why wordpress books remind me of microsoft word manuals

I’M DOING THIS BLOGSITE with real little understanding of the potentialities of WordPress. I have Lisa Sabin-Wilson’s WordPress For Dummies book, which has its plusses. I also have George Plumley’s WordPress 24-Hour Trainer, which is similar but addresses some issues better than the Dummies book.

I also refer to the many WordPress instruction pages online.

Between the three, I have learned a little . . .

Here’s an example of a problem that I have daily: the “Excerpts” option. This function is addressed by LSW twice in her book, each a repeat of the other. Each explains what the EXCERPT function does but not what it means, why I should use it, where it appears for the reader to see it, etc. GP’s book goes into more detail but still leaves me confused. And the WP pages border on the technically arcane to a beginner such as myself.

If I use the three sources of (supposed) information and go about clicking on this and that and whatever, I occasionally stumble over an understanding.



I have been using Lisa Sabin-Wilson’s “Dummies” books for years and even though they can be daunting even to those of us who are a few eyeque points above dummy level, I always persevere and usually make sense out of the instructions and then move forward with my WordPress project.

What in Grommett’s Wholly Name is Jetpack about?

But, I still don’t know why JetPack is included with WordPress and what I am supposed to do with it: accept each and every plug-in in the package? Download the package and then select those plug-ins that I think might benefit me? This sounds the more reasonable, but—BUT!—I don’t understand what the functions of most of the plug-ins are!!!

I could hire an private website/blog designer/developer/builder who could put everything into place for me and then perhaps explain to me the hands-on instructions that I need to make things work on a daily basis—if I could afford such a person.

So, I was inspired to write this brief post as I am going through Plumley’s book page by page, and referring back to the Sabin-Wilson book and the WordPress pages as I need to. But I usually end up going from topic to topic as unenlightened as I was before I opened the book . . .

This experience reflects my introduction to computers twenty some years ago. I purchased a MacPlus with an early version of Word (one-point-something). Everybody assured me that Apple/Mac and Microsoft had the best instruction manuals—the BIG term back then was “user-friendly”—and that I should have little if any problems getting going. That is quite the opposite of what occurred.

What I did not realize—what no real novice ever can understand—is that the people telling you these things no longer have a clue as to what they are talking about in a manner that helps you, the person who needs their help the most!

I meet a Microsoft Word manual author!

Somewhere after slogging through the manuals a couple of times each, I was introduced to a young couple who were in with Microsoft from the beginning. In fact, she was one of the “authors” of the user’s manual for Word. We got along famously and as I spoke with her I slowly realized the problem that I and so many other beginning computer-users were having:

by the time a person was “good” enough (“good” defined as knowledge plus experience plus the ability to put that experience down in words that others can hopefully understand) to be entrusted with writing a user’s manual, they were so far from their own “roots”—the time when they knew NOTHING about computers programs applications etc—that they had forgotten what it was like to be truly ignorant. As I was!

It seemed that every time I had a question as to what in tarnation a section of the manual meant, she would start talking to me in computerese, the jargon of the computer people. What she considered manifestly transparent was only so among those people with whom she associated regularly. That is, those people who understood the basics of computerese. Needless to say, I was lost . . .

Take me out to the ballgame (but leave your scorecard and WordPress books behind)

In an attempt to give her some perspective, I used a baseball analogy. (I use baseball a lot: it’s known by almost everyone; its basic principles and manner of play are likewise a part of most Americans experience; and it is an non-emotional topic that usually is NOT directly related to the subject for which I need an analogy.)

I asked her what she knew about watching a baseball game and received the usual answer that someone with almost no interest in the sport would give. (I don’t remember but you can guess.) I explained to her that if she went with me and a few friends to a Mariners’ games, and we kept scorecards, no matter what we did to explain what we were doing in response to each movement in the game, she would be clueless unless she had a grounding in baseball as it is currently plays—and that an awareness of past rules and accomplishments would help even more.

(Plus, it is much easier to explain something as arcane as the Infielder Fly Rule or why players at only three positions can make an unassisted triple play than it is to explain countless aspects of a word-processor.)

We baseball “fans” would have a very difficult time making her understand because it had been years (decades for most of us!) since we were in her position of ignorance. (I could go into why a truly capable teacher is so precious a commodity and what a horrendous job of nurturing them that we do in out American culture, but I won’t and will say what I always say: that’s another story . . .)

So, if this reads like I am hoping that you have an easier way for me to learn the ins and outs of WordPress and WordPress books, then you are reading this astutely . . .


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