Scribble: Rant – No Variations on the Theme, revisited

The preamble to the preamble

I spent three hours (!) this morning talking with ‘a’ WordPress Happiness Engineer, (to whom I shall refer as ‘HE’ and ‘they’, for reasons that will become apparent, should you actually make it that far; this is quite a long post — and the more I add to it, the slower editing it gets, sigh).

I learnt a lot during this live chat session.

But before I get started on that, I want to point out that I’ve had to delete yesterday’s post, which was a reblog of a post on Bear’s blog Scribblans. I don’t think that, in all the time I’ve been blogging on ‘Wibble’ (first post was in 2007, when the system was Microsoft’s ‘Live Spaces’), I’ve ever had to do that before. Link rot is the scourge of the Internet, and I try hard not to contribute to it. So to be fair to Bear, I’ll begin with the preamble I gave to that reblog, and here, up front, is a big link to it. Please visit his site: it’s well worth the trip.

Scribble: Rant –
No Variations on the Theme

The preamble

I’ve been doing a lot of ranting lately (regular visitors may have noticed that).

In my defence, I’ve been uncomfortable all this year so far. I fell over on New Year’s Day (my own silly fault, I got legless) — and cracked some ribs. They hurt like hell for a month and a half. Just as the pain from that was starting to subside, I caught an ear infection. That was just as painful in its own way (and, so far, it’s not been responding to antibiotics… I’m hoping it won’t need surgery to clear it out, as happened last time, a few years ago).

So, anyway, that’s my excuse for being extra-special curmudgeonly recently.

I’ve been looking for ways to compensate for this grouchiness. And Bear, of Scribblans fame, gave me the perfect opportunity to do something more-or-less non-cantankerous — by gifting him a repost. Of a rant, naturally :) What gave me the idea was the spiel at the very end of his post:

Thank you for visiting Scribblans today. Sorry it probably wasn’t very good. This bit of text here used to be me wittering on and effectively begging you to share the post, but I have decided not to bother with all that for 2021. Most people ignore it anyway.

Actually, his script doesn’t include a link. I added that as an experiment in inline CSS; with luck and a steady wind it’ll come out orange. If you read Bear’s post, you’ll understand. (And if it doesn’t come out orange, I’ll have no option but to edit this preamble to curse appropriately….)

The rant

OK, so, that’s what I posted yesterday. I did make that threatened edit, to add:

Grrr… the link colours are fine: what’s not fine is all the white space between the paragraphs. O.0 I feel another block editor rant brewing….

… and here we go with that rant:

Image of WordPress reblog rendering problem (far too much white space)
The broken reblog, now trashed.
White space: more is not more; it’s less.

My previous post, the (now deleted) reblog of Bear’s post, showed huge gaps between the paragraphs. The formatting rendered correctly in the block editor itself — although that didn’t include the initial snippet from Bear’s post (which also featured these enormous breaks between paragraphs). My preamble to the reblog was initially presented as a ‘Classic block’, and, as I’ve been — grudgingly — using ‘blocks’ for a while now, I chose the option to ‘Convert to blocks’, thinking that this might cure the white space problem. It didn’t. And I couldn’t revert to the original version containing the ‘Classic block’, as that had mysteriously disappeared entirely.

There was also an issue with a ‘Quote block’ in that, while it was being rendered correctly in the editor, was appearing as an indented paragraph in the published post.

These problems were clearly bugs in the current iteration of the reblog process and/or the block editor (this klunky abomination that has been foisted on the entire WordPress community without sufficient testing having been done prior to that roll-out).

And so, as I mentioned up top, I appealed to WordPress support for assistance. The Happiness Engineers have often come up with solutions to problems in the past. Not so much, however, on this occasion.

I learnt a lot during that live chat….

The terms of the WordPress ‘Personal Plan’ have changed

pendantry Sat, Feb 20, 6:16 AM
Good morneve! I have another problem that I’d appreciate your help with. It’s to do with reblogs… [description of problem elided: see above] Sat, Feb 20, 6:19 AM
Hi there.

pendantry Sat, Feb 20, 6:20 AM
Hi! :) Sat, Feb 20, 6:20 AM
It looks like your site is on Personal plan. We currently don’t provide a live chat support for Personal plan users. However, I’m happy to take a look today and provide you some support here as an exception. Please give me a moment.

Wait, what? “… provide some support as an exception”? That’s very gracious of you in the circumstances: to wit, that my contract with you currently includes live chat support. Sat, Feb 20, 6:21 AM
I’m wondering if this has something to do with the theme on your site as Twenty Ten is a retired theme. Let me quickly do some test on my end.

(Note: 6:21am, HE suggests it’s a theme issue. That time gets important later.) Sat, Feb 20, 6:24 AM
Oh ok. It looks like you purchased the plan before the change. So you still have access to the chat support :)

So, it transpires that the terms of the WordPress ‘Personal Plan’ have changed (and I do not recall ever having been notified that this was happening). When I signed up for the two year plan, it included live chat support; something I have found to be very useful (well, most of the time). But, as it turns out, when the plan renews, I’m now going to be denied that facility unless I ‘upgrade’ to a Premium Plan.

Reblog is broken — and not just in my ‘retired’ theme§ Sat, Feb 20, 6:35 AM
[…] as for the issue about Reblog, I have just tried to reblog the same post on my test site with our current theme. And I got almost the same gaps like this:

So it looks like the issue is not on your theme. I’m having a further look now. Thanks for your patience.

(Note: 6:35am, HE agrees the problem is not due to my theme.) Sat, Feb 20, 6:51 AM
FYI. I just tried to add some paragraphs with Paragraph Blocks to my test reblogged post. And I could reproduce the issue where each paragraph creates some unnecessary gaps in between. So it looks like the issue is specific to reblogged posts. Thank you so much for reporting this. I’ll be reporting this to our relevant team. I hope it will be addressed and fixed soon.

The next hour, while I was thinking HE still had the original problem in mind, was spent examining various issues, including:

  • editor ‘visual’ view differed from the ‘preview’
  • quote block being incorrectly rendered in ‘preview’
  • disappearance of the original version of the post (after ‘Convert to blocks’)
  • inline CSS (link colour style) not being transferred on copy-paste
  • discussion about whether inline CSS should actually work on a Personal Plan
  • a digression because I somehow inadvertently opened the Firefox ‘browser inspector’
  • confirmation that Classic block made no difference

… and at the end of that HE was still working the problem:

pendantry Sat, Feb 20, 8:06 AM
Time for more coffee, I think! brb Sat, Feb 20, 8:06 AM
Sure, I might take couple more mins :-) Sat, Feb 20, 8:17 AM
Still with me?

pendantry Sat, Feb 20, 8:17 AM
Yep, I’m here :)

When is a HE not a HE? When it’s another HE :/

I think the most revealing thing I discovered in the course of this live chat session was that Happiness Engineers change their spots. I thought I was having a continuing conversation with a single individual, one who was trying hard to find a resolution to the original excessive white space problem on a reblog. They tried various things. Time passed; and a number of side-tracks occurred during the discussion — my fault, I guess: I do have a tendency to digress, although part of my reason for waffling was to reassure them that I was still there, patiently waiting to see if they could fix the problem.

Almost an hour after the ‘other HE’ had indicated he would need ‘a couple more mins’, there was this exchange: Sat, Feb 20, 9:00 AM
I see that you are using an old theme on the site. I’m checking if this is an issue with the theme.


Clearly ‘they’ had… suffered a memory lapse. Or something? My guess is that the other HE had ended their shift, or whatever, and had handed me over to a new HE. Now, that, I can understand. But to pretend that the change hasn’t happened is, shall we say, a tad impolite.

pendantry Sat, Feb 20, 9:01 AM
Uh. So you’re not the same Happiness Engineer I was talking to earlier? You may want to scroll up, we’ve already covered that it’s an old theme.

pendantry Sat, Feb 20, 9:03 AM
[Another aside: if you do swap out Happiness Engineers, some might consider it polite to announce that fact, rather than leading me to believe that I’m having a conversation with the same person.] Sat, Feb 20, 9:04 AM
Without switching themes, the only possible way to get rid of this problem is by adding custom CSS codes. For that you would need to upgrade to Premium plan or higher.

Two hours and twenty-five minutes after agreeing that the problem was not my theme, suddenly the ‘old theme’ raises its ugly head. Again.

The conversation went rapidly downhill from there, and ended at 9:15am. Three hours of my life I’ll never get back.

And now: it is 14:12hrs; 2:12pm. I’ve spent the last five hours composing this post.

I’m getting too old for this shit.

§ The ‘Twenty Ten’ theme, which I’ve been using happily now for the last decade — it’s like an old friend to me — is now ‘retired’. I actually knew this already, from previous discussions with HEs; various issues have arisen in recent months (since the advent of the block editor, unsurprisingly), and although some have been fixed by the HEs, they have on a couple of occasions fallen back on ‘this theme is retired’ as their reason for not being able to deal with the more intractable issues.

I’ve been looking for a theme that might serve to replace ‘Twenty Ten’, and I may have found a candidate (it’s called ‘Colinear’). But I am somewhat reluctant to make the switch, as there’s no going back — and no guarantee that the bugs are actually theme-dependent in the first place (at this point I’m pretty much convinced they’re not).

About pendantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
This entry was posted in ... wait, what?, Communication, Computers and Internet, illusion, Phlyarology, Reblogs and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Scribble: Rant – No Variations on the Theme, revisited

  1. Tom says:

    There will always be bugs ’cause things are always changin’. You would hope the bugs would be spotted before they’re released into the wilds, but it seems many of ’em start out invisible. 🤔 🐛

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Scribble: Rant – No Variations on the Theme, redirector | Wibble

  3. I hate ear infections! Let’s hope yours resolves promptly. And cracked ribs? Ughhh.

    Who in their right minds bothers customer service at 6am?!?!!?!?!?

    Good to know that WordPress is getting worse with their customer service and trying everything they can to have people upgrade.

    I like how Happiness Engineer no.2 doesn’t even acknowledge you knowing that he wasn’t the original one.

    It’s possible that my theme is retired now, too. They told me to change it before, but I refuse because all of the new ones are geared towards linking to social media and posting pictures. THIS IS A BLOG! Not a carbon copy of Instagram!!! It makes me mad.

    Your rants are appreciated because they give us the opportunity to rant with you without being labeled a ranter.

    Liked by 2 people

    • pendantry says:

      Who in their right minds bothers customer service at 6am?!?!!?!?!?

      Me, when I can’t sleep because of the pain caused by my ear infection. And I fear you may be forgetting that this Interwebs thingy doesn’t stop at night. I visited WordPress support; after I searched for answers (and found none), their chat link was active (sometimes it’s not) and I clicked on it. So, sue me! :P

      Thank you for your good wishes. Unfortunately, I have completed the third week of my antibiotic treatment, and it’s clearly still not cleared up, so I’ll be calling the quack again tomorrow for advice on what to do next.

      Liked by 2 people

    • pendantry says:


      Your rants are appreciated because they give us the opportunity to rant with you without being labeled a ranter.

      Glad to be of service! What drives me a little more than a little bit nuts is that WordPress Support probably thinks “What does he expect? He had us tied up for three hours!”… which ignores the reality that the only reason I was online on their ‘live chat’ service for that long was because they had led me to believe that they were still working on the problem, so I was waiting for a response. D’oh!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: From 1985: Warnings from Carl Sagan and Al Gore | Wibble

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