Category Archives: Customer service


In which The Author apologises for the
break in transmission and announces
an imminent change of location

In case you’re wondering where I’ve been for the last month or so, I can assure you that all is well. I’ve just been busy with various external matters, and I haven’t had chance to do very much online.
However, this might well be the last entry at this particular location. Ever since the people at WordPress decided to ‘improve’ the interface a couple of years ago, trying to write a new post has been like wading through treacle. They’ve added an ‘autosave’ feature, which seems to back up every time I take a breath; consequently, trying to type anything longer than about four words is punctuated by a long wait while the autosave executes. There’s no way to alter the settings, and I spend more time waiting for something to happen than I do actually doing anything.
(For the record, it saved no less than six times in the course of that last paragraph, and has already saved twice while I’ve been typing this fucking sentence!)
In fact, the whole new interface is a pain in the arse to try and navigate. Nothing is where you’d expect it to be, for a start. What was a fairly easy to use WYSIWYG word processor-style layout has now become some monstrous object, with pull-down menus which you have to remember to close before you can continue typing, and a whole host of pointless options (location, anyone?) which I’ve never had occasion to use and probably never will.
During the brief period after the introduction of the ‘improved’ layout, users had the option to switch back to the ‘classic’ layout if they wanted to. I’ve been using the hosted WordPress for my blog for over eight years. I don’t consider the old layout to be ‘classic’ – it was just so much better in many respects. It was faster, far more responsive, and didn’t clutter up the screen with menus which nobody ever used. Needless to say, soon after the transition the ‘classic’ option disappeared entirely.
As for the ‘improved’ layout – well, I’m sure we all remember what happened when a popular brand of soft drink ‘improved’ its recipe a few years ago.
Yes, that’s right – the sales plummeted!
Change for the sake of change clearly isn’t always a good thing.
I can only suspect that the ‘improved’ layout works nicely on a high-spec PC/laptop running Windows 10 with the latest version of Internet Explorer. As a recovering Microsoft user, I couldn’t possibly comment. One of the reasons why I switched to open source in the first place is that the software is written by users for users – in most cases. (See ‘Development Hell‘ for an example of what happens when that idea breaks down.) I don’t want to have to spend hundreds of pounds keeping my system up to speed with the corporate world’s latest fashions, only to have to junk it a couple of years later.
My system isn’t the world’s greatest, I’ll admit it, but it’s constantly updated and there aren’t any issues with obsolete browser plugins, add-ons, or software conflicts. That’s the only explanation WordPress were able to offer. Once you’ve eliminated the obvious, then the only conclusion I can reach is that the WordPress team have quite simply fucked up.
I’ve reported this issue several times in the support forums. Many other users have also complained about the autosave (which seems to have been configured with the short-term memory of a goldfish), so I know I’m not alone. The last time I raised a bug report was about a month ago, after it took me nearly three hours to post the previous entry. So far, nobody has even had the courtesy to reply.
So, boys and girls, I’m in the middle of setting up up a new blog elsewhere. The title will be the same, and the url will be almost the same, so you can find me easily enough. But I really don’t have the time or the patience to fuck around with WordPress any more.
Missing you already …

Incomplete List of Annoyances (Part 7)

In which The Author does some mental arithmetic

Here’s something that’s been annoying me on and off for years, but came to a head yesterday afternoon.
My toilet roll holder fell off the wall. It’s been hanging by a thread for a little while, but finally gave in yesterday. I blame the house’s previous owners, who clearly knew little about DIY. As any fule kno, you can’t use standard wall plugs in plasterboard (even for light loads) and expect the job to survive very long. Ordinary plastic plugs are designed for masonry, expanding as the screw is tightened and biting into the substrate with their toothed edges.
Plasterboard is too soft for that. You can buy special plugs which are the same depth as the board plus a few millimetres. As you tighten the screw, the end flares out to grip the reverse side of the board. For heavier loads, you can buy metal fixings which do a similar job. It’s a little bit like putting a ship in a bottle: you put the screw through the workpiece, attach the hinged piece loosely on the screw, fold the flaps back against the thread, and insert the fixing into the hole. The flaps spring out, and as you tighten the screw they spread the load against the board. Simple but effective.
I’ve used these fixings to put shelves up, and they’ll hold quite a weight when they’re in place. But that isn’t the annoying part.
No – the annoying part is how these fixings are sold, as I remembered yesterday which hunting through my Box of Useful Things.
As I’ve said, I’ve previously used them to put shelves up. Picture a shelf. There’s usually a bracket of some sort towards each end. On occasions there might be an extra bracket in the middle, but in most cases two will do the job. Most brackets need two screws to hold them in place (otherwise they’ll just rotate freely). Hence, selling the fixings in fours, sixes, eights – indeed, any even-numbered quantities – would be the logical approach.
But logic goes out of the window when you’re dealing with manufacturers and retailers. Certainly the fixings sold by Wilkinson in Aberdare defy all reason – they come in packs of five. That’s too many to put up one average-sized shelf, and too few to put up two. It’s not even enough to put up a long shelf with an extra bracket in the middle. In the first case, you get one left over. In the second case, you have to buy two packs and get four left over.
I found myself in the first situation yesterday. I had one fixing left over from my last job – but I needed two to rehang the holder. As a result I’ll have to make a trip to Wilkinson, and spend a pound or so on five fixings, four of which will live in the Box of Useful Things for a long time.
If the manufacturers and retailers stopped for a moment to think about the way people would actually be using these things, maybe they’d start selling them in packs of six. After all, they sell conventional wall plugs in pairs on a long plastic strip; obviously someone has taken the sensible option and thought about the practical situations in which they’d be used. I can only assume that it’s a way to prise more money out of customers. If I’m wrong about that, and it’s just plain stupidity, then I’m not sure which is worse.
Talking of retailers and their illogical stock control policies, I was in Waterstones in Cardiff a couple of months ago. I had a browse through the Science Fiction section, as always, and came across something which seems to epitomise the central purchasing system which came on stream just after I finished working there. They had several copies of Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, and a couple of copies of Foxglove Summer – but no Moon Over Soho, Whispers Underground or Broken Homes, respectively the second, third and fourth books in the ongoing Peter Grant adventures. That’s almost equivalent to keeping only The Hobbit and The Return of the King on the shelves, but not the other books in the saga of the One Ring.
Is it me?