A NOTE TO WORDPRESS AND THE ANSWER

October 17, 2020

I have more than 11,000 posts and just under a million views. Since you have made working on WordPress increasing unpleasant and difficult, I find it highly likely I will have to end our relationship in February. I would like to get a copy — a READABLE copy — of my posts, if not for the entire 8 years I’ve been blogging, but for at least the past three or four years. Is there any way for me to save my contents in a way that is readable and not a mass of coding, encryption, and pointers?

The answer arrived today:


Gabriel Maldonado (Automattic)

Oct 18, 2020, 10:50 UTC

Hello there!

You can export a copy of your content under Tools > Export . You can see further information about this here: https://wordpress.com/support/export/

This is readable if you open it with a text editor, but will also contains a lot of other stuff like image paths, types of blocks, dates, etc, … as is created in order to import/export content between sites. So the only way to have the content only would be to copy/paste these manually into a different document.

As an alternative, there’s also a number of “blog-to-book” services like FastPencil and BlogBooker, let you import your WordPress blog and turn it into a printed book:

Best,

Gabriel Maldonado
Global Happiness Engineer @ Automattic.com


The export from WordPress is useless, so my next goal is to see if the software works and is affordable! But for any of you think of leaving WordPress but don’t want to leave all your material behind, maybe this is a viable answer. I’ll see what more I can find out. I have 11,000+ blogs. Subtract a couple of thousand that are reblogs or all photographs, let’s say 8,000 and then subtract another couple of thousand that aren’t good enough to bother with … so maybe 5,000 when all is said and done? It’s still a lot of posts.

I suspect BlogBooker is the better tool. They don’t provide a lot of information — like how many pages it will handle, for example. And I can’t figure out if you need MS Word to use it or not. You’ll need to take a look at it yourself. WordPress doesn’t give you a lot of choices about how to download. You can’t select particular years. You can also select smaller amounts (drop-down menu). Mine is too big to do in one gulp.

I would like to have more choices, but that’s not going to happen. Nor am I intending to make this into a book, though I suppose I could do that too. That’s what these software packages are intended to do.

You may want to do some more searching and see if there are other packages that could work for you. Also the title length of the blogs is very long — too long to export from your computer to another, so I have to get back in touch and find out how to shorten those titles and make them exportable so they CAN be imported. Right now, it is beginning to look a lot like copying and pasting a LOT of posts. It’s a huge job. My headaches thinking about it.

BETRAYED AND SEEKING NEW HOME

Like many others, I’ve found the “new” WordPress block editor to be clunky and awkward to use. It doesn’t matter where I use it. It’s equally difficult on my 15.6 inch PC laptop as it is on my 14-inch Mac. I’m not a phone blogger, but that’s because I don’t see well enough to be able to edit on anything that small.

Some people feel their problems are linked to trying to use the block editor on a phone, but the real problem is the poorly thought-out software design. It has made it difficult to work with images and impossible to use when having written text, you now want to add graphics. Why such a massive failure? Because whoever designed the software doesn’t use it and doesn’t understand what writers and photographers need to produce satisfying results. Good software disappears when you use it and you don’t “feel” the software. Using word processing software isn’t supposed to be the issue. Your words and pictures are important. The software is not.

I always hoped WordPress would fix their editor to make it more responsive for writing and editing, to provide us with a better, smoother integration of fonts and images. Instead, they did exactly the opposite. I don’t think I would willingly use this software for anything — not creative or commercial. It is as hard to work with as Framemaker without its power or elegance. Granted Framemaker was not easy to learn, but once you set it up, it stayed set up. And the results you got with it were amazing — and worth the effort. There was almost nothing it couldn’t do. This block editor lacks even the basics which ancient versions of MS Word used 20-years ago. It is NOT worth the effort.

My dislike of it is not that I can’t figure out how it works but why I should bother? It pushes you into working in a very specific way which cuts off creative freedom. What’s more, the elementary school crayon colors are annoying and look terrible with photographs or any art. They don’t add quality. Some of the layout designs for graphics look pretty, but you can only make them work when you are writing a first draft. They are non-editable after insertion. Once you have put them together, you can’t move the pictures around. You have to delete and — if you are still in first draft — redo the gallery. If you have moved along, all you can do is delete it and later, add a picture. One picture. Maybe some people only write a single draft, but that ain’t me. Maybe other people are able to get it all done in one go, but I have never been that person.

A good writing application leaves you alone. If it requires set up, you do that when you get started. After that, you write your story, add pictures where you feel you need or want them. If you’re me, you go back and move everything around, rewrite sections, copy and paste text and graphics often many times. How else can you write and come out with an intelligent, well-written and properly edited post?

Meanwhile, I’ve spent a lot of money over the eight years I’ve work on this blog. I resent having WordPress strip away most of what I paid for. I’m not thrilled with any of the alternatives which are all even more costly though they give you more for your money — at least so far. Do I trust they will continue to do so?

No. I don’t know how many platforms I’ve worked on that either folded up, sold out, or went fully commercial. So to start over from the beginning? Again? I don’t think so. Having spent eight years powering through this blog, I resent being forced to abandon it. For no valid reason. A lot of my life is bound up in Serendipity and I should be supported in continuing to use it. Of course, that is not what is happening.

I will never like the block editor — unless they completely revise it, which they are obviously not intending to do. I could force myself to figure out how to make it more or less work for me — but I don’t want to. This is my hobby, not my job. Like many others, I now find myself pushed into a corner. I can abandon all the work I’ve done and start anew elsewhere, or throw in the towel. Neither option is appealing.

I have to remind myself that nothing lasts forever, especially not blogging platforms. But this is different. In every other case, the whole platform closed, often with little or no notice. This is more like being forced out of your rental apartment because they’ve decided to “go condo” and you are a mere renter. I guess that was what we all were. Mere renters.

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.

WHY COMPANIES “GO BAD”

While our planet is going south, the west is burning down, and COVID-19 is killing tens of thousands of people, a lot of corporations are in a state of self-demolition. WordPress is an obvious example, but by no means the only one. The usual reason is dysfunctional management. I don’t mean bad management. I mean management by those who have never done the work they are supervising but nonetheless feel impelled to micromanage their employees.

LET’S HAVE A MEETING!

I worked for several companies that died of meetings. Half the company worked. The other half were supposed to be the “important thinkers” who would figure out how to make our product popular and thus earn a lot of money. Never mind that the companies inevitably were already making more than enough money. In big money corporations, there’s never enough money.

When a company is new, it’s all about customer-friendliness and great support.  As the money rolls in, generosity to customers equivalently sinks. Phones don’t get answered. They move customer service to Pakistan where underpaid and untrained personnel give you fake answers after disconnecting you multiple times.

Important meeting

I remember when the two best service providers I had were Dell and AT&T. You may not be old enough to remember, but once upon a time, Dell had fantastic service. You called them. Someone who spoke your language answered the phone. If they didn’t know the answer off the top of their head, they knew who to ask. On the other hand, AT&T got famous for not only fixing the problem about which you had called, but fixing every other problem you had. The only thing wrong with the service was that you could be on the line for days at a time.

Then, Dell moved all their customer and technical service to India or Pakistan or who knows where. No matter what your problem was, they always said “Yes, we understand, very sorry for the inconvenience” and promptly give you the wrong part number. AT&T stopped training their service people so they couldn’t help you because they knew nothing about the product. They had scripts. If you weren’t asking a question that was on their script, they were lost. Even if it was on the script, they were still lost.

BAD SERVICE IS A COMMUNICABLE DISEASE

It was a malignancy and spread from corporation to corporation like the flu. I had a medical service and needed a medical oncologist, having already had my surgery. “Oh,” said the service provider, “We don’t have our doctors listed by specialty.”

“Then how do you list them? Alphabetically?”

Because I worked in a very high tech environment for most of my professional life, I got to see these disasters go from concept to creation to bankruptcy, often in as little as a year and a half. Everything would be working fine. Then someone would get a bright idea that it would work so much better if they saved a few dollars and had people in far away countries answer the phones. Or, they would decide what they needed was a new manager. Did they choose a manager who understood the work he or she would be supervising? Not on a bet. You always got to work for some suit who had no idea what you actually did but would set up a new bunch of rules that would make accomplishing your job increasingly difficult until you finally gave up.

Meanwhile, all those smartass promotional people held meetings all day every day and never produced any work — nor did they promote the product.

I firmly believe that people don’t get promoted on the basis of their success, but on their failures. The bigger the failure, the heftier the next promotion will be. For example, a man we knew was fired as Boston’s housing supervisor. He was then hired to run Blue Cross and when that division crashed and burned, he was hired to be the state’s transportation manager. He also built the triplex condos in which we lived in and forgot to install heating and failed to install electricity in at least one bedroom. Just forgot. I’m surprised he isn’t the governor by now, but I think he got old and retired.

BEWILDERMENT

I’m totally bewildered at who WordPress thinks their target audience is. The first thing you do when you are creating software — for for that matter, documenting software — is figuring out with whom you want to connect. But they didn’t do that. I never got a questionnaire asking what I wanted. Nobody got one. So if they know what their target audience is, I’d be curious to know where they got their statistics. To take a reasonably simple format and make it far more complicated is not the usual way to go. Mind you WordPress isn’t the only company who has done this. There was  Corel WordPerfect, StarOffice Writer, Adobe InCopy (it took off, but never flew), and many more including Wang. There were several reasons. Overly complex design, incomprehensible formatting (some companies feel obliged to recreate standard definitions so that you have to relearn everything — including the definition of “paragraph” or “file.” Graphic programs are particularly fond of doing this. And finally, inadequate documentation.

Open source — Free and it works as well or better than anything you can buy!

I used to lobby for standardization of terminology so anyone could easily move from application to application without having to relearn everything. Nope. To this day, I have at least half a dozen graphics programs I can’t use because I don’t understand what they are talking about. They use the same words other programs use, but they don’t mean the same thing.

I frankly don’t have a clue what it is that these companies — including WordPress — are trying to achieve. Even if you manage to figure out how to use their block format — and can work within the very limited boundaries they set — why force you customers to go through this experience? At best, they will be annoyed and at worse, they’ll quit.

THEY DON’T WANT US

I understand that WordPress doesn’t want we “oldies” ruining their “new and youthful” look. For all that, I’m not seeing a big influx of young bloggers or business people. The “new” bloggers set up their blog, write a few pieces, and are gone in a month or two. The internet is full of commercial websites, most of which are a lot easier to use than WordPress and this includes Wix, FourSquare, AWS (Amazon), Google, and oodles of self-hosted setups. By tossing out we older writers, they are making their site a lot less interesting.

Visitors come to read stories and look at photography and art … and may stay to buy something. There is no shortage of commercial space, but there IS a shortage of blogging venues. Why not play to the “soft” area of the market rather than the already overworked and overpriced commercial zone?

My guess — and I’m not alone in this — is that they don’t actually know what they are doing or why. They just feel they should be doing something that will make them look cool, new, and youthful. Personally? I’m guessing they will fail within the next three to four years. They may go bankrupt, or diminish to the point where they get bought out and become a subset of another product.

BLOCK EDITOR OR WHAT?

I started blogging on WordPress in 2012 and quickly started to pay to customize my site. I have been paying for almost the entire time I’ve been blogging. Me and my friends have written 11,000 posts over the years and I have no idea how many photographs.

Two of the things I pay for is getting rid of advertisements — and the ability to use a wide variety of templates. At this point, more than half of those templates don’t work. That’s before the block editor is fully in place. No one has bothered to check the templates to see if they work with the already-existing changes to the software. WordPress does not care.

It’s not like I don’t know how block editors work because I’ve worked with Pagemaker, which is the ultimate block software. I didn’t use Pagemaker for personal writing. It was never meant for that. It’s intent was and is to design books, typically non-fiction technical books. Theses. Scientific documents. The block editor is a waste of time and energy for most people who are in it for the fun and not the money. I don’t care whether or not if I have the best-looking blog in town. I don’t think people read your posts because of how classy your site looks.


People read you because they love your writing, photographs, and art. If all you have is a single page of text without so much as a picture, if you write well they will read you. If your pictures are beautiful, they won’t care how fancy your site is. They aren’t looking at your site but at your photographs and your words.


All of the changes WordPress has implemented have nothing to do with helping you produce better work. They long ago deleted all the prompts and challenges intended to inspire writers and artists. It’s entirely about improving how pretty your site will look to potential business owners.

I don’t have a business. I’m retired. I have no intention of starting a business and if I did, i would NEVER work with WordPress. They have treated me — a paying customer — as worthless. They don’t want me. They don’t care about me. And if they keep pushing me, they also won’t have me. Because I have limits and am about to reach them. I will be very sorry to quit, but if they push me any harder, I will have to. I am not going to ever be a business customer. I will never pay them $25/month so I can publish pretty pictures of birds, rivers and write about things that inspire or worry me. Not only do I not have the money, but it isn’t worth it. WordPress is not worth it. 

So I guess if what you want is the best-looking site, go with block, though for a single page post, it’s an awful lot of work for a zero dollar return. Remember: WordPress doesn’t want writers and artists. They want business. Nonetheless, it’s the writers and artists who made WordPress what it is. We powered them to the top.


When we are gone, they will be a giant commercial site.
They should be careful what they ask for because they might get it.


Just before I went to bed last night, I got my notice from WordPress. Since I’m already using the “classic editor” through my dashboard, it isn’t going to make any difference, at least until they decide to make that impossible. Hey, WordPress? Hold off until after the election, okay? At least let us get there using technology with which we are comfortable before you find a way to make us miserable.

Since I only recently found a template I really like which makes it very easy for me to show not only what I am creating, but what I have done in the near and long since past, it now looks like a magazine. This format is antithetical to the block format concept. It gives me a great deal of latitude to shift pieces around and reuse earlier posting and recent posting with a minimum of reworking.

These days, news isn’t ever new. Whatever is happening today happened before and not once. The news doesn’t get old; it merely recycles. All you have to do is change the numbers (location of shooting, how many people killed, name of killer (if known)) … or name the next Black person shot for no reason except being Black in the wrong (maybe his/her own) neighborhood. Or name which creep in the administration is being indicted (name the crime, name the jurisdiction) for something (this morning it’s Steve Bannon — remember him?) so it would be a pity to waste those well-written stories, rants, whines, and research pieces which I put hours of work into producing.

Isn’t it great that we’ve (at least some of us, anyway) have been paying for the privilege of using all the templates we want only to discover that almost none of them will work with the new format? Don’t you think they should have done something about that? With each passing day, the money I pay to them gives me less and less for the price. This particular one is very much like stripping paying customers of the biggest benefit and replacing it with nothing at all. But never you mind. As long as I can ignore their glitzy changes, the happier I’ll be.

BAD WEEK, GOOD WEEK, BAD APPLICATION – Marilyn Armstrong

It was a bad week in a lot of ways. Non-deliveries, late deliveries, missing parts, and a lot of increasingly aggravating conversations with Amazon. I spent more time on the telephone with Amazon’s customer service than I have writing posts or taking pictures. I was beginning to feel like that was my new profession — arguing with customer service.

Today, things suddenly looked better. Although the delivery of shampoo and conditioner to my friend didn’t happen, she did call the post office and they said they would straighten it out. Apparently, it didn’t go to their PO Box because it was delivered to the wrong post office, a problem they have had before. So she should get the package tomorrow. And I refinanced a very bad loan with a much better loan that will leave us a bit of money to repair the back door, put a storm door on the front and back — and if we are very lucky, repair (I’d rather replace, but that’s not in the cards) the deck. If we can salvage the steps and the substructure and just put in a new deck and rail. The steps are the most expensive part.

To top it all off, we got an actual apology from Amazon, saying that they are not in the business of making life difficult for customers and gave me a private number to call should I need to discuss anything with anybody. I never expected that — which made this a pretty good day.

We also managed to swing a loan in less than four hours, It replaces a very bad loan i should never have signed and am very grateful to be free of it.

That made me wonder whatever happened to the application I put in for the loan for a new boiler. I hadn’t even gotten a note for the application I sent to them and it had been a week since I sent it.

So I went into  National Grid to look for a copy of the sent document. There was no document. No copy. On stuff like this, I always CC myself. I finally managed to dig through my gazillion emails and found … are you ready?


GRAMMARLY HAD SENT IT TO DRAFTS BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T LIKE MY GRAMMAR.


Seriously. Even now, they asked if I really wanted to send a note that had a variety of grammatical errors and vague sentence structures. Did I want to send it? it was a loan application and they hadn’t even sent a note telling me that rather than sending it, they had dumped it into drafts. Is that legal? I’m glad I suddenly realized that I hadn’t heard from National Grid!

How dare they do that! I deleted Grammarly — and you should too.  It’s like a worm and gets into every piece of your computer where there is any text, including picture captions.

The amount of harm they could have done me — and I hope have not yet done — is ugly. I was one of the people that years ago Grammarly selected to “test drive” the application when they were planning to charge everyone $12/month, but I could have it for free for three months. I turned them down, said that was much more money than anyone writing a free blog would ever pay and that frankly, I didn’t like a lot of their writing rules either. It was inappropriate for a casual writer or any fiction writer. Or anyone using a local dialect or using words of which Grammarly doesn’t approve.

Until WordPress decided we didn’t need a spell checker anymore — and recommended the free version of Grammarly — I never expected to encounter them again. Lately, they have become very aggressive. They are at the beginning of every YouTube video. and they turn themselves off when they please, on when they feel like it. Undependable at best, but this was way over the top. How dare they?

If you are using Grammarly, be very careful. I have been saying for a while that I’ve been losing emails. Having them vanish and apparently, Grammarly is why. If you are running it, maybe you don’t want to use it after all. If they decide you aren’t using the right wording, important business documents can and possibly already have, disappeared.

So it was a bad week, a good week, a better week — and a really bad application that has (I hope) finally been expelled. It wasn’t easy getting rid of it. I found that it had embedded in every possible part of the computer.

I deleted it from my hard drive, deleted it from Chrome, but it was still in there and I had to expel it from WordPress using their special code. There were versions of it all over my computer, like a worm or trojan virus.

It’s a devious and intrusive — and potentially DANGEROUS application. Be careful.

THREE IN THE MORNING AND THE PAGE NUMBERS WON’T WORK – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

I was up until very late last night because Garry got a new computer. Setting it up was easy because these days, everything is automated. And he didn’t have a lot of documents or photographs to move. They are all on my computer.

He has decided he’s going to try writing a book … and his Google book or iPad weren’t going to do the job. I did all the basic setup and downloaded Apache Open Office, which is free (but they will gladly take donations). It has everything (and more) than MS Office. It works on any computer. It really is free.

I have been using it on all my personal computers for the past 15-years. To be fair, I haven’t done any serious work on it. I wrote my book using Framemaker, which was Adobe’s anti-intuitive documentation software which I just happened to own at the time. But when I finished my book, I never renewed it. I’m not sure Adobe makes it anymore.

It was the software for non-fiction authors. If you were working on a doctorate or any material that needs glossaries, appendices, indexes, et al, Framemaker was the software. Expensive, but everything Adobe makes is pricey. I got Framemaker and Photoshop as goodbye gifts from my last job. It was great for designing my book, but for normal every day writing it was overkill.

Meanwhile, they kept charging more and more for MSOffice and it wasn’t worth it. It was so over-automated that it did what it wanted, but almost never what YOU wanted. OpenOffice is much less automated — and free.

But, as I said, I never used it for serious writing. While I haven’t been using it, the application has changed — for the better. If Garry is going to use it, I will have to teach him to use it. How can I teach him to use it if I don’t know how it works? So, after Garry went off to watch old Western movies in the bedroom, I created a small file. No problem with setting up fonts and formats.

Then I figured Garry was going to need page numbers. So hey, I’m a class act with software, right? I set up a footer then went to look for the page numbers. Two hours later, I still couldn’t figure out how to put in a simple page number in the middle of the footer. It would set it up left-right for a book, but I just wanted a simple number, middle of the page in the footer.

As the night began to turn into morning I found something that looked like it might work, but I think you can only see the numbers if you print the document. I was ready for bed, not printing. Oddly enough, I didn’t print it today either. Maybe tomorrow. Or Sunday.

I think I need to go back to Apache and watch some of their videos and read some of the documentation. During 20 years of retirement, I might have lost my touch! It was a humbling experience.

SKYPING FOR IDIOTS – Marilyn Armstrong

I admit it, I never learned to use Skype. I have tried it. At least twice a year some friend or family member wants to see if we can make it work. I’ve never made it work.

There are a lot of reasons. One is that this computer has two sets of video and sound cards. It’s a gaming computer and for reasons best known to Dell (or more accurately, Alienware), they decided to do everything twice.

All well and good but getting Skype to run, you have to figure out which microphone it can use and which video card it needs and you have to use either the two high def ones or the two low def one. Not one of each. That merely confuses the system which is often confused without any help.


Then there’s Charter (Spectrum) which has a habit of dropping you for a few seconds here and there, usually when you are trying to save something. Most of the time, it comes back on its own, but sometimes you have to reboot the router et al. Sometimes, it doesn’t come back. Then you are glad you have a rarely used mobile device so you can call Charter and explain there’s no signal. Which they will deny has anything to do with them.

Last night, my friend Cherrie sent me an email and said: “Let’s try Skype … oh and by the way, I’ve never done this before.” I answered saying I’d never done it either — not entirely true … I’d been walked through it once before. I wasn’t sure I could make it work, but I’d give it a whack. What the hell. It turns out her son was urging her to use it.

“Why?” she asked.

“You could talk to your family.”

“I never talk to my family. Why would I start now?” But luckily, I’m not a family member, so she’ll talk to me. In theory.

This is a simplified version of Skype. It doesn’t look all that simple to me.

First, I did all the stuff to set it up. It told me I didn’t have a camera. I managed to turn on the camera. Then it told me that I couldn’t use that email (which is my only email) because I’d used it before and did I want to create a new email.

I did NOT want to create a new email. I gave in. I took out my cell phone and used that number. After which,  my computer started to ring, but when Cherrie tried to answer it, she couldn’t get it to connect. Our dialogue consisted of me asking “Are you there?” (text) and her computer saying “You missed your call” (more text).

When it’s set up, it looks like this. It does NOT mean you will really connect, but it’s the thought that counts.

I gave up. I picked up my (non-mobile) telephone and called her. I could see a frozen picture of her on my screen, but she couldn’t see or hear me. I figured we could forget the whole microphone thing have a nice chat. But she was determined.

“We used to be good at this,” she said. “What happened?” I declined to point out that we got old and hadn’t even tried to keep up with current technology. I have always been good at software, but there are things I can’t do. I can’t run my printer or change the ink in it. I hate copy machines and they hate me right back. Since we were already on the phone, she figured she might as well give it one more try. This was the start of a lot of clanging while both our computers started ringing like mad. Still no pictures.

And suddenly, she could hear me and I could after a while, I could hear her. We laughed a lot and figured we should make this a good conversation because we doubted we would ever make it function again.

Somtimes it works.

This morning I asked Owen if he knows how to use Skype. After all the explanations of what’s wrong with the technology, how they’ve oversimplified it so you have no control over anything, the answer was “No.” Meanwhile, Garry wants me — ME! — to set up Zoom for him for tomorrow. Does anyone think this is going to happen? I certainly don’t.

I find this process so utterly baffling I don’t know why it didn’t work and I don’t know why, eventually, it did work.

The telephone works fine for me because I am the idiot.

“BAD” IS THE NEW “GOOD” IN TECH SUPPORT – Marilyn Armstrong

Bad customer and technical support is the new good. You only think it’s bad. The problem is your attitude. Or so they’d have you think.

YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE

All the big technology companies are working hard to save a few bucks. Competition is fierce. Every penny counts. Since executives won’t accept lower pay nor will stockholders accept lower returns, it’s customers who fill the cost-cutting gap.

Death cust serv
In the race to be the cheapest, tech companies stopped including chargers with devices. No manuals. No system software. No reinstallation software. Short power cords that don’t go from an outlet to a desktop. No connector for printers, speakers or whatever. Everything you need to finish setting up costs extra.

Customer service was the first thing to go. They hired people who don’t know anything, don’t understand or speak English. For all I know, they don’t understand or speak Spanish either. They aren’t trained, don’t know the products. And since manufacturers no longer include documentation, you don’t have the option of taking care of it yourself.

No company — not cameras, computers or software — includes documentation. I became obsolete years ago when the industry decided no one reads the manuals. So they fired the tech writers, put some generated information in an online PDF. They figured customer service techs would handle the fallout. But they don’t. Many of us would be happy to fix minor glitches but have no alternative to spending our time on the phone, frustrated and angry.

THE PLAN IN ACTION

You can’t say they didn’t have a plan. Corporation had a really terrible plan. It was such a bad plan that everyone adopted it. Of course, these days any plan is a big deal being as we live in a nation that hasn’t had a viable plan for anything in more than three years. And now, we have a plague. How cool is that?Customer Service waiting It’s not a Microsoft issue or a Dell thing. It’s not a plan that anyone can claim as their own. It’s a cross-industry problem, affecting virtually every tech corporation in this country.

Bad has become the official new good. Really and truly good is remarkable and so rare.

WOULD IT KILL THEM TO INCLUDE A MANUAL?

In every industry, business, service — service support stinks. It doesn’t matter where you go. You’ll get the same lousy service. It’s the great leveler.

CustServCartoon

Sometimes, you get lucky. The guy or gal you connect with knows the product and you think “Wow, that wasn’t bad! Maybe it’s improving.” The next time, it’s the same old, same old. Mostly you spend hours online listening to the worst music ever written and every once in awhile they point out how important you are and the next time anyone can take your call, they will.

Okay then. I think it’s possible I’m still on hold.

THE JOY OF MEDICARE – Marilyn Armstrong

I belong to Blue Cross Blue Shield Advantage Value Added PPO group, which is a Medicare plan that offers extras but costs just a tiny bit more than basic Medicare.

Last night, in a moment of mindless stupidity, I decided to register for my medical plan. Usually, I just call them, but it was after hours and I just wanted to look up the price of a  medication. Which I could do online. If I registered.

This is the cutest little Tufted Titmouse I think I’ve ever seen.

No big deal, right? Fill in the form and voila, registered. Medicare was even easier. You could just call them and do it all by phone. I think it took me all of 10 minutes to register for Medicare in the five years I had straight Medicare before I switched to the BCBS Value Advantage plan.

I entered most of the registration information at which point I was told that I had “timed out” and would have to do it again. So I tried to do it again BUT it would not let me because it already had my ID and password — basically everything except my Medicare number.

The gallant Tufted Titmouse – He’s blue and yellow!

I have a week coming up of major medical exams — heart and head and back and more about my eyes.

I was going to die as a result of software glitches. I could cope with being eaten by an alligator or a Gila monster … but SOFTWARE? Seriously?

I tried to call them to fix it but got the “closed for the weekend” message. Starting October 1, they are open 24/7, but this isn’t October. Close, but no cookie. I ultimately discovered that the databank is closed all weekend because they are setting up for the incoming members for 2020, but I didn’t know that until later.

Finally, I finally managed to connect with someone who informed me that my membership had expired.

What?

Expired?

I pay my Medicare/BCBS advantage plan straight out of Social Security. When I was told I belonged to Aetna, not BCBS, I gurgled. I’ve never worked with Aetna AND. I had the BCBS card in my hand. It was blue, blue, and blue. A Blue Cross. A Blue Shield. A blue card. All the ink was blue. \

I had the wrong department and the person I was talking to didn’t have any idea what was going on. I’m not even sure she knew was software is. The right department was closed until Monday and I have a doctor’s appointment early in the day.

By now, after 2 am. I was tired. I knew I’d be even more tired by morning. At this point, all I now wanted was an assurance I was signed up and hadn’t somehow inadvertently or via glitchily cancelled my medical plan.

Forget the price of medications. I was too tired to keep on keeping on, so this morning I got up and called the number that was supposed to work, but it was closed until Monday. Of course.

I also got transferred a lot, but at least not disconnected. Everyone was enormously polite, friendly, and unable to help me. At all.  Of course, no one mentioned that the databank was down, too. That was the guy at Medicare who told me. How come HE knew but the people at BlueCross didn’t know?

One Titmouse and a Chickadee. They will share the feeder … but from opposite sides and they never touch.

I was getting increasingly frustrated. So after I had coffee in hand, I tried calling in a prescription. I figured if I wasn’t signed up, they’d tell me because my card wouldn’t go through. Nope. It went through fine, no problem. Not only did it go through fine, but it went through for a medication that had no refills left. I have to call back and make sure she has the right number. Regardless, it was the first good news of the day.

Having tried every single number for BlueCross and getting nothing but people who didn’t seem able to access my type of BCBS care, I chanced upon the 24/7 number for Medicare. Even though I have an Advantage plan, it’s still a version of Medicare, so one way or the other, I had nothing to lose by trying.

And this is why I love Medicare. Not merely are they REALLY open 24/7 all year long, but they are consistently helpful, polite, and cooperative. If they don’t have the answer, they will find it, no matter how long it takes. And they never put me on hold.

I explained that I had had a software glitch with BlueCross and with an early doctor’s appointment Monday, I didn’t want to find myself dying due to a computer glitch. That would be too pathetic.

The guy at Medicare checked and said, “Don’t worry. There’s no problem. You are paid up and everything works.

So for all you people who are afraid of Medicare? Don’t be. It’s great. It really isn’t one of those messed up government agencies. In fact, I am convinced it is the ONLY government agency where everything actually works just like it is supposed to work.

Now at least I know I would not die from bad software and be buried in an Amazon box.

You all will LOVE Medicare. I promise.

To make things even better? The birds have already begun to return. There was a flock of Tufted Titmouses on the feeder this morning. Where there’s a Titmouse, can the American Goldfinch be far behind?

ALL THOSE COMPUTERS: WHAT A MESS! – Marilyn Armstrong

Our computers have gone wacko.

I think it started when the last upgrades (calling them upgrades is absurd since they have made a mess of all the computers in the house — Macs and PCs alike. Google, Microsoft, iPad, and MacBook Air have decided to link to each other and I can’t tell what’s going on with any machine.

I want one that says “enraged.”

They no longer remember whose password works with which account. This is not a problem if you are the only user in your house, but here, it’s getting absolutely tragic. It isn’t just a Windows. It’s just as bad on the Macs. Maybe worse because for reasons I don’t entirely understand, we seem to have more Mac-operated devices than PC devices — and I don’t actually like Macs. I just own them.

The only electronics that still know what’s going on are the Kindles and they are Android. Everything else is a mess.

Oh, I almost forgot. Garry has a Chromebook. Since it’s a Google machine, it’s a mess, too.

All the endless “alterations” made to WordPress have slowed it down so half the time, it doesn’t even remember your name or password from one use to the next. How many times do you try to answer a comment on your own site only to be told that you have to “sign-in”?

Since you are signed in, it gets interesting.

Meanwhile, when they ask for passwords, they don’t specify what password they want. Is that the WordPress password or the Google password? One of each? Maybe looking for the computer’s key number? Plus the password? Which password? The one you had to add today or the one they made you add yesterday and the day before?

And it has to be COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than any other password you use … as if you even remember your other passwords.

Each and every one of your passwords is supposed to be unique and not like any of the other passwords you use. Right. That’s what everyone does. Except I can’t remember any of my passwords anyway.

Seriously, can anyone remember that many passwords? Even if you write them down, the one you last wrote down may not be the one they are looking for. It might be the one before that or the one you were using a month ago. Only a hacker can figure it out and he/she is the one person you don’t want to figure it out.

ARRGGGH!

I used to have my own inbox and Garry had his. Our tools and internet links were linked to our email passwords. NOW you need a password for Google, for your inbox, and sometimes, they don’t seem to know what they want the password for. Meanwhile, the password manager stopped working, too.

They tell you your password doesn’t work, but it’s the same one you used yesterday and last night and finally, it starts to work again … and this is after you’ve been battling with it for an hour to accept a new password only to ultimately be told you can’t get a new password because you have an old password, so now you need a new email account — but I don’t have another mail account — and when I’m about ready to give up and throw everything out the window — which is when everything starts to work again. More or less.

What???

I have NO idea what’s going on. I sign in with my email account, but only Garry’s header shows up. Or Garry signs in with his password and MY headers show up. I don’t know what they think they are doing, but it’s a godawful mess. I’m pretty sure the last set of upgrades totally screwed the pooch.

Garry has an upgrade waiting on his iPad and he’s afraid to let it run. I don’t blame him. My last upgrade on the PC and the Mac were BOTH disasters. How are your machines running?

All my computers are a mess — and I haven’t done anything to them. This is the stuff they are doing.

I don’t know what they are trying to achieve, but it’s not working. I wish they would stop. If you think I’m confused, just imagine how GARRY feels.

IT’S THE LITTLE STUFF THAT GETS ME – Marilyn Armstrong

EVEN WORDPRESS CAN’T BE THAT BAD, CAN THEY?
Even my computer is part of the plot against us! It's Alienware!
Even my computer is part of the plot against us! It’s Alienware!

I definitely have a few bones to pick and I’m going to start picking right now. You see, I have these questions. Important questions. And there are, as far as I can tell, no answers to them.

1. Why does WordPress allow us to approve or disapprove comments, but anyone can follow us? Doesn’t that seem wrong to you? I leafed through my thousands of “followers” the other day and exactly as expected, most of the recent ones are spambots. Short of using Captcha, which I consider cruel and unusual punishment, there doesn’t seem to be any way to prevent the spammers from following. I can get rid of their comments, but I can’t get rid of them.

2. No matter what you do, every pingback has to be personally moderated … yet if you allow reblogs — and most of us do — these do NOT need to be moderated, not even for those who have never commented and are essentially anonymous. Thus my posts have been reblogged on all kinds of horrible sites where I would never go, much less see my work posted. Forgive me if the logic of this eludes me.

3. Object linking has become the function that powers our internet experience. For those of you who don’t know much about programming and computer development, a “link” is really an embedded address. Thus a pingback is actually an object “pointer.” It takes the address of a website or some other thing on the internet (it could also be an email address or a picture … or a part number in a database), embeds it in a graphic or text so that when someone clicks on it, it takes them to that place. Like the transporter on the Enterprise.

Bonnie guarding my computer

It’s the computer equivalent of “Scottie, beam me up.” The other day, all my links went wacko. If I clicked on a notification from a follower, I got sent to the Reader … but not to that blogger or that post. Just the top of the Reader. Sometimes, I got the message that the address didn’t exist.

I panicked, contacted WordPress. Who said they would check it out. Yet, before they even had a chance to look at it, it fixed itself and the problem disappeared. That was when I got a notice that other people had begun to have the same problem.

Is our technology beginning to fail because chaos reigns and magic is loose in the world?

4. When my links went berserk, my knee jerk reaction was to get mad. After all the goofy “upgrades” WordPress has been making to their user interface (in my world, it is known as the GUI, pronounced Gooey, or graphical user interface), anything is possible.

I assumed this was another bizarre piece of programming they were foisting on me. Eventually, I realized even WordPress could not possibly consider this acceptable. Not unless they were all taking some heavy hallucinogenic drugs up in the office.

So there you have it, my contentious bone picking of the day.


Watch your links. Keep watching your links.
Aliens are invading the servers.