Putting Code Together Since 1987

Posts Tagged ‘Wordpress’

Open Source Isn’t for Everybody – a thought experiment

In Business, Web Development, Wordpress on October 26, 2008 at 1:53 pm

I’ve been thinking hard about Open Source and whether or not to GPL all of our forthcoming themes at Spectacu.la, following on from Brian Gardner’s decision with Revolution.

And I’ve decided that it would be a rather bad idea for us.  In fact, if you’re trying to build a strong business up from Open Source you can never make everything truly open.  So for example, although WordPress is free and GPL, WordPress.com has lots of proprietary code that will never see the light of Open Source.  And you pay for various services that use this proprietary code.  At the same time, they can cheerfully absorb, at zero cost if they wish, various GPL licensed themes and plugins.

A Toaster Analogy

The broken toaster - by Charles Dyer (CC License some restrictions)

The broken toaster - by Charles Dyer (CC License some restrictions)

A toaster company realises that although developing toasters is hard and expensive, they’re practically free to manufacture.  So why not give the toasters away and just charge for repairs, and helping people install their toasters at home, cleaning services, insurance if it burns the house down and so on.

Where does the motivation for service rather than product related income then come from?  Well – it comes from not making a simple, reliable and easy to use toaster.  In fact, because anyone can copy your toaster, you have to continuously add new features to stay ahead of the rival toaster copiers and keep people coming to you rather than your rivals for help.  You can make your toaster corporate strength – a toaster for major organisations that need to make vast amounts of toast… and they’d definitely want support and help… but you end up with small users running vastly over-powered and over-complicated toasters.

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WordPress Database Corruption and its Effects

In Web Development, Wordpress on September 22, 2008 at 1:12 pm
You know that over-clocking experiment?

You know that over-clocking experiment?

We had an interesting failure recently. The server for one of our larger clients, who have their own high-spec dedicated server arranged, went down. We got the alert by text, and swung into action.

Well, more accurately we had called the hosting providers and told them to fix it.

They gave no solid reason or explanation as to why the server had died, but within in an hour things were normal enough.

Or so we thought…

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WordPress 2.6 User Guide

In Wordpress on September 16, 2008 at 8:46 pm

After weeks of hard work, I’ve finally finished it!  The WordPress 2.6 User Guide is ready for the world.

I’m not going to make it available directly from the blog any more, however, as we’ve decided to roll things like this up into our Spectacu.la WordPress Themes Club as a resource.  Non-members can download and use the pdf, and members get the Word document in case they want to rebrand it.

I guess it won’t be long before WordPress 2.7 turns up, but in the meantime this document represents a significant move ahead of the old.  Revised in many areas, it helps most beginners learn the ropes.  It doesn’t cover things like installation or problem solving, but for the vast majority of users it’s just fine.  We originally wrote it for our own clients, so that they could understand how to manage content on their site.  It’s also designed for printing out – sometimes people prefer it that way, and a website isn’t always the best approach.  At least this way you can choose.

Something’s Coming

In Wordpress on April 30, 2008 at 5:02 pm

Very quietly we’ve been building something quite special for WordPress. Let’s just say that we’re not the first with the concept, nor, I’m sure, the last. But it’s going to be about the most professional set-up. And we’ve done almost all of it with WordPress based technology.

What is it, exactly?

Well, just at this moment, we’re not saying. There’s been hints out there, and it’s not a huge secret, but we’re not ready to make any big announcements just yet. Look out for clues in our forum posts around the place, and in some of our work.

Really I had to post simply to explain why we’ve posted nothing on the blog for over a month. There’s been that internal project, but also some very interesting projects for clients. All of which has conspired to keep us with our noses on the grindstone. Soon we’ll look up and return to normal. Maybe.

The Difference Hosting Can Make

In hosting on February 22, 2008 at 8:32 am

It’s quite apt that on the day that WordPress.com appears to have broken (it’s not serving any front-end pages on this blog at the time of writing if you’re logged in) I’m making a post about hosting.

So to the gist of this post.

We provide hosting to clients, and only clients.  You can’t just ring us up and ask us to host your site.  We’re quite picky about what hits our server.

That makes it nice and quick to respond.  And we keep an eye on response times using Pingdom‘s service.  If things go bad, we receive SMS and e-mails to inform us.

Recently, we took over the hosting of Liverpool Motor Club’s site.  We’d done them a variation of one of our themes, but their shared server space simply wasn’t up to the job of running WordPress.  A year ago when we first spoke to them it seemed ok enough, if hardly rocketship fast.  But performance was getting worse and worse.  And as we sponsor their championship and have our name on their website… well, we wanted to make things look good.   So did they!

So we moved them over to our server.

Looking at the graph of http responsiveness below, can you guess when they moved?

Liverpool Motor Club Response Times

What’s interesting to see is the problems they were having with inconsistent responses.  1.5s may be fine for a minority interest website, but 9s averages at any point simply can’t be accepted.  Their hosts (internetters, for what its worth) are clearly overloading their machines and although they’re offering php and mySQL something’s going wrong somewhere.  Static page serving, funnily enough, wasn’t too bad, if still pretty erratic and at the slow end.

We debated setting up wp-cache, but in the end, we knew the best way to give decent response times was a decent box.

Sex, the iPhone, and Winning Traffic

In Uncategorized on February 9, 2008 at 5:53 pm

I was going to start this little piece about how there seem to be two hot topics that generate traffic to a website.

The I realised, there’s actually three hot topics.

But first, the original two.  This blog had been quietly pottering along and not really generating much interest until two features.

One was called “Selling Sex” and concerned a possible escort agency client.  The other was about the new iPhone update.  Thing is, although they generated spikes, the ongoing benefit in traffic has been significant.

Winning Traffic

I also added an RSS feed to the blog from our Interconnect IT site.

Then we published a WordPress User guide.

Traffic’s been much more significant since then.

But what are the three things that generate the most traffic?

  1. Anything about the latest hot gadget.
  2. Sex.  We’re really simple creatures. People are interested in sex.
  3. Articles about how to draw more traffic to your blog.

Anything else will just plod along, picking up scraps from obscure Google searches – especially on a rather techie biased blog such as this one.

Anybody else care to comment with other surefire traffic winners?

Mobile (and iPhone) WordPress Solution

In iPhone, Wordpress on February 8, 2008 at 5:56 pm

Well I never… tucked away, quietly ticking over, is http://m.wordpress.com

It’s a simple interface to your WordPress.com admin, designed to be fast on simple machines, mobile phones and limited bandwidth connections.

I’m ashamed to say I only just noticed, but by golly it’s handy.  It gives you basic stats, and basic posting.  Very basic posting.  But it’s there as an option and has its uses as the cleverer tricks for mobile posting to self-hosted WordPress installations aren’t possible on WordPress.com

Keep It Standard

In Web Development, Wordpress on February 3, 2008 at 2:38 pm

I was working with a client recently on their own, customised installation of WordPress… and it was driving me potty.  It was a pretty tiring day, given that our normal training covers concepts such as drafts.  On their installation, you pressed save and the page (no posts on that one) would immediately appear on the navigation.  Not only that, but changing a page order had no effect on the javascript based menu system they’d implemented.

Now, we’re not innocent on this either – we’ve done a few sites that get a long way from standard WordPress behaviour.  But quite quickly we realised that not keeping standard messes you up in certain ways:

  1. Upgrades can be a nightmare as customisation may need to be re-applied – even if it’s just a theme you’ve developed.
  2. Training becomes difficult – especially if the people managing the content aren’t IT or WordPress experts.  They won’t know what is and is not standard and documentation may therefore be confusing.
  3. If you need outside help, they’re going to have a learning curve before they understand what’s going on.
  4. Slapping a load of plugins into WordPress isn’t always the best way to extend the functionality of the system or a theme you’ve bought or downloaded.  It may be better to find a different CMS or a different theme.

So as time went by, we started to keep our themes more standard in their behaviour, and to stick to well known, well written and well supported plugins.  All have to work in standard ways, and any that do quite blatant hacks have to be left well alone – no matter how cute.

I believe the same applies with most software.  If you bought MS Word and then hacked it to work differently, then every other installation of it that you use with it would need the same hack for you to achieve the same work.  And imagine if you implemented this hacked MS Word across a company – new employees wouldn’t know what was going on as they’d know Word, but not this special version, and when a new version came out you’d have a lot of work to do to hack that too.

I used to apply the same philosophy PeopleSoft implementations – recommending against large tranches of customisation, because they became a maintenance and upgrade liability.  The sites that listened to this common advice, tended to have the most pain-free go-lives and upgrades.  The downside was that I was kind of doing myself out of work – what with being a strong PeopleCode developer.  D’Oh!

Anvil GPL WordPress Theme 1.3

In Web Development, Wordpress on February 1, 2008 at 4:38 pm

For those of you who are fans of our Anvil WordPress Theme, a new version – 1.3 has just been released and is now available to download.  I’ve been testing it out on my own blog (at least, at the date of writing – that may change in the future) and it’s still one of our favourites.  It’s flexible, powerful, and easy to customise.

To download it, simply go to the official Anvil Demo Site and get it from there.  The site also has plenty of information on the theme’s features.

WordPress Auto 301 Feature

In Wordpress on January 30, 2008 at 8:00 am

If you change a slug in WordPress it will automatically generate a 301 redirect – helping keep your search engine juice nice and rich.

Try it with the following link – it shouldn’t work, and I’ve not done anything manually.  Yet it does:

http://www.interconnectit.com/wordpress-course-7th-8th-february-2008/

Some nice tricks inside WordPress.  Keep up the good work lads!