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Out of Order

Apologies to anyone who tried visiting meyerweb in the very near past and found it broken.  I’d noticed that suddenly all kinds of comment spam were getting past Akismet and landing in the moderation queue, and was just preparing to ask the spam-fighters about it when I discovered that the blog portions of the site were throwing a PHP error about not being able to find a function I’d written into a plugin.

At which point I discovered that all my WordPress plugins had been deactivated.  I know I didn’t do that, so how they all got turned off remains a bit of a mystery to me.  I’ve turned all the ones I need back on, and things appear to be back to normal.

So Akismet wasn’t being evaded by the spam: it was simply switched off.  Good thing my non-plugin defenses caught everything that poured in during the outage.  Which, come to think of it, must all have been direct-submit spam, since there wouldn’t have been a comment form available on the entire site.  So what they were really avoiding was my direct-submission defensive plugin, not Akismet.

Well, either way, other defensive measures protected the site, so all’s well there.  I’m certainly not thrilled about the site having been largely offlined for a short period, and again, my apologies to anyone who got blocked from information they wanted.

This episode has actually given me cause to reconsider my usual preference to put site navigation at the end of the document source.  When the PHP failed, the navigation was never served up.  Had I put it at the top of the page, it would’ve been present even though the blog posts were failing.  Getting to the static areas of the site would have been possible.  Due to my structural choices, a script failure dramatically affected the usability of the site as a whole.

Something worth thinking about as I slowly work on improving the organization of meyerweb.

10 Responses»

    • #1
    • Comment
    • Mon 29 Oct 2007
    • 1448
    Marc Benton wrote in to say...

    This might put a wrinkle in your Microsoft offer.

    • #2
    • Comment
    • Mon 29 Oct 2007
    • 1640
    Jordan wrote in to say...

    I guess this kinda fits in to the topic of your blog, but it’s been bothering me everytime I visit your site. The ad you have for CSS sculptor is being resized in HTML and looks TERRIBLE. Please resize it properly, it makes your site look really hackish!

    • #3
    • Comment
    • Mon 29 Oct 2007
    • 1648
    Kyle wrote in to say...

    How come your site doesn’t have styles for anchor pseudo-classes (hover, visited, active, etc).

    Isn’t that usability rule #1?

    • #4
    • Comment
    • Mon 29 Oct 2007
    • 1657
    Eric Meyer wrote in to say...

    I don’t know, Marc. Maybe it will increase their desire to acquire the site so they can migrate the whole thing to IIS/ASP/.Net.

    Jordan, the image is being resized with CSS, not HTML. This is done to prevent the image from exceeding the width of the sidebar, which is based on ems, not pixels. That’s pretty much always going to be the case, since I don’t use pixels for layout width if I can avoid it.

    Kyle, I try to leave all that in the hands of the users’ browsers. If I’m overriding link-state styling in my CSS, that’s something that should get fixed in the improvement work. As for link-state styling being “usability rule #1”, I am not a usability expert, and what usability experts I know tell me varies by expert. And usually varies with what the accessibility experts tell me. So I generally try to stay out of the fight.

    • #5
    • Comment
    • Mon 29 Oct 2007
    • 1705
    Jordan wrote in to say...

    What I mean is, can you resize the image itself to fit properly, so you aren’t relying the on the browser to resize it for you? Maybe it’s just me, but browser resized images stick out like a sore thumb to me.

    • #6
    • Comment
    • Mon 29 Oct 2007
    • 1715
    Els wrote in to say...

    Although the navigation wasn’t displayed, I got to the static parts of your site through the search box. That one was there :-)

    • #7
    • Comment
    • Mon 29 Oct 2007
    • 1849
    Elaine wrote in to say...

    IIRC, there’s a way to code WP themes so that there’s a fallback behavior when a plugin isn’t available. That might help with future problems.

    • #8
    • Comment
    • Tue 30 Oct 2007
    • 0944
    Matt Robin wrote in to say...

    I noticed the error message when I visited yesterday – but I didn’t want to say anything as I assumed you’d be aware of it quite quickly anyway.

    Hmm, ‘PHP Failure Preparedness in Markup Structure’….(almost sounds like a chapter from a possible book!) ;)

    • #9
    • Comment
    • Thu 1 Nov 2007
    • 1127
    Su wrote in to say...

    I’ve seen a WP installation spontaneously revert its theme to Kubrick multiple times(dunno if Kubrick specifically, it’s just the only other one that was there). Apparently, “it happens, and we have no idea why.” Great! But anyway, maybe this is something similar.

    • #10
    • Comment
    • Fri 2 Nov 2007
    • 1430
    Eric Meyer wrote in to say...

    Elaine: any points to more information on that score? I run a small selection of plugins that I wrote myself and I’d love to make them more robust.

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