By Jim Shimabukuro
With technology, experimentation and improvement go hand-in-hand, so we expect to pay a price. In some cases, such as drugs and cars, the cost can be horrendous. In others, such as software applications and operating systems, the cost isn’t as dramatic, but it can be irritating.
The most irritating in my current experience involves WordPress.com. The problem is they’re making changes piecemeal, and after many months, they’re still not done. In the interim, we, the users, are on our own. This means we’re forced to switch between the old and the new interfaces to complete tasks that were once simple and routine. The result is confusion and dozens of additional time-gobbling, mind-boggling steps.
For example, in the new composing interface, I can no longer insert links in text mode. I have to switch back to visual mode to do so. Compounding the problem is that WordPress sometimes seems to hang frozen for a while before switching between the two modes. A similar problem involves categories. In the old interface, I can no longer set categories. To do so, I have to switch to the new.
Very annoying is the photo insertion process. Photos posted via the new interface are no longer clickable for enlarged views. To make them clickable, I need to re-enter the same post via the old. And this is where irritation climbs to a whole new level. There’s no clear or simple way to switch back to the old.
I have to return to the homepage. Click on “WP Admin” in the “My Site” dropdown menu. Hover over “Posts” and click “All Posts” in the pop-up menu. Locate the file I’m working on and click it. And I have to do all this maneuvering just to get to the point where I can reinsert the photo. The remaining steps are standard for inserting images in a post.
Another annoying new feature is autosave. As users, we can’t turn it on or off. The intention is a good one. But the execution borders on the criminally poor. After saving a file and returning to the homepage, I often need to return to the file to make some edits. When I do, I’m sometimes warned that I’ve logged in to an earlier draft and a later version is available. How, I wonder, is that possible when I just saved the file?
I’m offered a choice of deleting or restoring the stored version. Regardless of my choice, however, I risk ending up with a file that fails to reflect my latest changes. And since I’ve deleted the other file, I have to start all over again. I’m not sure what the problem is, but I’m guessing that the autosave function is buggy.
To work around this problem, I open a second window with the target post before I click on delete or restore. Then, if I’ve selected the wrong version, I go to the second window where the post hasn’t been refreshed to copy and paste into the first.
These problems affect only me, so they’re irritating or annoying at worst. However, when they affect my classes and 70-100 students, they’re a nightmare.
Many of us use WordPress as the defacto standard for class-related student blogs. We provide instructions on how to set up blogs, and a critical part is setting basic defaults such as time zone and discussion permission. In the confusion of old and new menu systems, simply getting to the page where these settings are available is a huge challenge. For example, time zone settings are only accessible via the old interface, but the default view is the new.
For students unwilling to muddle their way to it, suffice it to say that I ended up writing at least a half dozen sets of unique instructions and, even then, wasn’t able cover all the possible permutations. An additional complexity is that each theme handles navigation differently. For students who gave up in frustration, I had to use their usernames and passwords to log in and make the changes for them.
Yet another irritation was the transition to Windows 10. About a year or so ago, I clicked yes to permit the free upgrade, lured by the “free” and the chance to try an operating system geared to the latest technology. Never mind that my desktop, which was receiving the transformation, was old and did not have touchscreen capability. My Surface Pro 2 did, and I was planning to upgrade it next.
Immediately after the upgrade, I realized that some of my most important programs and utilities weren’t compatible with Windows 10. This meant hours searching for and installing new drivers — when they were available. Some didn’t provide new drivers. Most of the compatibility issues have been resolved, but some are still ongoing. Meanwhile, I’ve held off upgrading my Surface to 10 until all the kinks have been ironed out.
My most used program is Firefox, my default browser, which opens up with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser homepage. However, in the last six months or so, the newspaper made some changes that make it incompatible with my browser. I’m able to log in and read the articles, but for some reason I can’t read the attached forums attached to articles. One of the most entertaining parts of the paper is the public discussions, which allow anonymous posts. To get to this section, I now need to switch to Internet Explorer. Of course, I could use Explorer as my primary browser, but it lacks the features that I need.
However, regardless of which browser I use, the Star-Advertiser inserts a cookie that sometimes hangs my entire computer. The impact of this hang on the Surface was almost devastating. I couldn’t get back to the desktop and basic functions even after numerous starts and restarts over two days. I finally had to work through the hang-up to return to normal operations.
Perhaps most irritating of all is that we have no way to directly contact the staff responsible for these coding nightmares to alert them to problems or suggest possible solutions. All we can do is gaman (我慢), a Japanese word that succinctly captures the essence of what it means to not only patiently endure but to accept what we cannot change.
Some or most of these problems have been or will soon be fixed, but the process of upgrading and change is a constant, and we, the users, pay a price for the “improvements,” which are often inferior to the earlier version, at least in the initial stages. We really don’t have a choice. This is just how it is. Like cramped airline seats and traffic jams, we gaman, knowing that the end makes the sacrifice worthwhile.