My WordPress honeymoon seems to be over – UPDATED
Readers at the old place may recall that in fact the honeymoon got off to a rocky start when WordPress blocked the whole frigging blog without warning because one of the almost 2,000 posts I’d imported from Blogger contained a quote from an online retailer of e-cigs, and because I’d linked to the page on their site that it came from as a matter of course WP’s automated systems decided I must be running a spamblog. That annoyed me but they at least accepted my argument that a cursory look at what I blog on should tell them the blog doesn’t exist to promote anyone’s business, and let me in. I couldn’t be bothered to carry on arguing over the link to try to keep the post as it was, and just edited to remove it and note that it had been changed but the original was still at the old Blogger place. Annoying but soon smoothed over and put behind me for a couple of months happy angry blogging.
Until this afternoon when I checked mail and found a tweet from JuliaM saying that she can’t comment here anymore and a follow up that it seems to be affected WordPress blogs in general. Trawling through a WP support discussion Julia linked to I found a link to what seems to be the only notification WP provided its users about a change to the comments system:
We’ve recently updated our commenting system.
Now, if someone tries to comment with an email address that’s attached to a WordPress.com account, they’ll need to sign into WordPress.com before they can comment.
If commenters have forgotten their password they can request a reset:
Please don’t hesitate to contact our Happiness Engineers if you have any questions. We’re glad to help!
Happiness Engineers? Fucking hell, have I just gone through the looking glass or something? Happiness Engineers at best sounds like calling a spade a manually operated horticultural earth inversion implement and at worst sounds like a name Apple would dream up for what other people call Technical Support because these days so many big companies seem to think making people happy about their problems is more important than fucking solving them. If you ask me it’s stupid and pretentious – give people good tech support and their happiness will probably take care of itself.
Anyway, the important point here, and which that notification doesn’t mention and you have to find by reading through the support thread Julia found, is that gravatar users are treated as synonymous with people who have a WordPress.com account simply because gravatars have long been linked to WP. Unfortunately this means Julia and anyone else who uses a gravatar but not a WP.com account can’t post using the email address they’ve associated with their gravatar unless I turn off the email required option or unless they log in to WordPress using the same log in info they use for their gravatar account.
Fabulous! I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve been using my gravatar for so long, all through my Blogger days, that I don’t know what that info is offhand, so if I was still on Blogger I’d be having problems commenting on WP hosted blogs as well right now. If you do know then you should be able to log in that way and leave comments. A pain having to do that each time, and kind of defeats the object of gravatars just needing the correct email address. Some have speculated that it’s to defeat the kind of identity hijacking that’s been going on round here lately, and which sounds a hell of a lot more widespread than I’d realised. If so the cure seems worse than the disease, and I can’t see it being all that successful anyway if it’s confined to WordPress. It’ll be even less successful if WP blogs that currently require a name and email address for comments in order to avoid the confusion of multiple anonymouses drop that, because the trolls will simply go back to anonymous spamming instead
And it’s worse than that because the whole approach falls into the same trap as treating every single flying passenger as a potential terrorist. When you inconvenience the vast majority of normal, reasonable people by changing something to try to make life difficult for a small number of knobhead pests you’ve actually given the pests a kind of victory. In the same way that Alky Ada, even if they never succeed in blowing up anything ever again, have the comfort of knowing that their past actions have made flying a fucking purgatory for the rest of us, if doppelgänger trolls are the reason WP have made this change then many of them will have a nice warm fuzzy moment whenever they think about it. Because someone at WordPress promoted them from ‘Annoying but possible to ignore’ to the level of ‘Such a significant issue that it’s worth fucking things up for everybody else over’. I hope that’s not it, WordPress, because it’s the kind of short sightedness and nannying stupidity that we should usually expect from a government.
So here’s the plan. A complaint has been sent to the – /grits teeth – to the Happiness Engineers in the hope that there may be a simple solution, and fingers have been crossed that enough people are pissed off about this that WP simply reverse the change and rethink things. Failing that I’ll be taking a serious look at self hosting so I can plug in a third party comments system like I had at the old Blogger place. There are various reasons I want to do that eventually anyway but if WP don’t fix this it’s likely to force my hand.
UPDATE – It’s starting to look like it is indeed related to doppelgängers impersonating other people, though possibly WP great and good rather than regular Joe or Josephine Netizen if this is anything to go by. Incidentally, the writer of that post has also come up with a comprehensive workaround for the problem, because it turns out you still get an error message when you use your gravatar login… though that apparently doesn’t stop you from leaving a comment.
Seriously, WordPress, what the cunting fuck did you take before implementing this abortion on everybody?