Five Rookie WordPress Errors I Have Made and So Will You

I’ve been mixed up in a bunch of WordPress sites lately, and I’m not just talking about the mixed-up WordPress site you’re reading right now. Some were brand-new, some were migrations from other platforms to WordPress and some were migrations from one WordPress setup to another. In every case, there’s plenty of opportunity for error, and here are five of my favorites. Maybe, just maybe, I can save some of you a bit of tsuris.

I. Not Using a Child Theme

For those not in the know, Child Themes are a way of separating your customizations from the underlying WordPress theme or framework so that if when you update said theme, you don’t lose those customizations.  I don’t mean customizations via the “customize” menu, I mean mucking about in the css and php files that comprise the theme. I don’t love how non-obvious the setup of a Child Theme can be, but there are plugins that can help, and once you have one, it’s awfully easy to work with.

If for some reason you don’t want to do this (you probably also drive without a seatbelt, never back up your computer, and eat from the sample trays at the supermarket) please at least document your edits to the css and php so you stand a chance of recreating them after an update to your theme or framework.  You’ll thank me later.

II. Using Crappy Hosting

It’s pretty easy to use the random hosting that came with your $1.99 domain name registration or to let some random IT guy spin up a server for you. It’s also easy to cross the street without looking both ways or to not get that mole looked at. Don’t.

You want either hosting that gives you complete control and access, or if you don’t have the stomach for that, hosting that’s managed specifically for WordPress. Managed hosting can do some of the work for you but you trade off some control. If you don’t get one of those at the start, you will eventually have to switch, very likely after Something Bad happens.

Just as a for instance, when I finally migrated this blog off that racecar lady’s site after many years, I discovered that the MySQL instance on that server was so old and out of date, it wouldn’t even export my database in a usable format.  The arcane procedures I had to follow to liberate my own content were not for the faint of heart. Do not let this happen to you.

III. Failing to Listen to Alex

Go read this article on how to use WordPress to develop a successful B2B website. Did you read it? I know, it’s more than two years old. Go read it agin. Now print it out and mail it to yourself. I know you won’t do everything it says this time, but maybe you will next time. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

IV. Leaving this Checkbox Checked

I literally cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen this. Literally.

Please do not do this

Do not become a statistic, or rather, a lack of statistics.

V. Not Benchmarking the Old Site Before Migrating

So you’ve dodged bullets one through four and your new WordPress site is humming along. Good job, you deserve some high fructose corn syrup. But sooner or later, somebody will ask, “How much faster is this than before?” or “How much better are our search placements?” or “How much more traffic are we getting?” and if you didn’t document the state before, you’re going to have a heck of a time answering.

Sure, if there was no old site this is a non-issue, and if the old site was properly set up with analytics and such, it shouldn’t be a big deal to get those answers, but remember, we’re in the realm of rookie mistakes here. If your old site was not well set up for collecting these data, it’s probably a good idea to add some tracking for the couple of weeks or months before you cut over to the new one so you can document your success.

And while I’m at it, I’ll put in a plug for using Google Search Console or something like it to identify the inevitable broken links and search bot crawl errors that will result when you make a big change to a website.

Don’t be that guy. I can tell you this because I was that guy. There is hope.

Over-Squeezing Leads to Bitterness

While reading blogs to avoid some odious task find ways to make my life better, I discovered this potentially life-changing bit of life hackery: Stop Trying to Squeeze Out All the Lime Juice. Over-Squeezing Leads to Bitterness. Well, smack my gob, I’ve been doing it all wrong: exacerbating my juice extraction, wringing out my rickies, mangling my margaritas, and grinding my gimlets. Good thing I don’t leave any of those drinks around long enough for the “reaction from LARL to limonin” to take place or the ice to melt.

Spread the word, fellow lime enthusiasts, even if there’s a limepocalpyse going on, you don’t need to wring every last drop from your fruit.

All is not what it seams

Answering a random call for SEO help – actually it turned out to be canonical URL help – I happened to notice that the site in question referred so something as a “seemless way” to do something. My inner autocorrect went, “hmm” and narrowed its (inner) eyes. Yep, should be “seamless” for sure.

Yes, we’ve been down this road together before, dear reader, with peek vs peak (vs pique vs peke) and also breaches vs breeches. But something’s different this time. All of the foregoing are real words, just misplaced or misused. Seem is a word. Unseemly is a [fun to use] word. Maybe seemless is too, even if it doesn’t mean the same as seamless.

None of the usual online dictionaries carries seemless, and neither does my paper American Heritage Second College Edition dictionary. My Third Edition Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary doesn’t have it, and that has a ton of dubious words. The MacOS dictionary app was entertainingly unhelpful.


Do you suppose the band really meant seamless? Well, it turns out there is – or should I say was – a real meaning of seemless. Wiktionary claims to have dredged it from a now public domain 1913 edition of Webster’s, and defines it thusly:

(obsolete) Unseemly; unfit; indecorous.
(Can we find and add a quotation of Spenser to this entry?)

So after all that, seemless is pretty much good old unseemly. Maybe it’s what the band had in mind, but it’s probably not what the website that started me on this track was thinking.  Note that the 1913 Webster already called it obsolete, and implied that Spenser coined it or at least used it in print – and that would date it back at least to around the turn of the 17th Century. Go figure.

Word of the Day: Cattywampus

When I first heard this word used – just last month – I thought it was spelled “kattywompous” perhaps in adjectival rhyme with “pompous.”  Alternate spellings are many but catawampus appears to be a close second. As words of the days go, cattywampus was pretty elusive.


Cattywampus is not the activity that your cat engages in between 3:30 and 4:15 every morning, nor is it the name of the sound the cat makes while doing it.

Persistent poking around got Urban Dictionary and to agree that cattywampus means askew, awry, not centered or out of balance. I’m definitely going to start using this word whenever things are out of alignment or in need of knolling. There’s also a secondary meaning of something like “not directly across from” in contrast to catty-corner aka catercorner. Seems like a not very useful way to give directions, “it’s cattywampus from the Dunkin Donuts, you can’t miss it.”

As appealing as the idea seems, cattywampus is also probably not related, at least not linguistically, to koyaanisqatsi, which means “life out of balance” in Hopi.

Bonus round: in a literally Sophomoric move, a Wisconsin college basketball player last March used the word cattywampus in an effort to foil the stenographer transcribing his interview.

Accessing the Make Sales Do What I Say Menu in Salesforce

In the marketing plumbing business, I often get inquiries that straddle the boundaries of technology, strategy and therapy. One of the most common can be summarized in this mad lib:

How can I configure [piece of technology] to make sure that [group or team] uses [piece of technology] exactly how I want them to?

A good example recently came in on a mailing list I read:

Does anyone have suggestions on processes, automations, incentives, etc. to get sales people to update information in consistently and proactively? Especially Next Steps and Forecast data.

Have you tried the “make salespeople do what I want” sub-menu? It’s in the “customize” section of the admin but available only during the new moon. Unless you have the professional edition, in which case you’re pretty much hosed. You could always try saying, “sudo fill in these fields.”

Most people on the list responded to that inquiry more constructively than I just did and noted that this issue is really about configuring your sales team and their incentives, not about configuring your sales automation platform. Those folks are not wrong at all, and any good plan should begin with those concerns, but I’m going to play technology optimist and say that there are things you can do in salesforce to increase the odds that your team will use it the way you intend, even if you can’t afford a state-of-the-art brainwashing machine.

Required Fields
This is what some of our presidents have called the nucular option. Make the field required and you can’t save the record until you fill it in. It’s easy to see that this isn’t going to get you the highest quality information, but it can work if the required field is super duper easy to fill in, which brings us to the next point…

Field Type Engineering
Knowing that the average sales rep doesn’t really like to write an essay on the “next steps” for a deal, consider that you could set up that field as a dropdown, pick list or even a set of fields for the various likely cases. An added bonus of this approach is that you’ve turned unstructured data into structured data and you can run reports on it more easily. But don’t forget to provide some sort of free text field for the inevitable “other” and special cases.

Page Layout & Help Text
Another item on the “make it dead easy” list is to order, organize and prune the fields on your sales reps’ screens. The standard layouts contain all sorts of fields that you may or may not use, and as you’ve created custom fields, you’ve probably let a lot of them build up on the screens. Think hard about what fields are most important for the rep to see and fill in, sequence them logically, and move the to the top of the screen. Move the other stuff down or even remove it entirely. You can configure different page layouts for different record types or user types. And while you’re organizing fields, remember that you can include tooltip style help text with each one, by customizing the field properties. That can only improve compliance, especially when onboarding new reps.

Compliance Reports & Scoreboards
I’m not sure if this qualifies as carrot or stick, but the next thing you can do is set up reports or dashboards that show what portion of each rep’s records are fully filled in. Depending on how hot you want it in your boiler room, you can make this info visible to all reps so they can see where they stand against their peers, or just quietly send the report of each rep’s stats to that rep (and his/her manager) on a regular basis. Even if data completion doesn’t make the comp plan writ large, salesfolks are a competitive bunch and bragging rights or small prizes can move the needle. I suggest a set of steak knives.

It’s easy (and fun) to stereotype sales reps as coin-operated knuckle-draggers, but like most employees, they really do want to help move the company forward any way they can. If they’re not using salesforce “correctly” you should bring them and their managers into the discussion about why certain fields are important to fill in, make proper use of salesforce an official and documented part of their job, and do what you can with the tool itself to make it easier for reps do the right thing.

Out with Barley Risotto, in with Orzotto

I was making a barley risotto the other night when it dawned on me, doesn’t “risotto” mean “rice” in Italian, or at least something rice related? Indeed, it does, making “barley risotto” nonsense, albeit an easy to make and delicious form of nonsense.

Before we go any further and before anybody gets hurt, let me be clear: barley is not gluten-free. If that’s your jam, stick to classic risotto made with rice.

So what should we properly call a dish made in the manner of a risotto (rice slowly cooked in broth) but using barley instead of rice? In Italian, rice is riso and barley is orzo, so it seems that orzotto would be the answer. But wait, you protest, isn’t orzo a pasta? Indeed, not only is orzo also the name of a type of pasta, that pasta is shaped like… grains of rice. If that’s not sufficiently confusing, I must also mention that you can also make a risotto-style dish using orzo pasta in place of rice. I guess that would be orzopastatto or something.

Risotto – or orzotto – is also an excellent leftover disposal system, a dish into which you can put nearly any random food items you have lying around. In that spirit, here is the recipe for last night’s “going out of town soon really should get rid of these leftovers” orzotto. Serves a hungry two. Many searches contributed to the recipe, but this one contributed the most. You can, and should, substitute as needed.

  • Scallops? What scallops? I have no idea what you're talking about.3 cups mushroom broth
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 yellow onion, about the size of an egg
  • 1 really big clove of garlic
  • 8 oz of assorted mushrooms, fresh and/or dried
  • 1 sausage link – I use Field Roast Grain Meat [vegetarian] sausage links
  • 1/4 pound scallops (everything else can be leftovers but these need to be fresh)
  • 6-8 oz dry white wine
  • a hunk of parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • a few tablespoons of butter and/or oil
  1. Put the broth in a covered saucepan on low heat to simmer. If you’ve got dried mushrooms, put them in with the broth to rehydrate.
  2. Slice the mushrooms and sausage, dice the onion and mince the garlic. Pull the little leaves off the thyme stems and chop them up a bit. Discard the stems. Taste the wine.
  3. In a large pan, heat some oil then cook the onions till they’re translucent, then add the barley, stirring it to coat with oil and let it toast a bit, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic.
  4. When the barley is toasted, add two splashes of wine (one into the pan and one into your mouth) and a ladle or two of the broth. Stir and cook until the barley has absorbed most of the liquid.
  5. Keep adding broth a ladle at a time and stirring until the barley has absorbed most of the liquid. It’s done when the barley is soft enough to eat but not mushy. You might have broth left over, or you might have to add more liquid. You can do the next two steps in parallel with the barley cooking.
  6. In another pan, heat butter or oil and cook the mushrooms. If you’ve got dried mushrooms reconstituting in the broth, you don’t need to cook them again, but take them out, slice them, add them to the fresh mushrooms when they’re done.
  7. You may choose to cook the sausage and scallops in the same pan at the same time as the mushrooms if you’re into that sort of thing. If not, set aside the mushrooms, deglaze with some of the wine, and repeat with the sausage and then the scallops. If you have enough burners, pans and hands, you can do these all at once. Ideally, cook the scallops last and at the end when everything else is done.
  8. Do not overcook the scallops. If you have overcooked the scallops, toss them down the disposal, pour yourself another glass of wine, call it a mushroom sausage orzotto and deny that there ever were any scallops.
  9. When the barley is cooked to your liking, add, in no particular order, a few grates of cheese, the thyme, mushrooms, sausage, and scallops, plus salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and drink the rest of the wine.
  10. Serve with more cheese, fresh ground pepper, and a pedantic lecture on risotto, rice, orzo, orzotto, and orzo pasta.

Three Cheers for Three Cheese Edamame Bread

I was looking for a savory scone in all the wrong places and I’d almost given up when I wandered into Paris Baguette, a French bakery inside Central Square’s Korean grocery store, H-Mart. What did I find? Three Cheese Edamame Bread, that’s what.

I don’t know if this is a Thing, but it sure was something. If it’s a something crossed with a something else in the mode of the chimerical cronut, those things would be savory bread pudding and edamame.

It was cheesy, salty, and oily for sure, edamame-y, only if you paid close attention, but it filled the savory scone void pretty well. I found a recipe that might be close to this item on Cookpad Japan: Edamame and Cheese Rolled Bread.

Ask not for whom the duck rolls

It rolls for thee. Did you know that the first LEGO toy, made in 1935, was made of wood, not plastic? Did you know it was not composed of wooden bricks but a single assembled piece? Did you know it was a duck? On wheels? It’s a fact.

Original LEGO Duck

These days, the original LEGO wooden duck is a rare collectors item. Even the 2011 plastic brick reissue of the ur-duck is fetching hundreds on eBay.

LEGO Duck Reissue 2011

Thanks to that photo and the conveniently countable lego bumps, I was able to create a decent simulation with parts from my LEGO Architecture Studio set  (best gift ever from Prof M) and some wheels off the mini Mini Cooper that came with it as a bonus. The Architecture Studio set contains only white bricks so it’s an albino duck. The eyes are the Mini’s tail lights.

Albino Duckroll

If you like your LEGO ducks more colorful, minimal and mass-produced, check out these LEGO duck producing robots made of LEGO bricks. Tres meta.

Also, this.

Beware the Rides of March, or, A Germaphobe's Guide to the MBTA

I was reading an article called A Germaphobe’s Guide to Buying a MetroCard, which actually turned out to be a lot more about usability than germs, but it inspired me to think about how one might ride the MBTA with a minimum of infection opportunities. As the estimable Aaron Reiss wrote,

For a germaphobe of any standing, the world of public transportation is particularly wrought with anxiety. It is the apex of public: the welcome host to people and objects of every shape, size and degree of cleanliness. And it is a place that necessitates touch. Unlike the street, the park or the museum, our transit systems demand near-constant physical contact with their myriad surfaces. We sit. We hold on. We lean and we grab, palm after finger after sticky palm.

Indeed. As we exit (one hopes) the snowmaggedon season, it becomes a little less typical to ride public transit wearing gloves and with a scarf wrapped over your nose and mouth. Here are some suggestions for protecting yourself – and others – from germy contamination in the T.

Minimize Fare Machine Interactions. Monthly auto-renewing Charlie cards are the way to go. If you must use the touchscreen fare machines, try not to use your own fingers. Use touchscreen gloves or act confused enough that somebody comes and helps you. If you’re stuck all alone without gloves or helpers, try the knuckle of your least favorite finger and make a mental note to scour it when you get to your destination. I started counting how many times you had to touch the thing to do a simple transaction but I lost count.

Travel Off Peak. Surfaces in the T might be icky, but it’s really the people you have to watch out for, what with all the breathing, coughing, sweating, and other things I shan’t mention. So if you’re lucky enough to be able to choose your time of commute or travel, exercise that privilege to travel off-peak and away from the crowds, especially crowds of tourists and their grubby children. Whatever time you travel, look for the less-populated cars, usually a car or two away from the station entrances and ends of the trains.

Sit Down. This is somewhat dependent on the timing/crowding issue above, but if there’s room and there’s nobody more infirm than you nearby, sit down. As long as you’re wearing pants or a long enough dress or skirt, the ickiness you might get from the seat is nothing next to what you’d get on your hand from touching a pole or a strap. The farther from the doors you can sit, the less likely it is somebody will stand over you and cough on you.

Do Not Attempt to Surf. If you can’t sit down you might be tempted to lean against the doors (a no-no for oh so many reasons), grab a pole with your elbow or other covered body part (do not attempt unless you are a professional pole-dancer), or stand in the middle of the train and rely on your catlike sense of balance. Do not do this. The train is probably older than you, and the tracks could be twice that age. The things – and people – you might touch trying to break your fall are far more worrisome than what’s on the poles and straps.

Don’t be a Selfish Jerk. If you’re sick, wear a surgical mask, or better yet, just stay home. The train might be full of unvaccinated kids. But seriously, people in Japan and elsewhere have been doing this small, simple, considerate thing for a long time. Surgical masks are cheap at drugstores, and you can find a range of more fashionable ones if that’s how you roll. I admit there is some question about how much it really helps, but it certainly doesn’t hurt, and since the practice is still rare in the USA, you might even get a little extra personal space as people wonder what horrible plague you’re carrying and keep their distance. Probably foils those face-tracking surveillance systems, too. If you’re too fashionable for a paper mask, you can get a germ-filtering scarf called a scough, made in Brooklyn, of course. If you can’t handle any of these ideas, at least remember to cough into your own elbow.

TL;DR: wash your hands, people. Frequently. With soap.