The Current State of WordPress is Confusion

I’ll start by saying I’ve been using WordPress as a major foundation for my websites since January 2008. I have made themes, plugins, and built several sites using the software.

I am not sure who WordPress is for anymore.

I’ve been helping my father with a WordPress site. He wants to set up a blog for some travel he’s got planned and wanted some help. Now my dad has used WordPress before, circa 2014, and went into this thinking it would be just some refresher tips.

It was not.

In fact, thanks to the new editor feature, it turned into me learning on the spot how to do things in the new set up.

Things that were at once simple, like setting up a menu or changing the widgets are now completely unintuitive, involving extra clicks, hidden menus, and figuring out which blue box is highlighted.

I pulled up my self hosted version (Dad is on WordPress.com), and most of those features are as I Ieft them, leading me to think the back end is 1. different on .com and 2. linked to the capabilities of the theme being used.

(There is an extra menu layer on the .com site that is nothing but frustration.)

It doesn’t change the fact that Dad just wants a blog to post updates and pictures, something WordPress was designed to do, and it is not a straightforward thing to set up anymore.

One thing we would always ask as we were designing websites is “is it clear what you want the user to do?” A question on my mind as I was explain my father how to simply write a post.

Even the app has nothing but clutter. Why isn’t “post a blog” the most prominent thing on the first screen? (Blue button in the corner)

What is the current focus of WordPress? Who are they looking for as users? I know they are going after places like Squarespace for the website/webstore builders, but who are they leaving behind?

I know in the year 2021 someone making a blog isn’t as common of a thing. And the sites that WordPress hosts are rapidly becoming either webstores or content for clicks sites and adds, but still.

Still.

Somewhere in the rush to add in unlimited options the most important part was forgotten: the user.

My Hopes for Magsafe’s Possible Return

Today, 16 October 2021, I purchased a MagSafe charger for my 2011 MacBook. Affectionately called “the Beast” the computer, despite its age, still runs well and lets me run older programs with ease. 

I have lost count of how many Magsafe chargers I’ve purchased, but this is at least the 5th; I suspect more like the 7th. Each charger, btw, is (still!) $70–80 USD. You see, while most of the time the ‘brick’ part was fine, the cable that connects to the computer, the part with that beloved magnet, will inevitably fail, fray, and otherwise destruct over time. And since it is fixed to the brick, the whole charger is done at that point.

But I need that charger to run my computer, because the 2011 MacBook Pro has a MagSafe port, and it is the only way to charge it. 

I also have a newer MacBook, one that charges via USB-C. When that charger cable frays and breaks, when I go somewhere and forget it, when I lose it, I will buy another for less than $20 from the nearest electronics store1. They will be available from multiple companies, and come in many options. 

There are rumors that the MagSafe port is going to have a grand re-entrance into our lives on Monday, returning to the side of the MacBook where it was meant to be. 

Now, once upon a time our laptops had ok battery life, 2–5 hours depending on the make and model, which meant that a lot of the time you were using them they were also plugged in. 

This is the advantage to MagSafe, the safety feature, if you will. You’re there typing away on the couch, plugged in to the wall, chords strung about the living room floor—then someone rushes through, trips on the cable but the charger disconnects since it is just a magnet holding it in and your computer is safe! 

(Well, that’s the theory, the magnets are pretty strong, so I suspect the computer is going for a flight in this specific example…)

But it is a proprietary port. One that is still as frail as any other cable, but expensive to replace. Our computers have fantastic battery life these days; we aren’t sitting tethered to the wall anywhere near as much as we were. 

One day, I won’t be able to get a charger for the 2011 anymore. Maybe the machine will give up the ghost before then, hopefully. But this new MacBook? I will be able to buy USB-C cables and chargers for a long time. 

And, when I go on travel? I bring one cable. I use it to charge my Mac, my Switch, and my camera. I use it to connect to my camera, to monitors, external hard drives. And that makes it much more valuable than the perception of safety a magnet charger gives me. 

So my hope for Monday, should MagSafe see its way back onto the Macintosh—it made its way on the iPhone last year, in a way that makes me fear Apple is moving towards a port-less phone, which would be a step too far for me. Especially considering how inefficient wireless charging is. 

Seriously, I don’t understand how you can claim to be pro-environment and then offer wireless charging. /rant 

So my hope, if we are indeed to see MagSafe return to the MacBook is that it is, simply, optional, and they keep the already established USB-C charging as an option, for those of us who very much prefer to have one charger to rule them all. 

The Beast will live another day with the new charger. But it has only reminded me why proprietary ports are bad for the consumer, bad for keeping things running past their ‘expiration.’ That computer’s life span is more connected to the availability of a proprietary cable than the lifespan of the components inside. 

Also, a related side note, BACk-UP YOUR SHIT. 

Edit

Well, we got the best of both… no three worlds. The new MacBook Pros were announced and they indeed have MagSafe back. They also include the ability to charge over USB. 

BUT. Here’s the part that makes me happy. It is not a MagSafe charger, it is a MagSafe Cable, meaning that the expense to replace it will be less, and much simpler that for the MagSafe 1 and 2 chargers. And that’s a good thing.

screenshot from Apple.com

  1. Yes I know not all USB-C cables are the same, but that is a different discussion ↩︎

A Virtual Visit to 2000

When I was a freshman I wanted to change the name of my computer to “Sanctuary,” over dramatic I suppose, something I do well, but the idea is there. This space, this thing contained inside my monitor is something that is mine is a way that nothing, not even my bedroom is mine.

I’m writing this from WordPerfect 9 running in Windows 2000. WinAmp is playing some Lauren Hill in the background, and I am back in the virtual space that was mine as I was leaving college back in 2001.

It is just a Virtual Machine, so a computer inside of a computer. My Mac and all of its modern-ness is just right over there, a three finger swipe away.

But this, this? This is something. This was me so long ago, and it feels so welcoming in a nostalgic way. The only thing that is missing is AOL Instant Messenger, something I very much miss. It was, in a way, a very real social network, but one where we talked to each other, rather than post in the noise and hoped someone heard us. Social media, ironically, disconnects us from each other in a way easy to feel but hard to describe.

Hell, I imported old email into Outlook from a back up so I could see what was in those PST files, so even Outlook is filled with this time period.

I was a fucking mess, for the record. But this post isn’t about that.

A lot has changed since then. I use so little of my computer these days outside of the internet. The start is there, AIM and lots of email, but also I did things, like write, more. So is there something about the space itself that is the issue? Something that has crept into our computer sanctuaries to remove us from that experience?

It’s not like I wasn’t online, using my browser, but I was also making things, playing games. I don’t even do that anymore on the computer.

And if I could, through this Windows 2000 machine, interact with the 2000 internet and all those people I miss, I would.

The space, familiar, the sounds, how I remember those sounds. It is so fast, so damn fast.

I need to use it a few days more to collect my thoughts, but my modern computer feels, thick? Dense? There is a lot, at all times, maybe that’s where I need to start, maybe not minimal install but minimal presentation. Return things to … I don’t know.

I know I was always one with 1,000 windows open. So maybe this is just the nostalgia speaking, the overload of remembering the marble table in the front room, the love seat I lived on, the monitor and 100′ phone chord that was the internet, and all the possibility that was still there.

But at this moment, listening to Enigma, it feels like it would be better.

Yes, “Return to Innocence” is a bit on the nose, but what the hell.

It was here, in this space, first in Windows 95, then 98, 2000, then over to OS X, that I would go to retreat to, to relax, to vent, to create, to dream, to dream, so much dreaming, to lament, to center myself after heartache, to let that heartache just loose in a way that was free, but private.

And no, I don’t need to be in this Windows 2000 world to experience this, but something like my phone or iPad, which I spend more time on than my computer do not offer this… this…? what? Personalization isn’t the right way of saying it but is as close as I can get. This connection to the space as mine. Apps are closed and don’t offer the kind of space a desktop does.

And this space is mine, even new and shiny, even old and pixelated, even cluttered and full of memories. So many files, filled with so many moments.

So I’m slowly making my 2000 era space again, sans internet. (For computer safety reasons, I’m keeping the VM offline) If anything, just to experience the overflow of nostalgia. (But also to go through some old files) Maybe to see if I can spot whatever it is that I’m feeling and move that into my modern OS experience.

And who knows. Maybe I’ll open up some of those WordPerfect files that haven’t been touched since I jumped to a Mac in 2002 and pick up where I left off.