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Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

December 14, 2018
Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

Sorry about all the typos. Fortunately, I start work each day at 3 a.m. I know what you’re thinking: “What’s fortunate about that?” It’s because it allowed me to edit and update this news page on Monday before WordPress “improved” the program with which the page is posted: A Day That Will Live in Infamy.

To begin: Roughly 75 million companies, humans and bloggers (many bloggers are not human) use WordPress, according to my official source: Googling WordPress.

Now, I do not subscribe to the cliché that tech guys and gals tend to be “on the spectrum” and difficult to deal with. That’s certainly not the case with Courthouse News’ tech crew, nor was it so at the newspapers that hatched me. In fact, Courthouse News’ tech guys may be the most kind, sensitive and intelligent employees we have.

Of course, you understand I’m comparing them with editors and reporters …

Nor am I launching this jeremiad as a pity party for Yours Truly. I am doing it to apologize to our readers for a rash of typographical errors early this week, and to explain how they came about.

This is all true.

At a Time Uncertain, but certainly Monday, WordPress, with no warning or instructions, updated its platform, with no option for its subscribers to say, “No, thanks. We’re fine here.”

The major improvement is that the program has become much more difficult to use. I guess there’s more special features, which I haven’t used yet, because I’m still trying to figure out how to do the old ones.

But the major improvement in the upgrade — which WordPress calls “Gutenberg” —  is that the program now deletes the spaces between words at random —  about 10 percent of the time.

So — follow me closely here — after editing a story, when editors try to post it, we have to edit it again, closely, to reinsert all the spaces that Gutenberg erased.

In a sense, WordPress has returned us to the days of Johannes Gutenberg, when every letter and space had to be laboriously inserted and plucked out by hand, one movable wood block at a time.

This accounts for a lot of our typos this week — not all of them, surely, but many.

In other words, WordPress is providing us — and 75 million others — with a program that inserts mistakes.

But wait, it gets better. I mean worse.

Our tech crew is just as annoyed about this as I am — surely more. After all, they have had to spend the week trying to undo, or work around, these improvements.

I’ve saved the best for last. Recall that with no warning or instruction, our trusty editors have had to flail about, live, to post the page this week. One editor, Kevin — bless his trusty heart —managed to find an online tutorial about Gutenberg, and he sent it to me as a link.

I don’t know if it’s a WordPress publication, and I don’t want to know. If you dare to watch it, you will see the presenter rush through the program, as it fails repeatedly to perform the tasks he alleges he is explaining to us. Quoth the tutor: “It’s still a little buggy” — over and over again.

Toward the end of the tutorial, he — I swear to god — edits HTML code onscreen, without a word of explanation of what he’s doing, or why.

Here is my Main Question: How could an organization so big and rich, with 75 million adherents, be so stupid? Without actually being the U.S. Congress?

Categories / Op-Ed, Technology

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