The WordPress Strain – 1LinerWeds

I’ve had a Sesame Street moment this past week. Do you remember the recurring segment “One of These Things?” Like in this video, three things are alike, and one is close-but-no-cigar. I’ve also been having an Andromeda Strain Moment. Huh?

I know, these seem to be unrelated, and when am I going to get to the one-liner that is the purpose of Linda’s challenge. Stay with me, you might find this interesting, if you’re a blogger on WordPress. If you’re not interested in WordPress things, you might want to skip down, look at the one-liner and move into the gallery. It’s OK, I understand.

I reported two problems to the Happiness Engineers last week. One, a situation where the Notification Pane (the thing that opens on the side of your browser when you click on the bell icon and shows recent likes and comments) started opening on its own. It blocked my sidebar and the sidebar of any blog I visited, and it could not be closed.

The other problem is one that has been happening regularly for a few months. I write my blog posts in Microsoft Word. I paste the text into the Block Editor and format the text there. Sometimes, when I make a minor change to a bit of text (not necessarily an entire block) all the paragraph blocks collapse into a single paragraph. It’s usually such a mess that I start over.

I’ve had other weird things happen with blocks, but none of them had anything to do with the Notification Pane (not like the others) so I reported the notification pane separately. See below for resolution.

The Happiness Engineers were leaning toward the collapsing blocks being my problem—they can’t recreate it in the lab—until I sent them a video of it happening. I still don’t have enough information for them to recreate it—I can’t even reliably recreate it—but I think they understand this isn’t my fault.

OK, so what’s up with the Andromeda Strain?

I had been searching for a place to stream the original version of that movie for years. I finally found one (Movietime). After telling my wife about my success, she asked me if I had ever read the book. I think I had, but in the ‘sixties. She bought me a copy, so I’ve been rereading it.

If you’ve read the book, or seen the movie, you might remember my one-liner (finally):

“We’ll know that…when we know why a sixty-nine-year-old Sterno drinker with an ulcer is like a two-month-old baby.”

Not much help, I know.

But it made me think.

While the blocks collapsing into one blob of amorphous text is the most annoying problem I’ve had with the Block Editor, it isn’t the only one. In addition to that, I’ve experienced:

  • When I paste text in from Word, every paragraph break (hard return) turns into a new paragraph block, except the last one. I almost always have to manually break the last paragraph out on its own once in the Block Editor.
  • Sometimes, when editing a column group, one column will absorb the contents of the column to its right. I am unable to undo that behavior or edit the column that was on the right.
  • Frequently, if I’m trying to select a paragraph, to apply a color or a font attribute (bold, italics) the editor highlights the entire bit of text, but only applies the attribute to some of it. BTW – To select the entire block so that it all stays selected, triple click in the paragraph.

In my last reply to the Happiness Engineer, I suggested that these isolated annoying incidents may not really be isolated. All of these represent a case when the Block Editor loses track of a boundary or a series of boundaries. Maybe Word and WordPress designate paragraph breaks in a slightly different way. Maybe the Block Editor gets confused. I don’t know, but I suggested they look for other complaints that are similar to mine.

If you have experienced any weird block behavior on your blog, let me know in a comment. I have a theory as to what’s causing these problems, but it’s not fully formed. I will keep sending examples to the Happiness Engineers, and I will let you know if I hear anything.

As for resolutions:

The Notification Pane problem was a problem with WordPress and it was fixed.

The problem with blocks is still in the “we-can’t-duplicate-it-in-the-lab” state, but it’s been suggested that I avoid pasting text in and work exclusively in the Block Editor. I have several reasons for preferring to work in Word, not the least of which is that I’ve had posts I’m working on in the Block Editor disappear into the ether. I like having backups of my posts. Sorry for the length of this post.

This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday. If you have a one-liner, or if you would like to join in on the fun, you can follow this link to participate and to see the one-liners from the other participants.

If you like magical realism with suspense, action and a bit of family sarcasm, you will enjoy these books:

The Evil You Choose
When Evil Chooses You

Series page on Amazon

My profile page (and books) on Lulu

All available on Kindle Unlimited!


  1. I like how you made a video of the steps you took to reproduce the problem to prove you actually had a problem that the engineers could not reproduce.

    I don’t think I have a problem with any WordPress block, but then I don’t do anything too complicated with it. I just start typing and expect it to work.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I write posts on my phone 70% of the time, and exclusively on wordpress. Never had an issue losing anything, there’s always the previous version that can be brought up. In my experience Word doesn’t like to cooperate with other programs, even its sister, PowerPoint. Which is super annoying.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I find with WordPress if I wait a few days, the problem goes away. (Like most things in life) I just type my post into the blocks and it all works fine. I used to copy from MS Word but I realised I don’t need the extra step and extra formatting. I try to keep things simple if I can. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How about you write in blocks, which is easy as, then copy the text and paste into Word.
    When in draft still before you publish or even after you publish, open the dialogue box on the RHS do a “copy all blocks”. Paste into Word

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had the problem with the Notification Pane for a while, but I wouldn’t have known what to call it. So far I’ve been able to avoid Block, and I hope I can forever and ever. I think I remember “The Andromeda Strain,” but I don’t remember that line. I know for sure I remember “One of These Things,” and I think of it regularly as I scratch my head over some household mystery! I hope those Happiness people get some insights into your problems. I like the storm-door photo of your neighborhood!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did my best to embrace the Block Editor. I still use a Classic block for photos – I just like the gallery look better. The Andromeda Strain (movie) came out in the early ’70s and it hasn’t been shown on TV all that often. It made me remember that unrelated things are always unrelated.

      One of these things gets quoted around here a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Bunny!!! Welcome back little guy.
    When I blogged from my computer I tried pasting from Word and it just seemed like too much extra work. Things didn’t format properly and I spent more time fixing it than I cared to. Now I post exclusively from my phone with no issues. As for my work disappearing, it never does. If I’m in the middle of writing and something goes wrong? It always saves to drafts automatically. I find the mobile app quicker and easier but my posts are generally simple.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew you’d like the bunny. I asked him to wait, even though he’s by the trash can.

      I have prepared some small posts on a tablet. My fingers are too fat and my phone is too small to attempt building a post from there. Plus, I’m usually at my laptop because most of my photos are on my camera. I guess this is my problem to deal with.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. If you are having those problems, there’s no hope for me, that’s for sure!
    Love the pictures, the C-130, first rabbit, reflections and of course – the Flag!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I would prefer writing in Word so I can check grammar and spelling, but I always have issues copying and pasting. Sometimes when I’m doing something on the volunteer blog that someone has sent me I have to post to Word first in order to get rid of some strange formatting, and then I have issues with the blocks. You sure have a lot less snow than we do. How wide is your Toro?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Word’s spellcheck is better than WordPress’s, but maybe it takes a speller as bad as me to notice. I prefer keeping working drafts in a folder than in my blog. I’m pretty sure I’d release one of those into the wild at some point.

      We have only had a little over a foot of snow all season! The snow blower is 24″ wide. It only saw action three times this year, and none of those storms left enough for it to complain.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I run into issues with the block editor quite often but, more times than not it’s user error or user doesn’t know how to use it. It’s just not as idiot proof as I hoped it would be you see I am a talented idiot.

    I thought the snow shape looked like a turtle. I don’t how I got so lucky but, the two times the plow has come by to clean the street of snow it didn’t leave a mess in my driveway or the street in front of the driveway that I had to clear out after it! I was amazed. Now knocking on wood so I don’t jinx myself. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t thought of a turtle, but I can see that :-)

      I can tell if we’re going to have a huge mess, without even getting out of bed. The plow makes one pass up the middle of the street. Then he comes back later and cleans off the sides. If he’s heading west on that first pass, it means my neighbor’s across the street are getting about 75% of the snow. If he’s going east, we’re getting it.

      I don’t think the Block Editor is intuitive-not that Word is, but I’m used to it. They also introduce subtle changes in the editor without warning. The way in which you set a link to open in a new window now requires an extra step, but I had to guess where they put it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. When I first started teaching online, I was warned by the instructional designers not to copy and paste from Word because of the dreaded “junk code.” One of the learning management systems we used (Moodle, I think) had an option to “paste in plain text,” that would strip out the junk code. It would be a nice feature for WordPress to offer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That would be a great feature. I use that in a lot of operations, precisely for that reason. I have been amazed that Amazon KDP can actually work with a book-length Word document.

      One of the features I have – the Sunday Thursday Doors Recap – is prepared in Excel. I need the functionality to handle some of the things my extract program doesn’t. I used to be able to copy the formatted page and paste it into WP as a table. It worked fine for a year, then it stopped working. The Happiness Engineers suggested going from Excel to Google Sheets and then into WordPress. That works. Although it’s an extra step, pasting from Google automatically sets the links to open in a new window, which I had to do by hand after pasting from Excel.

      I wish these things could play well with each other.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Since I don’t blog I don’t face all these problems. WP keeps shutting me down in the middle of a comment, but that’s easy compared to what you described!

    Love the sunrise and sunset photos. The pics of Smokey on the roof of his condo are adorable. But I’m afraid your tarp won’t withstand many more entrances!

    And the lone bunny is wondering where all the clover is!

    Old Glory looks right at home blowing in the breeze. Always a treat to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Smokey and Sammy have made a mess of those covers, Ginger. They call them renovations, and they designed the changes very well. The covers were very expensive, so I don’t think we’re replacing them.

      The bunny does like the paths I clear in the yard. I used to clear them for Maddie but I still have to clear a path to the firewood, in case we need it.

      I walk down to the memorial whenever I walk, so I check on the flag status. She has held up pretty well this winter.


  12. I had that problem with the Notification Pane (I never knew it had a name!) and I figured it was a problem between those on WP dot com and those who self host. It only lasted for about a day and was fixed. But thanks for reporting it. Sending a video to those happy guys was pretty darn clever, Dan. recreate this, buddy!!
    Do you still have a paper boy? I’ve been reading our newspaper online for quite a few years now and have not seen a thrown paper in such a long time. Our local paper stopped printing the Saturday edition and now takes all (I mean ALL) holidays off so you can only read the news online. One of the big newspapers just over the state line shut down all paper news and is now strictly digital. Who would ever have thought…

    Liked by 1 person

    • They fixed the problem with the notification pane pretty quickly. I’m not sure that’s what they call it, but Adobe uses the term “Pane” in that manner so I figured they’d understand.

      We don’t have a paper boy per se. We have two guys who drive around. On throws the paper in the driveway M-T-W and a different one backs up our driveway and drops the paper at our side door Th-Sunday. The large CT Paper is making deals to get people to switch to digital, but their digital option is crummy to read. I subscribe to the Pittsburgh paper digitally (they only offer a print version a few days a week), and it’s wonderful. The digital version is a PDF of the entire paper, and it’s so easy to read. Our local paper uses some page-flipping thing that is surrounded by ads and awful to read.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I had that problem with the pane too. I thought it was my computer as it fixed itself eventually.

    The Happiness Engineers will never admit to any problems with the blocks. They have been problematic from the beginning. But I’m resigned. My daughter (a programmer) tells me it’s probably that there are problems buried in the programming that they didn’t have time to fix–they just created bandaids–and are too far buried to even find now. She says WordPress is notorious for such things, but her company has them, everyone does. They are always needing to do work-arounds. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Having been a programmer and having managed programmers for over 40 years, I agree with your daughter. The other problem (I think) is that there are numerous programmers working on large blocks of code that are reused. I don’t think they do adequate testing. My guess is they test that their change did what it was supposed to do, but they don’t check to see if they broke something else.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That makes a lot of sense. I also notice that there is not one “happiness engineer” who follows through on your problem. It’s a different one each time–no continuity. So like restarting with every one of them.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. On ‘click three times’ are you talking about the mouse or your ruby slippers ? I would consider the ruby slippers slightly more dependable than the mouse. As for the disappearing text coming out of MicroSoft Word I would suggest scrubbing it to remove special characters and formatting. It used to be that Notepad would do this. Pasting and saving in Notepad would drop all the special characters and formatting. The latest version does not. However there are ways to find and remove special characters and other binary objects that get into the text. And the problem you describe of the merging text columns sounds like a possible case of this. I did find a information on removing special characters etc. If nothing else it might help you diagnose the problem of the merging columns. I have had a similar problem with my seedling names being saved as file names. The seedling name goes into ‘file manager’ when saved. But when I go to file manager to retrieve the file the file name is in lala-land and cannot be retrieved because of the embedded special name/binary character. And we ran into similar problems with binary objects in data files back in my old work life. Good luck with your columns merging Dan. I hope you find a solution if not a formal WP fix. The Happiness Engineers are still puzzling why the Reader List will not let me add some URLs. And the question of why a 69 year old sterno addict and a 2 month old baby makes perfect sense to me. Read the book and watched the movie. Happy Wednesday !

    Liked by 1 person

    • I sometimes do the Word-to-Notepad-to-Somthing else routine, John. As Liz mentioned, they could solve this by giving you the option to Paste as Plain Text. Microsoft has added that feature to their Power Toys group of free apps. It’s designed for Windows 11 but I hope it will install on Windows 10. It gives you the option to paste as plain text, even when the target application doesn’t.

      Ruby slippers would come in handy right about now. I don’t use columns very often. The last time that I had a lot of links to add, I created a table in the column instead of a paragraph. That seemed to form an impenetrable boundary. Work-arounds are my specialty ;-)

      Happy Wednesday, stay away from the Sterno.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I had that notification pane thing happening. Man, was that annoying. I ended up just rebooting my computer and it was resolved.

    And that is yet another reason why I do not ‘block’ – I still use the classic. I loathe the block. I will continue to avoid the block forever and ever and ever…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have a love-hate relationship with the block editor. It does offer some nice features. I really like reusable blocks. I use that for the opening paragraph on Thursday Doors, and the shameless self-promotion block hocking my books. It’s nice because, if I make changes, the changes appear everywhere the block was ever used. Still, I wish they could fix the simple things.


  16. Dan, if you save your Word doc as a txt file, does the same problem exist?

    I hope WordPress appreciates all the hard work you put into resolving their problems. I am still using the classic editor just because it still seems so much easier in the long run.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Great post, loved the photos. About MS Word and the Block issue. I compose in Word and then copy/paste into Notepad. Then I copy/paste from Notepad into WordPress. That extra step that I do always removes Word’s quirky behind-the-scenes coding. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I had the notification pane problem, and talk about annoying. I didn’t think to get WP involved since that usually is an exercise in frustration. I shut WP down and came back later. Sure enough, you were able to get it fixed by the te I returned. Thank you. (That last sentence is in jest) I hope this is your last snow, but who knows? Super photos, Dan

    Liked by 1 person

  19. That problem last week prompted me to lose my you-know-what too and chat with the Happiness folks. It was a bug and they said (which they did iom fairly quick fashion) email when it was fixed. As for the Block Editor….nothing but dynamite will fix it. I absolutely hate it-what used to take 10 minutes to knock out a post took ages and lots of hair pulling interspersed with HBO words. For the time being I continue to use the Classic editor although I’m not sure that’s an option anymore. I’ll probably stop blogging completely with the fully ash-can it. Why couldn’t they leave well enough alone is beyond me. Here’s hoping your Block problems can be resolved. I’m rooting for ya.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I think they had a lot of complaints about those notifications. They did fix it and they did admit to an error.

      I have a love-hate relationship with the block editor. There are some very nice features, but it’s not intuitive and I don’t consider it reliable. I wish they would stop adding new features, fix what they have and then test things better as they go.

      If you have to switch to the Block Editor, remember you can always add one Classic Block and prepare your posts like you do now. We’d hate to lose you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re very kind. I’ve tried it a couple of times but decided my time was too precious for the privilege of paying for it after I had upgraded to a plan that was supposed to generate a it’ll income (I’d have been satisfied if I’d broken even but it just never panned out).

        You’re right, it’s not intuitive at all and tends to work against all laws of logic. Perhaps it’s a secret plot to get people to buy Rogaine hair growth formula because all I wanted to do when I was using it was pull my hair out! 😈

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Have you or has wordpress asked you to move to jetpack yet. I often think that things start happening when wordpress want us to move to something different. I have made the change to Jetpack which is wordpress by another name

    As to word and wordpress not “working well together” I tend to work in post it notes , touch wood I have not had any problems moving my posts across. There is a spell checker there too.

    Take care Dan. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did switch to JetPack. Less of a big deal than I expected. This problem is random and infrequent, although it usually shows up once a week. Fortunately, I delete the garbage, paste again and it’s fine.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Do you think it has anything to do with WordPress making us switch to the jet pack app? Maybe if they make things annoying enough, you’ll switch, for example? I guess I’m gonna cave in to it today. 🤔🙄

    Liked by 1 person

    • I doubt it. I’m not using the app for posting. 99% of the time, I go to the Admin page on my blog and create a new post there. The Jetpack app transition was seamless for me. Then again, I only tend to read and reply to comments there.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. You do know why they insisted on everyone changing to the block editor, don’t you? They don’t want us having all that control over our own blogs. They’re control freaks. They love watching us squirm.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Tee-hee! I don’t know why I got such a kick out of the bird/animal footprints in the snow, but I did.
    It’s just amazing that so many things can keep going wrong with WordPress. They’re consistently problematic… Sorry for all those aggravations, Dan. Thanks for cheering us up with the great gallery. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Teagan. I did like seeing the footprints. It’s good to know that Polly is hanging out here. WordPress sure keeps it interesting. I hope they can solve this, but I’m not counting on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I have to copy and paste everything because for some reason, the typed part disappears.  It shows up and then leaves!  And that’s just one of the irritations.  Having to constantly sign in to leave a comment, or after all that, it says duplicate comment or comment cannot be posted, etc.  So annoying that these problems cannot be fixed by the “engineers”.  But why they aren’t is obvious—this friendly community sticks around no matter what.  We all want to stay “together”.  They’ve got us, or am I just paranoid?😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • “comment cannot be posted” is the one that drives me crazy. It’s always after I’ve written a lengthy comment without bothering to copy it “just in case” like I normally do. I wouldn’t leave this community unless it was a mass exodus.


  25. Dan, I have to say when I returned to WordPress last June, if I didn’t have access to the Classic Editor I probably would have exited stage right like Snagglepuss. The Block editor…I just didn’t have the cycles to burn on trying to navigate it. It has seemed in the decade or so I’ve been dipping in and out of WordPress they love tweaking things for change’s sake, not for the betterment of its users. Maybe Block is better, but I’ll never know. I assume Smokey is ready for Spring. Since we never had Winter, I wonder if we’ve been in Spring all along lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If I had to guess, Bruce, I’d say someone added something to the Block Editor – tested their work to see that it did what it was supposed to do – and moved on. They didn’t bother to retest all the other things to see if they still work. I saw that approach lead to disaster too many times in my career – I even made that mistake once or twice. Sooner or later you learn to work from and toward a stable version. These guys love to make incremental changes all the time.

      Smokey is ready for spring. They have a lot of nest building to do after our neighbor took down several large trees. They were oak trees, too, so the acorn harvest will be much smaller this fall. They’re probably counting on us to make up the difference ;-)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am sure Team Smokey knows you will fill in the nuts supply chain “interruption” quite nicely, Dan. 😀 From your career experience, you can appreciate more than most how “minor” tweaks like the ones WP deploys can have a domino effect and bring about all sorts of unintended consequences.

        Liked by 1 person

  26. Quite a story about the unhappiness engineers. I noticed issues if I use Word then paste text into WP. A workaround is to convert the word doc into plain text, paste it into WP, then format it in WP.
    Lovely winter photos. When is Spring!?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have done that at times. I was hoping that, since I don’t do any formatting in Word, it wouldn’t matter too much. The weird thing is that, after it happens, I delete the mess and paste again and it works fine. We’ve had the mildest winter ever, but I am ready for spring.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. After finding a work-around years ago, happily, I’m STILL using the Classic Editor and avoiding this block business like the plague. I’d tell you what the Block Editor can go do, but it might be inappropriate to write it on your blog, Dan. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I draft all my posts in Grammarly and then copy and paste them into WordPress. I never had any problems with it, Dan. Likewise, I’ve never had any posts or draft posts disappear unexpectedly.

    Have you tried the WordPress Forums for reporting problems? You can check with somebody else who has already reported a problem you want to report, but I’ve also found that I get a quicker response than chat. I recently reported a problem with the preview of the FSE themes not working. It was much easier than going via the Happiness Engineers. They found the bug and are working on fixing it. I’ll be using the Forums in future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have used the forums before, and I followed the problem of WP dropping followers from my blog, on GitHub for over a year. There was a lot of cross-traffic between engineers on that, and I (thought I was) able to add some information at times. This is annoying, but it’s so easy to fix (I just delete the block and paste again) that it hasn’t been an issue. I decided to raise it with them after I reported the Notification Pane and their first response was to blame my using Firefox or having “too many” extensions – I have two, the Facebook container and Lastpass. When they admitted that the Notification Pane was an error, I thought, maybe they can fix this.


  29. How frustrating with the side bar. Why don’t you switch to the classic instead of the block? Also, Word and WordPress have never been friends. Never ever. I always have to add or change paragraph breaks. Love the C-130 and flag photo!

    Liked by 1 person

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