Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘WordPress

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.)

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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

Follow-up IV: WordPress and more post-by-email distortions

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And yet another distortion by WordPress: I had put a portion of the previous text in an HTML PRE-tag, to ensure that it was displayed in a certain manner (specifically, to keep formatting from a third-party).

What happens? WordPress presumes to move the closing tag to (almost) immediately after the opening tag, leaving the text incorrectly formatted.

I can only re-iterate that what WordPress does here is utterly inexcusable.

See a disclaimer for more information and links to older texts.

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July 10, 2019 at 10:45 am

WordPress and its user-hostile administration area

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And don’t you believe it: The morons from WordPress still managed to introduce links where they do not belong, despite use of quotation marks.

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April 8, 2019 at 11:08 am

WordPress and its user-hostile administration area

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As I tried to refresh a page from my WordPress account earlier today, I found that I had been logged out.* More specifically, I was forcefully lead to (what I assume was) a log-in page that simply did not work or show anything useful, but which complained about a lack of JavaScript. (No, activating JavaScript did not help.) After digging around, I found a log-in page that did work, logged in—and found myself in some version of the administration area that did not even slightly resemble what I was used to, and which simply did not work—with or without JavaScript activated. Problems included incomplete displays, “my sites” simply not being found, and (browser-side) warnings about a possible XSS** attack by a “doubleclick.net” address***.

*Having a dedicated user-account and browser for WordPress, I have no qualms about never logging out manually. Automatic log-outs, on the other hand, are so rare that I cannot even recall the previous time that it happened (or whether I had similar problems back then).

**Cross-site scripting: Roughly speaking, an attempt to cause mischief for a user by including JavaScript from one site into another, in order to circumvent the user’s and browser’s security controls/checks/awareness/whatnot.

***Presumably, a part of Google’s advertising efforts that still carries the name of the former “DoubleClick” brand. The alarm is likely a false positive to the degree that this is almost certainly is not caused by an illegal activity; however, (a) users are still better off without it, e.g. for privacy reasons, (b) the integration into the WordPress pages is obviously not done sufficiently well.

After wasting five to ten minutes trying this-and-that, I contemplated simply foregoing WordPress entirely and effective immediately*, but resorted to a last ditch attempt: One of my old tabs contained a page from the (familiar) admin area. I copy-and-past-ed** it into a new tab, and things suddenly worked as they should.

*WordPress sucks, and I have long-standing plans to move away anyway. However, time constraints and the many other things that I do has postponed this ever again.

**Just re-loading would likely have worked equally well, but keeping the old tab intact gave me a better chance at a second attempt, should something go wrong.

The difference is likely that this link already led to the blog specific admin area, which still works as it should; while what was served after log-in was a user account admin area.* Should the above happen to you (or me, at a future time): Look at the URL. If it begins with “https://wordpress.com/me”, you are probably stuck in the user level area, and you should try to get to the blog area, which will begin with “https://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/”**. The “dashboard” of the blog administration can then be found under “https://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/wp-admin/index.php”**, from where other parts of the administration can be found. (In all cases, with reservations for future changes.)

*There can be more than one blog associated with each user account.

**For my main WordPress blog. Please substitute your own blog name/address as appropriate. Also see excursion below.

Excursion on WordPress, incompetent handling of post-by-email, and how this can influence a text:
I have written repeatedly of how WordPress handles post-by-email incompetently, e.g. through introduction of artificial links. This text provides a good example: without the quotation marks around “doubleclick.net” above, it might have been mangled into “http://doubleclick.net” and turned into a link, which is not only contrary to the purpose of use above, but could also be highly confusing to the reader. Knowing of this issue, I resorted to add quotation marks where I would not normally have used them.

The use of e.g. “https://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/” above is yet another example of why WordPress handles links poorly: I do not intend to link—only to make a statement of how a link would begin. Indeed, going directly to this address would show the published blog—not the administration area. (But here, I would have used quotation marks anyway, because I discuss strings.) Further, “https://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com” would normally have called for a use of place-holders, e.g. in that I had replaced “michaeleriksson” with “[your blog]”. I refrained from doing so, because I see at least a risk* of mangling.

*I have made good experiences with quoting, which seems to protect the text, but if I find an exception I would need to research a work-around, edit, and/or re-publish the text, which would cost me time and energy. To boot, this would involve a delay and inconsistent texts being sent to subscribers. Better then to take the safe road.

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April 8, 2019 at 11:04 am

Follow-up III: WordPress and more post-by-email distortions

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I have repeatedly written about WordPress and how it distorts texts posted by email in a user hostile and unethical manner (e.g. in [1], [2], [3]).

Now, I have to add another complaint:

In a text from earlier today, I referenced several web-sites. I deliberately did so without linking and mentioning just the name, e.g. “www.conrad.de”—no link or “http(s):” present. (Should you see one, it is a distortion by WordPress; however, in the past, things within quotes have been left alone.)

Nevertheless the published version appears with full links, including a spurious “http:” at the beginning of the display text of every single instance.

In addition to the general issues already discussed, I note that (a) it is not a given that “http” is a safe choice and “https” would be better in the clear majority of cases;* (b) it must be possible to discuss server (or domain) names without actually linking to them; (c) not everything that looks like a server (or domain) name actually is one and not all servers are necessarily present on the web, which could lead to grossly misleading linking; (d) not linking can be a deliberate choice that is nullified by this idiocy. Notably, considering the odd court decisions that have taken place over the years, a situation could conceivably even occur, where this added link to an address makes someone legally liable in a different manner from merely mentioning the website. Other reasons not to actually link can be related to e.g. search-engine rankings.

*But not always, implying that there is no good choice, and giving a further argument to leave them alone.

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March 26, 2019 at 10:01 pm