complicated formatting app, so probably they will keep the classic format intact and let only those who prefer Gutenberg use it. The Forum shows an incredible number of complaints and I suspect I wasn’t the only one who said either I can use an application that makes sense in the context of what I really do, or I will finally give up.

They heard me.

So now, if I genuinely need an application this complicated, I will wait until it is properly tested and then do my own testing. See if it works for me. I’ve got a lot of stuff packed into this site.

WordPress’s search engine hasn’t been sturdy enough to deal with the thousands of photographs, images and 8,400 posts in the “old” format and the new one is worse.

Anyway, if you have somehow gotten yourself into the Gutenberg loop and you don’t like it, you can get out of it. For once — for the first and probably only time — WordPress heard us. I didn’t think it was possible.

I am deeply grateful.

MY MENTORS – Marilyn Armstrong

I actually did have a few over the years, although not in the usual sense. They weren’t people who “advanced” me professionally, but they were the ones who sat with me and taught me.

Tsvi, back in Rehovot — Thank you very much for teaching me systems analysis — and somehow getting it done in three weeks. My brain almost exploded, but I remember.

Hal & Mitch – Thank you for teaching me about how linking and modern databases work. I learned more than I imagined I could learn, especially since I had absolutely no technical background and yet — a month later — I got it.

Amazingly, the knowledge stayed with me. I may not know why I went into the kitchen but i remember tables and links and DB-1 and so much more. It doesn’t help me cope with customer service dummies, but it helps me know that they don’t know and I need to keep looking until I find the answer.

I feel like I got two masters degrees, just without the piece of paper!

And there were more. In college and even in High School. The men who taught me I had to write it all out, all of it, even when it was “obvious” to me. Who forced me to find the sources, to never say what could not be proved.

Life was made better by them all. Pity they could not teach the world.

MENTOR

THEN I UNDERSTOOD WORDPRESS AND WHAT’S HAPPENING – Marilyn Armstrong

I reread the letter from this engineer and I realized suddenly, with a certain horror, what it means to me, to you, to all of us who have been here for a while and built sites.

WordPress decided to change their algorithm so that “new, fresh material” will get pushed up to the top of the search engine and everything else — like me and you, for example — will go to the bottom. Instead of promoting blogs with solid statistics and followers, they are pushing the latest thing, whoever has just opened a new blog and … well … as someone already said: “Who made this decision? What do they mean by ‘relevant’?”

Some engineer. Maybe a developer. Someone — 25-years old?

Here’s the core of the letter I got. You might want to read it twice because he is talking about all of us. Please note that the reason nothing is missing from my site (except about 6000 posts) is because I went and changed the title. They didn’t fix anything at all. They just buried me with their exciting new algorithm.


Nagesh Pai (Automattic)

Apr 27, 07:53 UTC

Hello Marilyn,

Thanks for your reply. Once again, I truly appreciate your time and effort in writing to us.

I would certainly and sincerely like to apologize for anything that has caused an unpleasant experience to you – whether it is any technology glitch, or my conduct.

Like I mentioned earlier, any technology platform will have its glitches. I hope we have resolved issues whenever you faced them in the past. We are always on the lookout for any faults that may crop up. Unfortunately there are a few that do sneak past.

I would like to focus on anything that is pending to resolve from our side right now.

There is nothing deleted from your site at all! (NOTE: THIS IS BECAUSE I CHANGED MY SITE ADDRESS – BEFORE THAT, THERE WAS NOTHING AT ALL, NOT THE SITE NAME, MY NAME OR ANYONE FROM THE SITE.) The appearance of your articles on WordPress Reader search by relevance is determined by what i explained earlier as “competition”. It would not be fair to use harsh terms like – Fault, here. If there are other articles that rank higher on relevance, it is likely the search algorithm finds it to be more relevant. Rankings keep changing with competition between newly published articles and older ones. The search engine will always try to deliver what the reader would find fresh and relevant, not what the content publishers would like to push. This is a little difficult to grab, since as content creators, we would always like to believe that our posts are the best ( just like we think about people and things we love with all our heart).


In other words: whatever buzz words the algorithm thinks might means “fresh and new” to someone (who?) gets to the top of the pile. “Old blogs” — mine, yours, our friends — are obviously boring and don’t need to even be IN the pile, much less on top of it.

Who decided what’s relevant? It’s not based on our statistics or our standing in “the community.” Not based on the number of our followers or readers. Someone said “that’s relevant” and “that’s NOT relevant.” Because they said so and we just have to live with it.

I don’t know if I want to live with it.

Effectively, what we suspected all along is true. If you have been with them for years, you aren’t fresh and new and why bother with you? So this isn’t an accident. They haven’t made a  mistake. They literally decided we aren’t important enough to bother with.

This is probably why if you take a periodic break from blogging, you get more readers because now you are fresher and newer than you were two weeks ago.

The final astonishing thing about this is what they are aiming for — a fresh, young audience — doesn’t exist. Kids don’t read blogs. They are on Instagram and other social media. Blog readers tend to be older and they are readers. Book readers. Newspaper readers. Writers. Photographers. They aren’t kids looking for fresh, young material … and they are not going to be paying their way on WordPress, either.

As a business model, WordPress is setting itself up to appeal to a non-existent market. All those young, fresh bloggers … you know … the ones who write three posts, realize it’s too much like work and abandon their sites? Those kids aren’t readers. That’s why they love Instagram and other short focus sites.

So, if someone specifically is looking for us, they can find us. But if they are looking to discover things to follow? We’ve not relevant and won’t show up. Ponder that. It’s a big lump to swallow.

I’m going to read a book. Something with magic.

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

AN ELABORATE CONSPIRACY – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s an elaborate conspiracy

Someone commented that “working on a problem” was, for WordPress, their version of progress. So I got to thinking. What is the opposite word — the antonym as it were — of progress?

And after considerable research I discovered there is no antonym because “progress” is a contextual word and what is means depends on the way in which you use it. If you are talking in military terms, the answer would be “retreat.” If you can’t move forward, the way to go is backward — another antonym. Also, don’t forget “reverse.”

One way or another, “progress” in this case would definitely indicate some kind of “forward movement” on the project.

Today, as expected, they told me they’d solved my problem because now that I have had to change my title, they can find a few pieces of my newer posts and if you look up my name – or Garry’s or Tom’s or Ellin’s or Rich’s – we exist.

There are about 6900 posts missing and nothing shows up under Serendipity at all, even though I blogged under that name for more than six years. Also, apparently my followers are gone because, he explained, they needed to sign up again and make sure to accept the link they’d get from WordPress.

I had written:


I am comforted by the fact that you are working on this major issue. Please don’t worry that my post about it has been reblogged many times in a variety of languages. I’m sure no one really minds having you make a complete mess of their contacts with the outside world. After all, we only do this so you can make more money and have no personal stake in the matter at all.

Many people will be comforted knowing you are working on fixing your broken search engine. It’s touching, really it is. After all. I’ve written 7,000+ posts for you — and been a premium customer — yet my NAME — nor any of the names of the other four writers on my site — can be brought up through your engine — even though they always showed up in the past. How special is that? What I love BEST about you guys is how hard you work at “fixing” things without apparently having any clue as to the other issues involved with the work — like what happens to databases when you disconnect the names of customers, probably by eradicating the pointers that have so effectively worked for years.

Listen, if you need people who actually understand how this stuff works? I used to be in this business and I know some really top-notch people who can fix a database to perfection. Of course, that means that EVERYBODY in your tech department also has to learn how they work so they don’t casually destroy them without even knowing  what they are doing.

Have you considered hiring PROFESSIONALS to work with rather than kids just out of school? I know you might have to pay them a better salary and that’s rarely done these days, but it’s worth considering. Because as someone who spent a lot of years of my life working with databases, you guys are clueless.

Your friendly neighborhood paying customer with a 40 year background in the problem you can’t solve (because I’m sure you have no idea how you broke it in the first place),

Marilyn Armstrong


Which I thought was being too snarky, but apparently I wasn’t remotely snarky enough. No one has looked at my history. So as far as they are concerned, if a few older posts show up randomly, and you can dig me out of the search engine, FIXED.

Freaking HAPPINESS ENGINEERS? Do they blush when they have to say that in public? Doesn’t it make them cringe with embarrassment? Has a WordPress “happiness engineer” made you happy? Their job is fixing the problems that they — themselves — have created. So effectively, they are “technical assistants” whose job it is to fix the messes they make.

They have yet to actually look at my site in context and see what has happened since “they fixed it” about a month ago. No one has yet looked at anything except the title and my name. That’s it. That’s their entire process. And whether or not my followers are following the right way.

I am angry while being gloomy. I have a name on Blogger which presumably still exists, but I don’t think I have it in me to do this whole thing again. I’ve written, I’ve explained, complained, been angry, been patient, been helpful, snarky — you name the emotion and I’ve been there and back again.  Now, I’m simply tired.

I love writing and I can’t imagine not doing it, so I suppose I will.

Oddly, I feel like I just got fired from a job for which I was never hired. How weird is that?

I’m sure, in weeks to come, they will be sending me more meaningless notes asking me if my “new followers” — apparently  all you old followers aren’t in their calculations — are the real problem because you (whoever you may be) haven’t signed up the right way.

If you feel like signing up again, please do, but don’t feel obliged. There’s no reason this should be so difficult. Meanwhile, I’m inclined to turn myself off for a while. Maybe a break will give me the breather I need.

I expect I will keep hearing from more (they are different each time which of course makes any kind of continuity of purpose in getting this repaired meaningless) “Happiness Engineers.” I’m positive they will explain why and how I’m supposed to be happy.

For now though, I will be at peace knowing I have a new sink in the bathroom I’m not allowed to touch, bump into, or even think about using for at least 12 hours and a week to ten days would be better.

I want to be happy too. I think I’ll be happy about my sink.


NOTE: Add this to the “high humor” of this event. I just got this right now and its original date is April 17th. I also just got a note from Sue dating to the 18th. Oh yeah. Everything is so fixed!


XXXX. (Automattic)

Apr 17, 19:47 UTC

Marilyn,

That note you received was an internal note that was not meant to be sent to you. This is why the link cannot be accessed. Indeed, we are working on the issue still.

Thanks,


XXXXX. | Happiness Engineer

IF I HAD A MALLET – Marilyn Armstrong

Mallet from Daily Post

Between one thing and another, Word Press has killed off my following. In ONE month, they’ve knocked me down by more than 80%. I’m finding it hard to convince myself to bother writing since it seems no one can get to me to respond.

I’m getting many new followers. Dozens and many per day, but I hear from a few and all say that no matter how many times they sign up, each time they try to like or comment, they are locked out and have to do it again.

After a while, they give up.

My hammer

If I had a mallet, I can think of a few heads I’d really like to crack with it.

Meanwhile, please forgive me if my enthusiasm for writing seems a bit dimmed. Should they ever fix whatever is wrong with this site, I’ll be back, but right now, it seems like I’m at square one, getting the kind of responses I got 6 years ago. If WordPress is fixing this, I haven’t seen any evidence of it. There are problems all over their platform and they are forging forward with more changes which are causing more damage.

Their search engine is whacked. Their sign-up isn’t working. People can’t comment or “like” and many blogs come back as “not there” when they really are. But yet, they push forward — and to what purpose? To attract the kids who blog for two weeks, get bored and leave while simultaneously driving away the people who helped them build their success?

WordPress needs to stop forging forward and figure out what you are supposed to be achieving. Then they need to work together to make the platform FUNCTIONAL for everyone. This isn’t a game where you just press “end game” and “replay” and that will fix everything.

I don’t want to play this game any more. I’m not having fun and I’m tired of paying money for nothing.

If the point was to convince me to give it up, it’s working. I’m just about ready to throw in the towel and I never imagined I would say that.

WHAT’S THE ANTONYM FOR PROGRESS? Marilyn Armstrong

Someone commented that “working on a problem” was, for WordPress, their version of progress. So I got to thinking. What is the opposite word — the antonym as it were — of progress?

William Strunk Jr. was a professor of English at Cornell University and, together with E.B. White, author of The Elements of Style (1918).

And after considerable research I discovered there is no antonym because “progress” is a contextual word and what is means depends on the way in which you use it. If you are talking in military terms, the answer would be “retreat.” If you can’t move forward, the way to go is backward — another antonym. Also, don’t forget “reverse.”

If by progress, you mean “to go inside,” you can use “egress” which means “to leave” — but it really isn’t an antonym since progress is rarely used to mean “going into a building or room.” Generally, it means to “improve upon an existing state.” Or, to fix something that’s wrong. Or, to go forward when you haven’t been … well … progressing.

Regress is more mathematical than progress and has a lot of important applications in the coding world. But it doesn’t have much to say about making a bad situation better or worse.

I found this oddly amusing. Rarely do you find a relatively common word which has no antonym. In every case, the “antonym” was marked as “sense-specific” or as I prefer to put it, “contextual.” It means what it means in a limited, specific way.

One way or another, “progress” in this case would definitely be some kind of “forward movement” of the project, which happens to be figuring out why names suddenly don’t come up linked to the people who wrote the posts.


Ben C. (Automattic)

Apr 17, 12:50 UTC

Putting this back on hold

This issue is being worked on here: https://readersquad.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/site-not-appearing-in-reader-search/


Ben C. | Happiness Engineer
WordPress.com | learn.wordpress.com


First off, what does “putting it back on hold” actually mean? You mean — you took it off hold? Why when you never fixed it, would it have been on hold at all? It’s broken. Fix it. YOU broke it, not me.

So I wrote:


I am comforted by the fact that you are working on this major issue. Please don’t worry that my post about it has been reblogged many times in a variety of languages. I’m sure no one really minds having you make a complete mess of their contacts with the outside world. After all, we only do this so you can make more money and have no personal stake in the matter at all.

Many people will be comforted knowing you are working on fixing your broken search engine. It’s touching, really it is. After all. I’ve written 7,000+ posts for you — and been a premium customer — yet my NAME — nor any of the names of the other four writers on my site — can be brought up through your engine — even though they always showed up in the past. How special is that? What I love BEST about you guys is how hard you work at “fixing” things without apparently having any clue as to the other issues involved with the work — like what happens to databases when you disconnect the names of customers, probably by eradicating the pointers that have so effectively worked for years.

Listen, if you need people who actually understand how this stuff works? I used to be in this business and I know some really top-notch people who can fix a database to perfection. Of course, that means that EVERYBODY in your tech department also has to learn how they work so they don’t casually destroy them without even knowing  what they are doing.

Have you considered hiring PROFESSIONALS to work with rather than kids just out of school? I know you might have to pay them a better salary and that’s rarely done these days, but it’s worth considering. Because as someone who spent a lot of years of my life working with databases, you guys are clueless.

Your friendly neighborhood paying customer with a 40 year background in the problem you can’t solve (because I’m sure you have no idea how you broke it in the first place),

Marilyn Armstrong


Too snarky?

Freaking HAPPINESS ENGINEERS? Do they blush when they have to say that in public? Doesn’t it make them cringe with embarrassment? Has any WordPress “happiness engineer” made you happy? Their job is fixing the problems that they — themselves — have created. So effectively, they are “technical assistants” whose job it is to fix the messes they make.

Why do they make the messes? Because as far as I can tell, they really don’t know what they are doing. They just do stuff and when it stops working (duh!) they say oops. With luck, they attempt to fix it. Some things never get fixed because they have no idea what they did to break them. Talking to our happy band of Happiness Engineers, I am often confounded by how little they know about the stuff they are doing. How lost they are and how obviously young and clueless they seem to be. Every now and again, you get a smart one and it’s such a relief.

Finally! An engineer who knows what a pointer actually IS and can recognize a database when he sees one — and even knows how important the database and search engines are to the platforms of which they are, in theory, in charge.

Such is progress. They are making progress. Well, actually, no one has said they are making progress. That’s actually my own inference.

Are they making progress? Are they in full retreat? Are they moving backward? Are they in “slow progress” mode – which in the development world is identical to “no progress” mode?

Inquiring minds would love to know. By the way, I tried their link and it is blocked to plebes like me who don’t “get” development. You need a password, which of course I don’t have.

No problem. I’m sure, in weeks to come, they will be sending me another note letting me know that they have yet to make any progress, so they are taking this “off hold” because they are “Happiness Engineers” and they really want us to be happy.

I want to be happy too. Let’s all be happy together.

FRETTING WHEN YOUR NAME DISAPPEARS IN WORDPRESS’S SEARCH ENGINE? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fretting? Why would I be fretting? After all — the “Happiness Engineers” are still working on solving “my” problem!

It’s comforting to hear that “our team” is continuing  to “work” on this issue or are they working on it again. Or “still”? It’s hard to know since they have yet to get my name or any of our four other co-authors back into the database.  

Do they even understand the problem? That the most likely reason we are “missing” is that they eliminated the pointers that made our posts visible to the general public? Or are they still dicking around with kids just out of college who don’t actually understand that doing “A” can result in a broken “C” and “L” and “Z”? Have they bothered to hire any experts in the staff or are they working — as I suspect — with a bunch of barely trained “kids”?


If you are on your dashboard and you go to Reader (I don’t know what dashboard you are using because they keep “fixing it” and this latest fix has REALLY fixed it but good). Open Reader, go down to “Search” and type in your name. See what you get. If you are lucky, you will see most or all of your posts including recent posts.

If you are me, you will find nothing — not the name of your site or your name or any post from your site at all. Almost everyone else can find at least their older posts. In my case, I effectively do not exist in the WordPress search engine.

Why is this such a big deal? Because the search engine — otherwise known as “the database” — is how WordPress hangs together. It’s the core information about who is who and what is what on their gigantic server farms. That’s how you can look up “Serendipity” and find all the various posts on Serendipity — despite there being other posts that have included the word in their titles and a few that just plain stole it. All of this is linked to our URL, which is our “address” on the  world-wide web — the big virtual world of which we are part.

CBS Images

I have been posting pretty much daily for six-years. That’s more than 7,000 posts, almost 11,000 WordPress followers (probably half of them are Russian bots) and another 3500 (give or take) individuals from social media. I have 669,975 views including almost every country on earth. I’m missing North Korea (we all are) and a couple of central African countries, but otherwise, I’ve gone everywhere and most of you have also traveled the globe, at least virtually.

Right now, those who are already following you or me or anyone (and vice versa) will continue to get emails and notices in the Reader. No one new will find us in the Reader — or at least won’t find any of our new material. They may find you through Google, though. As long as Google keeps crawling through WordPress, we are alive. Sort of.

Search engine history

For me, it’s a complete wipe out. None of the five of us who write on Serendipity show up as existing at ALL in the search engine except as reblogs on other peoples’ sites.

By the way, I had no idea how many reblogs of our pieces were around. Thank you, all of you!

So, the regulars who follow me can (so far) continue to follow, but casual drop-by people looking for pictures or information or book reviews or whatever we write about won’t find it if they are searching for us on WordPress.

Google is alive and well, so far. I’m assuming that’s true of whatever other search engines (Bing, Yahoo, etc.) are crawling through WordPress.

This is a major issue for WordPress. A broken database is serious business.

Databases were what I worked on for most of my professional life. Technical writing — with a VERY heavy emphasis on data management. A company’s  search engine is the center — the core — of a system. It’s not a spare part.

The database is how a system knows about itself and can find its various pieces. If it breaks down, that is very bad. The “old bloggers” — we who have been doing this for years — are the hardest hit and I think I’m the only one who has been obliterated completely. We aren’t completely dead as long as our links still work and Google picks up the pieces, but if the whole database (search engine) collapses, WordPress will collapse with it.

And then, there is WordPress

It’s important that you make sure WordPress knows you know what’s going on and they need to fix this. Pronto. They are working on it, but it’s possible I was the first person to get on their case and make them realize how deep this issue goes.

They have been messing with the “reader” and “search engine” for years without giving a thought to what might happen if things went terribly wrong. And with databases, thing go terribly wrong pretty fast and rather easily. Just know that a database is how your system remains A SYSTEM and not a lot of random pieces floating in cyber-space.

The longer it goes on, the more pieces of our work will disappear and possibly never be found again. Anyone who codes will understand what I’m talking about. This should not have happened and they should have been working on it from day one instead of just doing their “we’re just messing around, don’t let it bother you” thing. Eventually, mindless coding will break something serious.

They finally did it.

Most of us only use a few search engines. Amazon for its own products. WordPress. Google. Bing. But there are thousands and thousands of search engines dedicated to specific tasks — finding cheap hotel rooms or airplane tickets — or anything else you might need or want. There are local bases and international bases. Medical and scientific bases. Every subject and science has a variety of databases, some of which charge fees for their use. Some require that you have degrees in the subject or are teaching in the field.

WordPress’s database is its fundamental tool. It isn’t “just” WordPress, either. It hooks into all the other databases. It matters. Its absence matters to us more than most of you may “get.” Time for them to stop messing around and start addressing the real issues on the platform — while there still is a platform.

The final bottom line is not the “name of my site” but MY NAME. The names of the other writers all of which should be pointing at the pieces they have written and until a month ago, were doing exactly that. Now, they are not doing anything. My name is a blank and so are theirs.

How many other names are blanks where they used to be pointers and parts of an index? What did they do to make such a mess? It didn’t happen by itself and this is not a “glitch.”