This is Just Another WordPress Page – and I’m sorry about that. I’ve just started learning about the baseline operations and primitives of WordPress, so I can use it here and so I’ll be able to better help others . I hope that the things I’m learning about WordPress are useful in the future – but time will tell.

There’s a fly in the ointment, though: I’m from the old school, and I mean “old. When folks start talking about computers, you’ll hear me say “I go back so far that we had to write on the disks with a chisel!”

Sometimes, I feel like I’m not joking about that: in 1981, I built a Z-80 microcomputer, and modified the CP/M Operating System to handle an IBM EBCD printer I got from the M.I.T. surplus exchange. A couple of years ago, I came across a copy of “Byte” magazine, complete with an ad from Western Digital, for a Ten MegaByte hard drive – which cost over $9,000! I was present at the start of the Internet: as a technician working at New England Telephone & Telegraph, I helped to install the very first Internet connections, between the M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Labs and Bolt, Beranek, and Newman, Inc. – the very first Internet Service Provider.

After I graduated from college, I started programming computers and writing documentation: I was writing IBM Script on a 3278 tube in 1990, preparing chapter and verse for printing on a “page” printer that would take input from the VM mainframe and create pages of pretty print.

I made my way up to one of the biggest computer systems in the NorthEast: I used to write PL/I in an application that billed over Six Billion dollars per year. We had a code editing tool called ISPF, and over one million lines of code to keep running. It was all done with flowcharts and CompSci 101 design: if-then, for-next, and other building blocks that came out of Commodore Grace Hooper’s efforts to standardize code and coding methods.

That was a long time ago, but my old habits still show: up until very recently, when I wrote a web page, I used emacs, and wrote with “raw” html. I’ve never learned JavaScript, although I do know the basics of css; HTML5 is a mystery to me, and so is ActiveX. I don’t use or understand Flash, and I’m content, for the most part, to do things simply. You can look at my blog, at horne.biz, and you’ll see something written the old way, with a “<p>” command at the start of a paragraph and a “</p>” glyph at the end.

The point is that I’ve always done “bare metal” computer programming, and I’ve always done “bare metal” web pages, including a site for my son’s Boy Scout troop, which I wrote in PHP, with an index of photographs, a scheduling calendar, and cookie-driven permission slips to simplify parents’ task of giving their OK for outings. I’m proud of what I achieved, but I’ve decided to continue to challenge myself.

Here are the things I’m learning about WordPress.

There is a fine line between something that makes it “easier” to write a web page and something that seems to be “easier” on first glance, but is actually harder when all the costs are counted. It all comes down to “time:” the one currency that everyone has in equal measure.

I could have created web sites using Dreamweaver or another high-end web-design tool, but that would have meant investing hundred of dollars for what was, truth be told, just a hobby: I had a business to run, and customers to please, so my son’s Boy Scout Troop’s website had to be a spare-time project without any fancy tools available to help.

So, it comes down to time: I could trade money for time, or keep the money and devote more time to the project. I chose to spend the time. I think most design options come down to that binary choice: spend money or take the time. There is, as in most things, a third option: that of trying to find a magic bullet that allows us to create good websites without spending a lot of money or investing a lot of time. That choice, sad to say, leaves you damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

WordPress might be in either category, but I get the feeling that it’s very easy to cross the line several dozen times on the way from enthusiasm to experience, before we arrive at (cautious) optimism and confidence.

There is an industry dedicated to peddling WordPress software packages, each with an exotic name, each of which supposedly adds a magic bit ‘o blarney to every word I type, helping to “up my clickthrough penetration” or “incentivize customer involvement.” The only problem is that I’ve seen this kind of hype before: the faux-familiar buzzwords, the overcomplicated descriptions, and the exaggerated and overly friendly pitches and overtly brazen lies.

That’s one advantage of being 69: I know the difference between the carnival and the Carnival Barker. Still, despite the hype, I’m still learning WordPress: it’s the CMS for a website I’m peripherally (pun intended) involved with, and it’s open-source, and I’m hoping to pick up enough practical know-how to save time on my own sites, without helping several fast-talkers to plan their next ski vacation.