Blog status update (December 2018): Gutenberg vs. the classic WordPress editor

MacBook, coffee mug, and cactus

Last updated on March 19th, 2023

It’s time for another update on the blog’s recent changes.

Dropping Google Analytics for Matomo (formerly Piwik)

Google sign at Mountain View HQ
“Google Sign” by drewtarvin is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Flickr / cropped from original)

Lately, I’ve been trying to pare back a bit on how many Google services I rely on. I figured it wasn’t a good idea to rely so much on one company for everything. There’s also some of Google’s own downsides, such as some privacy concerns (per its advertising based model) and a propensity toward shutting down services (Google Reader?).

Thus, I’ve shifted to more third-party services. One of those is deciding to drop Google Analytics, Google’s software to provide statistics about website traffic/visitors. In its place, I’ve decided to go back to an open source software package I used before Analytics, Matomo (formerly known as Piwik). I dropped Piwik years ago for several reasons, including feeling it might be overkill, plus a few bugs.

That said, there’s been a lot of improvements in Piwik/Matomo since 2014. The main dashboard and features are all similar to Analytics, and I get the same statistics about which pages are popular, etc. The main difference is that all the site visitor statistics stay with me, not Google. Granted, I still use Google AdSense for blog ads, so Diverse Tech Geek isn’t Google-free.

Subscribing to blog posts by email is back

I’ve also brought back the Jetpack plugin-based blog subscriptions feature in the sidebar. Signing up, you can receive new blog posts by email. The feature broke for unclear reasons when I moved the site to Digital Ocean.

I believe I’ve fixed it, but I deleted all of the old subscribers. Therefore, if you’d like to get new blog posts by email, please feel free to register (or re-register).

Thoughts on Gutenberg (and why I’m sticking with the classic editor)

I’ve updated WordPress to version 5.0, which now comes with the new, revamped editor Gutenberg. It’s meant to modernize the editor by offering newer formatting, design, and layout features.

That said, Gutenberg has been very divisive in the WordPress community since its announcement and beta testing, and for good reason. After trying it, I decided to install the Classic Editor plugin (which at this writing has over 800,000 installations), which brings the old editor back.

I suppose I could’ve given Gutenberg more of a chance. Unfortunately I disliked it very quickly, and not just because it’s new or unfamiliar. Everything about Gutenberg feels like it’s geared more toward designers instead of writers, as it eschews the word processor-like editor previously used. Instead, it felt like I was trying to do my writing in a desktop publishing/layout program. Dividing all the text up by paragraph into separate “blocks” felt annoying, inconvenient, and unintuitive. As I usually write blog posts into WordPress’ editor (versus a standalone word processor), I couldn’t stand this behavior.

I’ve also seen some express concerns about Gutenberg and accessibility (screen reader programs, etc.).

Besides a desire to modernize, the changes are also likely meant to help WordPress compete with newer rival services like Squarespace or Medium. It also reflects the greater emphasis on using WordPress for site layout/design versus blogging, plus the shift online away from text-centric blogs to a heavier emphasis on features like videos, graphics, and social media. Still, since my main priority’s writing, I’d rather do it in a text editor designed more like a word processor than a page layout/graphic design program.

Hopefully, the Gutenberg editor will improve over time, so I can look back on this post and sigh in relief. If not, I’ll just hope there’s either: a market for the indefinite future for an “old-fashioned” editor plugin; a similar editor in a different content management system; or I’ll start writing blog posts in a word processor and copy/paste in text.

Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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