I thought it would be easy to make a blog. Even the phrase itself, “make a blog,” sounds like something a toddler would say while pointing at the toilet. “Look, Mommy, I made a blog!” Blogging sounds as if it should be as easy to accomplish as any bodily function. Ah, the innocence and naïveté of untried youth! In reality, making a blog is a harrowing, nightmarish experience, a swirling confusion of hyperlinks and hoodwinks, an unsolvable puzzle with enough cryptic three-letter acronyms to make “www” seem more elementary than ABC. I always fancied myself an intelligent person and a quick learner, but I have been bested by technology that has very clearly outpaced me, and thwarted by a few computer geeks who probably don’t even know how to use a semicolon.
Alright, let’s go back a bit. There was a time when I was not quite so frustrated about blogs. In 2013, soon after I retired, I easily created a blog. I posted all of seven pieces of writing on it. But I didn’t know how to use “tags” or “categories;” I wasn’t even on Facebook, so I had no way to let anyone know that my simple dichromatic blog existed. I might as well have been writing longhand in an old-fashioned diary, and locking it up with a key. That first attempt at a blog languished, and I gave it up. It still exists, but only because I don’t know how to get rid of it. It is just hanging there in cyberspace, untagged and uncategorized, attached to nothing, a mote of cyberspace dust, waiting to be discovered by some metaphoric particle physicist of the future. Or for WordPress to go belly up. Whichever comes first.
More recently, I took an online writing class in “the personal essay,” and found myself with several short non-fiction pieces that I thought would make appropriate blog fodder. I decided to create a new blog. This time, I determined, I would do it right. I would research. I would prepare. I would learn what “tags” and “categories” were all about. I would even join Facebook so that I could pretend that I had friends, and I would find a way to make my writing easily accessible to those friends I pretended to have. This is the story of my quest to create that new blog, how I screwed it up, and how I became frustrated and angry enough to make the title of a blog post as close to a curse word as I could.
I knew that I wanted to put my new blog on WordPress. That was the only way I knew how to do it, and “WordPress” had worked as a magic word for me the first time. But I did not sit down at my computer and go to wordpress.com. No. That would have been the smart, logical, simple thing to do, but it did not involve the extended amount of research and training that I believed I needed. Instead, I went to Google. I typed in “how to create a blog on WordPress,” thinking that somewhere out there there must exist a tutorial that would teach me, in non-technical terms, everything I needed to know. There were many to choose from! I read the brief descriptions that followed each link in the list, and was attracted to one in particular. The description contained phrases like “for beginners” and “non-technical” and “7 easy steps.” I placed my cursor over the link, and I clicked. And so the nightmare began.
I should have been immediately suspicious because all of the hyperlinks on this site appeared in orange, when even I know that hyperlinks are supposed to be blue. Conventions in writing lend stability to life, and you don’t get to break those conventions unless you’re, like, the e. e. cummings of the computer world. In any case, I ignored the orange warning and dove headfirst into disaster. I think I’ll spare you a blow-by-blow account of the next couple of weeks, but here are some of the more bizarre parts:
• Given the choice between wordpress.com and wordpress.org, I made the “informed” and “intelligent” choice to go with wordpress.org. This meant that I had to spend actual money, which I did, to the tune of about $72. That was dumb, even for me.
• Having spent 25 years teaching high school English, I feel pretty confident about saying that I know what the word “theme” means. In the world of literature, theme is a big deal. One could almost say that theme is the biggest deal there is. So when one of the “7 Easy Steps” to creating a blog directed me to “choose a theme,” I was a little confused. It seems that in the Blogian language, the word “theme” refers to a web page’s format or layout. Theme has nothing to do with content or, heaven help us, ideas. It’s all about presentation. How did this happen? How did this whopper of a concept come to mean such a relatively meaningless thing? Here’s what (I imagine) went on:
Around a table scattered with crumpled up papers sit four members of a Computer Science team who have been charged with creating a “user friendly” way for the “average Joe” to create a website without any knowledge of technical computer vocabulary. At the moment, they need to come up with a user friendly word that describes the physical layout of a website page. All four are clearly stumped. Suddenly, the leader of the group is struck with an idea.
Leader (rubbing his head): Hey! What’s a subject in school that every student has to take?
Geek#1 (with distaste): Uh, gym?
Leader: No, you numbskull. We can’t ask people to “choose an athletic supporter,” can we? No. I was thinking about English. Everybody takes English in school, right?
Geek #2: Yeah. So what?
Geek #3: What do you want us to do? . . .
The next day, the three computer geeks re-enter the room, where the team leader is already seated. The geeks are dressed in black, wearing black hats, and carrying crowbars and flashlights.
Geek #3: We broke into the English Department office, just like you asked us.
Geek #1: Man! There was a lot of stuff in there! I didn’t think those lame-ass humanities types could even fill up a filing cabinet, let alone a whole office!
Leader: Never mind that. What did you find?
Geek #3: I spotted some stuff about setting, saw it while these two were still fiddling with their flashlights. “Setting” seems like a good word to me. You know, like setting a table. It’s a word to describe where everything goes. I didn’t see the point in looking much further after that.
(He crosses his arms and gives Geek #1 a superior look.)
Leader: Good idea, but no. There’s already a clickable word called “Settings,” and regular people might get confused. Always remember that non-computer people are very, very stupid. How about you?
Geek #2: Well, it was hard to see it all in the dark, but this thing called “theme” seemed to be everywhere. There were all kinds of themes. There was even one about technology! I’m still not sure what it means exactly, but it looks like we can make it be whatever we want.
Leader: Sounds pretty good. Let’s just hear from the peanut gallery first.
Geek #1: I found a whole folder about just punctuation! Everybody knows about punctuation!
Leader: No, no, no. Math got all the good ones years ago. Well, “theme” it is, then.
And that’s how the word “theme” came to have its current absurd meaning in the Blogian language.
• After choosing a theme and setting up some categories, I thought it was time to connect my blog to Facebook. Some emails to the orange hyperlink company (they don’t take phone calls) informed me that I needed an IFTTT account. IFTTT, logically, stands for “if this then that.” But for me this was the last straw. Why should blogging be so hard? All I wanted was to post a few bits of writing on a simple blog, and share them with my friends on Facebook. This IFTTT nonsense was too much. I decided to scrap the whole project.
• My attempt to recover my $72 moved this whole experience into the realm of science fiction. Like, we’re talking The Twilight Zone. It involved some of the wittiest emails I’ve ever written, which, based on his responses, were totally unappreciated by the service rep who fielded them, and some far-out, psychedelic phone calls (different, third company) about a password that I didn’t know I had. Somebody somewhere refunded 50 of my 72 dollars. I stopped there.
At long last, I logged on to wordpress.com, which is what I should have done in the first place. Blogging is so easy this way! I can tag! I can categorize! I can send you, my friends, notifications, whether you want them or not! Whether you want them or not! Now that’s what I call progress.