Right. So. erm…. And all those stupid things people say to attract attention before they actually start to say what they want.
I should be cross.
You’ll remember that in my first post for ages, I said that I’d be trying to manage my own website and my friend who lives half a world away and had managed my old site had said that he was migrating all of his websites to WordPress because he was finding the latest version of Drupal to be a pain in the.. well, everywhere really. It made sense, he said, for me to use the same as his company was moving to so we were all on the same web-page.
So, he did as he said, set me up with a basic WordPress site and left me to my own devices.
Thinking I was clever, I set up a store to see if I could sell my own books. That went horribly wrong and I had no idea how to unravel what I’d done. The result was that I had the world’s ugliest front page for a website which tried to be a “storefront” but I’d cocked it up in the most right royal fashion.
Panic. Call to my friend who is hiding from the entire world because there more than 600 active coronavirus cases within a 1KM radius of his home, several people he knows have died and others are in varying stages of infection. The owner of the coffee shop where he has breakfast and his butcher have both died in recent weeks and people keep going missing for a couple of weeks at a time as they test positive and hide away. He’s barely left his flat or had visitors for three months and it’s driving him so mad he’s faffing about with computers instead of doing some proper work.
“Oh, yes. I forgot. Covi-fade is addling my brain. After two or three weeks trying to get WordPress to do more than be a simple blog, I gave up with that and went back to Drupal. It’s not been a learning curve; it’s been like speed-climbing, trying to learn all the new stuff that’s been introduced, the old stuff that’s gone and completely new terminology. In many ways it’s almost a completely new platform to what I’ve used for more than a decade and it really is not very logical or friendly. But it is nearly infinitely flexible so if something stops me doing what I want, I can find another approach.
“So, although my own personal site is on WordPress and will be an absolute nightmare to move, all the business websites are already almost finished on Drupal 9 which, so far as I can tell, won’t reach its end of life for some years and when it does, to move to the next generation won’t be so fraught. I’m doing it all myself to try to keep busy.
“Maybe,” he said as I reached for something to hit him with despite several thousand intervening miles, “I should have told you and you could have built your site in Drupal, too.”
How, I moaned, do I fix my specific problem? Which specific problem, he asked, which was not an unreasonable question because I have no idea what I’m doing and cannot, therefore, be specific about anything much.
“email me your login details.” I pointed out that he had them because he’d set the site up and in any case it’s on his company’s servers. First mistake. “Idiot. You mean you didn’t change the admin credentials so that only you can get in?” OK, so yes, that was stupid. After all, I’d set up a shop and the merchant account information was in the program and so was control for the payments account. Sheepishly, I sent him the login details. “Log out,” he said” or it will get upset you are in from two different places.”
So we chatted while the email arrived, while he typed a bit in the background and then he said “OK. Login again.”
He’s disabled the shop (which means all the work I’d done on the pages for books has disappeared, I think) and removed all the financial information. “how do I sell my books now?” I moaned.
Actually, I was only playing with selling my own e-books just to see if I could make it work: dealing with hard copies is too much like hard work. So hard copies will continue to be sold via Amazon. “We’ll put your e-books on our publications site and manage them along with all the other things there. You’ll just have to link to whatever pages the shop admin tells you. But it’s not ready yet so you might as well leave them with Kindle for the time being.You’ll automatically get paid when someone pays us. We’ll take, say, 5% to cover our admin costs.”
And so it is done. My experiment at becoming a world leader in e-commerce has been flushed with just a few keystrokes.
But now I can see the front page in all its bloggy glory; when I press “publish” this article will appear there, and the simple objective of howling at the moon through the medium of my computer screen will have been achieved.
“Hey,” I asked. “How do I replace that image at the top of the front page? It’s obviously a stock image and I’d like my own header.”
“No [expletive] clue. I’ve been trying to understand WordPress header images for well over a year because our e-learning provider’s front end is built on it. My own website has a badly cropped image in that space. If I were you, I’d just ignore it. It works perfectly first time in Drupal. I think that was maybe the one thing that ultimately made me realise that WordPress isn’t for me. It’s nice enough – it just looks like thousands of other sites.”
Strength in numbers, I suppose. But now I see it as a challenge. I wonder if I can find out how to do something he cannot. We’ve been competitive pretty much all our lives but we have very different notions of what amounts to winning.
As for my friend, I asked how he was doing, and insisted on a genuine answer.
“It’s like a perpetual Saturday afternoon when there’s nothing on telly. It is very demotivating.” I reminded him that in the old days, one of his senior staff said that he did the work of five people and that the head of a major news organisation’s regional office had said that my friend did more work by 9 am that several of his staff did, combined, in a whole day.
“Not these days,” he said. “I look at a task, see three or four hours’ work and it takes three of four days. I have no idea where the time goes.”
Right. I’ve just sat while he spent 30 seconds fixing my website on a platform he says he doesn’t understand and he’s just spent five days building three sites from scratch in a platform that is so different to what he’s used to that it might as well be entirely new. “Don’t you realise what you are achieving?” I asked?
“Right now, the limit of my ambitions is to go out, sit outside and have a cup of coffee and a piece of cake and a chat with someone.”
We all see the pandemic through the filter of our own experiences; sometimes when we listen to others we realise that the range of effects is vast.
I won’t throw anything after all.
But I did find out how to change the header image for this page (not globally but, hey, we all start somewhere). And it took me five minutes.
But the page title doesn’t stand out. So I only win by a little bit, it seems.
Oh, and the image shows up in the teaser in the front page so that’s going to be horribly overloaded if I do that for every post.
Maybe I didn’t really win.
But I didn’t really lose either !
Image credit: freepic.com