AFTER SEVEN YEARS OF BLOGGING … Marilyn Armstrong

WordPress has a lot of issues, most of which they have never fixed and will never fix. Some months ago, my graphics gallery stopped working if any of the pictures included a caption. Sometimes, the gallery just doesn’t work at all and hangs the entire post. Sometimes, I lose the post in the process.

The text shows up in a different format that its designation. The spacing between paragraphs has always been a gamble. They change formatting so often it’s not unusual for your template to become obsolete while you are in the middle of writing a piece.

Landing Titmouse and Junco

Comments disappear entirely or show up days — and occasionally months — after you write them. Or never.

Pictures may or may not show up. The size in which they show up? It’s like playing craps with busted dice. Frequently, the intended picture isn’t in the post or a picture appears that was pulled from a sidebar or someone else’s post. Sometimes photos are much smaller or larger than designated — or appear as a straight line or a black box … or nothing.

They have a lot of text issues they’ve never addressed which is one of the many reasons I strongly objected to them floating a whole new version of text editing when they never managed to solve their previous problems.

Nuthatch

WordPress never repairs anything. Their “happiness engineers” mostly specialize in telling you it’s not a problem. It’s just that one day, half your followers disappeared because they don’t like you anymore.

“Overnight?” you ask.

They explain that you don’t write what people want to read, the implication is that the problem is not their dipsy database, but your writing.

They know this how?

They don’t know anything. What they really know is that they are not there to solve problems, but rather to explain why the problem is not their fault but yours.

Instead of fixing problems, they move on to “something different.” If the new format has issues, they won’t solve them. They will just move on to something else and you can follow … or not.

They don’t care about bloggers unless they are a business prospect. If you aren’t paying the highest price for a business site, they have no interest in you or whatever problems you have.


I’m tired of WordPress. Tired of their bad attitude and failure to realize that we, the writers and creative artists who built their brand are still the people who bring in business. Without us, people would only come to do business and most of their visiting population would be gone.


I’m paid up through 2019 but after that? I don’t know whether I want to continue. I love the friends I’ve made. I get good responses to my work, too. But it’s so difficult to work around the embedded issues that are always part of WordPress. I wonder if I will continue past this year. The main reason I keep going is my friends — who matter — and I’m retired and don’t have that many other things to do.

I love writing. Not answering questions or figuring out how many prompts I can stuff into a 200-word response.

I want to see WRITING. Something new, out of your or my head, using our own ideas.

The audience has changed, the concept of what blogging is has changed. We all used to write about what our world and what was happening. Now, it’s all prompts and “Question & Answer” stuff. Almost no one is writing about what matters to them.

Each day feels less like fun and more like work for which I don’t get paid. The bloom is off the rose.

Ultimately, I’m tired of the hassles of WordPress. They don’t care about us.  No matter how brisk our stats show our response to be, they don’t care unless we are a business application. Why should I pay for a business plan when I don’t have a business?

Junco on a very cold morning

That’s the direction they are going. You, me, all of us who began blogging for the joy of writing or whatever our creative thing is are no longer valued. WordPress does not care. We aren’t making enough money for them. And it isn’t as if they are failing for lack of funding. They just aren’t getting as rich as Jeff Bezos.

If you think it’s bad now, it will be much worse in a year. If there was a viable alternative, I’d be there, but Blogger (Google) has its own issues every bit as bad as these and no reasonable way of directly responding to posts.

Whatever is wrong, you can bet it’s about money. No company wants to simply be profitable. They have to make enough money to rule the world. We are not part of that goal.

ORGANIZING THE PAST – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I just spent three weeks with my 34-year-old daughter, Sarah.

She lives 3000 miles away, in LA, so this was a rare treat. We have so many interests and views in common, we never run out of things to talk about, even when we spend 24 hours a day together for three weeks!

Sarah

Beyond great conversation, visiting with friends and family and watching TV and movies together, Sarah provided an invaluable service. She is a world-class organizer and loves going through the boxes and boxes of photos and memorabilia in the attic.

She organized our family photos going back to my grandparents from the early 1900s. Everything is now in plastic containers, organized by category, dates, properly labeled. We had a serious mouse problem so the plastic boxes with lids are life savers.

Organized boxes in my attic

We found wonderful treasures buried in the attic boxes.

We found the hospital bracelet I wore when I gave birth to my son in 1980. We found a large photo negative of the Surgical Army Hospital my ex-husband ran in Vietnam in 1970-1971.

Letters I wrote to my Mom from my first trip to Europe with friends in 1965 were a hoot to read. We also found a sterling silver cup with my name engraved on it – a gift to my mom in honor of my birth in 1949.

The oldest find was a series of love letters to my grandfather dated 1914. They were from someone who was clearly in love with him and equally clear was the fact that her feelings were not reciprocated.

Letter to my grandfather dated 1914

I was blown away by a particular set of writings from my early life. I had saved my teachers’ comments and evaluations (given in lieu of grades) from third grade through sixth grade. Most interesting was the fact that my basic personality has not changed much since then. I apparently had only a few close friends then, as now. I was considered a leader in small groups but faded into the background in large groups. Like now.

I was curious, inquisitive, creative and intelligent but lacked confidence. I seemed to have constantly sought the approval of adults. I’m better today but still lack confidence and undervalue my talents and accomplishments.

My senior thesis in college

The second category of writings we found, were papers I had written from grade school through college. I was thrilled that Sarah actually read some of these – my early evolution as a writer. She was impressed by my organization, persuasiveness, and writing style. I was impressed too. I was very sophisticated for my age, in writing and thinking.

Our exploration of our family history was gratifying. I’m very happy my daughter will keep our family treasures and pass on our stories. In fact, Sarah encouraged me to write about the many family stories from my grandparents down to my kids. I spent about a year writing and posting autobiographical blogs for Serendipity. I have over 330 pages of these blogs.

Sarah and my dogs

Sarah helped me put them in roughly chronological order, copy them, and put them into large three-ring binders. We added tabs to indicate stories from different people and periods of time.

For example, my life is divided into my early years, living with my first husband before kids, my kids’ childhoods, and life with my second husband.

My Family History with Tabs

I gave a copy of the Family History in Blogs to both my children, so we all have a collection of the most interesting stories about everyone in the family. I feel great that I’ve preserved in writing what the photo albums preserve in pictures. It’s one of my proudest accomplishments.

Binder I had customized for my Family History

And you, Serendipity readers, came along with me for this amazing ride. You gave me the motivation to write all these stories and sharing them with you has been fantastic.

Thank you for reading them and commenting on them. My children thank you too!

WHICH ONE OF ME IS ME? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #5

Behind the words for this prompt is a blurry, but genuine picture of a rare Pileated Woodpecker, the “you better believe it” Woody Woodpecker. I have seen this guy a few times and they are rare, but we have one living in our woods. He doesn’t come to the feeder. I’ve seen him working on a nearby tree and this time, I saw him fly past the deck and deep into the woods. I have a 900-mm lens on this camera, but that Woodpecker was WAY back in the woods and there were a million twigs and branches in front of him. So this is as good a picture as I could get. It’s pretty blurry, but at least I can say with some surety that I’m not delusional. We really have a gorgeous Pileated Woodpecker living in our backyard. If ONLY I could focus on him!

Another sort of view of our Pileated Woodpecker.

Is there anyone who is the same all the time? I know I was different at work than at home. Different at home than when out with friends. Different writing than not writing. Different talking to strangers than chatting with family.

Garry had two almost opposing personalities for work and non-work. He was aggressively outgoing in his professional life. He had to be because that was what the work required. Personally, he was quiet and sometimes shy, though over the years the two parts have fused and become more alike.

We all have more than one face, whether we realize it or not. I think writers notice it more than non-writers. One of the great joys of writing for me is having the opportunity to clean up reality. Not scour it smooth, but get rid of the dust on the edges and smooth out the lumps in the middle. I figure we all tidy up reality as we write.

This isn’t a diary. I see no reason to expose everything going on in my sometimes very wacko brain.

The writing “me” is a more thoughtful “me.” In real life, I’m crabbier and more tired. Writing is painless; reality isn’t. Real me is in a lot of pain most of the time and could use a good night’s sleep. On the other hand, real and writing me has a great sense of humor. Even when I believe I’m dying, the idea is too hilarious to ignore. I almost tore my newly reworked heart out because I couldn’t stop laughing. Did you know it really hurts to laugh after major surgery?

Besides, I can’t be dead. Who’d write my blog?

I work at not talking about what’s bothering me. No one likes a whiner. I don’t even like me when I whine, so I certainly don’t want to put it all into print.

Sadly, the pain is probably the thing I spend the most time cleaning up. I wish cleaning it up as a writer would make it go away for real.

What might be the most interesting change since I began blogging 7 years ago (without the foggiest idea of what I wanted to do — or why) is how much clearer I am in my writing goals. I know what I’m writing. I know what effect it will have. I even know when what I am planning to say is going to piss a lot of people off.

Sometimes, I just need to piss people off. It’s part of the wacko thing.

NOT INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, OR TWITTER – Marilyn Armstrong

I used to look at the posts that came to me. There was stuff to read. Thoughtful pieces full of ideas, humor. Whimsical material. Ideas to ponder. Often heartfelt pieces about personal tragedies, working through issues, finding answers to important questions.

I didn’t read everything. I never could get all of it in a day, but at least everything I read had meaning. Even if it was about a travel day or examining ancient rocks. Mountain climbing, dog-walking, memories — there was a heart in it and a bit of soul.

All I see these days — with some obvious exceptions are lists of supposedly personal (but not really) questions, riddles, games, and really bad short poems.

When I say “I don’t like poetry,” that’s not really true. I love poetry. I love good poetry. I love poems filled with emotion and humanity — or humor. Not just rhyming for the sake of making the final lines match. I used to read poetry. Amazingly, I even bought books of poetry and memorized it.

About the writing. Maybe it’s me, but with the aforementioned exceptions — people who have been writing for a while and know the difference between flipping off a “meme” or a comment and a post worth investing time into — where have they gone?

They’ve left, is what has happened. They got tired and went away. Between the crazy software and price rises … and now, one MORE price rise … and the resulting loss of quality … why bother?

Some people began writing but gave up in favor of puns, puzzles, and games. None of which are particularly inspiring for readers. They may be fascinating to those who write them, but for me? How many times do I need to find out all about the same person I read about yesterday? How many times does the same person need to answer supposedly “intimate questions, the answers to which are not intimate, but essentially identical to the previous?

Questions and answers are fun sometimes — but that’s not a post. It’s not for thinking. It’s not even worth getting to the bottom of the page before abandoning the piece. I have stopped adding a “Like” to the bottom of these pages because I don’t like them. I should stop saying I do.

So many of the people who used to write strong pieces have left and I don’t blame them. What’s the point in writing meaningful material if all that’s left for you to read are nonsensical puzzles and a dazzling array of Q & A?

This isn’t blogging. It’s gaming and after a couple of weeks, it’s also boring. The lack of thought and ideas is mind-numbing.

I put a lot of time into my writing and photography. I’m not the world’s best writer or photographer, but I work at it. I write, rewrite, edit. Republish when new facts are available. Even when a post isn’t as good as I’d like it to be, it’s never “tossed” off. I do the best I can and hope that I manage to connect, even a little bit. However it comes out, it comes from the heart. I’ve put time into making sure that it says something.

And a merry whatever you celebrate to one and all.

As WordPress gradually destroys itself, I’m sure I’ll go down with it. I’m losing the will to push on. The more I read of the “new stuff,” the less I feel compelled to keep writing. It’s not that I don’t get read. It’s that there is so little worth reading for me.

I keep hoping that someone will realize puzzles and Q and A is not interesting. It has no center, no concept.

This is not a rant. More like a moan. I feel so sad about this and I’ve been thinking about it for a while.

Yesterday, I went looking for something worth reblogging because if someone else has written it, there’s no need for me to try and do the same thing. Let the original author speak for him or herself. I discovered I’d already read, commented on, and plucked out the best of it. And it was surprisingly little.

Blogging isn’t only about “self-expression.” It’s also supposed to have some value of its own. You know, legs to stand on. If the stuff you are churning out has no value, why are you bothering?

THE TALKATIVE TAG THINGIE – Marilyn Armstrong

This is all Fandango’s fault.

To be “tagged” for being talkative is pretty funny. I’m not nearly as talkative now as I was when much younger. When younger, I could talk the hind legs off a donkey. The only person I couldn’t out-talk me was my son, who could out-talk me in both Hebrew AND English, often spoken in a bizarre mixture that only he and his American and English-born kid-friends understood.

So blog-wise, who’s been talking lately?



Turns out that other than me, which really isn’t talking because I’m just responding to comments, Leslie chats the most with my husband close behind. Sadje hits a tight fourth, with Covert Novelist, Mrs. Angloswiss and Taswegian not far behind. These stats go up and down from week to week depending on who is having a good week and who isn’t.

I’m not having a great week, but I feel absolutely required to answer all comments. I’ve been answering all comments since I started blogging and I’m so hooked into it, I don’t know how not to answer … unless I’m too sick to do it or just not home.

It’s way early for me to be writing. The gutter cleaners were here early and I had to collect the hysterical dogs. Believe it or not, people are afraid of these guys. They are all total wusses, too. The barking is just their way of letting the world know that SOMETHING IMPORTANT IS GOING ON AND I NEED TO LET THE WORLD KNOW. They do this in the loudest sounds they can create and for Garry with his newborn ears, this is a terrible sound.

So at 8 in the morning, I’m herding the canines into the house and as soon as I get one in, another one runs out. I finally threatened them with not getting a SINGLE COOKIE FOR THE REST OF THE DAY. I don’t know if they got the words, but they caught the severity of the threat — and in they came.

Then there were ladders and crunchy scraping noises in the gutters and me wondering if they ever did find the spigot because frankly, I can rarely find it. The one behind the house froze and burst a few years ago and Owen hasn’t quite gotten to repairing it. One of these days.

The guys left without leaving a bill, which never happens, so I called the office and he assured me that they’d send one via email on Monday, which is fine because tomorrow is the first of the month and we actually get some money. Although rapidly depleted by the endless bills, at least it arrives.

I’m pretty sure this chickadee could talk., but he can’t type so he doesn’t comment.

My husband is the biggest chatterer. I wish he’d save up the chattering and write something, but he loves the back and forth chatters on WordPress. It’s his favorite part of the experience. Writing for him is too much like work. He hates deadlines. He lived his entire adult life with deadlines diving at him from the sky and earth below. I cannot send him this “talkative tag” because he’d just look blankly at me and then ask me what he was supposed to do with it.

But as for the rest of the list:

1  –  Let’s cross out Sadje because she’s already done it.

2  – SWO8, aka Leslie Martel — if you feel like chatting a bit? I know it’s not the sort of thing you normally publish, but if you feel inclined, here’s an opportunity to do something else. Just in case.

3  –  Covert Novelist — I find it interesting that it shows me as not following you because I definitely do and have for quite a long time, but I think it’s something about the .org versus .com areas of WordPress. You’ve got a .org site and I know you don’t show up in my list of manageable follower sites. Still, I bet you could find something to say! You’ve got a pretty good chat style, right?

4  –  Ah, Mrs. Angloswiss. You are my longest running correspondent and I feel like we are pals. If you didn’t live on the other side of the ocean and up a mountain no less, we could share breakfast toast and jam — and something hot. Please, feel free to write pretty much anything. I’m always ready to listen, until around 2 in the morning when I pass out cold for at least four or five hours.

5  –  And last, but absolutely NOT least, Taswegian. Aside from all other comments, I have learned a ton of stuff about how things are getting done — or more to the point, NOT getting done way down under. I was really surprised to discover it actually snows there. I thought it only snowed at the very bottom of the world (as in Antarctica) or on MY house.  Please feel invited to compose something for this (or not).

I consider ALL tag-along things as optional, so no one needs to feel pressured. Please do what you want to do and not one bit more.

That pretty much does it. I’ve got the doctor this afternoon. I hope something comes out of it other than more discussion to be continued. I’m beginning to think that while anemia may be the disease, lack of sleep may be what is really doing me in.

AN AWFUL TERRIBLE HORRIBLE DAY AT WORDPRESS – Marilyn Armstrong

I went to take a look at the brand spanking new format for WordPress.


WARNING: If you do that, you will NOT be able to go back to your old format. I think what they have done is eliminate all the old versions of the editor we used, so you can use the new one, or hope they don’t delete the old ones entirely and leave you with this mess.

Which is what I think is really going to happen. 


Now, there are things about the “new new new new editor” that may — eventually, when they get the bugs fixed — be useful. But right now? You can’t even get a set of standard editing functions across the top of your page. 

They also (apparently, unless it’s a bug) have a limited number of categories — AND they no longer offer you the option of picking up an old post so you can rewrite it.

I’ve got nearly 8,000 posts, so yes, I go back and rewrite material. After you’ve been doing this for a long time, why not?

In this new format, I opened categories and it dies after the letter “C.” What happened to “D” through “Z”? You can’t even find the missing pieces by typing the category name in the search list. Nothing comes up. This will effectively lose thousands of posts and pictures.

I went through and deleted all the one I used very rarely. That got me all the way to “D.” When I eventually found my way back to the “classic editor,” all the deletes were not made.


NOTHING IN THAT SOFTWARE IS WORKING. NO ONE BETA TESTED IT. NO ONE.


I don’t object to change. I object to untested changes and buggy software. I pay to use WordPress.  I object to being forced to do stuff the way they decree. If this is such a great interface (it might be POTENTIALLY, but it definitely isn’t there yet), then people will use it. You don’t have to club us over the head.

Also, they are no longer offering help to anyone but business users … so they’ve forced me to use this very buggy interface and there’s no one to talk to. Maybe this will finally push me over the edge.

You know that whole thing about this being a free country? Well … this kind reminds me that anyone who doesn’t follow orders is not free. What is wrong with having more than one interface? How does it hurt anyone?


A thing that happens as we age is we lose contact with pop culture. We retire. We don’t feel impelled to learn to do it differently unless there’s a really good reason to do it. Unless you’re paying me to do it your way, try not to get too bent out of shape if I prefer to do it my way. It may be different, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

We are happy with the way we do things. They are comfortable and trust me, retirement and comfortable go together like guitar and bass. It starts early, as early as ones 30s when you realize you don’t like the music. By your 40s, you don’t care who knows it and by fifty, you drop any pretense of caring any of “the latest things.”

It doesn’t mean that nothing new makes the cut, but I’ve been a writer my whole life and any product that requires me to access multiple pages to accomplish the same task that previously could be done on a single page is NOT an improvement. This is poorly designed software.

That’s right: it’s BAD SOFTWARE. 
That’s not how the pros do it, kids. 
was one of them.


I’ve been reading about this upcoming new interface for a while. I really had my fingers crossed that just this once, WordPress would have the grace to fully test it and make sure it worked. It is not an UPGRADE if it’s harder to use than the old one — especially if the task is identical.

Drop down lists for everything? Dumping most of my categories? Completely changing how media is handled without so much as an introduction? Discovering that we no longer have access to help?


So, they did it again, but this is the worst yet. I’m wondering if it’s worth it. WordPress doesn’t want writers and photographers. They want business accounts.

I’m not a business. I am not selling anything. I’m trying to just enjoy life. 

This isn’t going to be fun. It’s going to be a major league headache. They’ve been cutting down on what they offer “premium” users for years and at this point, nothing seems to be what they are offering. Platform, templates, and good luck. What they are clearly saying is simple.


WORDPRESS DOES NOT CARE ABOUT USERS. 


You know how Sears is going out of business? Well … guess what? I’m pretty sure driving away all the people who do creative stuff which brings in new people is not going to help WordPress get richer (they are already making plenty of money) than they already are. But not to worry.

There’s always bankruptcy. 

WHAT MAKES A GOOD POST? HOW ABOUT A HAPPY POSTER? – Marilyn Armstrong

I break my own rules all the time. So the most important rule — the ring to rule them all, so to speak — is to do your own “thing,” whatever it may be.

I have to put this note in here. Not everyone who likes writing is a good writer. Sad, but true. If you have a gift, you will get better. The more you write, the better you will get — IF you are tough enough as an editor to recognize when your writing isn’t up to par and willing to rewrite what needs rewriting.

I’ve become a much better writer — at least for the purposes of blogging — than I was at the beginning. My writing is more crisp, sharper, leaner. The good news is the better you get, the less editing you need. But if you aren’t talented, you may not be able to get the response you hope for.

Some people are totally into pictures and writing is mainly captioning — a different story. But at some point, if writing is what you want to do, you need to assess if you have “it” or not.

Our polling area

Here are a few things that work for me and pretty much work for most people. These aren’t rules, merely tips. You are more than welcome to ignore me. I often ignore myself. For me, the point of blogging is getting to do what I enjoy and “views” be damned.

– Keep posts short

–  Make it funny when you can

–  If we can’t make them laugh, make them cry

–  Good (or interesting) pictures get more hits than mediocre writing

–   Post often. Let me clarify: Not everyone reads all your posts. In fact, I’m betting that most people read one or two. Some only come for photography, others for writing. I try to present a variety. Also, some periods are inherently busier than others. When there’s more news, there is more to talk about.

I do not mean every time you have a thought run through your head, it’s time to write another post. For that, we have Facebook and Twitter.

 –  If someone else has written it better than you, reblog theirs and ALWAYS give credit to the original source and writer. Never ever take credit for someone else’s writing.

One crumpled maple leaf

It’s often said that “Less is more.” In a post, fewer words are good — or more to the point, keep the writing lean — but not fewer ideas. And sometimes, the subject requires you have to write longer. If you need the words, use them.

A pretty picture is always worth a few looks.

Fewer posts are not so good. If you give people more to look at and read, they’ll visit more often. On the other hand, beware of posting so much you become a spammer. I have a “number of fingers on one hand” for the maximum number of posts I’ll put up in a day (sometimes something comes up I didn’t expect, but I don’t want to fill up everyone’s inbox).

There are a couple of other things worth mentioning. Please don’t put a lot of white text on a black background. White on dark is hard to read for everyone but particularly difficult for older people.

Dark backgrounds are beautiful for photography, but not for text. Depending on whether you will be using mostly photographs as opposed to words, you are better off going with white or nearly white.

Please, nothing vivid. No hot pink or lime green. No orange, turquoise, or royal blue. It’s blinding. People will avoid your blog just because it exceeds their “ugliness” quotient for that day — no matter how well you write. Not to mention how non-neutral color will clash with photographs.

Template Issues

If you are posting mostly photographs, you need a format wide enough to see the pictures. If you need a magnifying glass, rethink your layout. A good photograph needs room to breathe. Moreover, your lovely work won’t look lovely if you cramp in into a tiny space.

Early autumn at Manchaug

Also, know that all WordPress templates will fit in any format: phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop.

Font size is an issue. If it’s smaller than 10 points, I can’t read it. If it’s smaller than 8 points no one can read it. Generally, sans-serif typefaces (like Arial or Helvetica) appear bigger than serif types (Times Roman et al). If you don’t know the difference between typefaces, use Google and look them up. This is important to readers.

Don’t overload your page with gimmicks and gadgets and badges. Two columns are plenty. Three is merely distracting. If it gets busy enough, your traffic will diminish and I will be one of those who will vanish.

White space is very important online. You need spaces between paragraphs, indents on either side. Do not clump everything together. It’s unattractive and sometimes, dizzying. When you are into page design, less IS more. Your page should be no more than 60% text and graphics and the rest should be white space. Again, less is more, so if you don’t understand formatting issues, do some reading. And look at other people’s blogs. This is one of the times when imitation is a fine kind of flattery!

Presentation matters more online than in a book.

Do the best you can, but don’t kill yourself. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth the effort. We aren’t making a pile of money doing this, so if you aren’t enjoying the process, figure out a way to make it more fun … or consider other options.

Use photographs. Write stuff to which people can relate. If people identify with you, they become friends and supporters. Be entertaining, even when your material is serious.

You can make a difference sometimes. When it happens, it is deeply satisfying.

It helps to have a bit of luck!


NOTE: These pictures are here because they are pretty. They have nothing to do with the post. They are included to keep your eyes from getting bored with just text. I’m actually phobic about all text all the time.