I remember a new toy I got at Christmas that was exactly, EXACTLY, what I had asked Santa Claus for. It was the GI Joe Jeep. I remember the excitement and the anticipation while tearing off the wrapping paper and opening the package. Oh the joy at pushing that jeep around and making all the vroom, vroom sounds. I had freedom! I chased the Wehrmacht across the Rhine, was blown up in France, and drove in a victory parade in London. I had power to chase bad guys, fight wars and I was cool.
Then a wheel came off and went rolling into the kitchen. My world came to a stop. It didn’t help that my sister grabbed the wheel and taunted me before running off. I was stunned. It came off and there was no more wind in my hair, chasing bad guys, or winning wars. I was crushed. Working with technology can be like that only a lot more frustrating than a toy with a missing wheel. At least I could pretend the missing wheel had been blown off by enemy mortar fire. But if my mobile phone stops working, it’s pretty much done. The term is “bricked” as in that’s about all it’s good for.
Simple and Useful
Back when the pace of change was rather slow technology was simpler. Things were built to last. They were easier to build and sturdy – a tractor, truck or car for instance. You could fix most anything with a wrench, screwdriver and a can of oil. But now the pace of change of technology is impossibly fast and getting faster. Technology today is controlled by computers and thousands of lines of code.
But what also shifted was the way we had to think about the tools we use. Tractors in the 1920s pulled and pushed equipment but we had to choose what, when and why. Tractors of today still pull and push but they can help with what, when and why. They’ve become smarter and in the right hands with the right frame of mind, they are more useful. The same can be true of your website. Using tools like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla give us power over our websites and help make us productive. They can be fantastic partners if you don’t let the gremlins stop you.
More complex? Great – until it breaks.
I no longer work with static HTML websites. I work with WordPress because it’s a platform with a lot of options and flexibility. It’s a very good platform too. But even WordPress will hiccup or outright crash if something isn’t done right. The issue could be anything but it’s not likely to be WordPress. And here is where the mind shift occurs.
Code doesn’t change on it’s own. There are no “gremlins” running amok in the code rewriting it. But there is a user (you and me) that can change settings, install new software and hardware, answer popups with a yes, no, or cancel, or just ignore the popup all together. More often than not, it’s our own fault out of ignorance or haste that gets us into trouble. Change the firewall settings and suddenly we can’t send to the network printer. Install a new game and ignore the popups and suddenly we have ads for Viagra on our desktop. The results of our choices may be seen now or not until much later.
Stop & think
When your site becomes bricked, borked, goes sideways or is gremlinized just stop. Think back to what’s changed. From the moment you realize it work backward and try to remember all of the moments when you might have changed a setting (no matter how insignificant), installed an update, downloaded something, or opened something that seemed amiss. You will most likely uncover what happened. And it’s the same process a help desk/tech support person will do. Find it, fix it and don’t forget what you did or undid. There are no gremlins, it’s just us.