Years ago, I was sitting in a lovely historical theatre, surrounded by beautifully dressed people watching a famous Russian dance troupe perform one of George Balanchine’s works. I was entranced by the music, the costumes, and the graceful movements across the stage. Then the paper bag stole the show.
A dancer pranced out onto the stage with a small paper bag stuck to his foot. For several musical measures, he didn’t spot it. When he did, a quick double step released the bag from his foot, but it laid there on the stage, becoming a stage presence by itself.
As the audience noticed the arrival of the bag, you could see the ripple effect from the front row going backwards. It was a small bag. An appropriate size from pharmacy for a prescription or a small box of bandages. It lay there, tan brown, wrinkled, waiting…as the audience’s giggles soon turned to hushed whispers of danger and anticipation. The evil on the stage was visible, but only to the audience, it seemed, a monster waiting to pounce. Waiting for a delicate dancer in chiffon and netting to do the banana peel slip as she rushed from the wings towards the lurking threat – the accident-waiting-to-happen.
Traditional dancers are trained from day one that the show must go on and let nothing interfere with the dance. If a costume fails, keep dancing. If it hurts, keep dancing. If something isn’t right, isn’t there, whatever it is, keep dancing. If you ignore it, the audience won’t see it.
The bag had other ideas.
The longer it lay there, moving slightly in the breeze as the dancers rushed on and off stage, the bigger it became. It grew in the eyes of the audience until they couldn’t look anywhere else. You could hear the whispers. “Why doesn’t someone do something!” “Can’t they see it?” “Do you think they know it’s there?” “What if someone falls?” “She just danced by it. She could have kicked it off stage!” If someone came near the bag, the audience held its breath, sighing and sagging with another near miss incident, only to gasp again as another dancer pirouetted and spun only centimeters from the threat. Soon, there was no one else on the stage but the bag.
Reading the well written and informative WordPress Whitepaper from Blog Security recently, I remembered the bag on the stage. Three days later, all I can remember from the paper, which is filled with very good suggestions on making your WordPress blog more secure, is the following:
I hope your enjoy our lovely pastel pinks. So we have created our WP config (above) with our new user account, password and database name information.
The phrase about the “lovely pastel pinks” was written because the code example included pink fonts to indicate the areas you should change in the code. I got the point without the words about the pink. Now all I can do is think about the pink.
The lovely pastel pinks became the paper bag as I thought it was an odd thing to say in the middle of an otherwise serious, informative piece. I have a preconceived idea about what a whitepaper should look like and cover and the tone of voice it should have. I don’t think I’m going to be teased, made to laugh, or be introduced to “lovely pastel pinks” in a technical paper.
I expect the facts. I expect it to be accurate. I expect it to be technical. I expect it to tell me what I need to know and not amuse me or distract me. Since this is written by blog security experts for people serious about protecting their WordPress blogs, and it really shouldn’t denigrate the quality of the paper – I can’t get the damn lovely pastel pinks out of my head. I should be remembering the tips and techniques with in, but the pinks have taken center stage.
Bloggers are notorious for writing “paper bags” and “pastel pinks” into their blog posts. We’ve all read the post that starts out with:
Well, I fixed that mess. Sorry for the confusion. The X WordPress Plugin will help you clean up the Dashboard Panel of your WordPress Administration, offering faster page loading times and…
What mess? What confusion? Did I miss something? What does this have to do with the Plugin? What does it have to do with WordPress? Did it have anything to do with WordPress? What if WordPress broke their blog? What if the Plugin broke their blog? Maybe I shouldn’t use it? They don’t say that it did, but what happened? I must know!
Why torture your readers? Why say things like, “Well, John said I shouldn’t do that, so I’m not…”, “As I was saying the other day [with no link to ‘the other day’]…”, and run on blog posts that talk about things that no one has any idea what anything means unless they know the blogger personally or have been reading faithfully for months. Maybe not even then.
We all say and write things publicly that we shouldn’t say, but a good blogger gets their head screwed on straight and edits their work to ensure they are making the point they want to make and there are no paper bags or pinks laying around to confuse or distract the reading audience.
What you see on a page and what the audience sees, and knows, are often vastly different. The blogger has a full background and history they bring to every blog post. A reader only gets what is in front of them. They have no history or background to fill in the blanks, turning paper bags into full blown paragraphs. They spend more time with the paper bags than they do with the rest of the performance. A good blogger knows what to include and exclude that can distract rather than enhance.
As for the paper bag ballet, a young stage hand in a torn t-shirt and jeans finally strolled out onto the stage during a pas de deux and picked up the paper bag, turned it over in his hands, and then walked off the stage. The audience applauded. For the bag or the stage hand, we may never know.