The WordPress “new Coke” moment is right around the corner, for real

Around this time last year (specifically, 2017 November 24),  I published a post comparing the Gutenberg editor due to be a part of WordPress to “new Coke”. It’s about time for a retrospective on this, since in a couple of weeks, WordPress 5.0 is due out and will have the Gutenberg editor be the new default, and so the true “taste test” is about to become a reality.

First, the serious stuff to my fellow WordPress users out there: If you have tried the Gutenberg editor already and you know it won’t be a good fit, or if you don’t want to be screaming in horror when you upgrade your site to WordPress 5.0 and wonder what the hell happened to your editor,  then you will want to install the Classic Editor plugin. If you have access to the WordPress CLI, you can simply run wp plugin install classic-editorand call it a day. Alternatively, you can install from the plugins menu as normal.

Alternatively, if you’re daring, you can install the Gutenberg editor as a plugin today: wp install gutenberg from the CLI, or you can install from the plugins menu. As I mentioned in my previous post, Gutenberg is a radical departure from the classic editor, and for some, it has already failed the “taste test”. Take, for example, this recent post on WP Tavern (quoted in part):

Testing Scenario: A user has written three paragraphs and decides to add an image to the second paragraph. This user wants the image to be aligned to the right.

[…] [describing the task in the classic editor] Adding media to a paragraph is as quick as placing the mouse cursor at the beginning of a paragraph, clicking the add new media button, selecting or uploading an image, and choosing its alignment.

[…] [describing the task in Gutenberg] In Gutenberg, each paragraph is a block and each block has its own toolbar. This is important because after writing three paragraphs, you can’t click on an add media button. Instead, you need to create an image block.

[…] select[] an image [and] move the image block above the paragraph block where you want to insert it. […] [T]ry[ing] to drag and drop the image into the paragraph […] doesn’t work. […] [U]se the up and down arrows or drag the block into position.

Once the image block is in the correct location, click the align right icon. […]

[For now] the Classic editor wins this use case.

Translation: for some simple tasks like this one, the “new Coke” tastes terrible. I can see new users getting frustrated at this, until and unless they figure out how to go back to the classic editor. Or, they may well give up WordPress completely and move on to something like Drupal (hopefully not), Joomla, etc.

Perhaps even worse is the WordPress Accessibility Team’s assessment of Gutenberg (as detailed in another WP Tavern post):

The [WordPress accessibility] team, largely a group of unpaid volunteers, collaborated on a detailed assessment that publicly challenges Gutenberg’s readiness for core in a way that no other WordPress team has done through official channels to date. After a week of testing the most recent version of the plugin, the team concluded that they cannot recommend Gutenberg to be used by anyone who relies on assistive technology.

[…]

The mistake of not having consulted accessibility experts in the design phase cannot be easily rectified at this point, but the Classic Editor is still available for those who need to preserve their same workflow. […]

Either the accessibility and usability issues the team identified are not as bad as they purport or this document is a last-minute clarion call that could prevent WordPress from shipping an editor that excludes users who rely on assistive technology. Due to the gravity of their claims, the accessibility team’s statement on Gutenberg demands an official response.

It is my hope that the accessibility issues in Gutenberg can be fixed sooner rather than later. I find it quite difficult to believe, as a website platform intended for the masses, that the developers of WordPress would not have thought out accessibility issues in Gutenberg earlier in the development process.

As for me, I do plan to use the Gutenberg on one of my sites (a business site, not one set up as a blog, though I may use the blog feature as a “news wire” at some point down the road). For straight-up blogs like this one and SKQ Record Quest (my pinball/videogaming blog) I see myself sticking with the classic editor for the foreseeable future. My biggest concern is what the move towards Gutenberg will do to the time-honored method of editing blog posts using an external editor (such as I did for many months using GVim and Vimrepress, though I should note as of last time I tried, it was too broken to be usable.)

One nation, circling the toilet, with prison and injustice for too many

Before I get into the topic at hand, I want to set something straight. The five months since I’ve last posted to this blog have been bad. I mean, really bad. The election of DJT by a minority of the people, thanks to this outdated means of electing a president called the Electoral College, has been a disaster for this country.

I saw a campaign fueled by hate of those of different races and religions, and by ridicule of those with differing abilities. I held out hope that decency would prevail, and as much as I really didn’t want her either, that Hillary Rodham Clinton would be our 45th President and 2016 would be a history-making year as the first time a First Lady was elected to be president herself. (I really wanted Bernie Sanders. A lot of those who wouldn’t dare vote for Hillary, from what I have heard, would have voted for Bernie.)

I made a fully informed vote, as much as voting Democrat in Texas could possibly matter, and voted for Hillary. Unfortunately, DJT was seen as the protest vote by way too many for that to possibly matter, here in Texas and the other states that traditionally lean red or swing.

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, in spite of his predatory history and his demeanor on the stand, is the most nauseating and infuriating failure of the Senate I have seen in my entire life. The votes of John Cornyn and Ted Cruz in favor of confirmation honestly make me a bit ashamed to be a Texan (the latter is, by the way, up for election this year, and you can help vote him out if you live in Texas).

I’m ashamed to be an American when we have a so-called president that the other world leaders at a UN meeting actually laughed at. The President of the United States should never be in a position to be laughed at by other world leaders. To do that, (s)he should act like a world leader. Clearly, DJT didn’t do that at this UN meeting. Clearly, the people that voted for him, whose votes actually counted to swing the ass-backwards Electoral College vote in favor of him (despite Hillary clearly being the popular vote winner), didn’t think this through and did not realize just who DJT really was prior to the election (and still is today).

To me, it says everything that we haven’t even seen his tax returns yet. Honestly, I’m starting to think we never will, and that is unfortunate. The vast majority of candidates for president have had no issue with this. The swing state voters elected a pig in a poke. And we still have, from a financial standpoint, a pig in a poke sitting in The White House, at least the nominal leader of our country (though, clearly, he has done a very poor job of behaving like a leader).

I know a lot of people do not like to talk about politics. But there is simply too much at stake in the elections this year to not talk about politics. The Republicans have had their chance, and they’ve blown it. I hope as many of you as possible can join me this November in sending them a message they won’t forget, by voting Democrat for every seat where there’s a Democratic candidate. Together, we can get our country back out of the toilet bowl before it completely goes down the drain.

A cancer drug’s new side effect is a thinning wallet

This recent Ars Technica article showcases a textbook example of the perils of mixing profit with medicine. While the headline of the article is a bit dramatic, the underlying storyline is clear-cut: Pharmaceutical company makes expensive cancer drug (Imbruvica, generic name ibrutinib, at $133 per 140 mg pill, with a dosage of 140 mg to 560 mg or one to four pills). Doctors experiment and find out that one pill instead of the typical three is usually enough for effective treatment, which is important because of the side effects. Pharmaceutical company changes manufacturing to four different dosages but prices them all at three times what the old pill cost, effectively tripling the price for those taking just one pill.

If this sounds outrageous, you’re not alone in that opinion by any means. To a lot of people, including doctors, patients, and others (its mention in places like the People For Internet Responsibility mailing list has helped raise the awareness of the issue), this looks like the companies, Janssen Biotech and Pharmacyclics, Inc., went for a quick cash grab, possibly after noticing that they weren’t selling enough pills at the already obscene original price.

This edition of Cancer Letter, a newsletter about cancer research and treatment, decries at length this absurd change made by the manufacturer. It is very technical, making it a bit difficult to understand if you aren’t a doctor or nurse. The part that’s pretty easy to understand, though, starts with this quote:

It is worth comparing the prescribing information for ibrutinib with that of warfarin, which has been called “the most dangerous drug in America”.[10] Warfarin is formulated in nine strengths ranging from 1-10 mg daily. However, prescribers have complete discretion to select the dose strength most appropriate for each individual patient, and may choose to prescribe a 2 mg strength for a patient whose daily dosage requirement ranges from 4-6 mg daily. Prescribers also choose to use every other day dosing on occasion. Needless to say, it would be not be possible to safely use warfarin if the prescriber had to order a new tablet strength for each and every dosage change.

In contrast to warfarin, we do not believe that physicians and patients will be able to prescribe and self-administer ibrutinib in accordance with the prescribing instructions without the ability to prescribe 140 mg tablets regardless of the daily dosage. When dose reductions are required and substitute tablets are not readily available, physicians will need to choose between continuing the higher dose (a major safety risk) or interruption of the dosing for as long as two weeks, which could potentially impact efficacy.[9]

But what do the manufacturers care? It’s all about the money; if they cure a few people of cancer, that’s all the good PR they need, and it’s better for the bottom line to take in $400 per pill regardless of dose than $133 per 140 mg pill, at least while it’s legal to do so.

The problem with this is that it says the drug itself costs only a knowledgable amount and what the patient (or actually, in the US, the patient’s insurance company) is paying for is the manufacturing. I know the cost of actually making the pills didn’t triple overnight. If the manufacturers have to do this just to cover their costs, then they are doing it wrong, but I really don’t think that’s the case.

The Cancer Letter goes on to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review the change being made to how this drug is being priced. I’m surprised that the manufacturers were allowed to change the pricing like this without getting prior FDA approval. If a pharmaceutical company can hike the price like this on a whim, that’s a huge gaping hole in our prescription drug regulations that needs to be plugged stat. I’m not holding my breath, though, given who we have in both Congress and the White House.

The biggest etiquette blunder ever made by a US president?

A lot has been going on in the last couple of weeks, both in my life personally and in the news. My unintentional leave of absence could be said to be somewhat ill-timed, but the flip side of that was that the most prominent news story of the month, the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, has had plenty of time to develop. Oh, and develop it did. Next week, probably earlier rather than later, I may post about other aspects of the story. But for now, I’m going to focus on, as the title implies, a huge blunder made by the minority-elected “buffoon-in-chief” I refer to as DJT.

Among others, The New Civil Rights Movement covered this photo op that DJT went to in Florida, even though he wasn’t wanted. From the story:

Donald Trump left Washington D.C. on Friday to visit victims of the country’s latest mass shooting in Florida, although he wasn’t wanted, resulting in a new header photo for the president’s Twitter account.

Let’s step back a bit. Were this Barack Obama, or just about any other president in recent memory save for Richard Nixon, the reaction might have been different and at the least, the president’s presence would not have been specifically shunned even if not openly welcomed.

What I can read into this, though, is it’s quite likely DJT went down there mainly for the photo op. Damn the cost to the taxpayers, DJT’s got to feed his ego, right?

There are moments I’m proud to be an American. Seeing this weasel go and, er, weasel his way into Florida at the taxpayer’s expense, definitely is not one of them.

After the president told reporters that he saw some of those injured by a 19-year old gunman who killed 17 people and wounded 14 others on Wednesday, he praised doctors, law enforcement officials and first responders.

Trump subsequently ignored a reporter asking about the nation’s gun laws, but soon weighed in on his tone deaf visit via Twitter:

If you read the story linked above, it mentions that DJT didn’t mention any of the victims by name or age. Knowing what we know of DJT, it’s possible he made the whole thing up about talking to the victims. I wouldn’t put it past him. DJT is all about soaking up the good PR and feeding his ego, but when it actually comes down to doing the job of President of the United States, he folds like a poker player who knows he’s beat. It’s crazy. I know the personality. I’ve dealt with it before on a much smaller scale.

But let’s get back to that picture and the original story I linked to above. Of all things to do in this photo op, DJT decides to smile and do a thumbs-up gesture.

Fourteen kids and three adults are dead as a result of this violence. And DJT decides to do a thumbs up.

He gets asked a question about whether it’s time to change our nation’s gun laws. He dodges that question, so he can get to this photo op and do a thumbs up after seventeen innocent people lost their lives.

Those are the values of our Weasel-in-Chief. “Screw the country, this is all about me. Here’s a thumbs-up. I don’t care if seventeen people died and that it’s tacky to do this photo op with a thumbs-up like we’re opening a car dealership. I’m president, you’re not, so screw you.” It may as well have been a middle finger. That’s no doubt how at least some, if not most or all, of the surviving relatives are feeling about this thumbs-up if they found out about it.

These things together (the photo op, the thumbs-up, the whole “I look like I’m shooting a photo op for a used car lot opening” smile) all combine to show the intelligence and social grace of a very stupid worm. Not that it even matters due to the way we elected our president in 2016, but I’m so glad I didn’t vote for this bonehead. What is pictured in this photo is tasteless and disgusting. Actually, I take that back. It’s beyond tasteless and disgusting; it’s DJT’s biggest failure in etiquette as a president, possibly the biggest failure in etiquette ever by a sitting US president.

As repulsive as they may be, these photos need to be preserved. They should be preserved so we, the American people, know never to let this happen again: both an incident of violence such as the one that happened in Parkland, and the election by a minority of the worst excuse for a president this country has known at least since Richard Nixon, if not in its entire 240+ year existence.

Can we impeach him already, please?

Further thoughts on the Nolan Bushnell GDC award saga

Upside down Atari
So not too long after or perhaps even right before that previous post went live, the Game Developers Conference made the predictable, easy, and feel-good decision to rescind the Pioneer Award they planned to give to Nolan Bushnell. For reasons stated previously, I think this is the wrong move.

I’m going to go as far as to say that the GDC’s action to rescind Nolan’s award does far more to devalue it than proceeding with the original plan to present it to him ever would have. Apparently, now it’s acceptable to judge 1970s conduct by 2018 standards. This is grossly unfair to those who just “went with the flow.”

One post shared to the AtariAge group on Facebook, by way of a group called Classic Home Video Games, states “Sounds like he’s guilty of nothing more than partying, consensual/casual sex, and living in the swingin’ seventies.” This roughly aligns with how I feel.

Another post to the AtariAge group said, simply, “Nolan responds with class” and includes a link to Nolan’s official statement, posted to Twitter as an image, reads as follows:

I applaud the GDC for ensuring that their institution reflects what is right, specifically with regards to how people should be treated in the workplace. And if that means an award is the price I have to pay personally so the whole industry may be more aware and sensitive to these issues, I applaud that too. If my personal actions or the actions of anyone who ever worked with me offended or caused pain to anyone at our companies, then I apologize without reservation.

Maybe a lot of people see it as classy, but I am disappointed in Nolan’s response. The apology is understandable, but rolling over and saying in effect that it’s okay to go back and basically rewrite history is not. We know what acceptable conduct is in 2018. We know a lot of what went on in the 1970s and early 1980s would not fly by the standards we have here in 2018. I don’t see what’s so wrong with acknowledging that in the same breath as recognizing the good associated with the Atari and Chuck E. Cheese brands as the video gaming institutions that they are, by giving the founder the originally announced award.

There’s no nice way to say this: Nolan Bushnell got robbed, and the GDC really stepped in Bantha poop this year. I would go as far as to interpret Nolan’s statement as being made under duress, that that can’t possibly be what he really wanted to say, and the only reason we are reading what we are is he’s speaking out of fear of never getting this award. There’s really no other logical explanation for rolling over and saying it’s okay for the GDC to do this. Because it was not okay. A lot of the stuff that went on at Atari in the 1970s wasn’t okay either by today’s standards, but the reality is the same Atari where Nolan wore his “I love to fuck” T-shirt is the same one where all that magic happened.

I am not taking the side of sexual harassers of decades past, but instead, I am taking the side of fairness and decency, and recognizing the good achievements of someone even if there is some not-so-good mixed in with them. However, I am going to find it very difficult to recognize whoever gets the 2018 Pioneer Award in Nolan’s place to have received something that rightfully belongs to them, or to recognize the award at its full value. I can already tell you the very best case is that I’m going to be rather annoyed unless the GDC fully reverses course. At worst, my outrage knob is going to be turned up to eleven.

Here’s to hoping the GDC comes to its senses in 2019 and give the award to Nolan Bushnell as it was supposed to be this year. I’m hoping this #metoo stuff will have finally blown over by then.

(For those expecting my take on the State of the Union address, I have not forgotten about it; that will be addressed in a post no later than Friday. I have a huge backlog of draft posts to finish; hopefully, I’ll be caught up before Valentine’s Day.)