When writing regularly I often used WordPress’s website The Daily Post and its daily prompts to provide me with ideas. I looked it up this morning (see, struggling for stuff to write about already) and discovered that, although the site is still there, it stopped providing daily prompts on May 31st last ….
It was June 1st, 2018.
Today, so, would be different. Today he would sit in front of his computer, watch illegally downloaded shows, catch up on celebrity gossip, and stare at YouTube videos.
Ok, so not that different, he admitted to himself. He had done all of those things every day since he had started working at WordPress (during August 2014, for instance, he had watched more than five thousand ice-bucket challenges), but only, and this was important, after he had first finished his work.
Since WordPress started in May 2003 his job had been to provide the daily prompt, a seed of inspiration to bloggers long on aspiration but short on ideas. The job might not seem that taxing, the only necessary qualifications being ownership of a dictionary and the ability to open it at random, but remember that on Fridays he had to work three times as hard, providing prompts for both Saturday and Sunday, and didn’t get paid extra.
Besides, he was a professional, proud of his craft, and put a lot of thought and effort into his selections. He would play word games of his own. One month he chose only words with no letter “e” in them. One month he used only words that derived originally from French. One month he used the last word from every line in Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (river, skies, slowly, eyes), and had had great fun reading the blogposts when he got to the word “pies”.
Because he did read all the posts, all of those that used “WordPress daily prompt” in their tags, and like a school teacher reading a classful of essays on the theme “what I did on my summer holidays” he would marvel at their sameness, but would occasionally be both astonished and gratified when, say, the word “branch” would produce a tirade about, say, the supersonic boom.
And over time the number of posts had grown. Since nobody can think of something to write about every day, not even the owner of the blog My Cat Is My Life (there isn’t one, somewhat surprisingly), eventually all bloggers had ended up at his virtual door and he built up a huge following, of a size the bloggers themselves could only dream of.
Then he made his first mistake.
In November 2015 he used the word “panoply”, which he had already used in February 2006.
There was a time when such an error would have been ignored, but this is the digital age, when even the tiniest incongruity in a Star Wars plotline will be picked upon by people sitting in front of their computers, desperately looking for something to write feverishly about.
Which is unfortunate when your readership consists solely of people sitting in front of their computers, desperately looking for something to write feverishly about.
So the response was savage. People asked for his sacking, for a refund (of what wasn’t made clear), and, because not all bloggers know stuff, for WordPress to be thrown out of the EU. Things looked bad for him, for a while.
Well, for a day. The following morning he put up the word “moonlight”, and everyone wrote about that instead.
Because by now he was effectively subliminally controlling people, suggesting the direction in which huge numbers of them should think, and that was how, exactly one year later, he made his next mistake.
He put up the word “orange”, and accidentally rigged the US Presidential election.
He realised immediately what he’d done, of course, and the following morning he put up “red” as the Weekly Photo Challenge and “menace” as the Daily Prompt, and a bewildered Russia found itself blamed instead.
But the entire incident scared him, and indeed WordPress, and it was decided to wind the whole thing down. He carried on for another eighteen months, suggesting only anodyne words (such as, well, anodyne) and on May 31st he put up his last prompt (“retrospective”, rather fittingly, he thought), closed his office computer and door for the last time, and headed off into retirement.
Now, as he sat at his screen (“Watch the judges BUZZ TOO EARLY on Britain’s Got Talent!!!”) he found himself hoping that perhaps, one day, his story might in itself be a prompt, might provide one last idea for a story for one last blogger.
It would make a fitting farewell.