I redesigned my site. Hooray!

Hong Kong protests

You know how Marie Kondo tells you to go through your closet and throw out all your clothes because you want to start a new part of life? I did that with my website. If you’re the impetuous type, you throw out your clothes and buy new ones later. I did that, too.

After twenty years of blogging and redesign, after redesign, after redesign, my site is like sedimentary rock. You can see the remnants of features long gone. And when the developers are digging around, invariably they pull out one little pebble and all sorts of crap starts falling.

I told the developers they would break the site if they weren’t careful. The told me they have redesigned sites much bigger than mine.

So the developers broke my site. And then the design team that works with the developers “for optimal integration” priced a redesign of my site at $40,000. The account manager explained nuances of the totally unnecessary “proprietary redesign system.” I remember being in his position and thinking everyone over 40 is technically incompetent.

I fired him. And everyone else. I googled WordPress templates and I couldn’t believe how far the design industry has come. I paid $30 for a template. And I published a brand new site way before it was finished.

For a week Lorem ipsum was all over my site. There were pictures of my dog as placeholders. As I wrote real copy readers started sending in copy edits and critiques. My redesign was going great.

Until the Hong Kong protests started. Stephanie is working with me on the site and she lives in Hong Kong. She started a routine where she’d work during the day and protest at night. Then she switched to working during the day and stopping in time to get to the airport to help shut it down.

The redesign was in phases: The first part of the redesign, I was screaming: “How are designers still charging so much money? Their careers are over.” The second part of the redesign was me yelling about Hong Kong protests: “China is going to overrun the place. It’s inevitable. Just get out. You’re playing music on the deck of the Titanic.”

Stephanie argues that the Titanic metaphor is unjustified. But no western country will let her immigrate. I thought maybe she could come to the U.S. and declare asylum, but it took four seconds to see that all of Hong Kong has already thought of that.

So the Chinese government was pretending to be Hong Kong police and they tear-gassed every living thing including Hong Kong dogs. And our daily meetings were full of front-line news. For example, porn sites in Hong Kong shut down during the protests so more people would participate. And parents formed carpools to pick up kids when they were done protesting.

I don’t want to be a strikebreaker or redcoat or whatever you call a person going against a movement to secure rights. So I told Stephanie site changes can wait, and I published the site as-is. There is still stuff to do. But every time you notice something, like the archives are not quite right, remember that every error we put up with on the site is our contribution to the fight for rights in Hong Kong.

Or something like that.

Also, my Marie Kondo top-level navigation: I deleted everything that did not give me joy. It always surprises me how central coaching is to my life because I used to hate coaching so much. I can remember when people who were in their 50s would hire me, and I’d think, “Why are they asking for advice? Who cares what they do? They’re almost dead.” Now when someone in their 50s signs up for a coaching session they were born the same year I was. And I find myself feeling grateful that I’m getting to hear how other people my age are doing their lives.

And it turns out we’re all doing some version of trimming our top-level navigation and supporting someone young who is fighting for what’s right.

21 replies
  1. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    I make my living in software development. The company I work for now has had one version or another of its product on the web for like 15 years now. Talk about an archaeological dig. I know exactly what you faced with your blog.

  2. me
    me says:

    I am truly humbled by, and in awe of, Hong Kongers. If only we Americans (myself included) were so brave and resolute.

    Re blog revam: The new light gray text on white background is very difficult to read. Realize this isnt a democracy, but I vote for use of black text …)

  3. Floyd Wilde
    Floyd Wilde says:

    It’s funny I certainly hear what you are saying, only recently I came across your site and popped it into my RSS reader. I saw the title of the post, and was curious so clicked through to have a look. I can’t say I like the design or anything, it is the writing that matters. The stream of consciousness — this is what is on my mind — kind of writing is what kept the page sitting in a browser tab for like 12 hours now. After my work day ended yesterday I stared looking at the feeds, I clicked the link, then got pulled away to do life, and now I am sitting here again writing a comment.

    Sounds like you definitely hired the wrong design company. If I heard someone tell me the phrase “proprietary redesign system” my brain would immediately shut down. Still from what your describing sounds like you understand how unwieldy a software system can become. The only thing I would have to say is be careful what themes and plugins you use, do they have bug trackers, do they have bugs? Are people reporting bugs? Are they getting fixed? Look at the hive of activity around the Word Press bug tracker.

    Does your plugin or theme have some small fraction of that activity? If you can’t find the bugs for your software, it doesn’t mean there are no bugs, it just means they are not being reported and you could be exposed. Especially when you start bringing up political topics, and who is not thinking about Hong Kong right now. Not to sound paranoid, but these days you have to keep security in mind. Kudos for using a Let’s Encrypt certificate, but there is some mixed content on the page which makes me trust your site less.

    So anyway as someone also (trying) to run a regular blog, stopping, starting and rebuilding so many times… what I want is ease of manageability, regular security updates and the design doesn’t matter so much because I’m going to read it in my RSS reader anyway. The person who looks at your blog the most is you though, so it should spark some of that joy :)

  4. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I’m glad you found a WordPress theme that you like and is working out well. It was fun to watch your brand new site evolve in leaps and bounds because as you say it was published way before it was finished. I briefly investigated the theme (Enfold) you selected and discovered it to be highly rated and supported. What’s important long term is whether or not it will be capable of implementing the layout and user experience desired. It appears that it will. It will take some time, though, to get familiar with it and customize it further.
    Now with all that being said, I liked your old design better. It was easier to navigate and had some features that aren’t incorporated in the new design. That doesn’t matter, though, since I am a patient person and believe some of those features will reemerge in the new design. And ultimately it is your writing and the comments that bring me back. Which brings me to my final observation. It would be nice to see more career, education, and mailbag posts being published.

  5. Denise
    Denise says:

    Love to read comments again on your blog (which were often the best part of your posts). Bottom line, though, we readers love that you always share something interesting you have learned
    : “Now when someone in their 50s signs up for a coaching session they were born the same year I was. And I find myself feeling grateful that I’m getting to hear how other people my age are doing their lives.

    And it turns out we’re all doing some version of trimming our top-level navigation and supporting someone young who is fighting for what’s right.”

  6. Sean Crawford
    Sean Crawford says:

    A student from mainland China told my friend that followers of Falun Gong kill their parents. My friend replied that Canada does not take in criminals, but does take in Falun Gong, therefore: “Your government has been lying to you!” The Chinese student was quite surprised and shocked.

    I hope that Chinese students over here will come to believe that people should have equal rights to government workers and communist party members. This will take time, because of “cradle to grave” government messages that party members “are more equal than others” and that good people shouldn’t want freedom. A Chinese student told me that freedom of speech is dirty like drugs and should only be done in private.

    Maybe Chinese visa students could start circles for “consciousness raising” like we did in the 1970’s, except that they might not be in enough pain to be motivated.

    • Cheryl Morris
      Cheryl Morris says:

      Hi, I agree with you about the fonts, but I can get around it by expanding the screen on my laptop (I love this option).

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      I also agree the fonts could stand to be larger. An easy way to adjust the font size in either the Chrome or Firefox browser – use the key combination Ctrl and + keys simultaneously to make the font larger and the key combination Ctrl and – keys simultaneously to make the font smaller and bring it back down to 100%.

  7. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I spend a lot of time following politics in this country and around the world. I think it’s one of my hobbies. So, as far as Hong Kong is concerned, a good source of news there is the Hong Kong Free Press website ( https://www.hongkongfp.com/ ). They were founded in 2015. Their mission – “Our mission: We aim to be the most independent and credible English-language news source in Greater China. We seek to amplify the voices of the voiceless, not the powerful. And our platform will act as a monitor should Hong Kong’s core values and freedoms be threatened. The HKFP team is fully committed to reporting the facts, without fear, favour or interference.” Also on their about page ( https://www.hongkongfp.com/about/ ) is a short TEDx talk that I think you’ll find interesting.

  8. Lindsey
    Lindsey says:

    Bahahaa…”It always surprises me how central coaching is to my life.” You mean, it’s surprising that you enjoy telling young women it doesn’t matter what they do because they should be stay-at-home moms? And yelling at mid-age women to quit their jobs and be stay-at-home moms? And sort of listen to older women looking for a job after they’ve stayed home with kids?

    Yup, also shocked that you still enjoy this “coaching.” Too funny.

    • Vanessa
      Vanessa says:

      On the plus side, it’s great that Penelope allows critical comments like these (just above) to post.
      I disagree with a lot of her advice and interpretations, but I do hope that she keeps on truckin’, moves forward confidently, finds calmness and fulfilment, safety and security.

  9. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    I spent a lot of time yesterday on this site, getting caught up after a long absence, and I wasn’t planning to return for a while, but this afternoon I became curious about seeing the Farmer’s blog for the first time (well, mainly about seeing the wedding video that Penelope had mentioned on a different blogpost here), so I found P’s google maps link to the farm and got the address from the url and looked it up on Bing Directions (because I don’t use Google, at least as much as I can avoid it). Then I typed it into the Startpage search engine and found the Farmer’s blog and Facebook page, as well as his wife’s Facebook page and photos. (I don’t actually use Facebook either, so I only had a limited view of what the first pages of their accounts look like.) The blog doesn’t mention much about his family, mainly just naming a few friends and farming partners, and I didn’t see anything about getting married or a video, so that must be on his Facebook or maybe a different social media platform. The first page of his wife’s Facebook page, from the few photos that I can see on it, conveys a lot, however, and it has left me feeling a little emotional this afternoon (not that I know any of these people in the slightest, not even P), because not only did they get married but they seem to already have a new baby together, so a lot has happened pretty quickly to move the Farmer on permanently to a very different life. And that is nice for him, of course. Nice for his new wife and baby, nice for his extended family, and I wish all of them well. But something a little bit similar happened to me regarding my once-serious, once-living-together boyfriend, so just now I do feel a little bit “gutted”, as the British say, upon learning this news and seeing the photos. If the love and attachment in the former relationship had been deep, it is enough to make any recent ex-girlfriend feel a little destabilized. I so sympathize with this.

    On another note, when I typed in the address of the farm into the Startpage search engine, Penelope’s Quistic.com website came up because the Quistic “about” page is still listing the farm address as the company’s mailing address, and also provides a map showing the farm on satellite. I suggest that Penelope change the Quistic address to her currrent mailing address, and get that map of the farm off that site! There is also a phone number listed, but it might be to a cell phone she still uses, rather than anything connected with the farm.

    Draw a line under that past. It is only history now, that story is over – finished. And the location is not a part of your current life or future life.

    (I am saying all these things to myself, as well as to P.)

  10. Angela chong
    Angela chong says:

    Thank you for Stephanie’s work on the protest and your candid recognition of how messed up the HK govt is being! I recently moved back to HK from 30 yrs in the states and it is intense to participate or to watch.

  11. D
    D says:

    As a long time Hong Kong reader and lurker of your blog since the early 2000s, I thank you for your support to Stephanie.

    I too work a day job and spend all my weekends in the streets. Thank you for supporting us, even if indirectly.

  12. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    The protests/political crisis/revolution in Hong Kong hasn’t ended just because it isn’t headlining here in the States. I came across this heartening article that was originally published in the Wall Street Journal and republished here – https://www.centerforindividualism.org/heres-how-to-organize-the-revolution/ . It’s about young and old generations of Hong Kongers coming together to preserve their current form of governance and way of life. The one that was promised them. As long as the people of all ages work together and stay unified, the people of Hong Kong have a good chance of maintaining the current status of one country, two systems. Hang in there Stephanie.

  13. Katie Payne
    Katie Payne says:

    Love this post, and all it’s layers of support and good-intentions. Couldn’t agree more, and anything we can do big or small for the HK protesters is a thumbs up in my book. I live in Australia, and the way China are buying us up, and asserting control in the region, is real. One day that may be us protesting. Many would say ‘will’ rather than ‘may’. Australia is already experimenting with implementing the Social Credit System (in the name of security of course), surveillance technology and giving away personal freedoms like we just don’t care. We turn a blind eye to every human rights violation coming out of China – including false imprisonment of our own citizens – because…iron ore, gas, coal, gold. I wish the resources would run out. Because then maybe we’d stop seeing the money, and start recognising the future we are giving away.

    All my very best to Stephanie. So many people are with you!

  14. Angela
    Angela says:

    I LOVE your redesign!! So clean and a lovely reading experience.

    Can you please tell me what theme it is, so I can find similar (I’m on Squarespace).

    Great work!!

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