Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘WordPress

Overruled choice and WordPress (“p”, not “P”!)

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Today, I spent a few hours writing a long and complicated text ([1]). Before final polishing, I wanted to refresh myself with some music—and immediately ran into a case of overruled choice, also see [2]. I wrote a text on that, took a short break, did my polishing, published, took a coffee break—and then ran into yet another case of “overruled choice”:

It appears that WordPress (which, note again, I write with “p”—any “P” is the illicit manipulation of this user-hostile service), has manipulated at least some signs in the extend hyphen family. Specifically, it appears to (inconsistently) turn “-” into the HTML character reference for the n-dash, respectively the Unicode character 8211. This, however, is not what I asked for. If I want to add an n-dash, I* am perfectly capable of doing so—indeed, I have a sign for that in my private markup, used to generate the original and correct HTML (that WordPress (“p”!!!!!) later butchers). I entered a regular “-” (likely Unicode 002D; definitely the corresponding ASCII decimal 45) and I expect a regular “-” to appear. The replacement with an n-dash is particularly ill-advised as different dashes have different lengths and semantic implications, and this replacement made no sense in context. (In contrast, cf. below, a replacement with a minus sign, Unicode 2212, might have made sense, even if it remained an illicit manipulation.)

*And the default assumption should be the same for every other user. I use post-by-email, which implies the sending of a pre-formatted HTML document. Users making such documents from markup languages (like I) or by hand can be assumed to know what they are doing. Those who use an HTML editor have access to the editor’s capabilities to add various signs and whatnots as they see fit—and likely with greater capabilities and definitely with a higher degree of precision that through these illicit manipulations. In fact, there is some chance that the latter run into the complication that the HTML editor has some type of autocorrect going in one direction, which WordPress (“p”!!!!!) then tries to “correct” in another direction…

This manipulation is the worse for occurring in a typographically tricky situation, namely in algebraic expressions containing variables with names involving the “-” sign, e.g. “o- – m+”.* I had some doubts** as to how that would work, but it looked sufficiently OK in my local browser, using the generated correct HTML code. However, how can I trust my local impressions, when WordPress (“p”!!!!!) illicitly changes my express wishes? Or what if I publish the same HTML elsewhere, and some other interfering bunch of presumptuous incompetents decide to change this in some other manner, leading to inconsistent documents? Etc.

*Specifically, the “-” hanging on the “o” was left unchanged, while the “-” in between “o-” and “m+” was altered.

**These doubts were the reason that I explicitly checked how the rendering in WordPress turned out, as there might be differences depending on e.g. the font used—even absent illicit manipulations.

Of course, the question must be raised how many other manipulations WordPress (“p”!!!!!) performs that I am not yet aware of. (And the list is fairly long already, including the constant manipulation of “Wordpress”, mishandling of various quotation marks, spurious removal and insertion of empty lines, …) In this case, I noticed because I checked this specific rendering, in a specific place, for a specific reason—but this is not something that I usually do, and certainly not for entire documents. (No, I have not checked the entirety of [1] either, just that one area.) For instance, a current or future replacement of “fuck” (the f-word) with e.g. “f-word” (an “f” hyphenated to “word”) is definitely possible. I cannot even rule out, although I consider it extremely unlikely, that a spurious “Vote Biden!” or “Hitler is a hero!” has been inserted somewhere.

Note on references:
I have drawn on Wikipedia’s List of XML and HTML character entity references, as well as my local “man page” for the ASCII encoding, for various codes.

Disclaimer:
As this text discusses mistreatment of text by WordPress (“p”!!!!!) and is published through WordPress (“p”!!!!!), it is quite possible that what I try to express fails through exactly the type of illicit manipulation that I try to argue against.

Excursion on my markup language:
This markup language is by no means perfect, as I have not bothered to do everything doable, including that I have not added a way to encode the minus sign represented by Unicode 2212 or implemented a more generic math mode. So far, there has been little need, but I might have done so today, if my typographic fears had been realized. (Or I might have chosen to simply replace the “-” with the character reference for Unicode 2212—that I did not implies that WordPress (“p”!!!!!) should not have done so either, and it certainly should not have replaced it with the pointless and misleading n-dash.) Similarly, I have not yet added an “escape mode”, to prevent some piece of markup code from being interpreted as markup code and instead be inserted as the literal expression in the generated HTML file. This is OK—it is my decision, in a weighing of my time vs. the (small) benefit of the addition. That WordPress (“p”!!!!!) interferes is not OK, even if it is with some misguided notion that users are idiots whose texts must be arbitrarily reformatted, even at the risk that proficient users see their work sabotaged. (See [2] for more and a link to even further discussions.) Now, an addition that I will perform shortly is to find some workaround for the manipulation of specifically “Wordpress”, maybe by inserting an invisible character or a thin space somewhere to trick the replacement algorithm.

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November 10, 2022 at 10:55 pm

Fully reopening this blog

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For the time being, I am fully reopening this blog. This for two reasons:

  1. I have had a long period of continual losses of my Internet connection, which has added an ever-increasing number of three-quarters-or-more-done texts to my backlog.* I want to have the ability to publish these at those times when everything works, instead of (as per previous policy) be limited to one** text per week.

    *Note that the problems are not limited to “cannot post”. More important is “cannot check this-and-that while writing”, which causes each text to have TODOs that I do not necessarily have the time and energy to work on once the Internet connection is back again—especially, knowing that the one-text-per-week policy prevents publishing in the immediate future anyway.

    **Not counting the texts on Nazism, which are exempt from this policy.

  2. The deteriorating situation in (mostly) the U.S., with all kinds of anti-democratic, anti-rechtsstaatliche, and possibly illegal or unconstitutional* behaviors from the paradoxically named Democrats. The latest is the anti-Trump raid, which shows the extent of the abuse of the legal system and the absurd persecution of dissenters that has become the norm. I want to keep the option open of writing about these issues without a limitation on posts.

    *There are many candidates. Specifically the J6 pro- and persecutions are virtually certain to fulfill the claim of being unconstitutional—an absolute and utter disgrace.

    Indeed, the situation is so bad, in the sum of anti-Trump/-Republican persecution, the judicial activism and judicial double standards, the abuse of schools for indoctrination into far-Left hate-ideologies, COVID-insanities, etc., that legal prosecution must be called for—but not against Trump, where there is little or no proof or even true indication of illegal activities, but against the likes of Joe Biden and Merrick Garland. There are norms for what political leaders may and may not do in a functioning democracy, in a Rechtsstaat, in a country claiming to follow the Rule of Law, etc. The current Democrat party, its leaders, and many of its supporters, are so far off the reservation that they must no longer be tolerated by civilized society. They are well past the point where the rest of the world can pretend that their behaviors are within the even remotely acceptable, tolerable, and conscionable. Should the current trends continue, even a ban of the party, it self, might be justified, to prevent the transformation of the U.S. into an outright far-Left totalitarian dictatorship on the level of the Soviet Union or Nazi-Germany. And, yes, unlike Trump the current Democrats have quite a few things in common with the Nazis.

How often I will publish, I leave unstated. The main point is to have the option.

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August 15, 2022 at 2:31 am

Semi-re-opening this blog

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In August 2020, I rather abruptly closed this blog. The result was a considerable drop in texts, but nowhere near the complete stop that I had intended. This for reasons like urgent and important topics, e.g. the 2020 U.S. elections, the ever recurring wish/need for an update on an old topic, the occasional “I must write something about this to relieve my annoyance load”, and similar. (And this even while foregoing a great many updates, potentially interesting new texts, etc.)

In addition, one of the ideas behind the closure was to give me incentives to actually get my website back running, which has yet to happen. (Apart from the work needed, there have been obstacles and annoyances every time that I have begun the attempt that killed my motivation. For instance, my ISP, in the year 2022, still has no SSH access to the server, insisting on FTP or rsync, while my model works by having a version-control repository from which the updates take place. This alone causes extra effort, e.g. throw needing FTP-mounts—and highly avoidable effort, had the ISP been more professional. But then we have issues like FTP-mounts not working as they used to, forcing trouble shooting, and a version drift in the repository software breaking readability, forcing a conversion to a new version/format, and this conversion failing. I have neither the time nor the energy.)

Another complication is that my use of writing as an outlet for the many irritations in life have been diminished, as I have been more limited in topics than before.

As a result, I have decided to try something new: I re-open the blog with the constraint of no more than one text a week. (Not counting occasional corrections/extensions/whatnot, e.g. of the “I forgot to mention” kind; and not counting the current text.)

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March 24, 2022 at 8:45 pm

A hard to close blog / Follow-up: Closing down this blog (extraordinary post)

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While this blog remains closed in principle, I have to add another type of exception: unusually relevant follow-ups.

Of these, I have two in the pipeline that I intend to publish today or tomorrow, depending on what time allows.

Unlike with an earlier exception and the current text, I will not mark further exceptions with “(extraordinary post)”, as this is clear from context and as the phrase could be misunderstood to imply some other type of “extraordinary”.

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October 25, 2020 at 4:40 pm

Closing down this blog

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I have decided to (almost entirely) close down this blog, effective immediately. The decision has two motivations:

Firstly, blogging is currently a hard-to-shake distraction at a time when I cannot really afford a distraction, between my professional writing and a number of other tasks that I have to perform. This especially as there are limits not only on my time and energy, but also on my fingers. which are currently in need of some recuperation. (Note that an official “closing the blog” declaration will be harder to violate than an informal promise to my self.)

Secondly, WordPress is a shitty platform on a number of counts, including usability and traffic (cf. a number of prior posts), while the mere ability to publish here reduces my incentives to fix my real website. I hope that the incentives will shift sufficiently that I do get around to it, after which I will be much better off.

At some point between today and eternity, I will likely publish on my website again. When the time comes, I will post an update. Following that, I might or might not post occasional updates on texts published there (especially, when it comes to my backlog and future texts that I have already mentioned that I wanted or intended to write.)

I will leave the comment function on for the time being, but beware that I might only moderate comments irregularly or with great delay. (Not that there have been many comments in recent times.)

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August 28, 2020 at 4:35 pm

That darn December / Follow-up: WordPress statistics II

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I have already mentioned a recurring downturn in traffic in December ([1], [2]).

This December followed both this trend and the downwards trend on this blog discussed in [3], making it the worst month in almost two-and-a-half years, and showing no less than three (!) days at 0 (!!) visitors. (Four, if we count the immediately adjacent January 1st.)

This despite a comparatively high post count (14), which could be seen as weakening my “new trumps good” hypothesis (cf. [3]), strengthening my “December sucks” hypothesis, or indicate that there is a certain lag between post count and popularity (consistent with other observations, outside the immediate popularity boost through the individual post).

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January 4, 2020 at 3:40 pm

Follow-up: WordPress statistics II

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As a follow-up on topic influence on popularity: Writing that text, I contemplated mentioning a downturn in visitors when I began to write more on political questions again, especially dealing with the Left and the “Right”. However, at the time, I saw this as more of a coincidence than a systematic topic issue.

In December, however, I see something similar: I have written of topics relating to the Left and the “Right” and have not seen the “newness” boost in visitors that I am used to. One possibility is that these topics are the reverse of the topic of blogging, in that they find few readers or even detract readers.

Other possibilities include, but are not limited to, that it is still coincidence, that December is just a poor month (cf. the linked-to text), and, more nefariously, that anti-Left writings are punished by some algorithm. (While I do not consider a punishment likely in my case, especially because my low traffic makes manual attention improbable, I have repeatedly seen claims that more well-known “heretics” against the Left have had artificial problems in e.g. search-engine rankings.)

Written by michaeleriksson

December 10, 2019 at 10:06 am

My future plans

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A few words on my future activities and their respective background:

I have quite a large backlog of blog posts that I want to write, some of them at least partially done. This situation was worsened considerably by the roughly five months of construction work that severely impacted my working and living conditions. I also want to spend less time blogging in order to write fiction (and have done so for the past few months).

I have some accumulated or ever re-occurring tasks relating to government agencies (e.g. the German IRS) and incompetent or dishonest businesses (e.g. the insurer HUK or my current building management). This accumulation, too, has been considerably increased by the construction work.

I have a website, which is years out of date and which I had intended to fix during my latest sabbatical. With the one thing and other, I never got around to this before ending my sabbatical to start the work on my first novel. Just fixing many issues with the existing texts and merging off-line changes that never were published* would be a considerable amount of work. Re-working it to e.g. allow a more blogging style of publication (which I consider necessary in the long term) will be another considerable amount of work. At the same time, WordPress is such a horribly user-hostile platform that I will have to get back to my website sooner or later—and every text that I publish on WordPress is one more text that I will at some point want to move to my website, which is more work.

*For various reasons, I had a very long absence from the Internet a few years ago, during which I did some considerable off-line editing. These changes are still mostly unpublished. A particular problem is that this was a few computers back, implying that I will have to search to even find out where the changes are located.

An overreaching complication is finger health: When my writing exceeds a certain level for a prolonged time, I develop finger pains. I could work through this, but I am extremely reluctant to do so, because I fear long-term damage and would like to use these fingers for decades to come. Correspondingly, even when I have the energy and motivation to write more, I have to pace myself. Fingers aside, I could sit down and write ten hours a day for a few months, and then be more-or-less done, but in reality I have to settle for a lot less.

My current plan is the following:

  1. I will take roughly one-month (rest of December, beginning of January) almost-break* from writing fiction, in order to bring as much of the government/business issues as possible out of the way, and to address some of the more important backlog items.

    *There might be a new page here and an edit there, but no set hours or minimum word counts.

    I will also do a considerable amount of reading, which is extremely helpful to improve my own writing. Indirectly, this break will also give my writing the time to “mature” a little more.

  2. At some point in January, I will return to fiction as my main focus, with another reduction in blogging, possibly to one post a week. Blogging will mostly deal with the remainder of the backlog, including the texts of my visits to Sweden (which I will hardly get done during the almost-break) and a few texts directly or indirectly relating to the building management, especially as a small-scale analogy of some larger societal problems*.

    *E.g. how the apartment owners find themselves giving up rights to the building management, which sees it self as an overseer, where it should be a service provider—much like voters and politicians, respectively.

    Ideally, it would be backlog only, but realistically, I will hardly be able to resist the temptation of the occasional new idea. I will try to be much more selective than in the past, however. Indeed, even when it comes to the backlog, I will filter considerably. (There are so many topics to address, especially based on current news, but it is unrealistic to actually address them all.)

  3. When I feel that my novel is concluded at a satisfactory quality level, likely towards the end of next summer, I will take a further break from fiction to bring my website into shape and to look for publication* of the novel.

    *Whether through conventional publishing or self-publishing, I leave open for the time being—self-publishing appears to have grown into a valid option over the years, as opposed to a crutch for those unable to find a regular publisher.

  4. From there on, things are vague, but I will likely start on a second novel, stop publishing at WordPress entirely (good riddance!), and continue some minor non-fiction writings on my website. A migration of existing content from WordPress to website will likely also take place at some point, but I have no idea when.

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December 5, 2019 at 1:02 pm

WordPress statistics II / Follow-up: The problem of new trumping good

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To expand on my previous text, there is a known area where either* choice of topic or tags used do have a clear effect on popularity: discussions of blogging. These texts tend to get more visits from “WordPress.com Reader” than other texts, according to the statistics pages, irrespective of quality. Presumably, either WordPress gives such texts a “preferred placement” relative other texts or many WordPress users deliberately keep a lookout for such discussions.

*I suspect tags, but have not investigated this.

This was certainly the case with the previous text, and I allow myself this second, almost gratuitous, text for the purpose of driving the lousy statistics for November up a bit. (I do not normally engage in traffic hunting, but what the hell.)

Of course, this effect is also a good example of how new trumps good: The effect is much stronger on day one after publication than on day two, and it is usually gone by day three.

Another question is to what degree traffic varies by month of year, e.g. due to vacation periods or the length of the month (visits per day is often a better measure than visits per month). To study this effect could be interesting, but would be quite hard based on the statistics for a single blog, especially because it would be tricky to isolate other factors (e.g. post count and topic choice) from the limited material. I do note, however, that December has tended to be one of the weakest months of the year for me, which could be explained by fewer people being active. (Other explanations, assuming that this is not a statistical aberration, could include that readers are just as active as usual, but read with a temporary skew towards Christmas or winter topics.)

Disclaimer: These claims need not hold for other blogs, e.g. because high-traffic blogs might (or might not) be given a leg up in the “WordPress.com Reader” irrespective of topic.

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November 30, 2019 at 1:31 pm

WordPress statistics / Follow-up: The problem of new trumping good

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Almost half-a-year ago, I wrote about newness and visitor statistics of my WordPress blog (among other things).

In short: Being new seems to trump being good.

Looking at the months since then, statistics seem to bear out that claim. For instance, July saw a record number of posts—and the highest monthly visitor numbers that I have seen since 2013. After that, I dropped my rate of publishing and the length of the average text, in order to focus more on my novel—and numbers, with some delay,* began to drop. Depending on how the last few days of November play out, it might see the fewest number of visitors in a year-and-a-half, and might be short of half the July number.

*I suspect that a greater rate of publication helps to, directly or indirectly, build a temporary standing, which then attenuates over time, while leaving some positive effect for the next month or two.

A particular interesting phenomenon was an increased interest in older texts, to the point that my satirical discussion of Plato* was competitive with my complaints about Clevvermail for one or two months. Here it appears that not the value of these texts were the deciding factor but how often I published other new material. And, yes, the interest in these older texts appears to have faded again.

*In all fairness, with this specific text, the effect was partially caused by a link from another site. Quite a few other texts were affected too, however.

The Plato text is particularly interesting as I had expected it to be quite successful (by my standards) at the time of publishing—it struck me as one of my better texts, one of the most original, and one which could bring some entertainment to the reader (where most of my others texts are heavily focused on facts and arguments). This success did not materialize until the general upswing in traffic, months later, which left me with mixed feelings: on the one hand, this belated success was a validation of my original estimate; on the other, it shows how dependent readership numbers are on factors other than quality.

I also must re-iterate the observation that the more important texts (from my point of view) are among those least read. The text on Clevvermail, a side-topic, a consumer’s complaint, is by far the most successful (in terms of visitors) in the last few years. Give it another year, and it might top the list of all posts on a blog started ten years ago. All those text on important political topics and societal problems? Were my goal to collect visitors, they would be an unproductive waste of my time.*

*Making even a rough analysis of how choice of topic affects my visitor statistics would be a lot of work, but, yes, I do have the suspicion that months are more successful when I publish less on politics and more on other topics. Such differences could indirectly have an effect on the size of the perceived newness–statistics connection.

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November 28, 2019 at 10:26 am