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I don’t know about you, but I get a sense sometimes that the blogging technical world is dominated by men.
Perhaps it’s because they shout, or boast, the loudest, whereas women quietly get on with doing stuff that matters in the background.
Certainly I come across plenty of thoroughly confused newbie bloggers reeling from a bombardment of jargon-filled lessons, which makes them feel very stupid and worthless. This is a pity, because there are plenty of excellent potential bloggers out there who have been put off setting one up because it ‘seems so complicated’.
Well, it is, if the words you only get to hear are technical jargon. I remember, a very long time ago now, I was battling to create my first WordPress.org blog and was trying to cope with FTP and MySQL databases. I went onto a blogging forum to ask for a solution. I was answered by, what seemed to me, an acne-ridden youth barely out of nappies who threw a volley of jargon at me, and got extremely exasperated when I said I didn’t understand what he was going on about.
It was the comment “If my grandmother can do this, so can you” that really rankled. I’m sure she could, especially if she wasn’t instructed by her grandson!
A friend of mine approached me to sort out a WordPress problem for her. I shrank inside when I found out that she couldn’t get into her website to edit it, as this was not going to be an easy one to sort out. I decided she ought to contact her hosting provider to find out what had happened by using their chat-back system.
Normally the people on these chat lines are very good (even if they are coping with more than one customer at a time), but this particular one was extremely technical and unsympathetic. It didn’t help to fling a load of jargon at my friend, who was almost in tears because she didn’t understand anything he said. Luckily I was there to interpret his explanation into ordinary, everyday language she could relate to. Eventually I managed to make him understand what the situation was, and we came to a satisfactory conclusion.
I think I read somewhere that a higher proportion of WordPress’s ‘happiness engineers’, the volunteers that help maintain and improve WordPress, are women. This actually doesn’t surprise me. I’ve often felt that the way WordPress has been constructed and presented is in keeping with how a woman thinks: clear, unfussy, obvious buttons, no confusing icons, intuitive procedures and a minimum of jargon.
I recently had to battle with a Drupal website and it had me tearing my hair out, it was so difficult to interpret what to do next. Nothing was obvious, I had to mouse of the tiny icons to work out what they did, and the process navigation was like going through a maze. It was so undoubtedly ‘male’ in its construction, build like a spread-sheet flow-chart that any stuffy grey-suited accountant would relish stuck in his dusty office without the window open on a lovely Spring day!
Careful now, I’m sure there are lots of men out there who are excellent at explaining stuff, but probably to other men. It’s a matter of like to like, understanding how the other ticks and adapting the language and circumstances in a way the other can understand. This isn’t a situation of ‘dumbing down’ the teaching, but merely of finding an alternative method. It also requires making the effort to think like the other, simplify the explanation into a concept that is immediately comprehended.
Sometimes it’s as simple as using another word. ‘Anchor text’ actually means ‘link’, which I explain as “a door from one website to another, which allow readers and search engines to pass through to read the content on the other side”. That may seem very simplistic to you, but to a non-technical person it gives them a chance to work out how these ‘links’ are used within the web, as not always the concept of ‘connecting to other stuff’ is immediately understood. Even the icon showing a link within a chain coupling doesn’t always resonate with the function it is supposed to represent.
And that is what women have. We naturally have the nurture instinct, even non-maternal biddies like me, where we slow down and take our time to fit in with the other and slot into their thought-patterns. I’m constantly learning how to interpret blogging in ways that anyone can understand, especially since I’m specialising in non-techies over the age of 45 (those that didn’t grow up with computers, and are still finding this ‘new fangled technology’ a bit hard to fathom), who need to have that extra time and explanation in order to ‘get it’.
Recently during a Twitter conversation I was told that blogging was suitable for people from 6 to 60. Why stop at 60? I instructed a 69-year old last week who, once she got the main concept, was rattling along nicely (in her own way) and I knew that she would write the most fascinating blog posts. All she needed was the chance to have blogging explained to her in her own terms, using a system that was easy to understand (WordPress.com, of course), with the extra time and patience she deserved.