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Links for 2005-04-21

17 replies on “Links for 2005-04-21”

My problems with WordPress can be brought back to one cause: I’m not a developer.
Programming language scares me and I have little hope of ever being able to get my head around it. If you want WordPress to do more for you than what it does out of the box (which is a lot less than someone who over the last 5 to 10 years has moved from handcoding html, to Blogger, to MT, has become used to), you’re going to have to dig into PHP. Which I am very reluctant to do. It’s not a skill I want to acquire or want to have to need to require to be able to use a blogging tool.
So I have been unable to get some essential plugins for WordPress to work for me, simply because I don’t understand PHP syntax, I guess. And something as simple as changing the look or functionality of my index is too complex for me.
The WordPress support forums don’t seem very helpful (different communities with different vibes and all that) and plugin documentation is scarce or badly written. (A problem I’ve seldom had with other PHP or Perl stuff I’ve managed to install.)
A lot of people seem to be able to pick up enough programming skills to get by, but unfortunately, I’m not.
I’m not keen on WordPress’s GUI, there’s too much clicking to and fro and some stuff I regard as basic blogging tool essentials aren’t available or need plugins. That’s unacceptable for someone who just wants to, well, blog!
Secondly, yes, it’s Caroline now, not ‘Prol’. I guess at 42 I am now ‘all growed up’. I’ve been wanting to move to my eachman.com domain for a long time.

What Caroline said. I described WP to her more as a front-end to a database and then some really useful functions for describing a weblog in PHP. It doesn’t have its own templating language, so to mess around with templates you have to use PHP – even if you don’t really understand it. And many of the users don’t. Blogger, MT; if you know HTML you can understand their templating languages. WordPress has no templating language, just functions, and whilst the flow-control of a real language is lovely (if statements save the day again), it’s still a bit obscure and tricky to use. Nice structure for plugin hooks too, I admit, but Caroline doesn’t care about that.

The support community is phenomenally unhelpful. Newbie requests are answered quickly and many times over. Medium-skill level requests are tersely directed towards the documentation without a real understanding of the problem. Technical user requests, as I’ve often submitted, are rarely responded to satisfactorily.

Added to which is the project’s bizarre evangelism of web standards (banning the i and b tags entirely in favour of em and strong, and banging on about CSS. As such, loads of WordPress newbies don’t understand CSS basics like the box model and get very confused as to why they can’t just move the sidebar horizontally above the text.

In addition to which is, obviously, the feature set – which is not complete, and a bit bizarre. Only in version 1.5 – 1.5, I tell you – could you edit another user’s draft posts if you were more senior than them. Normal posts, fine, but drafts were private. Little things like that.

The system forces you to work its way; breaking out of it is very difficult. For simple blogs it’s brilliant, but doing tricky stuff requires hacking. Still, I’m using it because I couldn’t be bothered installing (or paying for) MT3, and I’m bloody-minded in my resolution to make it work properly.

It has a lot of potential, and for a free, Open Source product, it’s very good – but the majority of its community have their heads in the ground (and often the attitude of “hey! a plugin! spiffing! even if it provides functionality that should have been there anyway!), and that makes it very hard for it to progress in a general direction, as opposed to the specific direction its developers take it in. It’s possibly, as I’ve slowly discovered, to use it like MT as a generic CMS, but far harder.

(Also, don’t mention too loudly you use WP, or you’ll get a string of comments going “OMG! WordPress is great! Can I download your Theme?”)

I’d say Tom, why do you think of WP’s functions in templates as PHP? Take them as Template Tags & you’ll be fine once you come over that mental block. A templating engine would burder the WP & will result in a decline in performance. There’s no need to tell you or anyone else that WP is way fast than Blogger & MT. That’s its selling point, speed, efficiency & ease. As for the support in the community, there’s a lot of guys out there trying to help but you gotta understand, its volunteer work. You get help on something & then you try to help others on that or other things. Just ask yourself, how many times have you helped others in the WP support forums?
Also, there’s no point in beating a dead horse. b’s & i’s are well, deprecated, you should argue W3C about that, & you move forward with the development, not continue beating a dead horse. Same goes for the CSS layouts. In starting, I wasn’t for them either, but then I understood that there are more benefits than downsides. The whole layout of the blog can be changed with just 1 CSS file, CSS makes it easier for browsers to render pages faster than a table based layout, as tables are drawn pixel by pixel by the browser while with CSS, it just knows where to position a particular element.
Sure, the downside is that you gotta learn CSS if you don’t know it, but it ain’t harder at all, & to think of it, I don’t consider learning something worthwhile a downside, but then you can get around that by saying that I’m a GEEK!!! 😉
No software is perfect the moment it comes out. Each feature is integrated/introduced step-by-step with user feedback. Its a never ending learning process. So no point in saying that something has come in only v1.5 & wasn’t there before it. Were MT & Blogger so feature rich before they reached v2? Blogger still stands no where near WP. 🙂
And well, if you have trouble getting around at WP, then why not move over to MT? Well, you said that you don’t wanna pay for it, so I’d say it’d be wise moving over to Blogger!! If not, then stop comments like these & instead help WP development with your valuable feedback if nothing else!! Posted here, your comments aren’t worth a dime but if some feedback is given to WP then it’d be worth quite a lot, who knows, many features in new versions might be the result of your feedback!!
Also Caroline, what features are you talking about, which you think should be in WP out-of-box? I believe the WP dev team would do their best to have the more essential things in WP out of box. FYI, the WP Hackers list is keeping an eye on this post & its comments. 🙂

I agree with almost everything Tom has said. However, I think one of the strengths of WP is that it is stripped down, much like Firefox is compared to Mozilla. With WP you only add the functionality you want/need in the form of plugins.

Amit: it’s nothing like a templating system. Trust me on this. And I’ve used MT for two years, and Blogger for nearly three before that, as well as a few other custom templating systems at work. This is not a templating system; it’s a functionset. I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s the way I explain it to people who find it strange coming from, say, Blogger, MT, and a lot of other publishing tools. I certainly don’t have a mental block, that’s for sure.

Blogger’s not a fair comparison; it has an entirely different audience, to be honest. And so to answer your question: yes, MovableType, with a far smaller core development team (essentially one person), was a far better realised product even at version 2. It was flexible, didn’t force a set way of working on the user, and was a very consistent product to use. By comparison: something which worked in 1.2 (having 10 posts on the front page but all posts on an archive page, eg, all posts for a month on the “April 2005” page) no longer works in 1.5. Archives are paginated to the same length as the front page, like it or not. Functionality has been removed. Sure enough, there’s a plugin around it (isn’t there always?), but that’s bad software design.

As I mentioned, I do not wish to move to MT, as I’ve just moved off it. If only temporarily. I moved from MT 2.661; if I move back, it will be to 3.16, a much better product, but the install procedure on my server is full of hassle.

My feedback isn’t worth much to the dev teams, I’d guess; the community is fairly hostile, I’ve found, which is why I haven’t posted a lot to it. And yes, I’ve helped others a fair bit, and contributed to it. I am continuing to try, but I find it difficult to summon the energy to wrestle with the support fora sometimes. Any plugins I write, any useful hacks I find, I will happily publicly post on the support forums. I’ve already published a big post on hacking the query string for fun and profit.

I personally have no problems with Standards-based layout, apart from, obviously, some seriously technical issues that trouble almost everyone (cross-browser compatiblity for quite complex sites being the main one); I work with it in a professional capacity, and a quick look at my site (which is linked to from this comment) should show you that I’m familiar with it. The problem is that WordPress is evangelical about it in all the ways that evangelism (about anything) is bad, and as a result, a lot of the new and relatively un-skilled users get very confused in part because they’ve been told something is good but they themselves do not know why.

I also said lots of quite nice things about WordPress above, and I really do think you’ve glossed over them. This is precisely what I find bizarre about the majority of the WordPress community: they’re very defensive. A single threat and they leap to its defence; a single “nice theme” and they pour over it. I gave quite a balanced post above, and yet have seemed to take my comments to be entirely negative. We use WordPress for a public weblog at my place of work, so that should at least prove I’m not down on it. But it really, really needs to pull its socks up. I’m still not sure it lives up to its “1.5” billing.

As a developer, I’ve been very impressed with WordPress. It’s not all the way there as a product, but I don’t have the problems with the documentation that others seem to. In fact, I’ve found the WP documentation to be rather good. The only problem with it is that there isn’t enough of it.
Amit said pretty much everything else I thought of, so I’d suggest that everyone just read his comment. 🙂

Also, just to clarify a technical point: WordPress is only faster than Blogger or MT on a small scale. MT now will let you serve pages dynamically, from the database, and will also let you mix static and dynamic pages (so, for instance, an index page that is hit a lot will be static, but archives which are hit less will be dynamic). Dynamic engines, when used for large sites, can put a great strain on a server. One of the Gawker Media blogs, for instance, would have to be static or cached in some way if it were run on WordPress. It’s run on MT.

At the small scale most blogs work at, the dynamic system is fine. For those blogs which are very popular – this very one, for instance – a dynamic system could bring your server down faster than a static one. WordPress is fast, but fast isn’t always the best choice.

Tom: while I can’t really say much about the various community issues you’ve mentioned, not having been using WP long enough (and having been able to find fixes through the support forums or simply through tweaking). However, I think there’s something we need to be clear about: web design is not something you can pick up in five minutes. It might take five minutes to install WordPress, but writing a theme (for example) takes quite a measure of understanding of a variety of topics.

Let me put this another way. You say that “a lot of the new and relatively un-skilled users get very confused in part because they’ve been told something is good but they themselves do not know why.” In that, you’re probably broadly correct. However, is this really surprising? If they’re unskilled, even relatively, why would they have any understanding of standards-compliant design? And why, if they don’t have this understanding, is it WordPress’ job to teach them? I’m not suggesting that WordPress puts the standards message across in the right way. In fact, on reflection, it says it in a “preaching to the converted” manner that will probably be absolutely meaningless to those without an understanding of the relevant positions. But nonetheless, a person cannot simply install WordPress and expect to become an instant expert on web development. If they could, I’d be out of a job.

Download.com and ZDNet.com run WordPress on their sites and I’m pretty sure they get far more traffic than even the Gawker stable. WordPress has no problem scaling to very high levels of traffic. It’s also far easier to add caching to a dynamic site then it is to add functionality to a static one. I know because I’ve tried it both ways.

Can I briefly make something clear – the Tom who is talking in this thread is not me. I just wanted to make sure that people were aware of that. I’m completely comfortable with you guys continuing the debate here, but I just wanted to make sure that no one thought that I had a strong opinion on this stuff. I’ve never played with WordPress. Watching the conversation closely though.

“However, I think there’s something we need to be clear about: web design is not something you can pick up in five minutes.”
Then let’s also be clear about the reason I installed WordPress. I wanted to continue blogging like I have for the last 5 years. I didn’t want to ‘design a website’.

Tom, I & other wise developers(not that I say I’m wise but I’m not an idiot or newbie either) know that a Templating system like Smarty or anything like that does make it easy for the non-programming people to create layouts but it really adds to the overhead. A templating system of any kind makes the processing slower, no doubt about it.
As for MT, I haven’t seen much of it, except from v2.6x & from my opinion, firstly, it requires a Perl Scientist to install!! I tried in vain for 3 days before I gave up on it & move over to WordPress, when I was looking for a blog software last year. Its not easy to install, MT. Besides, what I’ve seen in it(when I was able to finally install it), is that it wasn’t up there!!! One thing that seriously went against it was the re-build thing. Even if it serves fully dynamic content from the database, it still needs those rebuilds, so I’ve heard. Besides, the thing that is against it(as I think so) is that its in Perl. There are a lot less Perl developers around than the PHP developers. Besides, no one can deny that PHP is easier to learn than Perl. And if you want some feature in MT than either you look for a ready-made solution or you hack it yourself. Botg options aren’t great as the solution you are looking for might be a bit too custom to be available off-the-shelf & there are more chances of you not knowing Perl than PHP, for hacking it yourself.
I don’t have anything against MT, but from the user ease point of view, I believe its far behind WP.
And its your wrong belief that your feedback isn’t important to the community. We are not rude at all, I’m also a part of that community & I can’t say I’m proud or glad to be a part of it. Maybe you had a bad experience with some of the community but not everyone’s evil!! I’ve got a lot of my queries answered in my early days with WP last year & didn’t get any rude answers, but maybe because I was polite. 😉
Maybe you should try again, if you have any queries about WP, I really hope you don’t get a bad time at the support forums. 🙂
Yes, I noticed the nice things you said about WP. I didn’t mention them because they were nice, no need for me to comment on those. And I didn’t take your post entirely as negative. 🙂
And that defensive approach is not only with WP, its with every product which has a following. You try & say anything against MT amidst a bunch of MT diehards & you’ll feel the same. Same goes for any other product that has a following, like PHP, FireFox, etc. Its not exclusive to WP. 🙂
As for the downsides of being dynamic, in-ability to cater to high traffic, there are solutions for that as well, not out-of-box ofcourse. The best one that I’ve found is WP-Cache at http://mnm.uib.es/gallir/posts/2005/03/12/178/

Looks like someone’s read this thread and felt the
need to reply.

Btw, I’m fluent in PHP myself, but I don’t like the way WP mixes php code and html in the templates. Somehow it feels (and looks) wrong, and I can certainly understand why it would scare off non-programmers. But once you get over that, it’s an adequate tool, me thinks.

The way I visualize it is this. When Matt got started there were certain key features, characteristics, or archtitectures, which either could or could not be included. As every single blogging tool reaches maturity there is always a ground swell of folk who wish it was something else.
But it is not unfair to say the the people who enjoy WP the most are those who are comfortable with or at least learning html / css / and php. Many people regard that as a very big plus. But it is also true that a lot of folks are baffled by it. The truth maybe that the Nirvana of a one click tool that suits everybody does not exist. Nor is it ever likely to, because there is always that hard choice to be made between ease of operation for the putative end user and the bloat.

I have to say as a developer WordPress is no longer a serious contender for managing a site.
The latest version makes it impossible to even turn off the auto formatting which makes it impossible to add some video/media code for example.
Forum posts asking for help are unanswered, or answered totally unsatisfactory. One has been going on for two years with no resolution on this, and my own post on this had one answer that had nothing to do with the question.
In many ways it has gotten better over the past couple years for photo uploads and some features, but overall I find it useless with no support whatsoever as far as I have seen and experienced.
In the past two years I cannot think of one occasion where a help request of mine was answered. Perhaps because I’m not a newbie.
I know someone will jump in and say “such and such plugin will do that.”
Nope, tried them all, and Alex made one but it uses custom fields and is just too complex to think a client could ever use it.
Overall free is not a bargain when there is no support and a lack of features, or “features” that cannot be removed.

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