Over my years of blogging one thing perhaps was more of a source of frustration than anything else: trying to find or write plugins or custom functions to do something I needed when I was using WordPress.

By any definition or the degree of the term, I am not a coder. What I am is someone who often can follow the logic, or the story, of a piece of code—enough to be able to figure out what web searches to run or forum questions to ask. Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn’t, and even when it did it might take days or weeks.

In the past two weeks, ChatGPT has helped me solve three things I needed solved. It wrote me a simple bit of PHP to convert posts in a WordPress export file to individual Markdown files with YAML-style front matter; helped me troubleshoot a bit of Javascript that inexplicably was barfing on a <br> tag; and figured out how to get a date elsewhere in the same code to use the correct timezone and output the correct format.

The sailing wasn’t all smooth—for that latter issue we reached a point at which ChatGPT told me to try something four times in a row only to then notice that the library function we’d been using had been deprecated in an earlier version—but we’re talking here about solutions that came about in minutes to hours, rather than days to weeks.

I’ve little doubt that there are legitimate points of concern for tools like ChatGPT. For people like me, though, who can’t code but can follow the story of a piece of code? It’s literally a change to the game.


  1. For a counterpoint on ChatGPT you might not have come across, see Dan McQuillan’s antifascist critique of AI.