fantastico is evil. discuss.

Today on the forums:

Why do you feel the need to insult and call me “incompetent?” You know nothing about me except that I don’t write code nor do I really want to learn how to. I have used other blog software before and none of it was this difficult or confusing. I thought this would be a solution since it was part of my hosting package and I would be saved the anguish of trying to upload software to my hosting companies servers. I can guarantee you that right now and in the near future people like me will be looking for such a solution, and if they meet up with difficult programs like this, it will reflect negatively on both the software provider and the hosting companies who bundle such software.

OK, well clearly ‘WPNewUser’ isn’t the most tech-savvy person in the world (FTP causes them anguish) but this doesn’t mean they’re stupid. Lots of otherwise intelligent people have a mental block when it comes to figuring out anything computer-related. I’ve seen this in my own family, and it drives me nuts because I don’t understand how someone so bright can fail to grasp something so simple. But then the reason it seems simple to me is because I’m interested in it, and because it’s a fair few years now since FTP was this scary advanced geek thing I didn’t know anything about. But once, you know, it was.

So this person has evidently been sold hosting on the basis that their blog will be automatically installed. It might be fantastico, it might be the dreamhost one-click installer. Don’t get me wrong, I love these things. If you’re on dial-up, as I occasionally still am, FTPing an entire WP install is anguish. If you don’t know which files are dispensable I imagine it’s even more so.

They are, however, fundamentally misleading for the inexperienced. One-click installs give the impression that all the work is already done for you. It’s not. If all you wanted was a plain vanilla Kubrick install, nothing more personal than the content and the title, you wouldn’t be forking out for hosting. You’d be here. But if our user actually wants to utilise many of the hundreds of themes and plugins available then yes, they are going to have to master FTP. Quite possibly they’ll need to get to grips with the intricacies of chmodding. If they want to accomplish even the most basic of customisations they’re going to need some knowledge of HTML and CSS. There are no WYSIWYG theme editors. This ain’t Geocities.

So here is this unfortunate new user assuming that WordPress must be a company with offices and shit because nobody has told them otherwise. The ‘blogosphere’ is so up its own arse it’s assumed that everyone already knows it’s an open source project presided over by Matt Mullenweg and that 2.0 is nearing release and that wordpress.com is the no-frills hosted version etc. etc. But most people — even people who blog, or people who want to, or people who’ve heard of blogging — don’t know that at all. They don’t even know what open source means until it’s explained to them, and even then it pretty much translates as ‘if you get technical support, think yourself lucky’.

And now — because their host misled them, because they were confused by the Codex, because the only place they could get interactive support was the bear-pit of the forums (if you mention #wordpress in this context that only proves how far away from the average blogger you are) — this person has been seriously deterred from using the software.

I wonder whether there’s a case for having a short ‘about wordpress’ blurb on the dashboard on first login, in place of all the confusing feeds. (Who is this Matt? Who is this Ryan? Why are they on my blog? What is this ‘WordPress development blog’ that hardly ever has any posts to it? Does that mean it’s not being developed any more?) You know the sort of thing: open source blah, every thing done by unpaid volunteers blah, Matt is God and if you say different the fanboys are going come and get you blah. The ideologues would go nuts for it. Just because hosts are being careless about informing people what they’re letting themselves in for doesn’t mean that WordPress itself shouldn’t help clear up the confusion.

3 Comments »

  1. You are exactly right. When I first found out about WordPress it took me forever to figure out exactly what it was. And the random blogs in the dashboard was doubly confusing. If WordPress is going to be the most popular publishing platform (it already is, I think) then they need to get their act together and make the whole thing more user friendly. I’m not talking ajax-and-fading-colors friendly, I mean, explain what it is on the homepage, give clear access to the license and terms of use, tell everyone the difference between .com and .org, and let them know how difficult self-hosting can be.

  2. blaze said

    Looks like akismet isnt working ^^^

  3. wank said

    Centralised anti-spam systems suck. They should at least give us another plugin as a backup.

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