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

WeNeedDiverseBooks Analysis: What I’ve Learned

It’s strange to go into a hashtag centered around something you believe in deeply. It’s obviously more interesting than taking something you don’t care about, which makes the homework feel a lot less like work. On the other hand, it’s pretty much impossible to go into it without any preconceived notions about what you’re going to find.

Fortunately for me, I like a bit of a surprise.

When I started studying the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag, I had heard of the movement–as well as its corresponding website–and saw the benefits that its prevalence had reaped. (As I said in a prior post, last year’s discussion about diversity in children’s literature most likely influenced the results of this year’s Youth Media Awards.) Individuals I knew in the children’s/young adult literature community had We Need Diverse Books banners added to their Twitter icons, my library had a specialized display up for months, they had an Indiegogo campaign… it was everywhere. And I was totally into it. But as much as I knew about it, I didn’t really know much about it. (If that makes sense.)

Diving into the hashtag, I noticed a few things. First, most of the diversity discussed in the tag was racial, and the myriad other kinds of diversity out there were uncommon. Second, a great majority of the tweets with the hashtag attached were retweets, and not much conversation happened.

A sample of tweets I archived. All tweets with RT at the beginning are retweets.
A sample of tweets I archived. All tweets with RT at the beginning are retweets. There are plenty more where those came from.

I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping to see thoughtful tweets about disability and mental illness in books, and there were only a few mentions of books with disabled characters (or even expressions of a want/need for books containing said characters). More than that, though, I wanted to see conversations going on, and there weren’t any.

Then, once I started following lots of authors and book enthusiasts, something occurred to me: the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag is only one facet of the pro-diversity community, and only one of its tools for communication. Following authors that used the tag frequently led me to a multitude of interesting discussions, plenty of feedback about things that are/are not good in regards to cultural representation, and talk about all kinds of diversity.

And, of course, I joined in here and there.

A conversation with the Twitter account for Tu Books, a publisher I discussed in an earlier post.
A conversation with the Twitter account for Tu Books, a publisher I discussed in an earlier post.

(Including the above tweet because it led to an interesting conversation with author Chase Night about unoriginality of book marketing. Which is awesome, because I talked to an author about something indirectly related to diversity.) There are many things that I have taken away from the whole experience of interacting with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag.

1. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag fits all of the criteria for a community that Nancy K. Baym describes in Personal Connections in the Digital Age. In the beginning of chapter 4, “Communities and Networks,” Baym lists five characteristics that online groups shared. They were a sense of space, shared practice, shared resources/support, shared identities, and interpersonal relationships.” (p. 72) Some of them are easier to assess than others, but by her standards #WeNeedDiverseBooks is a community. The space is the hashtag itself, the practice is using the hashtag and discussing diversity, the resources are various book lists and websites about diversity in books, the identities are generally as writers or readers (or both!) who all care about diversity, and most people have interpersonal relationships with one another. Based on this, I’ve come to the conclusion that this hashtag does, indeed, qualify as a community.

2. Though #WeNeedDiverseBooks is, in itself, a community, it is also part of a larger community. This is something I suspected; after all, I’d been on the fringes of the children’s literature community during the time when the hashtag was at peak popularity. However, I was unaware of the complexities of both communities. It’s hard to find anybody in the children’s literature community that doesn’t care about WNDB; on the flipside, nobody who uses the hashtag doesn’t care about children’s literature. (Aside from those who use it improperly, but I weeded them out.)

3. Though all diversity is important, #WeNeedDiverseBooks talks primarily about racial diversity. And that’s perfectly fine.   Though the children’s literature community at large cares a lot about all sorts of diversity, the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag is mostly concerned with promoting books about and written by people of color. Though this initially disappointed me, I had to adjust my expectations and try to understand why this must be so. And it’s true: There aren’t all that many books about children and teens of different races out there, and the ones that do get released are often buried by their publishers in favor of books that are about white kids/teens. The world is a much more racially diverse place than the books that are supposed to represent it, and this is a problem that needs to be rectified. As much as I desperately want more intelligent and respectful books about people with disabilities and mental illness, that’s not quite the conversation that’s going on in this hashtag. But something just as important is, and that’s valuable.

With numbers like this, it's hard to argue.
A table with statistics from the article above. With numbers like this, it’s hard to argue.

4. Studying a hashtag, especially one related to your career field, changes you. I’m not going to lie: Before I started researching #WeNeedDiverseBooks, my reading list for this year’s YA lineup wasn’t remotely diverse beyond books about mental illness and disability. It was blindingly white, straight as a ruler, and overall sort of “familiar.” I’d only heard about the big buzz titles, because they were getting the best reviews. This, sadly, ensured that a lot of things flew by my radar for a little while. (There is much to be said about mainstream publications’ reluctance to recognize books by authors of color, as well as the general perception of diverse books by reviewers.) During the study, I took a look at my list of books I wanted to read, and it hit me. I decided to fix that right away, and looking through the hashtag put some incredible-sounding titles on my radar for the coming months…

And I grabbed a bunch of diverse titles from my local library, too.

So how has it worked out? Very well, I’d say. My reading list is truly diverse now, consisting of even more books than before, and I’ve found some truly incredible stories. That, I think, was supposed to be the end goal of #WeNeedDiverseBooks: to get people to read books they wouldn’t have seen otherwise, and to show publishers that these books are every bit as valuable as the ones they promote so heavily. And if it worked on somebody who was supposed to be analyzing the tag for school, imagine how it would impact a kid just looking for good books to read about people like them.

WeNeedDiverseBooks Analysis: What I’ve Learned