“HTTP error”

If you get an error message like that and go blank with frustration and disinterest, you’re like me. You may know what “HTTP” stands for and kinda what it does, but hey, you’re trying to get work done with other humans, not respond to a computer application that talks a computer programmer’s preferred lingo. So you’re stuck, or at least delayed until you figure out what that message means or can ask someone who does. More to the point I want to make here: I got that message while trying to upload an image to a WordPress post:

Error message received during attempted image upload to WordPress post.

Error message received during attempted image upload to WordPress post.

Since starting to work with WordPress a few years ago I’ve learned the hard way that it’s definitely not for anyone with no affinity for, or basic knowledge of, computers and networks and how they work; and it’s probably not for anyone who isn’t familiar with basic HTML. It’s the love child of countless programmers and still dominated by them, so when you get a message like “HTTP error” it’s them basically, blithely saying (between the lines): “most of us here in the WordPress community are pretty geeky and know what that means and don’t mind dealing with it.” Which reminds me of one of my favorite books, a classic, about human interaction with technology, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, by Alan Cooper*. I highly recommend it to anyone who almost didn’t read this post when they saw the headline. Here’s from an editorial review of “Inmates” on Amazon.com:

The recurring metaphor in The Inmates are Running the Asylum is that of the dancing bear–the circus bear that shuffles clumsily for the amusement of the audience. Such bears, says author Alan Cooper, don’t dance well, as everyone at the circus can see. What amazes the crowd is that the bear dances at all. Cooper argues that technology (video recorders, car alarms, most software applications for personal computers) consists largely of dancing bears–pieces that work, but not at all well. He goes on to say that this is more often than not the fault of poorly designed user interfaces, and he makes a good argument that way too many devices (perhaps as a result of the designers’ subconscious wish to bully the people who tormented them as children) ask too much of their users. Too many systems (like the famous unprogrammable VCR) make their users feel stupid when they can’t get the job done.