Chad Perrin: SOB

30 March 2006

WordPress Effluvia

Filed under: Metalog — apotheon @ 06:02

So my WordPress version for this weblog has been updated to deal with a security issue with the older version I was using. Unfortunately, the new version is aggravatingly WYSIWYGish, in the way that things like MS FrontPage are WYSIWYGish. It tends to try to hide source code from me, and does weird things with the first paragraph in a block element when I add such elements to my post entries.

A problem WP has had from day one, even with the older version, is the fact that it uses dumb-quotes (what most people, for some ironic reason, call “smart-quotes”) in the presentation of text. While such quote styles are appropriate and even preferable for hardcopy media (think “paperback book” and the like), they’re the Wrong Thing to do with electronic text media. For one thing, dumb-quotes aren’t particularly searchable. You can’t just hit a key on your keyboard in the little search box in your browser and have it find an apostrophe or quote mark that fits the “smart-quotes” description. Those little curly bastards just don’t live on a standard keyboard. For another, they’re not plain-text transparent — when you look at the source for a webpage with dumb-quotes on it, you see HTML entities or otherwise non-representative replacements for the actual characters.

Then, of course, if you try to copy the text into something using ASCII only, or view the page with a text-based browser like Lynx, or something like that, you’ll get nonsense characters in place of the characters you actually want.

Annoying. Dumb-quotes aren’t very smart in electronic media text presentations. So, I spent about twenty minutes or so today having to hack the presentation functions in the PHP source for WordPress to get rid of all those quote-replacement lines of code. This, of course, raises a question:

Why the heck didn’t the fine folks developing WP code think to include a configuration parameter for turning on/off dumb-quotes? In general, WordPress is great, but there are some minor niggling annoyances that are driving me up the wall. It’s just a little too dumbed-down for the common Windows-using know-nothing that uses Word for things like shopping lists when Notepad would be more appropriate. I guess the mindset that prefers Word DOC files for unformatted text must also prefer a weblog that makes the presentation of content nontransparent, nonportable, and sometimes nonreadable. It seems to be to these people that WordPress is mostly catering.

Then again, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s a nontrivial web application, but they wrote it in PHP. Maybe that says something about the mindsets of its developers.

If any of you see any curly or slanted quotes or apostrophes (accent marks like á notwithstanding), I hope you’ll let me know so I can track down what bit of code is altering my plain text.

Also: I’ve decided to do some paragraph-indents. I don’t know how long I’ll keep doing that, but it amuses me for now.

All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License