Kim’s Reflections on WordPress

I’ve been blogging irregularly since the age of thirteen, so I’m familiar with WordPress. Familiar, yes, but not exactly a fan. Inevitably, each usage of the platform in the past caused me some form of grief or another: entire blog posts eaten, controls I couldn’t quite figure out, posting things to the wrong blog when I was a contributor to multiple blogs at once… I could go on. Still, I was required to use WordPress for two of my classes this semester, mainly on this blog. The entirety of my last blog post was composed on WordPress, as were all of my reflection posts.

The beginning of my previous blog post in WordPress. Ah, lines that got deleted!
The beginning of my previous blog post in WordPress. Ah, lines that got deleted…

How did it go? Well, I still prefer Blogger, but it was better than it used to be. There were no catastrophic losses of writing, which is always good. And yet, I’m still not sold.

One thing I don’t like: in order to compose a piece for a specific blog, you have to switch sites. This has led to an incident where one of my posts nearly ended up on my other school blog. Is this an annoyance as opposed to a genuine problem? Absolutely. But on Blogger, the platform I usually use, I just click the orange buttons next to each blog’s name on my site. It’s a layout difference, but it’s more convenient, and it lets me get writing faster.

Blogger's home page. My blogs haven't updated in a while, so... sorry to disappoint.
  Blogger’s home page. My blogs haven’t updated in a while, so… sorry to disappoint.
...And here's WordPress's thing to switch to the other site. You can do it in  post as well. I just now discovered that. D'oh.
…And here’s WordPress’s thing to switch to the other site. You can do it in post as well. I just now discovered that. D’oh.

Another thing I prefer about Blogger: I can customize the text further. WordPress limits to one text size, one font. Blogger doesn’t have a huge variety of fonts or size options, but it offers eight font choices and five size options. Another small issue, but one that matters, especially when you’re the sort of blogger who likes to mess around with text size for comedic effect. Here, text is text. You can put things in bold, italicize them, or even cross them out use strikethrough, but that’s it. It can get a little boring.

On the other hand, you can easily get distracted if you like to play with text.
On the other hand, you can easily get distracted if you like to play with text.

Other than those small problems that are more about personal preference than anything wrong with WordPress, the sites are very similar. They allow you to save drafts, back them up for you in your browser in case of emergency (since my internet died twice while writing the previous blog post, I’m very grateful for that), you can share things on social media by connecting your accounts… it’s all fairly standard blogging. Rather than apples and oranges, comparing the two is more like iPhones and Androids: They’re not all that different when you get down to it.

So, how to connect this to what I’ve learned in class? It probably says more about me than it does about either blogging platform. As Nancy K. Baym says in Personal Connections in the Digital Age, people’s views on technologies are reflective. (p. 28) As a result, the way I view these blogging sites is more about me and my finicky nature.

For one thing, my bias toward Blogger and against WordPress can be attributed to my pro-Google stance. (After all, I’m one of the only people in my area who regularly uses Google+, so it’s safe to say that I have an inclination toward the company and its sites/products.) It also shows that I’m really picky about very small things, which isn’t news to me but is still worth noting. And maybe I prefer the color orange on Blogger’s site to WordPress’s blue color scheme as well. Whatever the case, my appraisal of WordPress isn’t exactly fair since I have another similar site to compare it to.

Still, this is something we have to navigate in the digital age. When there are so many similar sites, how do we choose the “right” one? And is there ever a “right” one? Perhaps I need to get to know WordPress a little better before I decide whether or not it’s right/wrong for me…

Kim’s Reflections on WordPress

Kim’s Reflections on the Typewriter

Like many other writers, I’ve always wanted to use a typewriter. They look cool, and they’re vintage, which is even cooler. In the old movies I grew up watching, I always saw writers clacking away on the keys of a typewriter, and I never thought I’d be a legitimate writer until I sat down in front of one of those things. Let’s face it: typewriters look pretty cool. And they’re even cooler if you grew up a Stephen King fan.

The fact that the film adaptation The Shining exposed me to typewriter-induced madness at an early age didn’t sway me from it at all. When I went to use the typewriter for my latest blog post, I was incredibly enthusiastic about finally getting a chance. I knew it would be incredibly difficult compared to writing on the computer, but I also figured, “Hey, how bad could it be?” I decided to spend some quality time with the typewriter named Floyd Pepper.

  Bad isn’t quite the right word, but it was a far more arduous process than I expected. The movies make it look a lot easier than it really is. I felt like a senior citizen trying to navigate an iPad for the first time. “What is this confounded thing?” I thought at least once.

Writing in progress.
Writing in progress.

  The first thing that gave me a hard time was loading the paper, which I’m still not entirely sure I did correctly. It took me a few minutes to realize that I needed to turn one of the knobs away from me, not toward me. Of course, my writing ended up coming out at a slanted angle by the time I got to the end of the first page. I think I did a little better the second time, though!

The first page I typed. Notice how things slant toward the end...
The first page I typed. Notice how things slant toward the end…

    The second time: Typos. I made about 3,400 typos during the course of this assignment. A lot of these resulted from me typing without appropriate punching of the keys and thus losing a letter here and there, the rest resulted from me being an incredibly fast, impulsive writer. Since one cannot easily go back and change the way they have written a word, there are two possibilities for dealing with typos: ignoring them and moving on, or correcting them after the fact with a pen. I did both, and wasn’t particularly happy with either decision.   Furthermore, the necessary amount of force to write at all was rather baffling. I’m pretty rough with computer keyboards when I type, so I was shocked at how hard I had to hit a key on a typewriter for it to work. This left my hands with a numb, tingling feeling in all of my fingers that didn’t go away until the next day.

Lots of typos visible here.
Lots of typos visible here.

  Revising is also virtually impossible without starting over on a new piece of paper, so my only option was to keep going. Since I got back my blog feedback after I finished the typewriter work, I had no choice but to type up and revise my original text to make it better fit the requirements for the course. Was this particularly frustrating? No, but it’s also the sort of thing that writing on a computer has almost eliminated. (Even writing by hand is easier to revise, if you do it in pencil.) Theoretically, this could’ve made my writing a bit more careful. Of course, it didn’t. Writing on a typewriter in such a short, crunching-for-time span, I knew I had to keep going, and fast. I finished my paper in a bit over an hour, and aside from the typos and other formatting issues, it was mostly a pretty decent rough draft of something. Unfortunately, when I’m writing something, I want something that looks a little better than a decent first draft. Correct formatting and spelling are ridiculously important to me; without them, I feel like a failure even if the content of my writing is otherwise passable.

Here we can see pen marks I did for correction. It didn't work as well as I'd hoped it would.
Here we can see pen marks I did for correction. It didn’t work as well as I’d hoped it would.

  It’s not hard to see why typewriters are considered obsolete: they’re limiting. It’s hard to write quickly on them, and it’s hard to write well on them. This encourages careful writing and discourages people who like to type lots and edit more later. The environment of the room with the typewriters didn’t hinder me at all; knowing I wasn’t alone made it hard for me to get discouraged, so I finished a lot faster than I thought I would.   Since I had to type up everything I’d written after the fact to make it remotely readable, I learned that I am the sort of person who is much better at writing if she gets a chance to change things a lot as she goes along. It also tells me that I should perhaps slow down when I write, although this is not something I would prefer. (I would much rather write quickly and then revise than write slowly.) Individuals who are more careful writers would likely benefit from the usage of a typewriter; as for me, I just view the devices as a curiosity of the past, albeit ones that contributed incredibly important works to our culture. In Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Nancy Baym discusses technological determinism, a view of technology that posits that technology changes the way people think and act. (Baym, 30-33) I think this is an important thing to take into consideration when discussing the typewriter. Most people in this day and age who are accustomed to typing on a computer keyboard will find the typewriter to be antiquated at best, regressive at worst. There is also a social stigma against people who still use typewriters; they are mainly viewed as individuals who are just doing it “to be cool” and/or different, often called “hipsters,” and are often criticized for their choice in writing tool as a result. Those who still use typewriters, such as Richard P. of The Typewriter Revolution, are quite displeased with this social stigma. As Baym says, “We are surrounded by messages that treat media as a cause of social consequences,” (33) and it’s hard to look at the inundation of messages about new technology being “cool” in the eyes of the mainstream and not see it as connected to modern views on the typewriter. I don’t view the typewriter as at all uncool. I view it as terribly inconvenient for a person like me. Still, at the same time there is something weirdly charming writing on a typewriter. Perhaps it’s the satisfying clacking noise, or the little bell…

Or perhaps it was the opportunity to finally type out the most famous words ever written by a fictional author.

I'd have typed it several thousand more times, but my fingers were numb.
I’d have typed it several thousand more times, but my fingers were numb.
Kim’s Reflections on the Typewriter

Kim’s Reflections on ZenPen

ZenPen was a different sort of writing tool. With its vast white spaces and lack of features, it was like an alien version of the other softwares I’ve used. It has all of the necessities of a good writing space, but somehow, something about it felt off to me.

My first issue was the look of it, the sheer amount of whitespace on the screen and the size of the text. I have sensory integration issues, so looking at a blank white screen is actually painful for me if I do it for too long. (This makes it hard to be a writer sometimes without dimming the screen significantly.) I didn’t play around with the features enough to discover that there’s a way to invert the colors, but I’ll admit that, now that it’s been pointed out to me, it does help a lot.

Regular colors...
Regular colors…
Inverted colors. MUCH better.
Inverted colors. MUCH better.

The font issue is merely a matter of me being ridiculously picky. I don’t like sites where the text isn’t 11 or 12-point font because I can’t see as much at once. There’s a benefit to this, of course, but for me it’s just frustrating.

As for it causing minimal distractions because of its lack of features, well… allow this screenshot to say my thoughts.

Screenshot 2015-02-22 at 3.20.19 PM

Returning to ZenPen for a re-appraisal, however, I found a bit more to like about it. Not being able to check my word count without setting a goal is still annoying, but everything else is sort of interesting. It’s hard to figure out what kind of writing to do on the site: it’s definitely not suited for writing a novel, of course, and it doesn’t have enough features to make for an ideal place to compose essays for school.

However, if you’re looking to jot down words quickly, it’s not a bad choice. On ZenPen, it’s not hard to reach your word count in a short amount of time if you jump into full screen and just keep tapping keys. It could be a good place to punch out a quick draft of a blog post or essay questions. It may even be ideal for beginning a short story if you just want to get to writing right away. The hardest part of writing is starting, and ZenPen makes it very easy to start.

I think I’m going to keep working with ZenPen every so often. It has potential to be very useful to me if I can get past my problems with the way it looks.

Kim’s Reflections on ZenPen