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Broken, Broken, Broken


I’m going to rant here. Be warned!

Let’s talk about software updates. Isn’t it great when a new update brings some cool new features, and fixes bugs that have annoyed you for months or years?

It’s not so great when a new update brings a lot of bells and whistles while breaking well-established functionality.

In this case, I’m referring to the “publicize” feature of the Jetpack plugin. If you aren’t familiar with it, Jetpack is a WordPress plugin that brings all kinds of different features. It’s actually made by the WordPress team. I suppose the idea was that not everybody would want these features, so they aren’t built into the core program, but they’re popular enough that they should be aggregated into a single mega-plugin, where users can choose which parts they want to activate. Not a bad idea!

So, Jetpack got a major update this past week. The most noticeable changes were a total user interface redesign. I can’t say I’m a fan of the new statistics dashboard, although they did leave a link to the old-style statistics. Mostly, I’m annoyed by what was taken away. Used to be, the statistics dashboard would tell you which posts have been viewed on a given day, and how many times. Referral links, outbound clicks, and search terms were also recorded. The latter don’t matter so much anymore, since most search engines use HTTPS now and obscure the search terms that brought a user to your site, but the other two were still plenty useful.

All of those are gone from the main statistics dashboard in the new Jetpack. Well, OK, I guess I’ll just have to get used to it. I don’t know why information I wanted to see got taken away–what did they base this decision on? I’d be curious to know.

But what irks me more is the broken “publicize” feature. This is the feature that automatically posts to social networks. I use it to post to Facebook. It just doesn’t work now. Who knows why? According to their forums, I’m not the only person with this issue, but so far I’ve seen no indications it’s been fixed for anyone. It’s possible I just need to switch to a different plugin. That’s disappointing, since I like Jetpack, but given the UI redesign that takes away features I like, and the broken social media plugin, it’s making me question why I have Jetpack at all. Its other features are handy but nonessential. The only other big one I use is the Akismet anti-spam plugin, but that one can be installed as a standalone module, too.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had plugin updates break things, of course. Most of the plugins I use have brought defects along with updates. Perhaps the wildest one was when a Yoast SEO update broke the post editor–lots of things in the post editor just didn’t work anymore. Brilliant! Currently, the ImageInject plugin is still broken due to a WordPress update. I have to manually set my featured images as a result. Not sure if this will ever be fixed.

This seems to be a common theme in software. New versions bring redesigns, sometimes radical ones, in which features you were used to get snatched away because maybe not enough people used it to make it worthwhile to the developers to support. And at the same time, things that used to work get broken, and whether or not it gets fixed anytime soon again depends on how many people use it (and how loudly they complain).

Better testing practices would solve much of the latter problem. Redesigns are not a “problem,“ per se, though they often seem to be undertaken because somebody thought it was cool, and not because users were clamoring for change. As an aside, that approach seems like Apple’s current philosophy: change things because we want to, not because it makes a product better or more useful.

So, that’s enough about that. I’m hoping this feature will be fixed soon. If not, I’ll install something else to do the same job. Such is life. At least I have those options.

I also plan to do a 911 post tomorrow, in case you were wondering why I didn’t have one today. Sunday seemed like the time to complain about software features, in a meta post. I’ll get back to the serious business tomorrow.

Have a good week!