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.