A New Look, an Old Hook

A few weeks ago, JDB earned a new paint job. The site is more than four years old now, and even if it’s not exactly well-worn — even if, thankyouverymuch, the posts are sometimes as sporadic as the author is spastic — it probably needs a new look.

The blogging platform that I use, WordPress, offers free “themes” for its customers. (Themes are the templates; they provide the look, the feel, the functionality.) There’s dozens of them, hundreds maybe. WordPress, of course, had me at “free.” That’s always been one of my favorite words, along with “4 for $4” and “refills.”

After a lot of deliberation over a lot of months, and after a few demo spins, I picked a new theme — a new free theme — called Libre 2. From WordPress:

Libre 2 brings a stylish, classic look to your personal blog or site for longform writing. The main navigation bar stays fixed to the top of the screen while your visitors read, keeping your most important content at hand, while three footer widget areas give your secondary content a comfortable home. Customize Libre 2 with a logo or a header image to make it your own.

Before I gingerly tapped the button to switch to the new look, I also whipped up a new header. I’m no graphic artist, but working with whatever programs came with my laptop and whatever I could find online — free, of course — I snagged a photo I took of the Atlanta skyline a year or two ago (before Mercedes-Benz Stadium intruded) and slapped on the blog’s name (too late to change that now) and its address. The new-look site took hold, instantly, a few weeks ago.

The thing is, I’m not completely sold on it yet. I’m not, in fact, sold at all. I may never be.

The big plus that this new look has going for it — other than, you know, free — is the ability to put more than one post on my “home” page. If someone happens upon johndonovanblogs.com — and that URL, by the way, costs me, I think $18 a year — the first words of my last few posts pop up, with photos, to click on as that someone might feel fit. You don’t have to wade through every post, as was the case with my old theme.

That works fine. But not perfectly.

If the first words of my post are in italics, the italics don’t come across on the home page. If there’s more than one graf — we’re talking journalism now! — they all get jammed together. It’s annoying.

((That unabashed complaint is, admittedly, kind of nitpicky, for two reasons.

1) Nobody ever goes straight to johndonovanblogs.com, the home page. That’s the problem with home pages all over the internet now. Most people are directed to what they want to read from social media. Many rarely see a home page.

2.) Honestly, not many people read JDB in the first place. I don’t advertise it and I generally don’t tell people about it. It has been, and continues to be, a place for me to work out my writing kinks and provide, for posterity, some family history. A few people stumble on it here and there, but until I feel like I can feed this thing regularly, there’s no use in advertising.

End of double-parentheses aside.))

The biggest beef I have with the new look, though, is not so much with the look but the ads.  Not to repeat, but I have no use for advertising.

If you don’t have an adblock extension on your browser, JDB (like pretty much all sites) is damn near unviewable. The ones that have been popping up on JDB are just gawdawful:

  • A banner ad that rotates among “Georgia: New Rules in Alpharetta GA Leave Drivers Fuming” (with a photo of two women handcuffed in the back of a car), “Doctor Says Don’t Cover Up Your Dark Spots – Try This Instead” (with a photo of I have no idea, and a bunch of other nonsense);
  • Display ads (not the banner-type at the top of the page), including “4 signs you’re about to die from a heart attack” (with a photo of some poor bastard’s swollen calf, bitten into by some sadistic stretch socks), “Top Doctor: The Skin Tightening Technique Every Woman Over 45 Should Know About” (with some woman angrily pointing to those vertical lines between your eyebrows that some people get when they get mad), a bunch of other nonsense, and “You Might Think Your Dog Doing This Is Cute. It Could Actually Be A Warning Sign” (with a photo of what seems to be a dog doing I have no idea and don’t want to know).

These ads repeat, too, so between every couple of grafs (!) in any given post, you see the same damn ad. I mean, I could be reading the best post ever posted, but if I see too many photos of sockless old bastards who look like candidates for amputation, I’m bailing.

I don’t know what these ads are pitching or what prompts them to pop up on JDB (and, I imagine, many other blogs like it). I’m not about to click on them, either. Whatever was wrong with that dude or that dog, I don’t particularly want to know.

My suspicion is that this is just a baldfaced con by the people at WordPress, who say the ads help support my freeloading. And they promise, in emails and every time I get into the administrative side of the site to post something, that I can get rid of those nasty, intrusive WordPress ads (though they never use those words). For a minimum of $8 a month. Billed annually.

I still can do a lot more with this new look. Different fonts, different functionality. I can change background colors. I can make it look, if not better necessarily, a lot different.

But I will never permanently get rid of those ads — again, you can sometimes block them on desktop or laptop with a good adblocking program, and even on mobile devices, though it’s much harder to do — unless I fork over $96. Annually.

Some day, perhaps, in a perfect blogging world, I’ll start posting regularly enough and what I have to say will be interesting enough to make me feel as if that $96 is money well expended. The skeechy ads will be gone and I might even sell some ads from real vendors that might earn me a couple bucks on the side.

Until then, though, we’re stuck with swollen ankles and angry eyes and scooty dogs. A ton of them. My apologies.

Free, it seems, is easy enough to find. Good free is not.

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