Strange Things in the World of WordPress

Strange things are happening in the world of WordPress. There is a huge fracas about sponsored themes—those free themes in which the creators have sold links to finance their efforts. There are some valid points on both sides, but this post is not about that; this post is about disappearing comments.

I recently commented on this article, but my comment seems to have never been posted on the site. A response to another article on the same site was posted and Mark Ghosh assured me in an e-mail marked 4:04am yesterday that the first was merely still in moderation, but it is still not posted, so I am not sure what happened. I suspect a simple error of some sort, but another missing comment at another site has me wondering about a potentially less innocent cause.

I just read this and how strange indeed it seems that the author’s critical comments are apparently being deleted by Matt. Stranger still, I too posted a comment that has since disappeared from below the same article she mentions. I spent about an hour of my time composing thoughtful query, commentary, and suggestion, but apparently I wasted my time just as I did when I commented on that first article at Weblog Tools Collection because not only is neither comment currently listed for either site’s article, but I did not even consider that I should keep a copy of what I wrote because I did not expect it to be deleted—ignored, perhaps, but not deleted.

Accidents are one thing, but if deletions are intentional and comments that are deleted contain neither spam nor abuse, doesn’t it seem rude for blog owners to waste people’s time like that? It also seems an oversight that commenters are not offered e-mail copies of their submissions so their writings are available to them regardless of technical difficulties, accidents, or even intentional deletions. If you don’t want other people’s particular comments on your blog, fine, but it seems to me that authors of rejected comments should then have opportunities to post their own words on their own blogs whether or not they have happened to remember to save a copy of each and every comment they have submitted.

I am not sure why my comment on Matt’s site has disappeared, but I can only suspect that comment deletion is how some people deal with criticism that is not otherwise easily ignored. Or perhaps it was accidental or technical—something to do with a moderation filter catching my surname even though it appeared to me that the comment had already been posted. Something seems fishy about this, though.

By the way, I suggested in my deleted comment that rather than banning innocuous themes because of sponsor links, sponsored themes could be marked as such in the official directory and that directory filtered on demand so that the vocal minority of cheapskates and socialists who want sponsored themes banned can browse the directory free of them without removing the choice for other users of whether or not to see themes they might like. Someone can already choose to ignore sponsored themes if they know about the sponsored links from the theme’s description and if a simple filtering mechanism were made available (and one would be easy to develop), someone could choose to use it to filter out sponsored themes, but someone who might like to see good themes regardless of whether or not they happen to contain sponsored links cannot choose to see what is not there.

It seems that I have picked a turbulent time to take such a big plunge into the world of WordPress.

Update:

Mark wrote to me with some clarification: he told me that when he previously told me that my comment had been in moderation, he was actually referring to what I described above as my second comment, that it was the only comment of mine in moderation at Weblog Tools Collection, and that he had not disapproved or deleted any comment of mine and I believe him. I do distinctly remember submitting the first comment, though, so some sort of technical issue is likely to blame. I did received one notification about a reply to an article to which I did not reply, so perhaps the issues are related.

Matt also responded directly in the comments to this article to let me know that my missing response to his article had merely been in moderation and to clear things up about how it came to be that my response had appeared then disappeared, so please be sure to read the comments to see what he had to say.

Embracing WordPress in a Big Way

I have dabbled with WordPress on occasion to see if and how it might be able to help friends and family get started blogging. To that end, some time ago, I experimentally deployed WordPress at DVD Guide to try it out. As I mentioned in my previous post, I do have my own blogging software in PageDrive and one of the systems that uses it, but because I have not been able to devote as much time to the development of either as I would like, their interfaces and functionality are not as refined as I think they should be before I deliver them to other users, so in the meantime, I wanted to see if I could recommend WordPress to those friends and family members who wanted to start blogging.

For a while, the answer was no: I had a lot of concerns about WordPress, ranging from preferences (e.g., terminology and punctuation) to functional issues to security issues. Even if I could overlook matters of preference, the fact that my installation of WordPress was hacked and defaced did not bode well and neither did the fact that WordPress had a tendency to break its own permalinks. In fact, although permalink breakage seemed to be the worst in WordPress 2.0, permalinks still broke in WordPress 2.1.2, which was released just last month. I am not sure whether they still break in WordPress 2.1.3, but users with access to their databases can check their wp_posts.guid values to see if they have fallen out of synch with their corresponding wp_posts.post_name values.

Despite its previous and current issues, though, WordPress has improved to the point that I can now recommend it to friends and family. And not only that: since I want the people I care about to have the best experiences they can using whatever software they happen to use, I want them to have the best experiences they can using WordPress. To that end, I have decided to help them install, customize, and otherwise make the most of WordPress. For example, not everybody wants a blog to constitute an entire Web site (e.g., the line under the title of Stephanie Booth’s Climb to the Stars site says “There’s more to it than just the weblog”) nor for non-blog content (e.g., WordPress “Pages” or image galleries) to be stored within a blog directory; not everyone accepts blog-level navigation as equivalent to or sufficient for site-level navigation; and not everyone wants a blog to have a different visual style than the rest of a site.

For such people, I want to help them use WordPress the way or ways they want to use it—to not merely select and install extant WordPress themes, but to integrate WordPress into their sites. Perhaps not the user login and session systems at this point in time (although that could certainly become more feasible if a future version of WordPress were to abstract those things from the blogging systems), but at least the visual appearance and to some extent, the data (e.g., I have already developed an index-generator that accesses the WordPress database without going through WordPress itself).

Why stop there, though? If I am going to be helping a few people make the most of WordPress, I might as well help a lot of people do it. I cannot offer that help to anyone and everyone who wants it in person, of course, but I can certainly do so via articles and downloads, so that is what I am going to do. I have started building both a Web site and my first original WordPress theme for that very purpose. The site is called Hard-Pressed and the theme is tentatively called “Hard-Pressed In The Shade”. Both are coming along nicely and yes, Hard-Pressed will feature a blog powered by WordPress and my original WordPress theme and the blog will be integrated with the rest of the site. Thus, Hard-Pressed will serve not only as a source of information for people wanting to customize, integrate, and otherwise make the most of WordPress, but also to demonstrate some ways to do those very things.

So there you have it: I am embracing WordPress in a big way indeed.

PageDrive and WordPress

I am starting to embrace WordPress, WordPress.com, and even the word “blog” as never before, but before I get into such details, a bit of personal project history is in order.

My personal journal at my personal Web site and my rather blog-like video gaming site, Game Buzz (blog-like as a site because of the blog-like news section, which is currently the main content at the site), both run on my own custom software: PageDrive, a Web application (including content management) platform, and a blogging application that may or may not be installed with the core of PageDrive. However, while my software does enable blogging, it is not a direct rival to WordPress; in fact, my intentions for the core of PageDrive are very different from the apparent goals of the WordPress: I want to enable multiple applications at a single Web site to use common resources and access common information and I want to keep those common resources as reusable as possible so they can be used again and again and again, even on different Web sites, without redevelopment and with as little necessity for customization as possible.

For example, if a site offers both blogs and discussion forums, I want the applications that run both systems to be able to access common user accounts and user session information—primarily so users do not have to hold separate login accounts for separate applications running on a single Web site. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and it was annoying. And it is not only annoying to users: Web developers should not have to deal with multiple login systems or multiple session systems at a single site either and I for one am not very keen on the idea of developing very similar login and session systems or configuration systems or presentation systems or user management systems or other common systems from scratch for every site I build.

To spare themselves redundant work and to make more time for both refining previous work and progressing with new work, many Web developers reuse code from a personal or organizational library or from some other project (or both as the occasion warrants), be it their own project or one for which the source code is otherwise available. I want to take things further by having not only a common library of reusable code, but by organizing it into a cohesive yet divisible and customizable and well-documented system that improves both the productivity of developers and usability for end-users.  So while enabling blogging is definitely the goal of one of my systems that uses PageDrive, that is not the goal of the PageDrive project as a whole, PageDrive and WordPress are not rival projects despite offering some of the same functionality, I wish great success for WordPress and its developers, and I even hope to be able to contribute in some way to making WordPress even better.  In fact, as I mentioned above, I have already started to embrace WordPress as never before.  That, however, will be the subject of another article.