A little cleaning

For the first time in a long time, I’ve done some redecorating around PPC. You probably won’t notice many of the changes, but they’re there. Trust me.

First off, I now have an HTTPS version of the site. The “experts” say that every site on the web absolutely, positively must have an SSL certificate. I firmly disagree. I’d say that about 80% of sites have no use for it whatsoever. Yes, the increased security is a great thing. Encryption, especially encryption that is free from government and corporate backdoors, is a good thing. That said, the majority of sites out there neither have nor collect sensitive information, so…what’s the point? If you’re not logging in, if there isn’t even a form anywhere on the page, then why bother with the network and CPU overhead of HTTPS? It serves no purpose.

But Brave gets mad if you don’t have it, and the last good version of Waterfox is increasingly marginalized by larger sites. For those two reasons, I’ve had to do it. Yay for the future. Ugh.

And while we’re on the subject of dystopian futures (I promise this isn’t another rant against vaccine mandates), I’ve updated the version of Wordpress that runs PPC. Okay, let me rephrase that. I updated PPC to use a better version of Wordpress. It’s called ClassicPress, and it’s what Wordpress should be.

See, I’ve used WP since this site’s inception in 2015, and I used it on the old potterpcs.net site starting all the way back in 2005. It’s not a bad platform, really. Problem is, the team behind it has completely given in to feature creep, as is so often the case in development.

The rot started a few years ago. When Wordpress version 5.0 came out, it had a brand new editor: Gutenberg. This editor was to replace the “classic” one, a simple WYSIWYG or “rich” text box with a few formatting controls. Gutenberg is based around the concept of “blocks” as the basic page editing element, not something sane like, I don’t know, text.

Gutenberg was a buggy mess forced upon us, breaking not only workflows but any add-on designed to improve editing (like WP-Markdown, which I’m using here), and we users were told to suck it up and get used to it, because this is how things are going to be from now on. Oh, there’s a “Classic Editor” plugin, but it will be intentionally broken at the start of next year to prevent people from going back to the sensible method of editing text by editing text.

That annoyed me to no end, because it’s a theme I’ve seen repeated throughout the development world. Breaking things for no good reason and forcing your users to accept the brokenness as “the new way” is a time-honored tradition at this point. Look at Windows 10, Firefox 4, Firefox 24, Firefox 57, Firefox (Mobile) 71, Gnome 3, KDE 4, the entire concept of systemd…

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Some people (and it’s usually designers, not the devs themselves) just can’t get it in their heads that we don’t like change for the sake of change. When something works, leave it alone. Wordpress, like so many others, couldn’t do that. Never mind that they have a perfectly functioning editor, because all those “UX” people need something to do. So out came Gutenberg, in all its flawed glory.

I did my best to ignore it for 3 years. My hosting provider, Dreamhost, temporarily broke PPC in 2019, changing my “don’t touch this” setting to “automatically upgrade” without my approval. I had to contact support to rollback. Since then, I’ve stayed on version 4.9, the last without Gutenberg, and wondered what I’d do.

I’m also using Wordpress for work, as the basis for a multi-tenant network. That project, since it’s for-profit, actually does need the latest and greatest. As it’s intended to be administered by people who don’t have my technical knowledge, it also has to be as idiot-proof as I can make it. Thus, I needed to find a way to allow only the most essential parts of Gutenberg, while also coding themes and plugins to take it into account.

While doing that earlier today, I found a reference to ClassicPress. Since I can’t do much work at the moment (long story), I read up on it and found that it is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Dreamhost might not offer it as a fancy prepackaged install, but who cares? This is Wordpress as it used to be: a blog where you can get content onto the web as quickly as possible. No tracking down plugins to cut the bloat or digging through endless lists of blocks just to edit. Best of all, no breaking what’s already there.

Whether you can see it or not, then, PPC is no longer out of date. It’s running on the latest and greatest once again. That’s the beauty of open source software. If you screw it up badly enough, someone will care enough to fix your mistakes.

Forward and to the side

A little over four months ago, I started a new job. My first, in fact, where I wasn’t employed by myself or a family member, where I was a member of a team, not just a lone programmer writing code, running tech support, designing web pages, and handling the books in the meantime. It was a big jump, and I still find myself off balance some days. I wonder when I’m going to be exposed for the impostor I surely must be. I fret about letting everyone down.

Well, those fears are about to get worse.

From the beginning, my boss said I would be “transitioning” to full-time after 90 days. This would be a kind of grace period for me, a chance to show what I was capable of, while minimizing risk for the company. Understandable, from a business perspective, and I was honestly just happy to be hired in the first place, so I wasn’t going to complain.

Now, the grace period is over. The transition is done. Next week will be like starting over, in one sense. In another, it’s like jumping off a cliff, because I’m not going to be the full-stack developer I expected.

I’m going to be the CTO.

When he said that in the call where we discussed it, I think my heart stopped for a second. Sure, as he was quick to point out, a company that’s effectively a startup in size and revenue doesn’t have a lot of “prestige” in its titles. I’m not a C-level executive at Amazon or Microsoft or some other Big Tech corporation. I’ll effectively be running the tech department of a B2B company that…doesn’t really have much but the tech they (we) use and the sales it allows.

But that is a huge shift. It’s a major jump in responsibility. It turns me into not just a developer, but a manager. I had my first strategy meeting today—just an hour-long talk with the CEO-who-hates-that-title about next steps, but still. This is like nothing I’ve ever done. Or even imagined doing, except in my wildest dreams.

For so long, I’ve written about my depression and anxiety, and I lamented the fact that there just doesn’t seem to be anywhere I belong. I felt powerless, silenced by a world that didn’t want to listen to what I had to say. Now, someone does want to hear that. Someone does value my opinion and my perspective. And it’s overwhelming.

I know I’m not executive material. I don’t have an MBA. I never took any classes in business management. I barely understand half the industry-specific terms my boss throws around.

On the other hand, I do know programming. Almost 30 years ago, I wrote my first lines of code. Three decades spent trying to get somebody to see what I had created, to understand why I feel such joy in doing this job well. Now, I’m being thrust into a position where, paradoxically, I may be doing less actual coding.

I should hate that. Management is a running joke in the development community, much like how military non-coms look down on their commanding officers, and the reasons are the same: moving up the chain of command means getting farther away from the action. Oddly, however, I’m okay with it. Oh, I’m well aware that I’m in over my head, but…I am not alone in that. If anything, the only thing I fear now is letting down the team. I don’t want to be the one everything falls on. I don’t want to be the single point of failure. But then I’m grateful that I’m trusted enough to be given that responsibility, and there’s really only one thing I can say.

It’s about time.