WordPress seems to be going a bit Nineteen Eighty-Four all of a sudden…

 

“What is one thing you would change about yourself?” (question posed by WordPress to me today, Dec 5 2022)

Greetings vintage mates. Has anyone else been receiving spammy questions from WordPress, such as the one above, whenever you prepare to draft a new post or copy an older post?

The reason I ask is because last Saturday (3 Dec) as I was preparing to draft a post, a WordPress question appeared on my draft page: “What are your feelings about eating meat?” Below is the screenshot.

Happiness?

I contacted a Happiness Engineer to ask why I was receiving spam messages on my draft pages and that I was unhappy to see such a question. I supplied them with the same screenshot as above, and this is the answer I received today:

“Thank you for contacting WordPress.com support!
 
We appreciate you sharing your feedback on this and the screenshot of what you are seeing. We recently introduced a feature that displays writing prompts as a placeholder on posts, with the goal of encouraging users to write and publish new posts. I have shared your important feedback with the team. For now, you can remove that prompt that shows on your post by
 clicking on it and then pressing backspace or delete on your keyboard.
 

As you can see from the very post you are reading today, the “writing prompt” courtesy of WP is: What is one thing you would change about yourself?

Hmm, hadn’t really considered such a question, dear WP, nor my feelings lately about eating meat. I’m only here to archive vintage images, not to be dictated to what my posts could contain via some sinister WP thought-control method.

Tin foil hat outrage third world problem alert?

No. But I regard this intrusion of WP’s “writing prompts” as just that: an intrusion. My reply today to the Happiness Engineer:

“Hello. Thank you for your reply. I regard this new feature and ‘prompt’ as a distraction, as well as an infringement on my workspace which I pay WP to use. Also, it is an unnecessary chore for me to have to delete it each time I open a new page to post. Please can you pass on my concerns to the team responsible and request that this feature be removed. I do not need writing prompts nor wish to be distracted while preparing to post. Thank you. Ford, TVTA.”

If you are a creator; an artist, a musician, a writer, a cartoonist, a designer, a poet, a sculptor… and you open up your studio or office doors one morning to begin work on your newest creation, do you really need someone standing in the shadows saying, “Hey, how do you feel about eating Quinoa?” or “What advice would you give to your younger self” or “Do you believe in the existence of Unicorns?”

Same applies to bloggers. We open a new post to post something we already have in mind. Not to be distracted by WP’s mind-nannies and have a narration dictated to us. Looking at it all as innocently as I can, WP are simply trying to stimulate a conversation. But why not do this by WP posting a weekly prompt in the Reader and not on every single new draft post we make like some creepy Big Brother?

Okay, I can easily ignore and just “remove that prompt that shows on your post by clicking on it and then pressing backspace or delete on your keyboard. like the Happiness Engineer told me to. But what next… personalised ads on our draft pages? QR Codes to enter a lottery to win a subscription upgrade? A button to consent to the switching on of microphone and camera and third-party cookies? (let’s not give them ideas, folks).

WordPress, please stop intruding on my blank page!

Dear readers, if you are happy to open up a draft page and be questioned by WP on random topics, then please ignore my post. Move along. Nothing to see here. But if, like me, you are unhappy with seeing WP “Writing Prompts”, then please contact your nearest Happiness Engineer to tell them you are unhappy. Simply click on the ‘question mark’ button on your site and then hit the ‘contact support’ button.

Remember, folks, George Orwell’s Ninety Eighty-Four is not meant as a blueprint, but as a warning.

Spam image courtesy of Tasteofhome.com

Big Brother image courtesy of Wikipedia

Finally, please let me know in the comments what type of questions you have been asked by WP as part of their “Writing Prompt” effort. I’m interested if they’re blanket-spamming all of us with same question or tailoring their questions.

 

31 thoughts on “WordPress seems to be going a bit Nineteen Eighty-Four all of a sudden…

  1. Good grief.
    I completely agree with everything you’ve said here and I will pass it on.
    Although I haven’t noticed any messages on my drafts page, I’m sure it’s a matter of time. That, or I’m super unobservant, which is likely. In any case, thanks for making me laugh.
    And also, I do think the Unicorn question is a good idea, just sayin’.

    Liked by 2 people

      • My blog is shadow banned heavily; has been for the last 2 years now. I dared to have an opinion.

        My posts (almost 1000 now) are all hidden from the WP reader and computer searches. If you search “Crandew” you can still find my site, but my posts, which are all tagged, are mysteriously missing. People repost me, so that’s what usually shows up.

        Shadow banning keeps most readers from finding out the truth about things. That’s its only job.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. All I can say is..f’n el!
    Was wondering when the data extraction/manipulation/wearetheproduct machine would fire up.
    But to tell you the truth, wasn’t expecting something that blatant from them…new CEO, maybe?
    Whatever the reason…GDMFSOB (as you said politely, Ford) get the fk out of my work/head space.
    Have no doubt, I will let it rip coming Sunday at the Live Stream

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi TVTA, I haven’t gotten round to drafting this week’s post (and most of the time I just type it out off the top of my head and then press Schedule when I have it formatted how I want) so I haven’t experienced any “Question for the Day” intrusions….BUT I have had my friendly reminder that my subscription is due at the end of the month and that they (WordPress) will charge my credit card automatically! I can relax as they take my £36 from my account…..which is now £3 more than last year.I wouldn’t mind so much but it says that you get 6GB of online storage yet when I paid up last year they gave me 6GB MINUS the 3GB that I had used whilst on a free “Hobby Tier”. So not exactly getting another 6GB. However in balance I do have to say that my posts are advert free – as far as I know cos when I go to view them I see them as the author not a reader/viewer. Anyhoo if I see any Questions on the draft page I’ll let you know!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. UPDATE⚠️
    (WP response to my email):

    “Hi Nick! 👋
     
    I absolutely agree with you (and many of us do – it has proven to be quite a divisive feature). The team responsible for pushing the writing prompt feature is currently working on a toggle to deactivate them. That will be pushed very shortly and will be accessible from Settings > Writing, e.g. https://spirasc.wordpress.com/wp-admin/options-writing.php
     
    For the time being, you can try and ignore the prompts by writing – the text prompts are placeholders only and will disappear once you start typing. 
     
    Please know that your feedback is heard and actually matters. If you have any further questions, feel free to reply here or reach out to us at any time at wordpress.com/help – Have a great day! 👋 😊

    Best,
    Tim
    Happiness Engineer @ Automattic”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the update.

      They said:
      “The team responsible for pushing the writing prompt feature is currently working on a toggle to deactivate them. That will be pushed very shortly and will be accessible from Settings > Writing,”

      So, does that mean we have to deactivate it ourselves, I wonder?

      It doesn’t need a toggle… it just needs binning.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Nick.
      Update. My latest response from them (6 Dec) is very similar to the repsonse you received:

      “We appreciate the feedback you have provided! We are listening and our team is working on an option that will allow you to disable the placeholder in your settings. We will send an update to let you know when this has been added.
      Thanks again for providing crucial feedback on our products.
      Regards,
      Rhys
      Happiness Engineer @ WordPress.com”

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have this too. While it’s not a make-or-break thing for me, it does take me out of my zone for creating a post. I am not there to answer existential questions about myself. I get what they are trying to do, but it’s not a great user experience.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good thoughts Doc. I don’t want to get too Twitter Stormy about it because as you say it’s not a deal-breaker and I can see what they’re aiming at broadly. But you’re also right to say it takes you out of the zone for creating… and really, how dare they interfere with the creative process anyway? A blank sheet is a blank sheet.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I haven’t seen this issue as yet, then again I’m still railing against the gutenberg editor. I also don’t like the fact that if I go into a post to look at it, even if I don’t change anything or press any keys at all it still insists on having me press the Update button and republish it.

    Liked by 1 person

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