why wordpress books remind me of microsoft word manuals

Es­ti­mated reading time is 5 min­utes.

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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