Why I don’t like the new WordPress interface

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I don’t like change. There, I’ve said it. Once I’ve got a tool working efficiently, I don’t appreciate being forced to learn how to use a different one, just because someone, somewhere, thought it might be a good idea.

You see, the thing I care about is not the tool itself, it’s what I can do with that tool. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, please. Every time you do, you’re wasting my precious time. And whatever you do, please don’t make my blogging life harder!

Sadly the latest iteration of the WordPress interface does not give me anything worthwhile, but it does make what I do a little bit harder.

Before I start complaining about the failings of this new tool, I have to concede that the WordPress designers did not develop this new interface for me. In fact they did not develop it for any of us old users. Almost without fail, every innovation has been aimed squarely at new users, or to be more precise, to attract new users. This can be seen most clearly in the login screen :

wordpress interface new 1

The whole, visual thrust of this screen is to make it easy for a new user to sign up. Unfortunately, if I were a new user, I’d look at that screen and scratch my head because :

1. I would not know the format of the wordpress URLs, and hence I would not know what to type in that nice, convenient box,

2. There is nothing on this screen to help me decipher what’s expected of me.

In a word, this is poor design compounded by the fact that as an old user, I now have to add an extra click to my sign-in procedure. If I stayed in WordPress all day, that extra click might not bother me. But I’m in and out a number of times per day, and each time I have to :

a) Wait for the screen to load

b) Click the Log In button

c) Position the cursor at the new input dialogue box, and only then actually type in my log in details.

Quite frankly, this is unnecessary and more than a little annoying. Sadly, it’s just the beginning.

Once I am inside WordPress, the interface does look greatly simplified, and ‘clean’. By default, the interface opens with the Reader screen, allowing me to dive straight into other peoples’ blogs, if I so wish. Well, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. First thing of a morning, I’m more likely to want to see my stats, or reply to comments. However, if I’ve just had a great idea for a new post, I’d rather get straight into writing.

Now, to be fair, there is a ‘New Post’ icon at the top right of my screen :

wordpress interface new post1but when I mouse-over it in the Opera browser, I get no tooltip telling me that this is what I should click in order to create a new post. Again, to be fair, Opera is very unforgiving of html or CSS errors, so perhaps the lack of a mouse-over is just a problem with my browser.

However, I find it hard to believe my browser is also to blame for the fact that the ‘New Post’ icon never seems to work properly for me. I can certainly type a new post, however as soon as I try to save my draft, or preview it, the waiting animation just goes berserk and won’t stop. In order to save my work, I have to :

- select all

- copy

- cancel post

- select My Sites

- select Posts

- select New Post

- and paste what I typed into a screen that can be saved.

As you can imagine, this is just a wee bit …annoying.

My biggest gripe, however, has to do with how important features have now been hidden behind acres of simplified screens. For example, in the new, streamlined interface, the only way I can find one particular post I have written is by scrolling through every single post I’ve ever written, in date order! That is the prospect I faced this morning when I went looking for my original post on ‘frozen shoulder/hydro dilation.

I eventually found the search function under My Sites/Dashboard/Posts/All Posts. Now, I have always been able to find the search function on the Dashboard, but I distinctly remember also being able to access the search function from the My Sites/Posts option as well. That is no longer available to me, and I’m forced to do everything the hard way.

[Note: if you have not already found the search function in WordPress, there is a quick how-to at the end of this post].

Again, this lack of functionality is only likely to annoy the $hit out of people like me who have 500 plus posts to wade through. But what happens when those new users become old users and discover that all the best, most efficient features have been hidden from them?

-grumble- I suppose they’ll have other interface ‘innovations’ to gripe about by then…

In the final analysis, I have no objection to WordPress making the lives of new users easier, but so far many of the innovations seem more counter intuitive than anything else. New users need hand holding. They need to be told what everything is, because when everything is new, nothing is obvious.

As for us oldies? How about some innovations that allow us to hotkey our favourite functions so we can customize our working spaces as we see fit? Now that would be a change I’d welcome.

cheers

Meeks

How to find the search function in WordPress [July 2014 version]

1. Click ‘My Sites‘ at the top left of your screen :

wordpress interface new 2

You should now see this :

wordpress interface new 3

2. Click ‘Dashboard’ as shown above.

You should now be looking at the slightly revamped Dashboard screen. This was the heart of WordPress when I began blogging almost 3 years ago.

wordpress interface dashboard 13. Click on Posts in the black, navigation panel to the left of the screen :

4. Now click on All Posts as shown below :

wordpress interface dashboard 2

You should now be looking at a table listing every single post you have ever written.

5. Click in the Search Box [at the top right of the list as shown] and type in a keyword. Then click the ‘Search Posts’ button next to it.

wordpress interface search 1

 

In the example shown above, I typed ‘Nanowrimo’ into the search box and was presented with every single post I had ever written that contained the word nanowrimo in it. This cut my ‘check it and see’ search area down to just a handful of posts.

Once you have found the post you are looking for, you can click on the ‘Edit’ option to open it up. Clicking on ‘Edit’ allows you to..tah dah…edit, but it also allows you to get a ‘Shortlink” for the post. Shortlinks are invaluable when you want to link to an old post from within a new post. Or link to any post from within a Tweet, etc.


Kindle Unlimited – can you side-load borrowed content?

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This post is a cry for help to my US friends. If any of you have signed up to use the new Kindle Unlimited borrowing feature, could you please experiment to see if you can borrow a book using the side-loading method?!?

What is Kindle Unlimited?

For those who may not have heard of Kindle Unlimited yet, it’s a new featured offered by Amazon whereby you pay a monthly subscription fee of $10, for which you get to borrow as many books as you want. The only restriction I can see is that you’re only allowed to borrow 10 books at a time – i.e., you have to ‘return’ the borrowed books before you can select and download another ten.

What is side-loading?

Most people who buy ebooks from Amazon use the easy Whispersync feature to download their books direct to their Kindles. But Whispersync relies on wi-fi to work, and some of us don’t have wifi [yes, I know, what luddites, shocking]. So, when I buy ebooks from Amazon, I have to download them to my computer, attach my Kindle to my computer, and then copy the new ebooks from the computer to my Kindle. This slightly cumbersome process is called side-loading. [See instructions on side-loading at the end of the post].

Why do I want someone to experiment with side-loading?

As a voracious reader on a very strict budget, I’d love to sign up for Kindle Unlimited [KU]. Unfortunately, KU is only available in the US [for the moment]. If it’s a success, however, I’m sure it will quickly be extended to the rest of Amazon’s world, including Australia.

Before that blessed day arrives, however, I need to know whether I’m going to be able to even use the feature. As mentioned above, I can only download ebooks using the side-loading method, but I suspect KU will only be available via Whispersync. Why? Because Whispersync would allow Amazon to track the borrowed books. By contrast, side-loading would allow the user to keep a copy of every borrowed book on their PC, even if they deleted the copies from their Kindles.

So, if anyone is game to help me out, the process is detailed below, starting from within Amazon itself. Do not miss this first step!

Side-loading Step 1

As I can’t sign up for Kindle Unlimited, I have no idea what its download screen looks like, so the best I can do is show you screenshots of how to buy ebooks for side-loading. If side-loading is available for Kindle Unlimited, I imagine it will work something like this :

So …you are signed into Amazon/Kindle Unlimited, and have found an ebook you like. Now, look for a box called ‘Deliver to:’ [or something similar]. If you see a little arrow next to the ‘Deliver to:’  box, click it to see what delivery options are available. If you see something like the screenshot below – i.e. a list that includes the option to transfer via the computer, click it and continue with Step 2.

sideload from amazon1

If the only option is to download to your Kindle, it means side-loading is not possible. Cancel and thank you for experimenting, and letting me know the result! 

Side-loading Step 2

Assuming there is an option to transfer via the computer, this is likely to be the next screen you see :

sideload from amazon2As I only have one Kindle, I just click on Continue. If you have more than one, select the one you want to use and then click Continue.

Side-loading Step 3

You are still signed in to Amazon, but now the program is asking you where you want to save the new ebook file… on your own computer. Click on Save.

sideload from amazon3

Side-loading Step 4

You are now looking at the folders on your own computer. I save all my downloaded ebooks to the folder ‘EBOOKS kindle’, so that is where I will save the latest one I have bought. You will need to navigate to the folder of your choice and then click the Save button.

 

sideload from amazon4

Once the ebook file has finished downloading, you will be taken back into the Amazon web space to buy more books or sign out. Your latest ebook purchase, however, is now safely saved to your computer.

How to transfer Amazon ebook files from your pc to your Kindle 

Step 1 Hook up your Kindle to your pc like so :

usb k to pc

 

The USB cable you can see in the photos is the same cable I use to charge my Kindle.

Step 2. Open My Computer or Windows Explorer, and find the ebook file you have saved to your pc.

Step 3. Left click the ebook file to highlight it.

Step 4. With the ebook file highlighted, press the Ctrl and C keys on your keyboard – at the same time.

[Windows will not show you any notifications, but 'Ctrl C' is a keyboard shortcut that copies the highlighted file to a holding area called the clipboard. A copied file will stay in the clipboard until you paste it somewhere else, or overwrite it with something else].

Step 5. Now scroll down My Computer or Windows Explorer until you see your Kindle device listed.

Step 6. Double click on your Kindle device folder. You should now see some sub-folders. The one you want is called Documents :

how to transfer to Kindle 7

Step 7. Left click on the [Kindle] Documents folder to highlight it [as shown above]. Next, press the Ctrl and V keys on your keyboard – at the same time.

[The keyboard shortcut 'Ctrl V' will paste your copied ebook file into the Kindle Documents folder].

And that’s just about it. After you ‘Safely eject’ your Kindle from the computer, you should find your new, side-loaded ebook file waiting for you to read.

If we’ve gotten this far, it means I will be able to side-load Kindle Unlimited borrows, once they become available in Australia. Yay!

If not, I’ll be crying in my coffee. Either way, however, my deepest thanks to whoever does this bit of technological sleuthing for me. Please let me know how you go in comments. Of course, you can also make comments about other things, and I hope you do. :D

cheers

Meeks


Nanomini in June

Here in Australia, the end of June marks the end of the financial year, and the beginning of two weeks of school holidays.

A year ago I would not have cared, except perhaps to comment on how nice it was not to fight the traffic during school drop off and pickup times. This year, however, I decided to use the school holidays to stage my own mini Nanowrimo, [National Novel Writing Month].

Before I go on, I should explain that I now work as a trainer in the adult education sector. All the companies I work for are Community Centres that also happen to be RTOs [Registered Training Organizations]. The significance of this is that Community Centres are closed during the school holidays. Thus I have to take the same [unpaid] holidays as well. 

As teaching can be quite draining, even when you enjoy it, I was more than ready for these holidays. Nonetheless, after a day or two, I knew I couldn’t just veg out for the whole two weeks. Protestant/Catholic/Atheist work ethic?

Anyway, I was thinking about what a shame it was that I wouldn’t be able to do Nano this year when it suddenly hit me that I could do a Nano any damn time I wanted! From that stroke of genius it was a short step to realising I could hold a mini Nano every single school holiday. 

Wow!” I thought. “I might even be able to finish the Innerscape WIP!

As things turned out, I spent the first week of the holidays forcing myself back into the story, and it was not until the second week that I truly began to do some good work. One of the things I’m most happy about is that I solved the thorny plot tangle right in the middle of the story. I still have a lot of writing to do, just to finish the first draft, but at least I know where I’m headed now.

In hindsight, I think there is a very good reason why the original Nanowrimo lasts for a whole month – you really need that time to get into the story, build momentum, and slap it all down in pixels. So although my Nanomini didn’t achieve everything I had hoped, I’m going to do the same thing during the September holidays,  and of course over the summer break in January. With luck, and a lot of hard work, I may have another story ready to go by this time next year. 

In a curious twist of fate, I was deep into the Innerscape WIP when I got the idea for another book. Its working title is ‘Carry-over Food [or how to eat well on $xx.xx per day]. At this point I’m still just recording what I spend on food, and what I cook with it to see what the figures show. If the numbers show that the idea has legs, this may become my first non-fiction title. If not, I’ll just chalk it up as an interesting experiment.

Oh, and another benefit of my Nanomini is that the teaching side of my brain was thoroughly refreshed. Just in time too because I now have two more paying jobs. Both are with a tutoring agency that specializes in coaching secondary school students.

This new work is both exciting, and a little scary as I haven’t taught at secondary level in a long time. Luckily the boys of my touch typing class made me remember that a little humour can go a long way towards establishing rapport with students of any age.

And this brings me to my apology; I can’t promise to post as regularly as I once did, but I will continue posting articles when I have the time and energy. I will also visit your blogs as much as I can because good friends are too precious to waste. :)

-hugs-

Meeks

 

 


This is not the answer

Today, the news was full of Australia’s latest salvo in the quest to ‘stop the boats’.

Our elected government stopped a boat full of Sri Lankan asylum seekers, processed them via a tele-conference hookup, and gave them back to the Sri Lankan authorities. No care. No responsibility. No compassion.

I don’t know what the answer is to stopping people from dying in leaky boats…but I do know that saving lives is not my government’s primary concern.

I did not vote for them, but I am responsible for the evil they do in my name. I am so ashamed. 

Meeks


The one wheel bike of the future?

I was doing some research on induction motors – for Innerscape – when I stumbled on this video clip. I used to ride motorbikes when I was young and fearless so this unibike completely blew me away. I want one. :D

cheers

Meeks

Oh and by the way, my post on Bloat turned out to be my 500th post! This one is my 501st. Add all those posts together and they probably equal at least one big book. Amazing. :D


Bloat – something no writer can afford

One of the hallmarks of being a pantster is that we like to be surprised – by the plot, and our own characters. We love the sense of excitement, and adventure, that comes from not knowing what’s around the next bend.

Sadly, not all surprises are pleasant. One of the big drawbacks of being a free-wheeling, I-don’t-know-what-happens-next type of writer is that we often write ourselves into a corner, or so far off track that the original story becomes lost. Or sometimes <<shock horror>> we just end up with …bloat.

<<A bloated carcass puffs up to many times its original size, and stinks>>

The trouble with written bloat, however, is that it doesn’t always stink. In fact, it may sometimes smell of Hemingway, or at least Stephen King.

“But hang on!” you say. “How can something that smells good be bad?”

Context, my friend, context.

If I’m writing a murder mystery and suddenly start waffling on about the meaning of life, death and the universe, I’ve stopped the original story in its tracks. And that’s bad because you can’t marry the front end of a chicken to the hind end of a horse and still expect to get eggs….

You can find the complete article by yours truly on Indies Unlimited :

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2014/06/26/is-your-writing-bloated/#comments

Due to the pressure of paying bills, I’ve had to pare back some of my creative commitments, so this will be my last article for a while. However if you’re interested in the craft of writing, Indies Unlimited always has great articles on offer. :)

cheers

Meeks


websites, webhosts and the march of time

triptych website pic

Most of you won’t know this, but I’ve had a website – a proper website – for about 10 years.

The picture above is what my website used to look like. As you can see, there was no standard navigation, however all the doorways, and most of the graphical objects led to pages of content.

It took me absolutely ages to hand-code that website, and of course I thought I’d been incredibly clever. Sadly the few people who actually found it had no idea what to do with it.

When I added the Awaba Training Services side to the website I made it much more user friendly, but I rarely had any visitors so it didn’t really matter. I kept the website going out of nostalgia, and the emails associated with it. After so many years, those emails were  my link to just about everything on the net and beyond. Unfortunately they were also costing me $20 a month in hosting fees.

[Every website needs three things - a domain name,  a web host, and the html files that determine how the website will function and what it will look like. Having your website 'hosted' is like paying rent on an apartment or something].

I knew I needed to find a cheaper alternative, but I was daunted by the hassle of moving and setting everything up again. And then one fine day I had an epiphany – I didn’t really need the website, I just needed the domain name and the hosting. This is what my webpage looks like now :

website placeholder pic

That ‘Future home…’ bit is rather optimistic as I’m pretty sure I won’t ever reinstall the old website, and I can’t afford to have a new, shiny one built. Still, the good news is that I’ve moved to a webhost that only costs me $12 for a whole year, and I managed to get all my old emails working again. Getting to this point, however, was awful.

Let me say that I truly appreciate the super cheap hosting provided by GoDaddy, but all their support pages must have been written by a programmer who assumed everyone would know how to do things. I’m not dumb, but the lack of instructions made me feel like a complete moron, and sent my stress levels through the roof for 2 days. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

Anyway, I finally accomplished what I set out to do so now I’m saying a fond farewell to my lovely purple website – goodbye, goodbye, I loved you well, but all things come to an end eventually. RIP!

cheers

Meeks


Victory on the Chaplaincy programme – scuttled by Labor. What??

I just learned that the High Court has ruled against the Chaplaincy programme indirectly, by ruling that the funding model was not constitutional. As this type of funding model is also used by the commonwealth to fund about 400 other programmes, this is going to give the Abbott government a massive headache.

Despite the court ruling, however, Abbott has gone on record to say that he will do whatever it takes to keep the chaplaincy programme going. Excuse me?

Just to quickly recap for those who may not have been following this issue ; the Abbott government refuses to fund professional counsellors in schools, but clings to this ridiculous, religious patronage. Unless your child happens to belong to the denomination favoured by Tony Abbott, he or she will not get much value from this so-called caring programme. Yet this is exactly what Abbott supports.

Egalitarian? No.

An appropriate use of taxpayer funds during a horror budget? No.

Respectful of our multicultural, multi-faith, sexually diverse society? Hell no.

But I’m not saving all my bile for the Abbott government. Labor gets a big fat serve as well. Instead of coming out against this farce, Labor apparently will support coalition legislation designed to make the programme – ‘legal’.

I have very little time for Bill Shorten, but this is beyond belief. Is Labor brown-nosing that diminishing segment of Australian voters who are white, protestant or catholic and over 60?

Not happy, Bill, not happy at all.

Meeks


Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction – time to vote again. :)

Indies Unlimited has a great bunch of flash fiction stories for you to vote on this week – so please do! And no, you do NOT have to vote for mine, I never do so why should you? -grin-

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2014/06/18/vote-for-the-next-flash-fiction-champ-2/

Just click on the link above to go to the voting page. If you haven’t read all the stories, there’s a link on the page that will take you to the stories themselves.

cheers

Meeks


A Double Dissolution – the safety net of democracy in Australia

Since the Hockey-Abbott budget came out a few weeks ago, I’ve been wondering what we can do about it …in a democracy. Is it fair to make a fuss when a democratically elected government does something we don’t like?

For me, the simple answer is YES

Why? Because we have a Senate for a reason. The role of the Senate is to ‘moderate’ the decisions of the House of Representatives – i.e. the Abbott government. 

How does the Senate moderate the decisions of the House of Reps? By not passing bills. [A bill has to be passed by both the House of Reps and the Senate in order to become law]. 

Blocking Supply. If the Senate knocks back a House of Reps budget [3 times] the government of the day has the option of calling a Double Dissolution. A Double Dissolution means both Houses of Parliament are dissolved and new elections are held for both houses. 

No government goes for a Double Dissolution lightly as there is no guarantee it will be voted back in, and none of the politians want to lose their seats. 

Usually, the mere threat of a Double Dissolution is enough to force a compromise. In the case of the Hockey-Abbott budget, however, I think we should pressure the smaller parties to make a Double Dissolution inevitable. Voting is a pain, but it is the ONLY tool we voters have to keep politicians in line. If we can get rid of Abbott and his government, we will not only protect our national identity and way of life, we will send a clear message to politicians for decades to come : 

- Don’t break your election promises

- Don’t pick on the most vulnerable in our society

- Do try telling the truth for a change

- And do listen to what the people are actually telling you, even if it disagrees with your ideology

So let’s bring on this Double Dissolution. We really don’t have that much to lose.

cheers

Meeks


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