Permanently Deleted

I have installed WordPress 2.9. In negotiating the new features, I find myself troubled by the phrase “delete permanently,” which has replaced the more reliable and more permanent “delete.” Posts intended to disappear now reappear in a Trash folder. This is clearly a carryover from Trash and Recycled Bin, features that are found, respectively, on Mac and Windows operating systems. These are both technological concepts that we have all come to know and love. But I am more troubled by “delete permanently” suddenly appearing on WordPress. I did not want this feature and I can’t seem to disable it. “Delete” was perfectly sensible and straightforward. “Trash” implies that my silly and often foolish typing in the WordPress window is now comparable to managing battered driftwood polluting an ecosystem that is beyond my control. WordPress has turned into Max Brod defying Kafka’s wishes. I presently have 407 draft posts in WordPress. During some incarnations of this blog, there have been more. There have often been less. I liked having the nuclear option. I knew that there was some sense of finality whenever I hit the delete button. My posts were like Roman babies left a rockface, but without any actual infants dying or an internal moral dilemma. But now I have to make two decisions about whether something I delete is worth deleting.

Now I’m a fairly decisive guy. When I want to delete something, I want it gone. Even if my impulsive decision to delete something may be wrong or misguided, it’s my decision to make. But if I know that some half-assed thing I write is going to pop up somewhere else, then I’m going to revisit it. I’m going to be forced to go through the same internal questioning that came with the initial decision. And perhaps the decision will be more agonizing. I’ll have more stray bits to manage. I cannot simply kill something and accept the consequences. The timing is rather funny in light of the recent Senate vote on the healthcare bill, which, should it make its way to the end, will make it mandatory for everyone above the 133% poverty rate to give their hard-earned cash to private corporations for healthcare. I feel that my relationship with the good people at WordPress has altered along similar lines. Permanently altered. Except that I am not obligated to give them money. So perhaps this is a rather incongruous metaphor.

Anyway, while there are those who will find this feature useful and who will jump up and down knowing that the memorialization and destruction of thoughts and feelings, seemingly permanent, are now not so permanent, I find myself troubled by the downside. If data is lost, if some essay is willfully destroyed or misplaced, is there not something divine in reconstructing or revisiting it again? Is there not wisdom or strength that comes from the second or third approach? If our primordial thoughts are accessible in the Trash, then are they really permanently deleted? Yes, one can find the inner strength not to explore the Trash folder. But human curiosity being what it is….

The upshot is that I don’t like the new feature, that my blogging has permanently altered, and that I may have to rethink how I go about this silly business. I was surprised to learn on Friday night that a very amicable writer I know still uses a typewriter. But I can see why. The WordPress people, as good as they are, don’t seem to ken why this “convenient” and possibly life-saving feature creates repercussions and consequences. Like the Senate, it’s all a game to them. And I wonder if altering relationships along these lines, without having a say in the manner, is now an ineluctable part of American existence.


  1. There’s probably a plugin for that; if there isn’t one now, there should be one soon–that’s the beauty of WP’s open architecture. And if there’s not one really soon, let me know; I’m going to try to upgrade this weekend, and I’ll take a look at the hooks in the delete routine and come up with something.

  2. Wow, split semantic hairs much? Are you aware that you can disable the Trash function by adding a definition line to your configuration file? Just seems to me like you’re making much ado about nothing. A lot of us like the fact that if we accidentally delete something (a mis-click I’ve made on several occasions) – comment, post, whatever – it’s not gone forever.

  3. It’s nothing like the Senate, because if you don’t like a change made by the WordPress team, you can either A) modify the code yourself to alter the change, or B) look for a plugin to alter the behavior.

    When the Senate passes something you don’t agree with, your only options are 1) move to another country, or 2) wait for a change in party control and possibly see the repeal of said law.

  4. I’ve stupidly lost enough data I spent hours creating to know why this is a good feature. Although it’s perfectly fine to want something different, I think it’s unfair on the hardworking WordPress team to say that they think “it’s all a game”, or to compare them to some inefficient political thingy. They work incredibly hard on making something you get for free. They have to do what the majority of users need/want, and I’m sure not so many people can / have the ability to delete something with military-commander-who-has-to-press-the-big-red-button-to-detonate-the-A-bomb accuracy.

  5. My guess, though not based on any information, is that this feature is there as a hacker defense.

    I learned this lesson back in the early 80s, when I ran a BBS out of my living room. It was always getting hacked and of course they’d delete all the posts and add one of their own saying something like “We own your ass.”

    FInally I realized the best defense against this was to not interface the real deleting code over the modem, that I’d only allow the messages to be *really* deleted from the console in my living room. It worked. They eventually lost interest in finding holes in my security when the messages they deleted magically reappeared shortly after I closed the latest hole they discovered.

  6. As long as you don’t accidentally delete forever, but human error is inevitable I suppose. All I know is this … I must speak to your mother of mercy in private about my sins.

  7. I am sure that there will be a way to disable the trash at some point. And, wow you stretched that Senate metaphor so far that it probably qualifies for a federal bailout! It’s not as if you were asked to give your trashed items to the wordpress devs.

  8. Thanks for the good read. It’s always a good to hear from those who don’t share my opinions and who have what it takes to blog theirs.

    Whilst I tend to be a very decisive person I also help those who are quite new to blogging settle in. They frequently make mistakes when it comes to deletions. IMHO they will have occasion to make use of this feature and be able to fish their accidental and/or inappropriate deletions out of the trash.

    I’m also the “don’t sweat the small stuff” type. Although I may not need to use this double delete “trash” feature or other wordpress features, others will, so I choose to direct my energy to more productive channels.

    Best wishes for a happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous new year.

  9. The impetus for the feature (I opened the ticket, 2+ years ago) was Robert Hoekman Jr’s book Designing the Obvious. One of the common issues he brings up is the constant questioning of user’s intentions. “Are you sure you want to delete this post?” This “AYS” (Are You Sure) is there to prevent mistakes. But it’s rare for someone to errantly click on a “Delete” link or button. It’s annoying and a little bit patronizing to question every deletion they attempt just to prevent that rare mistake. “Undo” is a more elegant solution. In the case of a mistake, you can intervene and correct it.

    It also has the benefit of enabling restoration of content you did mean to delete, but then later changed your mind about. That wasn’t possible with the “Are you sure?” paradigm.

    As linked before, you can disable the Trash altogether by putting this in your wp-config.php:

    define('EMPTY_TRASH_DAYS', 0 );

    I feel that my relationship with the good people at WordPress has altered along similar lines. Permanently altered. Except that I am not obligated to give them money. So perhaps this is a rather incongruous metaphor.

    Free/Libre Open Source Software like WordPress is about as close to the opposite of governmental force as you can get. Everything we do is through voluntary cooperation. Our license is designed to give you the power. I hope that you do consider this metaphor to be incongruous… if you consider it applicable, something is horribly wrong.

  10. I hate WordPress. I hate programs where people assume that everyone is computer savvy. I now cannot view my website at all. When I click on my link to my website all I get is WordPress page.

    Hate this, want to get out, don’t know, no response from WordPress on how to get out.

    Bad bad bad

  11. I have been running my wordpress blog at for years. I can only think of a couple times that the trash function would have saved my bacon. It seems like a natural progression from the post revision saves that wordpress has done for the last few tenths of version 2.

    I don’t think trash hurts anything, since it permanently erases anything trashed 30 days later. I’m just inclined to ignore it and pretend it’s the same thing as delete.

    Really, if it saves one erasure accident, it’s probably worth the little bit of disk space for safety.

    If this worked like the windows trash bin and didn’t self clean, it would be a problem. I think this feature is not likely to be of benefit very often, but since it doesn’t hurt anything…… why not?

    Maybe someday it will save my day.

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