First Gutenberg Post: Why Can’t I Just Write!

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WordPress 5.0 is scheduled for release Thursday, December 6. Some people are terrified of this happening.  I don’t think I’m one of them.

I have turned on Gutenberg for this post. Let me know if weird things happen on the screen while you’re reading.

The one serious issue still in process for WordPress 5.0 is accessibility. For that reason, I don’t recommend that people with issues using a mouse use Gutenberg until a promised accessibility audit is completed. Everyone else should be able to upgrade with reasonable confidence. If you’re the slightest bit concerned with how Gutenberg might affect your experience, install the Classic Editor plugin.

As Matt Mullenweg, team lead on WP 5.0, was announcing the projected release date Monday, I was already writing this post about one writer’s Gutenberg experience. I will now pick up on that original idea. 

Complaints about Gutenberg’s Interface

Last week, Matt Mullenweg published his Gutenberg FAQ. This was a fairly well-reasoned response to his critics.

But a few critics showed up to demonstrate their anger in front of the boss.

There was one guy who responded that “WP is history, and so am I…I feel it is a HUGE STEP BACKWARDS! But then gotta keep all those barely educated millenials (sic) happy.” Unfortunately, he didn’t really explain what his problem with Gutenberg was. Perhaps it was because his website is on Blogger now.

Two other folks offered more constructive criticism, worth examining. Their criticism focused on the way you write in Gutenberg. Thiago writes:

Comment from Thiago on Matt Mullenweg's Gutenberg FAQ post. "Why can not I simply write the way I like, with justified paragraphs, with colors to highlight ideas, etc? My blog, my style!"
Comment from Thiago on Matt Mullenweg’s Gutenberg FAQ post

Paul Marsden has a similar complaint, taken a bit further.

Comment from Paul Marsden on Matt Mullenweg's Gutenberg FAQ post: "You are forcing humans to write in a new, non-intuitive, un-human, inhuman way."
Paul Marsden’s comment on Matt Mullenweg’s Gutenberg FAQ post.

If you haven’t yet tried Gutenberg, these comments might fill you with terror. Let me suggest trying this version of Gutenberg before you call it “inhuman.”

The Gutenberg Learning Curve

Marsden makes a good point about how the Comments editor works, but I’m not sure it applies here. It’s also true that word processors also present a blank screen and you just type until you stop typing. Gutenberg takes a little getting used to, but the height of the learning curve is about the size of a pebble in the road.

Writing

I’ve been using TinyMCE, aka the Classic Editor, in WordPress for nearly 15 years. When I first typed in a Gutenberg block some months ago, I thought it was a little weird that pressing Enter demanded that I select another block. Well, the developer team fixed that. Today, finish a paragraph and another paragraph block appears. If you’d rather have a heading just now, move the mouse to bring up a menu, or type a forward slash like this / (which it helpfully suggests) to choose a Heading block. By default, the menu will make that a Heading 2, but you’ve got options. 

Note: As I’m typing here (in a Paragraph block, by the way), I’ve got a couple suggestions for the team: It would be nice to have a Note block with a border around it to make it stand out. I could add some CSS to make that happen in the Advanced settings for this block (it’s right there on the right side of the editor page), but my CSS skills aren’t quite up there yet. It would also be great to have the Word Count information at the bottom of the screen, like the Classic Editor does. I’ll see if anyone else has filed that as a bug.

Images

My other favorite thing about Gutenberg over Classic is how easy it is to deal with images. Those comments up there? I took a screen shot, put it on the clipboard, and pasted it into the spot. An Image block was created, and I could change the positioning on the page. It just worked! I was hardly ever happy with how graphics meshed with text in the old editor.  You also don’t need a separate window to type Alt Text, and handle the other editing tasks to make the image look right.

If you just want to use something already in your Media Library, you have to create the block first, then choose from Upload, Media Library, or Insert from URL, just like you used to.

HTML, Blocks and Structure

But why can’t WordPress just let me write on a blank sheet of (electronic) paper? Why blocks?

One short answer is: Every web page you’ve ever seen has paragraph tags. Every word processing document has code of some sort hiding out of plain sight. Blocks in Gutenberg should make it easier for you to communicate. It may also have a benefit in that search engines can better find your content (though probably not immediately).

Some folks have noted that the menu of formatting options for writing is not at the top of the screen, always visible. In Gutenberg, those options are available with the push of a mouse at the top of each block. This can be a problem if you can’t use a mouse, but I’m confident this will be fixed soon.

As a writer, I think Gutenberg will make a positive contribution to democratizing publishing on the web.  I think we’re all going to be better at communicating with Gutenberg very soon.

I guess I can say that I, for one, am ready for Gutenberg! I’m hoping to learn more this weekend, watching at least some parts of the Livestream of WordCamp US. Get your free ticket here.

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Lessons from NaBloPoMo 2014

And so we come to the end of National Blog Post Month ). For the second year in a row, I (nearly) managed to post something here every day in November. Technically, this is Post #29 — there’s another one coming before the end of the day., where I commit to covering some of the technical topics I touched on this month. Last year, I finished the month with some lessons I learned; I’m going to do the same here. It’s not worth completing a challenge if you don’t learn something from it.
NaBloPoMo November 2014

By the way, if you’ve participated in NaBloPoMo, especially for the first time, I humbly suggest looking at that link to last year’s post. There’s some good stuff in there.

When choosing topics, social media is your friend

English: This icon, known as the "feed ic...
This icon, known as the “feed icon” or the “RSS icon” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I did a little more planning of topics this year (even though November snuck up on me again), but some of the better posts came as a result of reading other people’s stuff in my RSS feed and email. I even wrote one post that described my process, which was equal parts planning and serendipity.

While both BlogHer and WordPress.com offered topic prompts every day, I didn’t want to stray too far from the typical topics here just to complete a post. I’ll pat myself on the back, and declare that a good decision.

Y’all were interested in what I wrote

As with last year, NaBloPoMo raised the general interest in Notes from the Metaverse. The most popular posts from the last 30 days remained the technical ones:

Just one of these posts was not written this month. My Installing openSUSE 12.1 post from a while back is still pretty useful for v13.2, and I hope those who read it agree! All of these could be considered “technical,” and nearly all about open source software (though I don’t think the comet-lander was running KDE Plasma Desktop).

I also made some new friends this month. Welcome to all my new followers!

Y’all are too busy to comment

Notes from the Metaverse has always shrived to be an interactive space, where readers can comment on the material they read. It largely fails in that mission, but I understand. People are busy.

I am happy that some of you are getting comfortable with the Like button, though. Using that standard of popularity, here’s what you liked best:

Summing Up

I enjoy most of the process of NaBloPoMo, and will undoubtedly take part again next year. I think you should too. I’ll repeat myself just this once: Last year, I wrote (and stand by):

Congratulations to all those who successfully completed the NaBloPoMo challenge. To those who feel like they fell short: it’s really all about the effort. Life intervenes. But please keep on posting! Writing every day is essential for anyone who considers themselves a writer; blogging offers the opportunity to publish every day too–take advantage of this as often as you can!

 

Hitting the Wall: The Challenge of a Challenge

I’m typing this at 9:30PM on November 13, and I don’t know what to write about. I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I don’t (yet) have enough to say in a blog post about a topic that I haven’t already written about this month. Instead of being completely boring and writing again about the (sideways but still exciting) Philae lander, or another Net Neutrality post , I’m typing a little bit stream-of-consciousness, partly in the hope that something more brilliant will come out of my fingers.

Note: I want to share some resources/links on both net neutrality and Philae, but I’m running out of time. Perhaps over the weekend.

filedesc http://www.epa.gov/win/winnews/images...
http://www.epa.gov/win/winnews/images05/0510keyboard.gif (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Writing Tip: The Daily Dump

Maybe I’ll turn this post into something about writing. I know something about that. Rochelle Melander wrote a really good book in 2011 about surviving a challenge like NaNoWriMo or NaBloPoMo called Write-A-Thon: Write your book in 26 days (and live to tell about it). She calls exercises like this one “The Daily Dump.” It’s good practice to just get into the daily writing habit and clear your mind in the process. I’ve done this on my laptop since August, and it does help all the above. I type into Scrivener, a great piece of software that many writers love dearly. I’m working up to love, but I’m definitely at the Like stage.

Marathons

National Blog Post Month

Anyway, since I’m almost halfway through posting every day in November, perhaps this is not unlike what marathon runners talk about: “hitting the wall.” Suddenly you don’t think you’ve got the energy to go on, but you fight your way through it. That’s what I’m doing now. What I’m really doing is following through on a commitment I made to myself – and indirectly to you readers. I am offering up my thoughts on a variety of topics, in 300+ word chunks, for 30 straight days. In the coming days, I will recover my strength and feel the support of the people along the course with water, energy drinks, and cheering!

If you’re on this journey with me as a reader, I hope you find this post a little entertaining. Feel free to cheer in the comments. If you’re not entertained, or enlightened, you can tell me that too.

More importantly, if you’re a writer on this journey, I’m telling you: DON’T GIVE UP! The fun part is still ahead. When we all get to hit the tape on November 30 and celebrate the writing we’ve done. And the next project we’re going to do.

Go for it, gang!