WordPress upgrade mildly broken

Bits keep falling off this blog like so many bits of newspaper escaping from the recycling van cage. (E.g. the Atheist blogroll became landfill months ago, although I see it still works fine on dozens of sites.)

After bowing to WordPress’s nagging requests and upgrading WordPress to version x (I can’t remember) two days ago, I find that I can’t attach tags to posts.

Any ideas?

If it ain’t broke

I have tried blogging platforms apart from WordPress and have found them too restrictive or unpleasant to use. I had a few stabs at helping a friend develop a “network of networks” on another platform (N**g) I was reduced to helpless gibbering, as its counter-intuitive interface actually sucked out my previously adequate knoweldge of html and css and replaced them with complete incomprehension. So, I am a diehard fan of WordPress. It doesn’t leave you stupider than before you start using it.

But, the new WordPress upgrade is annoying. For silly things, granted, but it’s still infuriating.

The old admin interface discreetly offered you lots of choices that you could ignore except once every few months. This one puts lots of items (that you don’t care about) in your face, as soon as you login.

Usually, I open this interface to post. For instance, I don’t much care who has linked to the blog, if those links are just spam pingbacks or from sites with a working Atheist Blogroll (which you will no longer find here, for reasons we can’t fathom.) If it’s a real link, I’ll find it anyway. WordPress news doesn’t really interest me much. If I want to read it, I’ll look at the WordPress site. And so on.

When I started using the new interface, there was a confusing Quick Draft window in the top right corner. Confusing because I didn’t know if this was the new Post window. In which case, it feels so cramped that I really don’t want to use it.

It made me wonder – will my drafts be “quick” enough to match some conceptual terms of use? My long drawn out blogging process : finger-pecking characters, writing drafts, rereading, typo-searching, changing my mind, rewriting whole paragraphs only to make them worse – and so on. It ain’t “quick.”

Maybe the interface will give you five minutes and post things, when you don’t expect it. (That happens often enough anyway, by accident.) That would be “quick.” Because, otherwise, it looks as if writing in the Quick Post window might turn out to be slower than using the old-fashioned and more generously-proportioned Post Window.

Faffing about nervously with that little rectangle, I spot Posts – Add New. This mercifully brings me to a window much more like the old one. But it still puts disconcerting things all over the screen.

For instance, “Excerpt”, which tells me that Excerpts are “optional hand-crafted summaries of your content.” So, something like an Abstract, then? It’s hard enough to write an Abstract for an academic piece. Why would anyone want to write an abstract of their blog post? To my recollection, academic Abstracts exist mainly so that hard-pressed post-graduate research students can use them for “I’ve read that”- bluffing purposes. Is anyone going to bluff reading a blog post?

Phew, at least writing an Abstract Excerpt is still “optional.” You won’t lose marks if you don’t bother. But you can “use them in your template.” (Why?) With a “template” link that I choose not to follow, to avoid getting sucked further into a WordPress shadow world, in which a blog exists to make use of WordPress capacities, instead of the other way round.

I love WordPress. It’s brilliant. I am a bit sad that it seems to be about to fall into the canal that separates “useful new features” from “bloatware.”

Function creep means that any software revision has to have lots of extra features, way beyond the point at which they serve any purpose except to distinguish the new version from the one before.

I understand why this has to be so for commercial programs. If Adobe doesn’t convince buyers that the new Photoshop has many more desirable functions than the last version, unemployed software writers will be streaming out of their factory saying “The dream is over,” (like the workforce of the Baby-Get-Well-Cards factory, in the Simpsons episode in which Homer swathed all the Springfield babies in PPE.)

WordPress though? Surely, WordPress is partly a labour of love and partly an opportunity fro shit-hot coders to show their brilliance. In which case, hiding the upgraded stuff in the background and leaving the old-fashioned interface intact would suit me better.

Captcha

“Captcha is the bane of the internet,” says Matt Mullenweg, who runs the massively popular blogging site WordPress.com. “I can’t figure them out myself half the time!” (from the Guardian technology page today)

This is from a Guardian piece discussiing how captchas are welll and truly broken – by algorithms and by cheap human labour -thus increasing the volume of blog comment spam. The writer suggests Akismet or the type of non-machine readable questions that you find on ApathySketchpad as viable alternatives.

I’m comment-impaired at the best of times. I’ll try and comment on a blog and find that my comment just disappears. Granted, this suggests the universe has an innate capacity for mercy. But, just occasionally, the words that disappear into the net’s black hole were comments that I really wanted to make. So, I’ll try and rewrite it, in a half-hearted fashion. It will disappear again. I’ll have a final stab at writing. And sending. But by this time, it’s incoherent garbage, sent only to show the comment-eating demon who’s boss.

And then the captcha is there mocking you. Matt Mullenweg is so right, except, on his own proud boast, at least he gets them right half of the time. Falling foul of captcha is a daily occurrence here at WhyDontYou Towers. And a score of 50% correct is just a fond dream.

The idea is that only humans can read the things. A reverse Turing test. This whole concept falls down on the point that any shapes that are too unlike characters to be read by a souped up OCR-style algorithm are much too unlike letters or numbers for human beings to interpret them.

Even when you can distinguish those shapes that are meant to be characters from the deliberately inserted wavy lines, you face something like:

oo9I0g

There is no way to reliably distinguish between 9 and g, 0 and O, 1 and l and I.

So you type in zero zero nine one zero g, on the offchance. It rejects you. You don’t get another shot at the ambiguous letters.

Oh no. A fresh bleeding captcha. This time you find you have to choose between identifying a letter as either a very thin letter j or the letter i with a slight curve at the bottom. Failed again.

Next time it’s either an l with a slight curve at the top or an anorexic letter c. Ok, got the c right but then you thought that oddly shaped capital A was a 4, didn’t you? Robotic fool.

By this time, the human-detector software has often decided you are a bot cos you couldn’t even guess one out of 3. So your comment is bounced anyway.

If you’ve ever thought that you might as well go for the disabled option, don’t bother. That’s not worth it either. Captchas that claim to be for the disabled are actually even harder to use than their able-bodied comrades. Different experiences you can have with the accessibility captcha include:

  • A long silence. So you think it’s not working and cancel a fraction of a second after it kicks in.
  • so much feedback and background weird noises (to simulate the visual noise on the visual captcha) that you couldn’t even work out what it’s saying if you had a comic book aural discrimination superpower.
  • Voices so bizarrely accented and echoey that you are stunned by the novelty that this is suposed to represent speech. So you don’t notice, let alone memorise, the content as it racespast you in a jumble of syllables.
  • The disabled version sometimes matches the written one and sometimes doesn’t. Which one do you try? The wrong one, of course.

The whole concept of the disabled one seems stupid to me. You are assumed to be too blind to see the captcha image. So how do you see the captcha box and spot where the disabled button is? Are the blind fitted with memory enhancement chips that let them translate a string of meaningless letters and numbers from the native gibberese AND remember them long enough for their screen reader to kick in and tell them where to type?

WordPress Upgrade

For the techies amongst you, WP 2.6 is now on the streets. (and has been for over a week – but I’ve been away). The promo video is:

When I get back to my proper PC, real content will be blogged once more.

Camera Shops?

Well, I am in the market for a new camera – ideally a Nikon D300 however trying to find somewhere that is:

  1. Reliable
  2. Affordable

Is easier said than done, especially as this camera costs over £1000 in most UK shops (both on- and off-line). Even the best deals I can find (other than weird eBay offers) has this camera at a lot more than I can afford. This gives me some limited options.

One thing I have considered was a Froogle search (or Google Product Search as it seems to call itself now) which found an online retailer called “Apex Galaxy” who claim to sell this camera plus lens (18-135mm) for a mere £775 (really). The paranoid cynic in me screams all manner of alarm bells at this price point – surely something must be wrong here. I have done a (limited) search on Google but can’t find anything conclusive as to their legitimacy. Does anyone have any ideas? I really don’t want to throw away money I can barely afford.

Plan B is to simply not get a new camera. This is depressing so I would rather not have to resort to this!

Plan C is something I have recently concocted.  If anyone knows of a camera shop or other retailer that would like to sponsor me then I am more than happy to sell my soul! If you, or someone you knows, thinks they could do with regular reviews here – including regular images showing the camera and its capabilities then I would be prepared to go out and regularly take photos and post them – along with a write up. Likewise, if you know of a travel company who would like to sponsor someone to go around the world taking pictures and blogging about the place – I am your man! You wont need to ask twice…

So, pinning all my hopes on plan C (eternal optimist that I am), please feel free to pass this on to anyone you know who might be willing to spend some money on an excellent quality sponsorship deal. The only line I will draw is veracity of my comments, if a service or system sucks I want to be able to say that – this probably means Jessops and eBuyer will not want to sponsor me…

WordPress Upgrade

Well, this blog has finally cracked and gone to WP 2.3.3 (as heather mentioned previously). However this has not been without problems, so please be patient if it occasionally seems weird here. We are trying to rectify the tagging but as I am not convinced many people used it a lot I doubt that will cause many problems. There are one or two other hurdles to cover that may mean things display strange for a while but (fingers crossed) we have caught most of them! Thanks for your patience.

Whine, whine and sorry

The Internet is broken. That’s what it feels like from my egocentric perspective.

This blog has become as slow as slow thing that has to be routed via one of Saturn’s moons before it even contemplates loading on my pc. I was already annoyed at not being able to see the content of a fair number of real comments, while being inundated with ever more subtly- Akismet-dodging spam comments. Add the irritation of not being able to comment on other blog’s posts – any comments I make are apparently sent but disappear into the ether(net) unless they are so short and irrelevant that they might as well be spam.

TW assumed that the blog had to upgrade to the latest WordPress. Unfortunately he now has a connection that will stay on-line for about 2 minutes before it drops packets, and/or throws him offline, making my tortoise seem like a comparative gazelle with a rocket in its butt.

He upgraded. The blog promptly broke.

He fixed it. The blog dropped all its UTW tags for the past week. In fairness, the tag cloud had become well a mushroom cloud rather than a modest cumulonimbus. There were getting on for 3 thousand tags, with hundreds of semi-duplicates.

I culled them by about a hundred, insofar as it was possible, because it takes about a minute to delete one. (You have to wait while the page refreshes after each deletion. Think about that while you blithely tag everything to within an inch of its life…)

I recklessly reimported the tags using the UTW compatibility upgrade. I didn’t do any of the procedures that claimed to be “scary.” (I am a coward.) It now seems that I’ve lost the tags off a few more posts. And there is definitely no sign of the tag list that used to let us (at least try to) assign existing tags rather can carry on creating misspelled version and plurals of perfectly serviceable tags.

Bah.

So, sorry if this blog seems to be acting unpredictable. It will get sorted soon… … … …

Upgrade Stalled

It looks like not enough people made the correct devotions to Hermes and now we are not going to try and upgrade the blog this weekend. Heather has been sidelined by a cold and a fair amount of work and my internet access time is approaching the bare minimum. When we have more time we will look at what is required with the upgrade and give it ago. Please, keep making sacrifices to Ukko though.

Upgrade Time

Just to let you know we are planning to upgrade to WordPress 2.3 over the weekend. As this is likely to change a lot of our plugins (such as Ultimate Tag Warrior), there may be some problems with the site while this happens. Please be patient and pray to Hermes that we get up and running again without any problems.

WordPress Upgrade Time

Just a reminder for all WordPress users out there. Version 2.2.2 has now been released and, as this is a security upgrade, it probably makes sense to upgrade now.

Comments and Emails

As a prelude to the WhyDontYou Comment Week (due to start tomorrow if we have the time 🙂 ), we have taken Michael‘s advice and put in a comment subscription facility. Now, if you find a thread you like here you can post a comment and, if you want to be kept informed of the debate, you can tick the box and get notification of follow ups via email. All good fun. Part of the idea behind us commenting a lot more next week is to help encourage discussions and share opinions via the blogosphere – which, it seems to me, is part of the reason they exist.

WordPress blog themes

Contast WordPress Theme ScreenshotBit off the normal track here, but there is a new theme available from Compuskills which I think is really pretty (although I am biased) and if it wasn’t for the fact I like this theme, we would probably be using it here.

Have a look, let them know what you think (I took the photo they use, in case you are wondering..) and if you think it looks good use it on your own blog. They are willing to modify or create themes to your specifications as well, so if you are looking for an overhaul give them a shout. For non-WP users (you weirdos) they may also be willing to accommodate your system.
[tags]Blog, WordPress, theme, webdesign, compuskills, Site Admin, Blog Software[/tags]

Theme Change

As mentioned previously, the site has undergone another theme change. Hopefully this one should address the problems people had with the older one, and present a nice, pleasant look and feel to the blog.

As with last time, all comments and feedback is more than welcome. Please let us know if you find anything wrong so we can try to fix it!

[tags]blog, Blog Software, Compuskills, Downloads, Site Admin, Technology, Style, Themes, WordPress, Webdesign, Web Design[/tags]

Redesign

Taster of the new site theme - 01 June 07Another short note, the promised site redesign is under way – and hopefully nearly completed! The new theme should look quite similar to this screenshot here, notably with only a single sidebar, and ideally has taken on board most – if not all – of the feedback we have received.

If all goes well, the style will be changed before the weekend and we can settle down to more ranting about idiocy.

Thank you for your patience.

[tags]blog, compuskills, site-admin, webdesign, why-dont-you, whydontyou, wordpress[/tags]

Thanks and sorry

Infinite thanks to the people who’ve taken the trouble to comment on the downward spiral that is this blog’s theme. It has been a great help.

And an apology is for the fact that the redesign is interfering with there actally being any readable content.

On a “while the cat’s away” basis I’ve done some theme hacks that will bring down the wrath of TW for being deprecated and/or non-compliant (negative margins, for instance. I’ve havent cracked and used tables yet.)

I think that it works in ie6 at 100% and doesnt degrade too badly when you shrink the window.

Havent even broached ff yet so it may get rebuilt in the next few minutes and I am pretty fearful of what will happen on mobiles.