Random Thoughts – Randocity!

WordPress Review: Gutenberg Editor

Posted in blogging, fail, writing by commorancy on June 11, 2020

This will be a no hold’s barred review of using the “new” Gutenberg editor in WordPress.com (and WordPress of any install). Let’s explore.

Calypso

Several years ago, WordPress introduced the then “new” Calypso editor. It had a blue-ish color style and was a straight up type of no-frills editor. It had some flaws, to be sure, but it worked well.

About 2 years ago, along comes the newest new editor named Gutenberg. This editor was thought to be intended as a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editing experience. Well, let me just say straight up and flat out, it isn’t. Yes, this review will be very critical of this editor. I generally refrain from reviewing my blogging platform, but in this instance I felt compelled and justified to review this editor and its massive set of usability and ergonomic flaws.

Gutenberg

Several years ago, the Gutenberg project started. This editor was intended to be the eventual replacement for Calypso. ‘Eventually’ has arrived and the hour for replacement is at hand. Yet, Gutenberg is still not yet prime time ready. It is so far from being prime time ready, I can’t even adequately justify how badly it isn’t ready. Where Calypso had some flaws, these were easily overcome with a small amount of fiddling.

With Gutenberg, fiddling takes minutes at a time (and many times way longer) and sometimes there aren’t even ways to address the problems inherent in this new editor.

Let me start by addressing Gutenberg’s positive features before I get down into the nitty gritty problems with it.

Gutenberg’s Benefits

I want to make sure to cover both the positive and negative sides of the Gutenberg editor so that I’m not called out for unfairly representing this editor. With that said, let’s get going. Gutenberg’s positives include:

  • Block editing capabilities
  • Some additional text styling options (superscript, subscript, etc)
  • Not much else of note.

Block editing is pretty much where Gutenberg’s positives end. Block editing doesn’t greatly enhance the blog editing experience and, at the same time, Gutenberg adds an unnecessary layer of complexity to Calypso’s formerly simple editing design.

What does block editing do for the blogger exactly? It allows you to more easily move blocks around within an article. That’s pretty much its claim to fame. Though, I don’t see how that really buys much when most computers today offer copy and paste capabilities that allow this same functionality through drag, highlight, cut and paste. The fact that they spent gobs of time designing a new editor solely to solve a perceived copy-paste problem (that doesn’t really exist) speaks volumes of this editor’s design goals.

Gutenberg’s Drawbacks

There are many. First, the width of the editor is too narrow. Calypso had an editor width far greater than Gutenberg. This means that Gutenberg is not in any way a WYSIWIG design. Second, you must still preview your document… which in and of itself says that Gutenberg is NOT a WYSIWIG design.

Basically, Gutenberg’s team redesigned an editor for no reason at all. It was simply a new design to be a new design, but not to solve any actual editing problems. In fact, they’ve introduced new problems where in Calypso’s editor they didn’t exist.

For example, the bottom status bar in Calypso showed us the word count and other pertinent document information front and center. We didn’t have to click into or move our mouse to get to this information. Yet, in Gutenberg, this information is now hidden behind an icon that 1) makes no sense and 2) now requires active effort on the part of the blogger.

The block editing system also fairs just about as well (or not, depending on your point of view). There are a number of block types like paragraph, heading and image with an additional array of way lesser used block types like Star Rating, Highlighter, Quote and Pullquote.

As I said, the team has made this editor unnecessarily more complicated without the need to be this complicated. A text editor, in fact, should be much more simple, friendly, fast and easy. Many of these functions were handled in Calypso more elegantly, by highlighting text, then clicking to apply an attribute to that text. Basically, 1-2-3. In Gutenberg, you have to create a new block type by clicking many times, then placing that specific text into that block type.

Whoops! You chose the wrong block type? There’s almost never a way to convert from one to another. You must copy the content out, create a new block, and paste it in. Even then, sometimes copy and paste won’t work.

So, here’s where the block difficulties begin. Because blocks are now discrete elements within the body of the article… think of them as <div></div> sections, it’s difficult to get exact placement. In fact, trying to style any of these blocks using inline CSS is almost impossible. With Calypso, the text was straightforward and could be easily styled within the body of the article. In Gutenberg, if you want complex style options, you’re forced to use the Classic Block, which is effectively most of Calypso in a block. By being forced to use the Classic Block, you’ve pretty much negated the reason to even use Gutenberg in the first place.

That’s not to say you can’t style within Gutenberg, but it’s more about what happens after you do it. When you go into the HTML and muck about with styling of the paragraphs, Gutenberg’s parser typically fails to understand this HTML CSS addition and forces conversion of the entire block into HTML with no more instant preview available. Now you’re stuck viewing this individual block as ugly HTML forever. If you want to see what it will look like in the actual article, you must click ‘Preview’. Calypso happily and fully rendered in-line CSS and still allowed a preview. It never once balked at adding in-line CSS, though it might strip it out if it didn’t like what you did. This is one of Gutenberg’s biggest failures. Blogging is driven by HTML. Styling HTML with CSS is probably one of the simplest things you can do… yet Gutenberg can’t even understand simple CSS styling? Yeah, that’s a #fail.

For styling images and placing them in very specific locations within Gutenberg block articles, here’s where Gutenberg again fails. While you can create an image block and it auto-wraps text, there is no exact placement or altering margins of white space around the image block within Gutenberg. If you want exact placement or specific spacing for the text wrapping around your image, you must again revert to using the Classic Block. Again, another of Gutenberg’s failures.

If you’re going to spend time creating a complex block editing system, you’d think that exact placement of blocks in space within the document (i.e., drag and drop) would have been part of the design. Unfortunately, you’d have thought wrong because this aspect of Gutenberg simply doesn’t exist. There is no drag and drop or exact placement here.

What exactly is Gutenberg then?

That’s what I keep asking myself. Reinventing the wheel without actually offering us something new, improved and innovative is a questionable design choice. In fact, because of the overreaching complexity introduced by Gutenberg into a platform that should be all about simplicity is, again, questionable. WordPress has always been about making it easy and simple to blog. This convoluted, complex and difficult to manage editor only serves to make the blogging experience more difficult, not easier.

I’m not saying Calypso is a perfect editor by any stretch. Hardly. Calypso has a fair number of problems that also need to be addressed. Unfortunately, that editor’s updates had been abandoned about to the time the Gutenberg team started up. This left Calypso mostly unfinished, yet still reasonably simple to use and definitely easier to manage an article’s overall content.

Complexity

I keep talking about unnecessary complexity. Let me expound on that. Part of the complexity of Gutenberg stems from the block system itself. The fact that we now have to select a specific block type, not really knowing what each do in advance, means we now have to understand the block’s features and their usefulness. That means trial and error. That means a learning curve. That also means needing to understand the limitations of this new unfriendlier editing system.

Yes, it goes deeper than this. The blocks themselves, as I said, are discrete separate entities. You can’t embed one block within another. For example, you can’t make a block quote show up word wrapped next to basic text within your article. An example of a block quote block type is immediately below:

This is a block quote

forces a citation

Unfortunately, a block quote must sit in that position where it is. It can’t be moved into a wrapped position within another block (like an image). You’d think that this kind of innovation would be possible in a new editor. Unfortunately, no. Worse, as you’ll notice, this paragraph is too closely abutted next to the block quote. With Gutenberg, you can’t fix this horrible spacing issue. There’s no way without using inline CSS styling. If you attempt to use inline CSS styling, the entire block may be forced into HTML mode leaving no way to preview the block in the editor.

Now begins a Classic Block.

This is a block quote

The block quote in the classic block doesn’t force a citation footer, leaving much more white space without leaving this paragraph feeling so cramped. Remember, white space is your friend.

Let’s talk about images and placement

To place an image using Gutenberg, this is what you get. You can align left, center or right.

Here is a paragraph next to an image using blocks. You can word wrap next to an image, but you can’t change the spacing of the text around the image.

In a Classic Block, I can style the image to add margin-left and margin-right to change the spacing next to the words. I can’t do this in Gutenberg’s blocks.

Unfortunately, using Gutenberg to perform image wrapping has some unnecessary complexities. There’s no way to ensure that the block just below it is separate. Instead, it wants to pull up and wrap that block too. There’s no way to make sure that the block just below the image doesn’t wrap. Gutenberg attempts to wrap everything. With Calypso, this editor has more fine grained control over this problem because you can add HTML pieces that enforce this.

mask-businessHere begins a Classic Block with some text and an image. I’m writing just enough text here so that I can insert an image and do word wrapping around the image. Keep in mind that a classic block is basically Calypso in a block.

As you can see, this image has more space to the right of it. I styled this image with a margin-right CSS tag which is impossible to achieve using a Gutenberg image block.

Importing Older Articles

If you’ve used Calypso to write articles in the past in WordPress, you may find that Gutenberg’s importing system to be questionable, if not downright problematic. If you attempt to convert a Calypso written article into Gutenberg blocks, expect failure and LOTS of re-editing. Yeah, it can be that bad. Though, it can import without problems too. It all depends on the article’s content. Importing a Calypso document into a Classic Block has much more likelihood of succeeding… after all, the Classic Block is pretty much compatible to Calypso.

There may be instances where importing an older article may not work in either the Classic Block or as Gutenberg blocks. Basically, you take your chances when attempting to edit older articles within Gutenberg. Most times it works, but it may mangle portions of your article’s spacing and other attributes that may see you spending time re-editing. You’ll want to be sure to scrub your article from top to bottom if you attempt to import an older article into Gutenberg. You may find your formatting has been stripped or other features become unavailable.

Gutenberg not Prime Time Ready

The problem with Gutenberg is that there are so many small nuances that are ergonomically incorrect, flat out wrong or of bad design that using it to blog can easily turn into a lengthy chore. While I did use Gutenberg to craft this article, it wasn’t by any means easy to achieve. I did run into quite a number of problems. For example, there’s a Gutenberg open bug report that prevents editing any block’s HTML without crashing the editor entirely. This means that once you edit HTML, the menu that allows you to convert back to visual editing disappears entirely.

You are then forced to quit entirely out of the editor back to the WordPress posts area, then re-edit the article again by relaunching the editor. The Gutenberg team is aware, but it is as yet unfixed.

The small floating menu that appears above the block when selected is problematic. Not only is it the same color as the editor itself (white) the imagery used on the icons is questionable, with none of the images looking professionally designed. In fact, it looks like someone hired their teen art student kid to design the images. They’re not only too simplistic and basic, many don’t read as to the function they perform. This whole area needs an overhaul… from the questionable floating menu to the coloring to the icon imagery. It’s awful and amateur.

If you blog with WordPress, please let me know your thoughts on this new Gutenberg editor. Yes, it does work to a degree, but that all ends fairly quickly if you decide you want to go deeper into the HTML to style things.

Otherwise, too many times you get the below (note, Classic Block used for the below image as the spacing needed to be styled):

Screen Shot 2020-06-11 at 10.04.18 AM

Out of 5 stars, I give Gutenberg a solid 2.2 star rating. I give Calypso a 3.8 star rating. Calypso is simpler, easier to use and overall gets the job done faster. The lower rating for Gutenberg isn’t necessarily because of its failures, but mostly because its design goals didn’t seek to improve the overall WordPress blogging experience or help us making blogging faster. Complexity is a double edged sword and doesn’t always make things “better”. If anything, that’s the primary takeaway from this updated editor’s design.

There are even more usability and ergonomic problems that I simply can’t get into here. You’ll simply have to try it and compare. Though, I’m never a fan of designers who feel the need to place stuff behind increasing layers of menus. If it’s a function that can be front and center, it should be front and center. Placing that thing behind layers and more layers of menus only serves to waste my time.

Launch Speed Benchmarking

Here’s where Gutenberg fails again. The amount of time it takes to launch Gutenberg is excessive. Calypso takes slightly under 2 seconds to completely launch and be ready to edit your article. Unfortunately, it takes almost 10 seconds for Gutenberg to launch before you’re ready to edit. Yeah, that’s a big step backwards in performance. Time is important. Waiting almost 10 seconds for an editor to launch just to make a simple change is a severe waste of time. If you have to do this multiple times in a day, that wasted time adds up.

Gutenberg needs a MAJOR overhaul in the launch performance area.

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Why doesn’t Randocity write about celebrities?

Posted in Random Thoughts by commorancy on February 12, 2020

dog-cupWhile no one has specifically asked this question here on Randocity, I’d like to answer this one anyway. Let’s explore.

Celebrity and Fame

Both of these are fleeting things. Just ask any celebrity. Part of the reason I don’t write about specific celebrities or their antics is that there are already “professional” (whatever that means) gossip monger sites out there that perform this service to the extreme. There’s no reason for Randocity to jump into this boat and begin writing about celebrities and their shenanigans.

For example, why do I care if some lesser celeb decides to take a walk down Rodeo drive or to the grocery store for a day of shopping? I don’t care about that. We all have to go shopping. Seeing them out and about is as natural as seeing any non-celeb out and about. For me, that kind of article is a non-article. It’s non-news. It’s, in fact, filler. Perhaps the celebs like this sort of non-coverage coverage, but to me it’s simply fluff designed to fill space.

Randocity is here to write about, yes, random thoughts, but also provide useful information… but not about celebrities or what they choose to do or not do. If you’re really interested in following a specific celebrity, there’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for that. Head over there and you can find out their latest news. If you can’t find it there, I’m sure you can find all about the minutia of a celebrity’s life on sites like The National Enquirer, TMZ or even DailyMail. That’s what those sites specialize in. That information is not what Randocity is about or why Randocity exists.

Randocity and the lack of Celebs

This site isn’t designed to deal with celebrities or their “fabulous” lives. In fact, I find celebrities far less interesting to write about than standard everyday folks. Why? Because we already know about celebrities. We know what they look like. We know how they act. We know how they dress. We know what cars they drive. We know what their profession is. We also know who their lovers are. It’s all pretty much an open book. Randocity doesn’t care at all about that. There’s nothing unique in writing about something that’s already been written about many times over.

No, I’d rather write about unique people and topics that are not typically discussed. I prefer writing about ideas and folks that are interesting, but not widely discussed. It’s not that celebrities aren’t interesting, but any celebrity is already a celebrity. There’s no need for me to help their career along on Randocity. There are plenty of other sites for those promotional efforts. Randocity isn’t the place for celebrity promotion.

Instead, Randocity would rather write about the latest toy, movie, book or even just a random thought rolling around. There are plenty of “News” sites that can tell you what happened around your town. There are plenty of tabloid sites that will gossip you into oblivion. Randocity is not here for that.

I’d rather discuss a great recipe or a way to save money when shopping or even talk about a great video game. You might say, “Well there are already recipe sites or video game review sites!” Yes, there are. But, these sites are not always great at providing the necessary levels of details that I can provide here on Randocity. That’s what Randocity is about. This is why Randocity exists. It’s about telling you about something that you couldn’t find on any other site. It’s the value in getting better and more detailed information than you can find on other web sites. That’s why Randocity exists. That’s what I have hoped to achieve with Randocity in the past and going into the future.

Randocity through the years

This blog has been continuously operating since October of 2008. That’s over 12 years of content. Yet, you’ll find little of that content related to Hollywood celebrities. While I have ranted on and railed against Hollywood’s commercialism and written a few movie reviews here and there, that’s as close as the content has gotten to talking about celebs.

Looking forward, I will continue to provide this same kind of content this site has always provided going forward. I like writing articles. What I don’t like writing is fluff pieces. I don’t intend to bring out the fake boobs and large butts or talk about someone’s bad plastic surgery simply to get people interested in this site. You can see boobs, butts and bulges at other web sites, but not here on Randocity.

Yes, I do realize that “sex sells”. But, I also realize that intelligence is more important than the shape of someone’s ass or the size of someone’s bra. Randocity has not in the past nor has any future plans to begin catering to that level of content on this blog.

Random Thoughts from the Vault

Randocity intends to continue its current trend of writing about random thoughts, but not about celebs, fame or any portion of Hollywood. I will discuss and critique bad writing, bad video games and, in general, critical failures in the creative world. But, I won’t discuss someone’s butt or kids or any other portion of celebritydom or fame, unless I’m ranting against it.

I will also discuss topical health discussions, such as the current nCoV-2019 outbreak and ways of helping you stay safe and healthy. While there’s no surefire guarantee to protect yourself from getting sick, you can perform certain things to help prevent getting sick.

I might also discuss using Portals within the No Man’s Sky video game. I might even decide to talk about how much I dislike Robocalls. Then there are work-related discussions such as wearing fragrance to work. In the kitchen, I might discuss how to make cinnamon raisin bread in a bread machine or how to create perfect Sushi rice in the microwave.

I occasionally review movies, such as 2010’s Tron Legacy, 2017’s Alien Covenant or even 2013’s Man of Steel. While I don’t go see every movie that’s released, I do go see movies that pique my interest. Unfortunately, Disney has lost me as a viewer to any of Disney’s films going forward after the incredibly poorly handling of its Star Wars franchise. Even were another Tron to release, I won’t go see it. It’s not an official Disney boycott, but it most definitely is unofficial. I just don’t want to fill the coffers of anyone at Disney when I know their goal is solely about making money and not about producing quality products.

I’ve also reviewed video games like 2019’s The Outer Worlds, going back to such games as discussing the now-defunct studio Irrational Games’s poorly conceived 2013 video game Bioshock Infinite and Bioshock Infinite’s poor storytelling choices. I’ve even discussed Rockstar’s bomb of a game, Red Dead Redemption 2, which is nothing at all like its predecessor, Red Dead Redemption… an amazing older video game only hindered by having been released using the Xbox 360’s limited graphics capabilities. I’ve even discussed how to articles, such as how you can pair your PS4’s DualShock controller wirelessly.

I’ve even discussed CBS’s bad choices with Star Trek Discovery. I’ve even further written about the now-defunct Star Trek Experience, which was located in Las Vegas before being dismantled and closed.

Back to more real world issues, I’ve discussed trying to use WiFi while traveling by Amtrak train and Getting the most out of Black Friday. I’ve even discussed such niche products as How to reset Philips Illuminate Lights.

There’s lots to discover and uncover from past articles here on Randocity. Simply use the search panel in the upper right corner of your browser or search from the mobile app to see if there’s anything I’ve written in the last 12 years that you might enjoy reading.

Sure, some of my articles approach 10,000 words, though many are in the 2,000 – 5,000 word range. A few are shorter. Whatever length it is, I hope you enjoy reading these articles as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

Thank You

From here, I would like to give a heartfelt thank you to all my current readers and followers. I hope that Randocity will continue to be a site that you value and enjoy in the future. If you enjoy reading the articles I write, I’d like to hear from you in the comments. Please feel free to write your comments in the space provided below. If you have a specific question about an article or you have a suggestion for a topic, please feel free to comment below or use the contact page and send me a message.

Thanks for reading…

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