Tag Archives | wordpress

Please stay on the line, as calls are answered in the order in which they are received

Astute fans may have noticed the site seems to be having a little trouble. Yup. The site became non-responsive the morning of 20-Nov-2014, and the usual actions had little effect. There were few clues in the logs nor diagnostics easily pulled from the software. To get up and running quickly, I did the famous “WordPress 5 minute Install” and restored the essential configuration. I’ll be restoring the usual theme, fonts, plugins and assets (pictures, links, videos, etc.) from backups as time allows.

Thank you for your understanding.

Blog optimization update: WordPress, CDN, Speed, Caching, Accessibility

Keep Calm and Clear Cache

Keep Calm

I’ve continued to do some research on optimizing the blog responsiveness, and I’m pleased with the results. Anecdotal tests this morning, with no local caching, showed a 2 second load time with a 1.2 second DOMLoaded event. That’s pretty good. Here are a few notes on things I’ve been working on:

  • Google’s PageSpeed Tools offered some helpful insights.
  • Minifying some of the text assets – HTML, CSS, and JavaScript – is working well, though I’d like to be more easily able to toggle this for debuggng.
  • Using the Rackspace CloudFiles caching with WordPress lacks a good automated tool on the WordPress side to keep the cache synced with changes. I’ve been using the SuperCache plugin for local speedups, and it supports a variety of CDNs. The CDN-Sync-Tool plugin is no longer available on the WordPress.org site, and several forks on GitHub all seem to be out of date. It’s unclear, so far, where the problem is. The WP cron jobs are failing. Whether that’s an internal configuration problem, or unsupported calls to an old API, I haven’t worked out yet. Next time I try this, I’ll look at some deeper pilot testing for CDNs with better WordPress support.
  • Inspired by “Why Bother with Accessibilty” by Laura Kalbag, part of the excellent 24ways series, I did some initial accessibility testing. The WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool tests your site for accessibility, an essential feature these days. Accessibility makes your site more understandable and easier to navigate for all users. Disabilities aren’t someone else’s problems; they are a state we will all pass through at one stage or another.There are a few glitches in my templates that I will work to rectify. A larger problem s the observation that my style choices have lead to a rather low-contrast site.

Notes from Seacoast WordPress Developers Group, 4-Dec-2013

Seven people attended the December meeting of the Seacoast WordPress Developers group, held at the AlphaLoft coworking space in Portsmouth, NH. The main topic was “Best Business Practices,” which was a great topic but, as always, the conversations and netwokring and recommendations that went on around the main topic were also very helpful and informative. Among those tidbits:

  • The Ewww image optimizer can reduce the size of images and speed webpage loading with minimal quality change.
  • Matt Mullenweg delivers an annual “State of the Word” speech with lots of interesting insights.
  • Open question: What topics would YOU like to learn about? The group is about YOU. How can we get YOU to attend?
  • Which SEO are people familiar with? WordPress SEO by Yoast was the most popular mentioned
  • Question on speeding sites, and a recommendation for the P3 Plugin Performance Profiler

On to the main topic: “Best Business Practices” can easily degenerate into a “Client Horror Stories” session. Kudos to organizer Amanda Giles for keeping a tight rein on the discussions and getting us to focus on covering as much as possible. Andy provided a redacted proposal he had written up for a client and we reviewed and discussed it. There was a lot of good back and forth. Andy had some very insightful item in his proposal that made it clear what the client would see at each phase, what items were optional or deferred to a later project phase, and how client decisions could affect the outcome in terms of schedule and cost. This was a great launching point for a lot of discussion on terms, contracts (my stance: pay a lawyer for a few hours to draft a good contract!), how to handle open-ended items like design reviews and never-ending revisions, terms for stock photos and graphics, and so forth. The discussion was very worthwhile and everyone felt they had their questions answered and learned a few new things. What more can you ask for a meeting?

Our next two meetings are scheduled for TUESDAY (not the normal meeting night) January 7th and Wednesday, February 5th. Please consider joining the Meetup group to keep up on the details on upcoming meetings.

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New post testing CDN support on WordPress

DSCN1940 So, the Content Distribution Network is in place and several tests indicate it is working well — page loads are much faster, the URLs of the CDN content are re-written properly — but the next question is whether new materials will be automatically added to the CDN. The picture at the left (and yes, this is an excuse to post a cute dog picture, too) should appear with a link to the high-resolution (1.8 Mb) image. On the blog itself, that link should be of the format http://blog.tedroche.com/wp-content/uploads/2003/12/NameOfPicture.jpg, while if the picture is picked up by the CDN synchronization software, it should upload to the CDN and the URL be rewritten to http://static.blog.tedroche.com/etcetera. Let’s try it out and see what happens…

Woah. Success first time. Pretty cool.

Some details on what I’ve got set up: I’m using the Rackspace Cloud Files service as the CDN. I had worked with Rackspace before on some hosting projects, and have a friend working there, so I thought I’d try them out first. It appears that their CDN services are in an early stage and don’t have all of the features of soe of the more mature products. In particular, it appears that the blog software is reponsible for pushing any new or updated content to the CDN. By contrast, the Amazon S3 offering has an ‘origin pull’ feature that will pull content from the original source when it is first requested, and subsequently cache it.

In order to get the contents of my local blog to sync with the CDN, I added the CDN-Sync-Tool plugin. A lot of web searching seemed to indicate I could find this in the WordPress Plugins directory online, but the tool has been pulled from the directory. Apparently, it is undergoing some redevelopment. The version I found was on GitHub under https://github.com/WDGDC/CDN-Sync-Tool and installation was not more complex that downloading the ZIP and unzipping it in the plugins folder. Bear in mind that you should be comfortable with using the command line and have the skills to review the files you are installing on your machine, as there has been no review by the WordPress folks, and the code is currently under development and you may need to deal with bugs, incompatibilities and support problems. So, this isn’t the path I’d recommend for less-technical WordPress developers, and likely isn’t the path I’d recommend for a client looking to put a CDN into production use.

Note that most cache programs and their CDN features are set up in such a way that logged-in users may see a slower site, but more up-to-date, site, and that in order to test caching you’ll need to log out of your WordPress session.

 

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Notes from Manchester WordPress Meetup, 16-Oct-2013

The Manchester WordPress Meetup met at The Farm restaurant (Elm Street, Manchester) on Wednesday October 16th. Their regular meeting night is the 2nd Monday of the month, which they’ll resume November 11th.) A smaller crowd that usual made it to the event, but it just gave us each more time to talk, get our questions answered, and quiz the speaker.

Craig Fifield (www.craigfifield.com) was the featured speaker, talking about Google Authorship. (A second speaker had an accident and was unable to make it. Best wishes for a speedy recovery!). Google Authorship is a means of tagging your written content on the web and linking it to your Google Plus profile. Craig has a lot of experience in the SEO space, as he’s worked with the web since 1995, “before SEO or Google existed.” Craig was very fired-up about the Google Authorship concept, and showed us how to to link our WordPress posts to our Google Profile. Like many Google processes, it’s a two-way operation: establish a Google Plus profile and point it to the publications you’ve written, and edit the publications and include a link that points back to your profile. While there are several WordPress plugins that claim to support this feature, Google Authorship is still a moving target, and none seem to follow the current guidance.

Craig also emphasized that it’s important to test your setup once you get it in place; it’s not enough to embed the links and assume everything works. He recommended using the Google Structured Data Testing Tool on several of the pages to ensure your author information was showing up correctly on individual articles, but not on streams of articles (front pages, archives, etc.) or places where a byline would be inappropriate (About Me or Contact pages, for example).

We had some time for announcements and Q&A as well. Meetup organizer Jonathan May will be teaching Advanced Topics in WordPress at the Nashua Adult Learning Center. Jeff (missed his last name) spoke about the Fossil Fuel Age Challenge Ecosite Competition: a nonprofit effort to promote sites with a green focus by holding a competition and promoting the ecological movement as well as a bit of self-promotion for the developers. Things are still coming together, but it looks like one WordPress site would be selected at random and the winner would get a dinner with Matt Mullenweg, while a winning Drupal site would get a dinner with Dries. It sounds like good fun, and a good chance to get soem promotion of your authoring skills. More details can be found at EcoEnlighten.com and EcoSiteCompetition.org.

Also mentioned: several upcoming meetings: GNHLUG meets at The Farm on October 22, lots of good meetups like the Web-Developers group and the Seacoast WordPress group at AlphaLoft in Portsmouth. And tickets are getting scarce for WordCamp Boston, held October 25-26-27 — get yours soon!

Thanks to Craig for presenting, Jonathan for organizing the meetup, and all for attending and participating!

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Keeping up: theme changes

Astute readers (and I know who you two are!) will notice a change to a newer theme. I’ve switched over to the WordPress Twenty-Eleven base theme, with a few of my own tucks, nips and tweaks. I wanted to check out the new theme and test out the new functionality and keep up with the latest stuff.

Child themes are a piece of cake to create, and a child theme lets me override the original without messing with the original source, so updates will not erase the changes. While they are not so difficult to do manually if you are familiar with the command-line, they are even easier with the plugin One-Click Child Theme.

With the child theme in place, I was able to shorten the gap between the site description (the motto) and the header picture, just by adding CSS to the style.css in the child theme (that’s the cascading part of CSS). I added a paper-curl edge effect based on the work of Craig Buckler, published on Sitepoint.

I was disappointed that my site was not valid HTML5, according to the W3C’s validator site. Category tags used in REL links aren’t standard, so I deleted those. The Creative Commons plugins want to use Dublin Core XML namespaces, and there are issues there I’ve got to clean up. And the “generator” REL tag on the bottom of the page isn’t too standard, either. Overall, though, the pages are relatively clean of excessive markup or poorly-formed structures. Stay tuned as I tweak the last few elements into line.

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Seacoast WordPress Developers Group, April Notes

On April 6th, the Seacoast WordPress Developer’s Group met at the New Hampshire Innovation Commercialization Center to talk WordPress. Networking and casual conversation started around 6:30, with the meeting formally starting at 7 PM with a round of introductions:

Dave – former Cold Fusion, ETL, new to WordPress,
Carl Eric Johnson – web developer, WordPress instructor and eveloper, fan of Thesis framework.
Amanda – BIL doing Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress
Sharon, Rye Public Library, Technology Coordinator, just launched a freshened site on April 1st using WordPress and Atahualpa theme/framework.
Will, a graphic designer in a print shop who’d been encouraged to learn web design and now WordPress.

Book recommendations:
Amanda praised the Wrox Professional WordPress book.
Carl Eric has enjoyed WordPress: Visual QuickStart Guide to get up and running, and WordPress Bible(Aaron Barzell) from Wiley as a reference.

Main Presentation: Carl Eric Johnson: talk about themes and frameworks
Sitepoint.com Wicked WordPress Themes book has free sample download chapter. Table of contents points out the choices of custom themes, child themes, building a framework.
Child themes: load with parent’s theme files, in your child file, you import the parent, then override what’s different.
In WordPress 3.0, theme TwentyTen has a lot of options built in. Thesis and Atahualpa have a number of pages of options: sizing, features, colors, styles, etc.

Amanda talked about file structures and “the loop” – directories of wp-admin and wp-install are pretty much off-limits, containing the installed WordPress files and overwritten up updates; wp-content contains most everything else, including the stuff you customize. Add your own functions.php and copy the functions you want to override. A theme consists of index.php and style.css as a minimum; you can add as much as you want from there. See the Codex for the hierarchy of theme files WordPress looks for in order to render your content. Consider starting with a “blank” theme if you’re building your own, such as Starkers or Boilerplate themes – essentially stripped-down skeletal themes with all of the style removed.

See http://codex.wordpress.org/Template_Hierarchy for a description of how WordPress selects the correct template(s).

See http://codex.wordpress.org/The_Loop_in_Action for an overview of the loop.

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WordPress updated to version 3.1

A new version of WordPress is available, and I’ve updated the blog to version 3.1 and downgraded it again. It seems like some of my custom hacks didn’t make the transition as smooth as I’d like. A good lesson there: always make backups; they’re handy for quick rollbacks. Check out some of the new features, listed here.

It appears that the Header Image Rotator (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/twenty-ten-header-rotator/) is the problem. I’ve disabled it, got the update working, re-enabled it and it broke again. Sure enough. I’ve let the author know about the problem and the error messages in my logs. Let’s hope for a painless fix. In the meantime, I’ll post a favorite old picture of mine, taken on a cold snowy night.

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Seacoast WordPress Developers Group announce March meeting

Organizer Amanda Giles announced a second meeting of the Seacoast WordPress Developers Group:

When: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 7:00 PM
Where: NH-Innovation Commercialization Center, 75 Rochester Avenue, Portsmouth, NH 03801
Why: Let’s get together for another meetup. More details coming soon. Please send me your suggestions or ideas for things you would like to share or see shared.

CMS Learning Curves, artist unknown

CMS Learning Curves

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