The Untalented Techie

The Untalented Techie

I think it’s fair to say that I have many talents. Some of them I haven’t cultivated as much as I could have done; others are less accessible than they used to be because of my health (such as my music). On the whole, though, it wouldn’t be arrogant to say that I can do quite a lot of things to a reasonably high standard.

But coding is not one of them.

I mentioned that I’d changed the theme on my blog and, while I liked the new design, it wasn’t perfect. Things were too spaced out, there were no timestamps on posts, and more of it was capitalised than I’d like, so that it seemed to be yelling at me — the ‘Recent Posts’ widget was a prime example of that. When I first set this blog up as a WP.org blog, my friend John spent hours modifying the code for me. I felt too guilty to ask him to do that again, so I decided to try and tackle it myself.

It … didn’t go brilliantly. About ten minutes into it, I messaged John on Facebook. “I broke the code. What do I do now.” With his guidance, I figured out which parts I wanted to poke at, even if I wasn’t entirely sure of the nature of those pokes.

Eventually, my eyes were burning from trying to decipher code (I think I need new glasses, because reading seems harder than ever), so I decided to give up and tackle it in the  morning, leaving a slightly weirdly-spaced blog for everybody to enjoy overnight. I doubt anyone noticed, but just in case, I opened it up and started again today, before getting dressed, having breakfast, or doing anything else much.

For the record, it’s now 1:25pm and I’m still in pyjamas, not having had breakfast or done anything else much, because the code took longer than anticipated and also I’m not very good at basic tasks.

Following John’s advice from yesterday, which was to use the ‘Inspect Element’ function of my browser in one tab and then to modify the code in another, I played around with it and managed to modify some things the way I wanted to … but also managed to break a few others. Eventually, I succeeded in the tasks that were essential: adding timestamps, modifying the Recent Posts widget so that the titles were smaller, lower-case, and closer together; moving posts closer to each other and to the header.

And now I think I’ve managed that. But man, it was hard.

Some people seem to have a knack for coding. I don’t, for much the same reason (I suspect) as why I suck at sudokus and never enjoyed maths. My brain doesn’t work that way. When I was twelve I may have attempted to build an entire website using HTML and I may have succeeded (it probably still exists somewhere on the internet, but I can’t remember the URL) . But that’s a whole different kettle of fish to modifying the CSS of a theme someone else created, and my twelve-year-old self was good at a whole bunch of things I can no longer do.

She knew Python, for a start. Learned it on a computery summer camp (games and website coding, video editing, music production) in 2008. What a nerd.

I broke the code several times while trying to modify it, for one simple reason: I’m too British. I kept wondering why things weren’t working and then realising I’d typed ‘colour’ or ‘centre’ instead of the American ‘color’ or ‘center’ which is what needs to be used to make the code work. I also found it tough to use Dvorak for coding (Dvorak being my keyboard layout, not the composer), because I didn’t know where to find { and } brackets, and kept missing out my semi-colons.

I think I fixed everything? But I’m really not at all sure. There may be lots of things that no longer work, or bits of text that aren’t attached to anything, or whatever. At one point the whole site pretty much disappeared and was just text on a white background, which wasn’t ideal.

What I’m saying is: if you see anything broken, let me know, and I’ll ask John to help me fix it. ;)

Imperfect as it may be, and despite the hours it took me, I’m proud to have been able to modify the theme myself. Changing the spacing isn’t a big deal, but it’s one thing more that I’ve managed to do. Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to alter the colour scheme or the font. Maybe, in the far distant future in a world where I have more time and stronger wrists, I’ll even manage to build a theme myself.

So what if I’m not naturally gifted at coding and have to sit here for hours with a WordPress help page open in another tab, laboriously altering tiny things until they do what I want them to do and hastily backtracking whenever I break something? It might have taken someone else half the time, but I still managed it.

My brain doesn’t work that way, and it was boggling my mind the whole time, so that even now I’m not entirely sure what I did, only that I did something and it did what I wanted so I left it like that (I’ve probably screwed up all the underlying code or whatever, I have no idea). But in the end, I did what I set out to do, natural talent be damned.

WAHEY.

2 thoughts on “The Untalented Techie

  1. If you aren’t running multiple instances across multiple sites while staying stable on several different legacy platforms, elegance can probably take a back seat to functionality.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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