A Slice of Life

Ghosts in the Machine

In Journal – What’s New for the Blog? – an episode from last week l originally had written the following …

“Apparently, the reason l have a visual figure of 100 followers. Yet, l only have 40 actual followers is because when a blogger deletes their blog, technically, they should first delete their followers. Still, many don’t take the time to perform that task, so their presence is left on my own directory as a ghost.

This makes for some sense – when l was running Scrappy’s blog and the Tee Shirt Blogger blog, l never unfollowed this blog when l deleted thinking that the deletion would automatically do that. But it doesn’t because the email accounts attached to those deleted blogs still receive emails daily from the followers!!

So l have sixty ghost bloggers still attached to my blog as in followers to me and several hundred as in me as a limbo blogger to them due to the limbo blogs not deleted but possibly abandoned or simply ignored or maybe just disabled for a while. I think that it is quite staggering, to have so many ‘lost in space’ blogs out there. It certainly mocks high follower figures a bit more on some blogs l feel.

It’s all so horribly complicated and reminds me that it can take 16 years for the content we have written or abandoned on the Internet to disappear if left to its own device. I don’t know if that is applicable in WP also because if so, these lost to space blogs will be with my blog and l for a very long time indeed.”

— Rory Matier, Journal 17/12/21

I’d had a discussion with a friend who had explained it to me. Also, from World of Warcraft, I know that there are certain things we can’t do as Guild Leaders if we are closing our guilds without consent from guild members. The latter means that if l have a guild with 400 members, l can’t just delete the guild. I first have to say l am deleting the guild, and then l have to boot each member out separately.

Once there are no members in the guild aside from me, only then can l delete it. Alternatively, l couldn’t just leave the guild without a leader or, if you wish, an administrator. I have to pass the leadership on and then go, but l can’t leave until l have a replacement. Because although the members are people, the game’s configuration only sees these ”people” as accounts or users.

Facebook is similar; l was made an administrator to a group without my knowledge. However, l didn’t create it. When l tried to get rid of it because the creator had left Facebook and l can’t get hold of them, l am now administrator but not the owner. Hence, l am stuck with this Group that has no people to it, and according to Facebook, they can’t do anything about it.

I call these incidences Ghosts in the Machines.

Moving away from my digression, last week, l extracted the above paragraphs from the Journal episode and l requested WordPress engineers to investigate the problem l was experiencing. The main issue was that my figures, as in ”who l followed and who followed me back”” were inaccurate. In all honesty, it was bugging the hell out of my black and white need for no greyness in my figures.

I wanted to know from them why nothing was making any sense and WHY l could not get my figures to reflect the honest authentics of my Blog? The first response l got back was maybe the missing figure on ”bloggers following me” was my Email Followers – to which l answered, “”but I don’t have any email followers”.

I attached various ”snipped images” to my conversation with the engineers. They then said it was bizarre, and they would investigate and get back in touch with me. There were many confusing bits, but one was in the Manage section [as in where we can see who we follow], and l had these flashing greyed entries, as you can see above.

When l requested for them to look into it all, l had 42 Followers following me, and l was following 52. They started everything moving on the 17th, and they kept in touch from that date and dropped me emails as to how they were progressing on the 20th, 22nd, and finally, they came back with this on the 23rd.

“Hey there!

My nams is Kris and I am following up with you regarding the Followers number mismatch on different pages in the admin area and flashing site information in the Reader view.

First, I would like to address the flashing site information on this page – https://wordpress.com/following/manage

We have found out that the sites that are not showing anymore are being deleted or are self-hosted sites with Jetpack plugin disconnected that cannot be shown properly anymore.

Secondly, the follower number mismatch comes from the fact that users have also deleted their accounts or the deletion is in progress and that is why the numbers do not show exactly the same way everywhere.

There are complex calculations that happen behind the scenes to get the correct number and our developers are aware that in both cases for Followers but also for Followed Sites the number calculation has to be improved in order for it to show correctly in every page and at all times.

I cannot provide you with a timeframe when this might happen, but the 52 Followed Sites in Reader ( minus the flashing sections ) is the real followed sites count and 42 Followers for user account following.

Sorry for the confusion this has caused and we do hope to improve this in the future.
If you have any other questions, please let us know.

Have a great day!


So there we have it – views by a friend. My thoughts and the WordPress engineers’ official response still result in ghosts in the machine. Still no better off either way. Just have to park the ol’ OCD!

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30 thoughts on “A Slice of Life

        1. Well you are very cynical Sadje, l think all in all the WP engineers don’t do a bad job – bear in mind that the engineers are not really engineers per se as in inside the works technicians but mostly service staff and on that level they are always very friendly 🙂

          The happiness engineers do their best but with regards many of the techhead issues, they are l feel in the dark at times as we are.

        2. You’re right that they do try. And some issues are beyond their expertise. I have had very little opportunity to interact with them but according to those I hear from in WP, they aren’t much help. Perhaps it also is because they cannot solve the issues arising in apps. ( WP app on iPhone) Sorry for the snaky comment. 😅

        3. I don’t know about the mobile phone apps, as l only use a desktop pc. But, l do recall a conversation l had with the engineers back in June 2019 concerning Melanie and others who were experiencing issues with their ability to be able to comment on my blog and at that point they were saying that more users would experience serious issues with mobile apps as well because it was a browser thing.

          Not having a phone at the time it didn’t make much sense. But l do know that the biggest enemy to WP and their bloggers is that it all comes down to browsers that the phones offer their clients and that it can create more issues.

          I had issues of my own between 2017 when l started blogging here when l was using Edge as my operating system and l had to switch to Firefox and that was just using a desktop.

          Most of the mobile app issues are literally to do with operating systems and browsers. But WP isn’t the only one that experiences major peoblems, many companies do. Even World of Warcraft which l play a lot.

          The world wants the world to use mobile smartphones – BUT – the world isn’t technically and digitally prepared for the world to use smartphones.

  1. Ah, the explanation for Followed Sites and people going self-hosted makes sense. I was looking into this recently, and Jetpack can be used to migrate followers when someone goes to self-hosted, so it makes sense that if followers can be migrated but have’t been, they would be stuck in limbo.

    The bit about in the process of deletion seemed odd to me, but it looks like after someone deletes an account, it takes 30 days for WordPress to fully purge their information. One of the things they hang onto for 30 days is the user’s email account, so a new account can’t be opened using that email account within that timeframe. https://wordpress.com/support/close-account/

    I wonder if those limbo followers will disappear on their own within 30 days of you discovering their existence, as their details do eventually get purged from WordPress’s system.

    1. I had one follower disappear in the last week through this system they talk of. It took me a while to configure because l have been removing a few bloggers recently who keep insisting on refollowing me even when they are NOT engaging with me at all ever and their blogs l am starting to believe are automatic programmes which l am finding taxing.

      I fail to understand why bloggers keep following, keep being removed because they never comment and keep following back? That behaviour baffles the shit out of me if being really honest.

      But one follower who wasn’t an actaul follower as in a ghost recently disappeared.

      1. I’m also inclined to think that the repeated refollowing is automated, with the occasional weirdo thrown in. I remember quite a while back there was a dude whose Gravatar was a naked picture. I kept removing him and he kept refollowing me, but I finally got rid of him by reporting his Gravatar.

        1. Yeah, nakedness is nice but not on a damn avatar hahaha!! I want choice if l wish to see naked anything and not have it thrust in my face.

          There are two/four bloggers that keep following – l notice them more now that my numbers are so small and they really bug me. Pretty pedantic behaviour, l guess with all the figures not adding up at times, sometimes some bland behaviour irks me more than normal.

        2. Perhaps an inherent downside of reducing numbers specifically to try to gain more control is that it’s hard to avoid having that spotlight that there’s only so much control that can be achieved on a public site.

    1. It can be difficult at times for the right things to be fixed at the right time. The engineers are merely those who pass the information on to us as users, but are not the peeps responsible for the major internal stuff.

  2. It’s frustrating, but not as bad as when I look for the posts of someone I follow, only to find a ‘follow’ request when I visit their blog! Several times, I’ve had to click unfollow to comment, and the click follow again when done. Okay, more than several times. And I’m so in the habit of clicking ‘like’ before I read the post because of this problem that some people think I’m skimming and clicking like without reading – but what would they think if I kept unfollowing and then refollowing every time I wanted to like or comment?
    I’m sure they’ll sort it out one day, but life is short and I have things to do with my time rather than chase up weird WP idiosyncrasies. You are much more patient than I am.

    1. There are many quirks to WP Cage, of that l do not deny, some things are like you describe, and l have come across that to the point that l tend to ‘like you’, LIKE first then comment after l have read otherwise it’s a world of unnecessary complication, like you have described.

      Life is way too short for some shit – totally agree on that 🙂

  3. Thank you, Rory, for your in depth explanation of the “followers” issue. I’ve always found the happiness engineers to be extremely helpful.

    I also have followers that insist on following me even though I don’t follow and/or deleted them. One of my blogger friends had the same problem and referred to them as “free loaders”. In other words, it makes them look good if they are following a popular blog.

    Lately, I’ve had a few newbie followers where there is nothing more than a blog title. I don’t follow them because I have no idea what their blog is about. I agree life is to short to put up with crap.

    Keep on just keepin’ on.

    1. Hey Eugenia, l agree with you regarding the engineers, l have never had a bad experience with them in any of the four years l have been here.

      What l have noticed is that many of those who blog with a mobile phone or other device than a desktop/laptop seem to have more issues than those of us who do use a desktop. As l don’t and from memory neither do you, l find them to be extremely helpful people.

      Oh that makes sense in so far as the popularity thing for at least two of the followers – as in things look good.

      If l was a much larger blog and a writer that didn’t care l guess it wouldn’t bother me, BUT it bothers me now and more so in consideration to some of the posts l have written on this subject alone in the last six weeks, displaying to me that so many bloggers simply don’t read content.

      If they did these insistant followers would know how much l detest their behaviours.

      1. Yes, I understand! Seems we can’t shake those we don’t want. I’ve had the problem with followers.

        I had issues with my theme yesterday, after an update, and went straight to the theme builders rather than Blue Host. I’ve never been so impressed with their support plus I learned a lot. Unsurpassed assistance.

  4. I have hundreds of thousands of followers but only a very small fraction of them show up in any metrics. They would sure be mad if they knew they were not being counted. Maybe if I upgrade from a free site, I can find them.😎

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