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.

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.” 

BREAKING NEWS? HOW ABOUT A BROKEN WORDPRESS SEARCH ENGINE? – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Not exactly luminescent. More like the exact opposite.  

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.