Tagged: wordpress

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blog off that racecar lady’s site after many years, I discovered that the MySQL instance on that server was so old and out of date, it wouldn’t even export my database in a usable format.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.

A random waddle

Sometimes I get excited about small things.  Some would say that’s the point of this blog.  Others would say, “that’s what she said.”  Today’s little fixation is the Random Redirect WordPress Plugin by Matt Mullenweg. I have implemented it near the top of the sidebar with a version of Det. Harry Callahan’s famous inquiry.  So give it a spin.  You gots to know, don’t you?

That’s a pretty thin post, even for me, so here are a couple of other random items.

World Run Day

Today is World Run Day, a global virtual event in which people so inclined run as far and as fast as they fell like, and some even raise money for charity doing it.  Some Boston-area folks are taking a 3.8-mile loop around the Charles River Basin today. I’m more likely to walk it, but I was pretty excited to learn about MapMyRun, an ad-ridden but still cool map mashup that lets you plot your route and share it with friends while compiling statistics on the route and your progress along it.  The elevation feature is exceptionally cool and (so I hear) useful for those in marathon training. Kudos also to the Librarian on the Run for having a cool blog and for starting her fundraising for Mass Eye & Ear for the 2009 Boston Marathon.

Things to Worry About

I discovered Jeff Cutler’s blog of things he claims we worry about via a random twitter encounter.  I have to suspect these might actually be Jeff’s own fears, but I can’t say they don’t often resonate.  It’s a bit like those Worst Case Scenarios books, but without any actual solutions or preventions for the disastrous scenarios.  For example:

Slotter Slaughter
That when you go play the slot machines in either Vegas, CT or RI, the new slot where you feed in money will grab your tie or handkerchief and strangle you unceremoniously. Which also leads me to wonder why anyone would have a ceremony for a strangling or any such event.

My general diagnosis is that Jeff should switch to wearing bowties.

Park and Pray

I noticed Park and Pray’s inaugural post, The Five City Parkers you Meet in Hell, via Universal Hub.  To my pleasant surprise, they have kept it up with a nice mix of parking news.  too bad they weren’t around when I did unsuccessful battle with lousy parking maps and poor signage at the Cambridge-Somerville neutral zone.  They describe Park and Pray thusly:

Chronicling the adventures of urban street parking, Park and Pray started in the unparkable jungle of cow path built spaghetti-grids that make up the Boston neighborhoods. A voicebox for the adventurous spot-hunter, we’ll report on just about anything with a cursory relationship to car ownership in the city.

They welcome tips – the informational kind – so check them out and share your parking stories.

Bead Babe Roz

As I’ve mentioned, I have a theoretical affection for Etsy, but haven’t yet been a customer.  Recently, I helped L photograph some jewelery for her mom’s Etsy site, which is now up and running.  So if you’re interested in some beady goodness for yourself or for a gift, head on over to Bead Babe Roz before she’s sold out for the holidays.

Possibly related classroom projects

Preparing to leave San Francisco’s foggy embrace, I’m thinking about the work week ahead and which of the many open threads to needle first. One thing that came up last week was a twitter message from someone at Social Actions Labs, inviting me to test out their new DonorsChoose WordPress plugin on Firstgiving’s blog.

It didn’t seem quite right to use Firstgiving’s blog for this, but I was happy to try it out here on the ‘duck.  After all, I’ve blogged about DonorsChoose before.  So I signed up and downloaded the plugin.  The first time out I got an immediate failure due to a PHP version mismatch, but the team soon corrected that.  I installed the plugin easily.  But when I looked at the blog, I immediately went back and disabled it.  Apparently, I had a different idea of what a DonorsChoose plugin would do.

I sent off a note to the Social Actions Labs guy, who sent a nice note back a few days later. The gist of my issue with the plugin is that it added to every post a list of three DonorsChoose projects that might be related to the content of the post, hence “possibly related classroom projects.”  While there was a way to disable to plugin on selected posts, I felt that imposing itself on every post automatically was way too invasive.  I had been assuming that I could insert DonorsChoose projects either in the sidebar or in selected posts on an opt-in basis.  Only a handful of limeduck posts have anything to do with schools or charity.  Opting out of a couple hundred posts by hand was not what I had in mind.

Social Actions acknowledges that this is an early effort and in the spirit of open and agile programming, it will doubtless be improved over time.  And as much as I love WordPress, I have to hope for the sake of Social Actions and DonorsChoose that future versions of the plugin are compatible with Blogger and other platforms.  I guess they hadn’t figured out all the user types just yet.  On the other hand, several blogs have already adopted the plugin more or less as is:

So it can’t be all bad.  I hope Social Actions Labs makes it even better and even more blogs adopt it.  I’m here for future testing.  Here are some DonorsChoose projects that aren’t mined from this text but are still interesting to me, and I hope to you, too.  Check them out, help make a difference.

Help the Henry L Higginson Elem School in Roxbury, MA get a digital camera ($285 needed)

Help the Thomas Edison Middle School in Brighton, MA buy books ($1,010 needed)

Help the Camp Curtain School in Harrisburg, PA get globes and maps ($567 needed)

These projects are linked to topics of interest to this blog, but not actually to the text of this post.  Food for thought.

I want my hour back, and my $3.19 too.

It turns out that Daylight Saving (not Savings) Time is a bust. I had always suspected that it was more trouble than it was worth, but now, via the biggest Indian in Indiana, comes hard-hitting research that proves that DST costs us three bucks a year in extra heating and cooling costs, even after saving some lighting cost. And that doesn’t even cover the cost of all the hassle and confusion and extra programming that goes into supporting the changover twice each year. If you want to get up an hour earlier all summer, go ahead and do so, just don’t drag the rest of us with you.

I’ve set this post to appear at 2:24 Sunday morning, a time that will not exist, since the clocks will go from 1:59 directly to 3:00. I wonder what WordPress will do…?

Something may have gone sproing in here

I’m seeing intermittent errors when posting comments. Please help me troubleshoot. Please try to comment on this post and include your browser and OS in the comment text. If you try to comment and fail, please email me at dkarp at limeduck dot com. Thanks for your help.

UPDATE:  still can’t figure this one out, seems to happen only with the second (and subsequent?) comment on a single post.  I’ve seen it on other hosts and with other themes.  Disabled and re-enabled plugins, etc.  Anybody in the wordpress world know what’s going on?  I guess I just have to wait for v2.5

Risking Shrinkage for a Good Cause

I’m off to Miami this weekend to attend a wedding and maybe sneak in some additional cultural or culinary fun. While I’m in the sunshine state sipping mojitos poolside, some people here in Massachusetts (and elsewhere) will be immersing themselves in the ice cold waters of the Atlantic ocean and local lakes and rivers.


Because some sadistic genius at the Special Olympics came up with the idea for raising money by holding Passion Plunges in wintry locales around the country. This is truly a brilliant idea. You have to be in some kind of shape to run a marathon, and even a shorter run or longer walk requires some kind of training commitment. Just about anybody can dunk themselves in cold water. Not that it doesn’t take guts and some dedication, but it doesn’t require training or even much of a time commitment. Plus, it’s too cold and icky in winter to do any conventional run or ride fundraisers.

I’m including a fundraising widget (at right) for a team of plungers fielded by Firstgiving.com where I’m doing a consulting project. In addition to taking a gander a Firstgiving’s cool technology, you should click through and consider making a donation to support the Special Olympics and cheer on the plungers. Or search the Firstgiving site for other events you can support, or learn how to set up your own personal fundraising page.

Before I call it a post, I have to spend some time geeking out, since the implementation of this widget in WordPress was not as smooth as I would have liked, and maybe others can learn from my experience.

What you’re supposed to do is grab the code from your Firstgiving fundraising page and paste it into your blog post. But WordPress’ “visual editor” mangles FG’s code (and YouTube’s and no doubt others’) and it doesn’t work. Unless you disable the visual editor by going to Users, selecting the user in question, choosing Edit, and UNticking the box marked “Use the visual editor when writing.” If you do this, things work just fine as long as you don’t mind composing your blog entry in raw HTML.

I hope that this makes it easier for people to use the Firstgiving widget and other kinds of scripts in WP blogs, and also that somebody notices this and either fixes it or tells me that I’ve been doing something wrong. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time I missed the obvious solution. Maybe a nice cold dip will clear my head…

Shh – secret blog!

Are we alone? Nobody watching? Good. I want to tell you about a secret blog. (Don’t arch your eyebrow at me, KC, this isn’t about your secret blog) I’ve been working hard at migrating Ipswitch’s Daily Network Monitor Blog from its current Movable Type install to a shiny new WordPress setup. Here’s the old DNM, and here’s your secret preview of the new one. (of course once the cutover is complete, both links will show the new site)

The DNM blog has been a little neglected of late, but we’re getting back on daily posting, and with the new setup, I think it’s going to be a serious SEO force for the main product site. Here are some technical reasons why this is going to be so:

  • Moving the blog from an Ipswitch-owned domain to a hosted domain will give it some separation and make the links from the blog to the company site more valuable
  • Taking advantage of tagging and categorizing makes it easier for bots to understand what the site is about, and also creates more pages for indexing
  • WordPress’ easy architecture will make it possible for us to extend the web visitor tracking system to the blog to better understand the flow of traffic
  • Updating the social bookmarking links – digg, stumbleupon, delicious, reddit, etc. – will help get the site noticed (and it wouldn’t kill you to use them to spread the word about limeduck, either)
  • and most importantly, getting more technical posts and some guest authors will make it more readable and commentable

I have to give lots of credit to the tools and vendors here. You already know that WordPress is excellent, and that I dig the Mandigo theme. What I’ve also discovered is that the folks as BlueHost have an amazingly easy to use system for automatically installing and setting up WordPress on your hosting account, and their tech support people are actually clueful and available.

Well, that’s enough geeking out for now. Look for the new Daily Network Monitor soon, and expect some of the learnings to come back and enhance the limeduck experience, too.

Pardon my limedust, part II

Ok, I waited for WordPress 2.3 and have installed it. Next steps, importing all the old entries and fixing up the template. Thank you for your patience during this time of transition.

Looks like some of the images have broken and the video is definitely busted. And there are some odd duplicates of a couple of posts. I’ll start cleaning up from the present back. I think the old archives are still around even though the homepage is gone.

And wordpress has somehow turned my tags into categories. Oops. That’ll take some undoing…


9/29 update

1. Actually, the old homepage is still there, and seems to be fully functional. I guess I’ll leave it there, but please update any links you might have from www.limeduck.com/index.html to www.limeduck.com or www.limeduck.com/index.php if you must.

2. I ditched the tags temporarily but categories seem to be ok. I really want a tag cloud, so I’m going to have to figure out how to get that working again.

3. I found the most awesomest wordpress theme ever, Mandigo. It’s exceptionally customizable, mostly without touching any css, and seems to be rock-solid code-wise. I made up three header graphics, and the theme rotates them at random.