Is Technology Getting In the Way of Your Writing?

when writing tools break words stop flowing

You Can Write

But are the WordPress plugins’ “tools” and “features” and “settings” and “tags” becoming a  distraction?  Today the WordPress “admin bar” stopped showing up at the top of my blog site.  Ordinarily I can log in, write something, preview it as it appears on the site, click on the dashboard, go back in and edit.  Now I can’t do that and have no idea why.

WordPress Plugins are great.

But they don’t always get along.  And the ways they change the writing interface can become a real pain.  The HTML tab on my Add New Post interface mysteriously greyed out and stopped working awhile back.  I don’t know why.  I can still insert HTML by clicking “edit your profile” and clicking “disable the visual editor when writing.” It’s a pain.

And this latest glitch has my blog not recognizing me as an admin, so my own clicks register in Google Analytics.  Hmmm, another exciting computing problem to troubleshoot.  In the meantime, I’m not using tools, I’m repairing them.

Which plugin is causing the problem or what setting? Was there an automatic update that changed things?  Questions demanding turning things off and back on.  Fiddling.  Wasting time.

The goal of writing is to organize words to fashion a transparent window on ideas

When your reader notices the writing, he or she is not immersed in content.  The window is dirty, or it creates a distracting distortion or lensing effect, or in the worst case, your reader’s window has become opaque.

Writing tools need to be similarly unobtrusive.  If I’m looking at the little submarine window in WordPress and constantly wondering about font size or headers (which drive SEO, don’t forget about SEO).  Or thinking about anything other than communicating with my reader, the tool has become a filter or even an obstacle.

When writing tools are not easy and fun, and especially when they aren’t predictable, they discourage writing.  Is my blog going to stop working entirely?  When tools generate problems, they turn a writer into a tinker.   So today I realized that the technology that is supposed to let me share my work had generated so many idiosyncrasies that I am no longer writing.  I’m peering into a tiny box, wondering what will go wrong next, and worrying which conflicted setting is going to hijack my concentration.

Today I feel like doing a Thoreau

I want to, simplify, simplify, thoreau WordPress away, and abandon this do-it-yourself technological Rubik’s Cube.  Maybe I will buy a professional theme that comes with all the caching, and compression, and internal links, and everything else the plugins do.  I want to stop thinking about buttons and switches and think about words instead.

Postscript — Appears to have been a setting, discovered at the expense of about an hour.

Post post script:  Found a great plug-in that solved multiple problems created by other plug-ins.

Why Computer Experts Are Like Rural Folk When It Comes to Giving Directions

If you’ve ever asked for directions in a rural area you may have run into a local character who knows exactly where he is.  He has been here his whole life.  He knows every nook and cranny of the countryside.

But he has great difficulty giving directions to an outsider.

Friendly and with every intention of helping you, he offers advice:

“Just keep driving down this road until you come to where the old MacIntosh place used to be before it burned down.   It’s right across from the old mailbox and near the rusty barbed wire fence.  Just take a right and keep going past the field where they hold the county carnival every summer.  Then take a left at the stump of the big tree that got hit by lightning a couple of years ago.  You can’t miss it.”

This well-meaning rural denizen knows exactly what he’s talking about.  Every word he utters is true.  He can imagine every detail in his mind as he describes it to you.

Unfortunately he does not share your frame of reference.  He can’t see through your eyes.  In fact, he is so immersed in his area of expertise and its vocabulary that he cannot distinguish  terms that need further explanation from those that don’t.

If pressed for clarification, he will earnestly expand on the obvious. “Well, a carnival is just like a county fair but without the agricultural exhibits and competitions.  No 4-H.  It’s mostly just rides.  What do you mean you don’t understand about the field?  It’s just a field, it’s not important for the rides except they can’t set up near trees.”

The local cannot see his world from the perspective of the uninitiated.  His only hope is to dispense information of all sorts – every bit of it obvious to him —  until the listener seems to “get it.”  This can take a long time and frustrate both the speaker and listener.

Now compare this to articles by experts on how to use blogging software, followed by pages of confused questions and equally confused answers.  Turns out, that users don’t need computer experts as much as they need experts at explaining unfamiliar subjects to the lost travelers of the Internet.

5 WordPress Plugins to Activate Your Blog

WordPress plugins let beginners who can’t/won’t code a way to break through the technical brick wall preventing amateurs from building and improving blogs. Here are 5 WordPress Plugins for Basic Blogging

5 WordPress Plugins for Basic Blogging

WordPress plugins let beginners who can’t/won’t code a way to break through the technical brick wall preventing amateurs from building and improving blogs.

WordPress plugins get beginners get past the Brick WallThis article began when I was green and has been updated with my experiences.

1. WordPress Popular Posts Shows what the world likes most on your blog

Forget what you think is good.  Visitors will tell you.  This WordPress Plugin lets you set what “popular” means– whether it’s page views or comments — and shows popular posts in a Widget you place anywhere.

2. EZPZ One Click Backup Adventure with a safety net!

An early computer game had a robot sidekick who piped up every time you saved the game and said, “Oh goody are we going to do something dangerous?”  If you like to experiment with your bog (and who doesn’t?) back it up before you get nuts.  Note:  When using WordPress’ auto upgrade it is necessary to deactivate then reactivate EZPZ One Click Backup.  Postscript:  I couldn’t make EZPZ work.  Now using WP Tools Backup but looking for something truly EZ.  Comments welcome.

3. TinyMCE Advanced Old fashioned keyboard functions

Being an old-school typer, I enjoy being able to put in “carriage returns” as I write. See the post on TinyMCE Advanced.

4. HeadSpace2 Writing for Web Crawlers

The HeadSpace 2 blurb says it well, “Meta-data manager on steroids, allowing complete control over all SEO needs such as keywords/tags, titles, description, stylesheets, and many many other goodies.”  Lots of blank spaces to fool with and hope to generate web traffic.  Does it work?  Ask me in a few months.

Postscript:  Headspace2 is terrific but WordPress SEO by Yoast is scary powerful

5. W3 Total Cache An outboard motor for your bathtub duck

For your own peace of mind, back up your blog before attaching this amazingly powerful Plugin.  Some very weird stuff happened to me, but I checked loading performance before and after, and it works.  The part that didn’t work for me was “Content Delivery Network support via self-hosted / file transfer protocol upload.”  Still, the other parts improved performance.  Update:  This actually isn’t working that well — turning off minify seems to return the Theme settings.  Try WP SuperCache, which has been performing perfectly.  Here’s an article and detailed discussion on WP SuperCache versus W3 Total Cache.

Find any of these in the WordPress plugins by searching on Add New Plugins in your WP menu.

Detailed beginner instructions on how to use WordPress plugins