Discoveries, musings and plaudits about Wordpress, an Open Source, self-hosted blogging tool and content management system that makes it easy, even fun (!), for non-programmers to build and update all kinds of Web sites. Wordpress now powers more than 17% of the Web!

“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 – see below (red box, upper left):

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 famously frustrating VCR controls) make their users feel stupid when they can’t get the job done.

“Content is Core”

Biggest hit, loudest crack ‘o the bat (for me anyway) at last weekend’s deliciously inspiring Wordcamp Miami: John Carcutt’s preso, “Content is Core,” specifically his astute categorization of the 3 main layers we should work on to get content (helpful, useful content!) noticed on the fantastically huge and crowded (and getting more so every day) Web:

j_carcutt_layers_wp_mia_2014   j_carcutt_layers2_wp_mia_2014

Wordcamp Miami 2014 – University of Miami, Coral Gables, May 9-12

> more recap and photos of Wordcamp-Miami from Jeff Chandler (“WordPress guy,” Ohio, WC-MIA attendee) 

Bye-Bye Ernestine

I’m seeing a lot of Keys websites with outdated, stale content… words and images that apparently haven’t changed in months (years?)… no recent news suggesting anyone is expecting me to check in … no fresh blog comments showing that anyone is there to welcome me… in other words: a lot of “brochureware” – which is fine as far as it goes (better than no site at all), but it sure misses out on the lively, personal back-and-forth, the social interaction that makes the Web hop these days–and makes Google ‘bots happy. (And no, posting regular product and event announcements on Facebook and getting some ‘likes’ is NOT the level of social interaction I’m talking about!)

I’m sure many small business owners are aware that their sites are like billboards, but they’re just too busy doing all the other work they have to do, and it takes too much time getting their computer guy or gal to update content or add a new page, and there’s always a financial cost associated with all that. So I keep wanting to tell them: YOU NEED WORDPRESS! Once a WordPress site is up and running, you can update it yourself–quickly create new pages and blog posts, revise outdated language, update your schedule or menu or product offering or whatever else your business needs to stay current, add images and other media, then click the “Publish” button and you’re good to go! It’s empowering! Your customers will take notice! It’s good for business! It’s Do-It-Yourself at its best! It cuts out “the middleman.” It’s like making a direct call instead of going through an operator!

Lily Tomlin as "Ernestine"

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine, the famously ditzy, nosey “Laugh In” operator.