Testing embedding files from Google and other blog stuff

The other day, I tested embedding/linking photos from SmugMug.

I hit on a limitation that’s inconvenient: I cannot create a tiled gallery by linking photos in SmugMug. More specifically, I can only create a tiled gallery by either uploading photos (and using up my allotted storage) or by choosing to link from Google and from a stock photo site I assume is associated with WP (Pexels Free Photos).

Note: this isn’t the first time I’ve linked photos in WordPress. In fact, for the first few years of this blog, I would upload small files and then link them to the larger versions in SmugMug Galleries. All that stopped when — because of constant “upgrades” — WP would wipe those links. That’s why there’s a note on the sidebar (sidebar on the PC, bottom of post on phones and tablets) letting users know that if I mention SmugMug, the links may have been wiped by inconsiderate and user-unfriendly WP developers. Well, it’s likely management, not the developers who are to blame, but the developers should have argued more vociferously against changes that would ‘break’ how the site worked in the past.

Anyway, here’s my first link from Google (single file test).

WAIT! I first have to connect my Google Account to WordPress. Meaning, I have to give WordPress access to my Google Photos . . . but, even after doing that, it seems to hang up.

Uh-oh . . . that’s not ‘linked’ or ’embedded’ the same way as when I link or embed from SmugMug . . . it’s actually downloaded and added the file to my media library.

Furthermore, unlike when I share a SmugMug photo, it downloads the full size, costing me multiple MBs of storage.

Note: that’s not the photo I loaded from Google Photos. The copy above was already in my Media Library. I replaced the one I linked/downloaded from Google and deleted it from the Library since it took up 4MB of storage.

Also, the interface to find and choose photos or albums is (to say the least) crappy. What do I mean by that?

The interface offers the same incredibly UN-useful, annoying, and frustrating interface experience one faces when using the WordPress Media Library.

What do I mean by that? Well, it used to be that you could open the Media Library and get a visual listing of your photos (thumbnails). All well and good, except that, recently, something changed (another ‘upgrade’, I bet).

You still get a visual listing of your photos, but, whereas you used to have a continuous scroll option (meaning, more photos appeared as you scrolled), you now hit a limit (roughly 80 photos or so) and you have to click “Load More” to add more photos to the list … you then scroll until you hit the next “Load More”, and repeat. For the record, I have in excess of 37,000 media items. Even narrowing it down by month means scrolling through anywhere from 200 to 400 photos, which means I now waste time clicking and refreshing stuff when searching for something.

And don’t get me started on their search algorithms. Giant Hoovers, they be, but that’s a gripe for another post.

Mind you, “THEY” will say you can still scroll through your media library, and you now have the luxury of adding extra (and annoying) mouse clicks.

It appears to be purposefully designed to keep users from — you know — actually using the media gallery. Or, at least, annoy them when they do.

How does this relate to the Google Photos interface? Well, first, it’s not the Google Photos interface that opens up when you try to link a Google Photo. The Google interface is useful because you can search photos by dates or albums, and you can quickly scroll down albums to find the one you want.

WordPress decided to improve on that by implementing the “Load More” option, and only loading about twelve items at a time (four, if you’re looking at galleries), and removing the search option, so if I wanted a particular album, I just have to keep loading more albums until (hopefully) I hit it (there’s no method I can discern to how they’re loaded; it’s not ‘ by date’, so I assume it’s random or some obscure order I’m not familiar with).

Here’s the other thing . . . say you load one photo, and then you want to load another . . .

(Again, not the actual Google photo I linked.)

Well, the interface doesn’t remember where you came from, and you have to go through the same process to get to the album you want (at least the order of appearance is the same, whatever that order might be).

So, here’s my guess as to what’s going on in the mind of the WordPress managers/developers who think of themselves as geniuses . . . they assume people will always want to load/use the latest photos in a library.

Now, that might be true most of the time . . . but they also think this: “screw the users who don’t do what we think they should do!”

“What about just getting the link to the photo from Google and using an Image block like with SmugMug photos?”

No can do. When I tried using the URL generated by Google and applying it to the Image block, nothing happened. Literally, I enter the URL, the screen does a brief flash, and reverts back to the empty Image block.

So, as of now— for me — linking from Google is, well, useless 99.99% of the time. I believe it’s 100% but I suppose there is the remote chance someone might hold a gun to my head (if I don’t shoot them first) and force me to do so.

Side note: I’ve removed the connection between WordPress and Google Photos as being useless.

So, to recap, where are we? What can I do as I approach my storage limit?

Embedded from SmugMug

Well, here are my options along with the Pros and Cons of them all.


Option 1: Upgrade from the Premium plan to the Business plan for approximately an additional $200 per year over what I’m currently paying for the privilege of WP not running ads on my blog and a paltry 13GB of storage.

Option 1 Pros: None that I can see other than I get more storage space. Very expensive storage space.

Option 1 Cons: I’m out an additional $200/year which I could spend on Nutella.


Option 2: I could switch to embedding/linking photos from SmugMug.

Option 2 Pros: 1) Better-looking photos. 2) Doesn’t use storage space provided by stingy WP. 3) Saves me storage space on my computer. 4) Saves me some processing time. 5) May actually get some users to visit SmugMug and the throve of photos I store there.

Option 2 Cons: In theory, none. In practice, two, with one Con potentially a big one.

1) the loss of Tiled Galleries. That’s not a big deal for me because I used to have posts with as many as 100 photos shown individually and with a narrative in between the photos. But, only a few users managed to make it through those posts. Tiled Galleries improve the chances someone will keep reading to the end because they can skip looking at groups of photos if they’re not interested. Of course, if that’s the case, they shouldn’t be reading this blog in the first place, but I can almost understand why some readers might not be interested in everything I post. Almost.

2) the second Con is a big one. In the past, WordPress has made changes that wiped out links I laboriously put in my posts, especially links associated with images. At one point, I was rebuilding links every few months. Many old posts still have verbiage telling readers to click on photos only to have nothing happen because the links were wiped out, and the time I would spend to repair them all isn’t worth the benefit. How many people actually go back through my old posts? None that I know of, other than when I link them, and even then, only a few. Plus, there’s no guarantee the links won’t get wiped out again.

So, if WP again changes stuff (a HUGE ‘you betcha!‘), it’s possible likely all these embedded/linked images will disappear. I’m assuming the photos would be replaced with empty space.


Option 3: I could switch to a new Premium Plan blog, call it Disperser Tracks II, and provide a link to what would become Disperser Tracks I.

Option 3 Pros: Other than the 13GB of empty storage, none I can think of.

Option 3 Cons: There are a few negatives with this approach, but none too drastic to consider.

1) An additional $100/year for the plan plus $20/year for another domain. This is still cheaper than Option 1, upgrading to the Business plan.

2) Loss of continuity. This is somewhat annoying because I often refer back to (and link) past posts. I could still do that, but it would send readers to a different blog. It might be transparent to them, but it might not. I don’t know how it would work in practice.

2a) Loss of continuity . . . I’m not positive I can have the same theme for a new blog as I do for this one. WordPress is changing stuff, eliminating themes, and generally being dicks about it. I didn’t like transitioning from my original theme to this one, but I’m now (somewhat) used to it. Some readers probably don’t care about this stuff, but I do. I used to follow people who would change their themes all willy-nilly like, and it disrupted my calm.

2b) Loss of continuity (at my end) . . . I would have to recreate the categories and tags I’d previously used. I’ve attempted to clean those up, and I’ve not been too successful in this current blog. On the one end, I might be able to do a better job in a new blog, but, on the other end, I might just confuse things even more. (This could be solved if I could ‘copy’ all the settings, categories, and tags from this blog to a new one — I’ll have to look into it, but since it’s something that’s potentially useful, I’m guessing WP won’t allow it.) Basically, a new blog is more work at my end.


So, here we are. Realistically, I’m not that close to running out of storage, and I plan to delete all the videos I uploaded (and replace them with embedded Vimeo videos). That will both free up a substantial amount of room, and likely provide a better user experience since WP does videos as badly as they do photos.

But, I need to start thinking about this now as opposed to scrambling later on.

Above, I mentioned that, for some reason, you can’t insert images from Google. If I try to insert using the URL of an image on Google, nothing happens. I can open that URL on a browser window, and I can even LINK it directly, but I can’t display it here without going through the Google interface, which uploads it to my media library.

HOWEVER . . .

20200809__DSC2040_1-Edit-Edit

That’s an image from my Flickr account, and it’s embedded. Meaning, if you click on it, it will open in the same tab, but at my Flickr account.

It opens in the same tab because even though I used an Image block like I did for the SmugMug URL, linking a Flickr image changes the Image block to a ‘Flickr’ block. While editing, the photo is at least visible, but not in its published form (it’s degraded). That’s a bit better than the SmugMug block, which doesn’t show you anything other than the link while editing the post.

BUT, again … I can insert a link to a SmugMug image as a URL in a regular ‘Image’ block and have it remain an Image block, and that block will show the photo during editing, and, because the Image block has the option, I can direct it to open in a new tab when clicked. That doesn’t work with Flickr. If you link a Flickr image in an Image block, the Image block immediately switches to a Flickr block, which doesn’t have the same options. But, at least, it doesn’t load the image to the Media Library.

As far as I can tell, everything works with SmugMug because SmugMug provides an embed image URL that links to an actual image (a JPG image), whereas the Flickr URL links to the image as displayed (stored) in the Flickr site. Since both sites are owned by SmugMug, it might be that Flickr sharing will be updated to work like SmugMug sharing.

But, at least and if you so desire, if you own a Flickr account, it means you can embed images here, and it’s better than with Google Photos since, again, WP grabs the Google image and loads it to the Media Library.

Note: I’ve not worked with either the Classic Editor (yes, still available) or the Classic Editor Block for a while, but I went in to do some tests and here’s what I found:
1) the embed code provided by SmugMug works great in both the Classic Editor and the Classic Block Editor. Meaning, The image appears almmost instantly, properly sized, looking splending, and is
NOT added to your Media Library.
2) neither the link nor embed codes provided by Google and Flickr worked with the Classic Editor or the Classic Editor Block; either nothing happens, or the code is inserted but no image appears.
There may be a combination of steps and/or codes that work, but I’ve not found them.
3) unless you have a SmugMug or Flickr account, I don’t know of a way to embed photos and have them work, and, of the two, only SmugMug provides a code that works seamlessly regardless of where it’s used. Flicker’s embedding code only works with the Flickr block.
4) I don’t have other photo repositories I can try. I use Amazon to store photos, but those are RAW unedited files, not meant for sharing.

If the above is confusing, welcome to the world of WordPress excellence. WordPress: designed by smart people who don’t actually use it like users do, and who are more interested in the number of bells and wistles they can cram in there as opposed to how well they work.

Some (probably WP personnel) will deem that unfair, but I can only report what I experience … and the fact that support personnel constantly tell me that resolution of problems takes a back seat to adding new problems features.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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Note: if you are not reading this blog post at DisperserTracks.com, know that it’s copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intentions, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

Note 2: it’s perfectly OK to share a link that points back here.

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