MY MENTORS – Marilyn Armstrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MENTOR

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.

THEY’RE SPYING ON US … DOES IT MATTER?

THEY ARE ALL OUT TO GET YOU. OR TRYING, ANYHOW.

Google is spying on you. So is the government. And Amazon, and almost every single website you visit … even if you don’t actually visit it but just pass briefly through a photo that’s linked to the site. Every bit of raw data is collected by some database (search engine). Usually more than one. I know this because I helped build these databases. No kidding, I really did.

So unlike most civilians who didn’t think all this data mining would get personal, I figured it would inevitably spread to pretty much everything.

google-search-screenGoogle was the winner in the search engine war because it was, from the beginning, better than its competition. It still is. No one has created a better search or data mining engine, though this doesn’t preclude future competition. Technology never stops trying to build a better whatever.

Google built an empire on their engine. The best, fastest, most complete database in the world. Knowledge is power, so it is said. Google has continued to add to that base and use it in many profitable ways. Mostly, by making advertising personal.

ABOUT THOSE UGLY SPYING RUMORS THAT AREN’T RUMORS

Does Google spy on us? You betcha. ALL the Databases everywhere are collecting information about everyone around the world. Don’t think for a moment it’s just an American phenomenon. Not hardly. Google does it better and more thoroughly and more openly, but spying via computer has become the way the world turns.

 

google is watching you

Information gathering is a million times (or more?) faster than it was in the early years. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess. But does that translate to everyone knowing your secrets?

EVERYONE KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYONE, RIGHT?

Not really. Your buying habits are public even if you don’t shop online. Those discount cards and other store ID cards track every purchase you make using any kind of plastic, including your debit card. This information is mined by a parent company, sliced and diced and sold to other companies. Data mining a huge industry and you are both a product and a target. (Think about that for a while.)

But as for the rest of our lives …

Just because we can accumulate information at warp speed doesn’t mean we have the ability to do much with the raw data. The ability to collect information has far exceeded anyone’s — Google’s or the government’s — ability to analyze and make sense of it. Piles of raw data are accumulating on servers, but it isn’t doing anything.

I laugh at the idea that the government is tracking each of us. Personally. They are so buried in their own data, they are barely keeping their collective and individual heads above water. By trying to monitor everything, they effectively wind up monitoring nothing. The amount of data collected by satellites alone is overwhelming.

The terrorist they caught the other day wasn’t on the radar and probably, neither will be serious future threats. There’s so much information it has effectively become no information. Huge heaps of raw data is the same as no data. To make that data useful, an army of analysts would have to start working on it yesterday. No government is hiring an army of analysts, which means the data will grow old and meaningless without anyone having so much as skimmed it.

drone spy

Solving crimes and dealing with terrorism will continue as it always has. Live agents, police, the military — aka people — will use the same forensic methods “as seen on TV” to get the job done. They will rely on informants and citizens to report suspicious activity. They will follow clues, leads, and try to find people who are doing dangerous stuff. Let’s hope they are successful.

Relax. They are tracking your shopping, but they don’t give a hoot about the rest. If there’s information about you out there? Odds are no one will ever see it or be able to find it. You would have to do something to bring yourself to their attention — which I highly recommend you not do.

Meanwhile, all the information gathering engines are busily gathering everything.

Everything is, practically speaking, identical to nothing. Your secrets are safe from everyone except companies who want to sell you stuff. They can always find you.

WHEN FEASTING ON CROW INCLUDE THE FEATHERS

72-Bouquet-1-May_04

Hola! Daily Prompt! We did jealousy last week. Really. Exactly one week ago, on May 8th, 2015. It was a good one too and I invite all of you to read “DON’T COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR’S ASS.” And if that’s not enough, you can also read my original response from August 2013, “MONEY CAN’T BUY IT.” 

Instead of something more on this worn out subject (not a favorite from the beginning) because I have nothing more to say about jealousy, here’s a favorite anecdote. It’s funny, and a cautionary tale for assholes everywhere.

MOTTO: Make sure, when you set out to humiliate someone, that the shoe does not wind up in your mouth. And that is all the metaphor mixing I can handle for today.

NOTE: The photographs are irrelevant to the story, but I like them, so I’ve used them.


In the mid 1980s in Israel, I worked at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot with the team developing DB1, the first relational database. Those familiar with databases and their history should go “Ooh, aah.” Feel free to be awed. These are my bona fides certifying my “original geekhood.”

I was never a developer, just a computer-savvy writer, but I worked extensively on Quix, the first real-English query language and documented DB-1. I was eventually put in charge of creating promotional materials to sell the project to IBM. They bought it and from it, DB2 and all other relational databases emerged. Cool beans, right?

Technical writing was new. In 1983, it didn’t have a name. I was a pioneer. I didn’t chop down forests or slaughter aboriginal inhabitants, but I went where no one had gone before. Breaking new ground was exciting and risky.

72-window-afternoon-at-home_26

The president of the group was named Micah. He was the “money guy.” Micah knew less about computers than me, but wielded serious clout. His money was paying our salaries, rent, and keeping the lights on. The definition of clout.

As the day approached when the team from IBM was due, it was time for me to present the materials I had created with Ruth, a graphic artist who had been my art director at the failed newspaper I’d managed the previous year. (This was well before computers could generate graphics properly.) Ruth was amazing with an airbrush. I’ve never seen better work.

72-bouquet afternoon_41

The presentation materials were as perfect as Ruth and I could make them. I had labored over that text and she had done a brilliant job creating graphics that illustrated the product, its unique capabilities and benefits. And so it came time for the pre-IBM all-hands-on-deck meeting.

Micah didn’t like me. His dislike wasn’t based on anything I did or even my disputable personality. He didn’t like women in the workplace. I was undeniably female. As was Ruth. Strike one, strike two. At the meeting, he looked at our materials and announced “We need better material. I’ve heard there’s a real hot-shot in Jerusalem. I’ve seen his work. It’s fantastic. We should hire him.” And he stared at me and sneered.

72-Bouquet-1-May_05

Onto the table he tossed booklets as well as other promotional and presentation materials for a product being developed in Haifa at the Technion. I looked at the stuff.

“That’s my work, ” I said.

“No it isn’t,” he said firmly. “I’ve heard it was created by the best technical writer in the country.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Me.”

He was not done with humiliating himself. He insisted a phone be brought to the table and he called his friend Moshe in Jerusalem. I’d worked for Moshe, quitting because although I liked the man, he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. I had a bad-tempered, jealous husband — something I didn’t feel obliged to reveal.

Moshe gave Micah the name of The Hot Shot. It was me.

“Oh,” said Micah. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have to. The deadpan faces around the table were elegant examples of people trying desperately to not laugh. Micah wasn’t a guy you laughed at, not if you wanted to keep your job.

Hyannis show window

It was a moment of triumph so sweet — so rare — nothing else in my working life came close. I won one for The Team, for professional women everywhere. Eat it, Micah.

WINNING

SWEEPING MOTIONS: My desk and bedroom are fine. Even our car is tidy. I’m sure I have a messy closet somewhere. It’s my brain which could use a thorough tidying. Here’s a great memory moment from the clutter of my brain. One of my favorites.


In the mid 1980s in Israel, I worked at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot with the team developing DB1, the first relational database. Those familiar with databases and their history should go “Ooh, aah.” Feel free to be awed. These are my bona fides certifying my “original geekhood.”

I was never a developer, just a computer-savvy writer, but I worked extensively on Quix, the first real-English query language and documented DB-1. I was eventually put in charge of creating promotional materials to sell the project to IBM. They bought it and from it, DB2 and all other relational databases emerged. Cool beans, right?

Technical writing was new. In 1983, it didn’t have a name. I was a pioneer. I didn’t chop down forests or slaughter aboriginal inhabitants, but I went where no one had gone before. Breaking new ground was exciting and risky.

The president of the group was named Micah. He was the “money guy.” Micah knew less about computers than me, but wielded serious clout. His money was paying our salaries, rent, and keeping the lights on. The definition of clout.

As the day approached when the team from IBM was due, it was time for me to present the materials I had created with Ruth, a graphic artist who had been my art director at the failed newspaper I’d managed the previous year. (This was well before computers could generate graphics properly.) Ruth was amazing with an airbrush. I’ve never seen better work.

The presentation materials were as perfect as Ruth and I could make them. I had labored over that text and she had done a brilliant job creating graphics that illustrated the product, its unique capabilities and benefits. And so it came time for the pre-IBM all-hands-on-deck meeting.

Micah didn’t like me. His dislike wasn’t based on anything I did or even my disputable personality. He didn’t like women in the workplace. I was undeniably female. As was Ruth. Strike one, strike two. At the meeting, he looked at our materials and announced “We need better material. I’ve heard there’s a real hot-shot in Jerusalem. I’ve seen his work. It’s fantastic. We should hire him.” And he stared at me and sneered.

Onto the table he tossed booklets as well as other promotional and presentation materials for a product being developed in Haifa at the Technion. I looked at the stuff.

“That’s my work, ” I said.

“No it isn’t,” he said firmly. “I’ve heard it was created by the best technical writer in the country.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Me.”

He was not done with humiliating himself. He insisted a phone be brought to the table and he called his friend Moshe in Jerusalem. I’d worked for Moshe, quitting because although I liked the man, he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. I had a bad-tempered, jealous husband — something I didn’t feel obliged to reveal.

Moshe gave Micah the name of The Hot Shot. It was me.

“Oh,” said Micah. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have to. The deadpan faces around the table were elegant examples of people trying desperately to not laugh. Micah wasn’t a guy you laughed at, not if you wanted to keep your job.

It was a moment of triumph so sweet — so rare — nothing else in my working life came close. I won one for The Team, for professional women everywhere. Eat it, Micah.