July 14: Blockhead

Date #14July 14: Is WordPress trying to commit suicide?

I’ve not been posting very often of late; “The new Block Editor is coming” is the constant refrain in my In-box from the blog publisher I chose some years back – WordPress.  The anticipation is a distraction, a worry. That’s discouraging, since I chose them because their no-fuss editor replicated a print layout.

But now, the Block Editor won’t do that without a deal of fuss. To introduce each post I use a layout you will find in books since the medieval time of illustrated manuscripts, and that has appeared in books ever since; an image (or illuminated capital) next to the opening paragraph.

I thought I’d give the Block Editor a go again, given that their emails promise me that it has been developed to give;

…a new publishing experience. You can use it to create media-rich pages and posts and to control their layout with ease. Instead of worrying about the alignment and organization of text, quotes, and images, every element on a post or page has its own block — and you can focus on creating.

But…I do worry about “the alignment and organization of text, quotes, and images” and yes, every element of my posts, particularly the content. I firmly believe that ‘the medium is the message’ and that good design of a page (whether it is in ink or pixels) is as much a part of engaging ideas as is choosing the right words, or turning the ‘nicest’ (in its true sense) phrase.

I must be unreasonably fussy. The poor WordPress ‘Happiness Engineer’ had a few suggestions for me. First:

WP.comMon, Jul 13, 11:30 PM

You can add a Media and Text block to make the image placed on the left and the text on the right. So the block will allow you to place an image or video side-by-side with text. We have a visual guide on how to set up and use Media & Text blocks within this support article: https://en.support.wordpress.com/wordpress-editor/blocks/media-text-block/

In my case the date of the post in the form of the enlarged edge numbers from a 35mm B&W negative is the header for each of my posts, next to a brief paragraph, usually in the form of a provocative question.

But the Media and Text block lacks that finesse. The text cannot be aligned with the top of the image…a simple adjustment that even Microsoft Word has enabled since the 1990s.


WP.comTue, Jul 14, 12:42 AM
It may be that for the kind of thing you’re going for using a Columns block will work better. you can insert a block with two columns – and then content in each. It would allow you to have the text top aligned, and whichever image you’d like inserted?

Well, yes, but then you’re stuck with the same columns throughout the post, so the conversation continued…

jamesmmcardleTue, Jul 14, 1:03 AM
An issue with the image in columns is that you can’t scale the image – you’re stuck with a dialogue box in which you can change one dimension or the other but that distorts the image. In classic you could grab the image handle and drag to scale and you could see a pixel size readout as you changed it. Here you can’t do that. Will show you what happens…

WP.comTue, Jul 14, 1:04 AM
Ah yes – I understand what you mean in terms of the sizing.

WP.comTue, Jul 14, 1:05 AM
If you change the column width – the image should expand (proportionally) to fit it?

WP.comTue, Jul 14, 1:05 AM
You can also try inserting ‘Classic Block’ and see if that helps do it in the way you are used to?

jamesmmcardleTue, Jul 14, 1:06 AM
I’ll try Classic block

WP.comTue, Jul 14, 1:06 AM
OK great.

jamesmmcardleTue, Jul 14, 1:12 AM
All seems a bit pointless to me, when the Classic Editor worked fine.

I’ve become habituated to the quite distraction-free editor interface I’ve been using since 2012 when I started https://drjamesmcardle.com. The prospect of the Block Editor and all its complications interrupting my writing, and given COVID-19 closing photography galleries worldwide, I opted for a more physical project…a wall…


Several in fact…

retaining wallIMG_0516IMG_0504

With the government COVID-19 ‘stimulus’ in March I hired a local chap with his Bob-Cat and he levelled our eroded driveway which you needed a 4-wheel drive to negotiate, and he also excavated the parking bay from our sloping block. I cleaned the bricks from the old bodgie driveway and used them to make a retaining wall at one end to stop our 1960s weatherboard collapsing into the excavation, then hunted out and carted in some local stone to make two sets of steps. Then, having run out of bricks, I bought a Miner’s Right so that I could fossick for some more stone to start on a 1-metre high retaining wall on the sides. I’d tried poured concrete for one wall, but it was so ugly that I had to render and whitewash it — so stone was it.

Bricks — even second hand, hand-made 19th century ones — come in a given size, so they are quick to lay into something plumb and even.

Stone comes in blocks of various dimensions. You pick and choose. You can’t cut it without owning some quite serious equipment, but you can chisel off inconvenient bits with a bit of effort, though risk splitting the whole block. Or you can develop an eye for shape, going with the grain, finding level courses, and minding your fingers and back. It’s immensely satisfying…once you’ve found the fit…but an exercise in deep patience in the process.

Building a wall out of stone is a philosophical exercise, as well as physical…I’m now much fitter! It’s a game, like Tetris in 3D and with a bit of avoirdupois. It’s like composing a photograph. It’s about finding the fit.

The *NEW-AND IMPROVED* All-American world-dominating WordPress Block Editor is nothing at all like wrangling stone. It’s just like Duplo, that version of Lego building blocks made for pudgy toddler fingers, and incapable of producing a layout with any subtlety – and finesse!




9 thoughts on “July 14: Blockhead

      1. It was confusing for me also and I try to stay with classic editor.
        Sometimes I think the new features more awkward than helpful.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comments to the walls. Unfortunately to install plugins these days I “need to upgrade to a Business plan” (WP is always hustling for money, ‘incentivising’ and ‘monetising’ their product). There is access to the old editor under WP Admin…a bit clunky as it uses more desktop but it’ll do, since that’s what I started with.


  1. Hi James … I came across this post again recently and share your pain of the ‘block editor’ – so much so preparing and posting is a painful thing.
    My main gripe is how things in the Classic editor were easy to locate and simple to select the effect you wanted and move on. Now the search for the way to those simple things requires the hope of the ’empty chamber’ that someone has when playing Russian roulette…
    All the Best James … Cheers Doug

    Liked by 1 person

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