Vikshepa Blog

Mental Distractions

05 Jun 2022


I spent most of the day improving a WordPress website that I manage voluntarily. For that site and another, I use the flexible theme Weaver. The theme developer tries his best to keep up with WordPress's changes, but maybe it's a losing battle. It seems to me that at a certain stage Autommatic lost the plot. In the attempt to make everything simpler, they keep making it harder. I've tried a few times to adopt their block editor but each time gave up and went back to the classic editor, which itself is sufficiently cumbersome and unfriendly. I try to do some of the editing in html but Wordpress usually messes it up.

Today I tried to include a simple html accordion (the details, summary css solution), but Wordpress wouldn't let me use it properly, due also to RTL-LTR issues. I looked online for a solution, but the only one offered is with plugins - either the old or the new kind that take advantage of the block editor. The writer recommended the latter, and, in particular the Kadence block plugin. So I installed that, and re-initialized the block editor. The result was a horrible mess. Besides Wordpress's native block editor, I now had a button for Kadence blocks, in addition to another unusable button fo Extendify blocks. The latter is a form of malware. It somehow insinuated its way into the system without my asking for it, and provides options that don't work unless you purchase the plugin. In any case, I was unable to get the accordion working properly.

After more search engine research and failed attempts to get rid of Extendify and after disabling Kadence, I went back to the classic editor, where I soon discovered I already had a working system for accordions and had simply forgotten about it. That's another thing that happens with WP - it encourages you to download loads of ridulous plugins that you later forget about, so they just sit there slowing down the site. This was also my experience after initializing the block editor: Slowness happened after I'd initialized the block editor: the editing slowed to a snail's pace (in Vivaldi: it won't work at all in SeaMonkey - you just get a blank page).

But those problems were only the beginning. The majority of my time was spent in WP's customize module, where I tried, and eventually succeeded. to move and resize the site logo and adjust various spacing issues. Weaver has, besides the "customizer" module, an older classic theme editor, and I have often used these together. But this time I discovered that the classic theme editor will sometimes undermine the changes made with the customizer module, so it can no longer be trusted.

The attempt to put html editing into a GUI is understandable in modern web development because the underlying infrastructure grows ever more complex.

But for my limited needs, it is usually quicker and more satisfying to edit html and CSS directly. Moving the earlier mentioned site logo in the Customizer was a nightmare in WP's customizer, and there's a feeling of surrending control to the whims of a system that seems to "have its own mind," or at least its own quirks.

The further you get away from the code, the greater the feeling of helplessness. Coding can be exasperating too, but the frustration is more honest - I don't find myself screaming at the screen and cursing the developers - there's only myself to blame when something doesn't work out right.

Aaron Swartz

R came by the other day to do some laundry. He's camping out in the woods during his stay. We somehow got talking about Aaron Swartz on a previous occasion and he had read up on him in the meantime. He said he was surprised that Swartz took his own life despite the fact that the conditions of his detention were not terribly serious. But then he said that maybe for someone like Swartz, who had invested so much idealism in the internet, seeing what was happening to this tool for emancipation may have driven him over the edge.

It was 2014 - the heroes of the Arab Spring were being rounded up and put in jail. Snowdon and Assange were also being hounded, and governments were using the internet as a tool for surveillance and tyranny. Perhaps Swartz could not stomache this dystopian outcome of his early idealism? I don't know. But certainly it's a plausible motive for suicide.

Meanwhile, it seems to me that the only people who approach me with regards to this blog are those who want to sell something. In their world, the only purpose of blogs and websites is to be part of the money market - a particularly grubby corner of it where people write commissioned articles for the purpose of advertising. So when I read an article like the one concerning Wordpress accordions, I find myself wondering who was paying him.

Film camera boom

The Guardian had an article today about young people who are going back to film photography ‘You only have one shot’: how film cameras won over a younger generation. Apparently the market for old cameras is bouncing back. I would do it too, but only if I were to do the developing myself. I always hated surrentling control to some stupid photolab that can sabotage one's best efforts. A few of those albums we have from earlier years contain photos that have lost most of their colour. What I could conceivably imagine doing is to just develop the negatives at home, then put the negatives through a negative scanner. The same could be useful also for many other old negatives that we have.

But in almost every other way, I'm a man of the digital age - I don't even do my reading away from a screen, so I'm not sure I would go back to film cameras.

Tags: wordpress photography
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