This is weird. I opened a new blog post, wanting to say something snarky about journalism. Before I wrote anything, the fresh unused post looked like this (screenshot, not pasted text):

This didn’t come from my clipboard. I had just copied a couple sentences from Taibbi’s substack to use for snark material. I definitely didn’t see or read or write or copy the above question.

Is WordPress AI trying to stir up a response to this morning’s Ice Plant piece, where I said that the only two necessary technologies are indoor plumbing and refrigeration? It looks like the kind of question that someone would ask after reading the piece.

But if someone at WordPress wanted to ask me in a personal way, why not simply email me? This is spooky in the spy sense of spook. A blank post is supposed to be blank, not ‘Suggested For You’.

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I tried opening more new posts, and each has the same ‘placeholder’. WordPress forums mention placeholders in various contexts, but so far I don’t see anything about a placeholder for blank posts. I certainly didn’t turn on the option, and the algorithmic suggestion is creepy.

Later again: When I add new post using the ‘Classic Editor’, it comes up blank.  The placeholder seems to be only in the ‘Visual Editor’.

12/2: Now the placeholder is “What are your two favorite things to wear?” So the first item was just accidentally relevant. (I always talk about tech but never talk about clothes.) Apparently WP is rotating through a collection of “security questions”. Less creepy but still annoying.

12/3: The placeholder changes on the localtime day boundary. At 2359 on 12/2 the message was still “What are your two favorite things to wear?” At 0000 on 12/3 the message changed to “How do you feel about eating meat?”

12/4: Are you more of a morning or night person?

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Later, I emailed WP customer service to see if there’s a way to turn this crap off. Apparently these things are called “Writing Prompts”, and there is a fake setting to turn them off, which doesn’t work. The proper name rang a bell: I think WP is following a trend seen in Medium.

Still later: It does work but not the way Customer Service said. There are two separate ways to set “writing prompts” on or off. The way they mentioned didn’t work, but the other way does work.

In case anyone else wants to do it: On the main dashboard for the blog, choose Settings and then Writing. Under Writing there’s a little switch for Writing Prompts. Set it to Off.

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