Tag Archives: Blogging

WordPress is buggy while hosted on Windows Azure

UPDATE 1/1/2014: It has been four months since I wrote this blog post and I can say the majority (if not all) of the issues I was having with WordPress hosted on Windows Azure have been completely resolved. I am very impressed with WordPress on Azure and would recommend it as a solution for anyone looking to host their own WordPress blog.

I’m long overdo for writing a blog post about how I moved my blog to being hosted on Windows Azure. So there you have it – my blog is powered by WordPress AND hosted on Windows Azure. Cool, huh? Yeah I think it is.

Well sorta.

I am having all kinds of issues with WordPress running on Windows Azure. For starters, updating plugins automatically through the WordPress Dashboard will break my blog making it completely inaccessible – even the Dashboard. To resolve the issue, I have to FTP into the site and delete the plugin manually that I just attempted to update. In the case of today, I attempted to update the Jetpack plugin from WordPress. Once I did this, my blog starting handing out “HTTP 500 Internal Server” errors like candy.

Other issues range from when deleting comments, database errors occur to rendering issues in the Dashboard and issues composing blog posts (for example under “Visual”, I cannot add hyperlinks – I need to go to the “Text” tab).

I have no idea how to resolve these issues so if anyone out there has any tips or tricks for Windows Azure hosted WordPress blogs – I’m listening.

My first blog

I stumbled upon backup files of my first blog from 2004 this evening and had a good laugh. At the time, I had not found my “focus” yet in terms of blogging which of course eventually became Microsoft and Microsoft-related technologies (my first “real” blog was MSTechToday.com).

blog2004

I designed the website by hand using Microsoft FrontPage 2003 and a bunch of HTML coding. I wasn’t using any sort of blogging platform like WordPress. My “blog” was simply a collection of HTML webpages I linked together unsophisticatedly. Because there wasn’t any platform behind the website, whenever I wanted to add a update ( essentially what would be a “blog post”), I would create a new webpage, upload it, update the frontpage (index.html) with some sort of update linking back to the new webpage. Not really the most efficient way of doing things. I’m very thankful WordPress came along!

The content of my first blog was, as you can see in the above screenshot, a collection of just random life stuff. In 2004, I was a sophomore in college and worked at the local shopping center (a JCPenney store). The last “entry” or update I posted was 8 years and 2 days ago today and was an inside joke with a fellow co-worker.

The website was designed with my favorite colors at the time – I recall really liking greys and shades of blues. I also incorporated elements of my life into the design such as my family dogs, my bird, me and a banner ad for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon (new at the time). I did all the graphics work using Microsoft Image Composer 1.5. I loved this app. It originally shipped with Microsoft FrontPage 2000 which, if I remember correctly, was the only way to get the app.

It’s interesting looking back at this and remembering how much I enjoyed not just posting stuff to a website but working on the website itself. I had a lot of fun. In 2004 I was just beginning to realize how powerful a website and eventually a blog could be to reach people and share thoughts and opinions that would lead to discussions and engagement with people all around the world. Blogging is a powerful tool even today.

Of course, I look at my website from 2004 and my blog of today and really do think I need to update my blog’s lame design.

Always keep a offline/offsite backup of your blog

Those of you visiting my blog here will find that it lacks a bunch of content that I’ve blogged about previously both here and from my very old blog called MSTechToday. Due to poor management practices on my part and switching from different host providers and blog services – much of that content is pretty much gone because I didn’t properly keep a good backup of my site offline.  I spent some time this week looking over years worth of backed up data and I’ve yet to find anything recoverable with regards to my old content.

Visiting my blog today you wouldn’t have guessed I’ve actually been blogging since late 2005. As I sit here thinking about it – a lot of hard work and hours of writing has gone down the drain. And it’s upsetting and of course my fault.

So here I am to provide some tips after learning my lesson here so that you don’t have to.

Always keep a offline backup of your blog (or website). Don’t rely on just your hosting provider to do backups. Do your own and keep it stored offline someplace safe (e.g. external hard drive, USB stick, etc.). For me, I keep a local backup of my blog on a second hard drive on my PC at home which is backed up every night to a Windows Home Server. So I have multiple places where my blog’s backup exists even if my PC or Windows Home Server decides to stop working.

If someone else is managing your blog (or website), double check with them if they are doing backups. I know quite a few bloggers out there who rely on someone else to manage their blog for them such as doing all the “behind-the-scenes” stuff. It is important to make sure they are doing backups of your blog. You should make sure they regularly provide you with a physical copy of the backups for your blog in some fashion. If you aren’t a technical person, it might be a good idea to get the backup and run it by someone else you know who might be technical. A second opinion is always good especially when dealing with your online content. The last thing you want is to be under the impression the person managing your site has been taking care of you only to lose everything you’ve posted.

A backup of your blog doesn’t just include backing up all the files – backup the database too. Many blogs today such as WordPress write a lot of content to a database. You NEED backups of your database to restore your blog. A theme can be reconstructed through files you backup separately but if you lose your database, much of your content could be gone. WordPress specifically offers several good database backup plugins you can use that make backing up your database super easy.

Hopefully you don’t have to make the same mistake I did to learn a lesson on backing up your blog. If you have any other tips regarding keeping your blog or website backed up, leave a comment below.

Dusting things off

I spent the evening tonight dusting off my blog here. It’s gotten very little attention lately – something I am hoping to change!

I updated my theme a bit. The theme is a work-in-progress. I actually built it from scratch learning from code examples and other themes on how to construct a basic theme. Going forward, you can expect the theme to grow as I continue to learn to make it better. Although, it’s about the content not how the site looks, right? I am hoping to eventually do some things with HTML5. Keep in mind, I designed the site with IE9 in mind but I’ve tested it out with the latest Chrome release and have seen no issues there. I play to add pinning and Jump List support for my site with IE9 in the very near future.

Another thing I did this evening was I added Disqus to the site for managing comments. You can now sign-in with a variety of services to leave a comment. I see this as an interesting experiment although I know a lot of folks using Disqus are quite happy with the service.

More to come!

Best practices for bloggers regarding their RSS feeds

I seem to be on a roll today regarding RSS. I was going through Google Reader today clearing out a bunch of inactive RSS feeds or RSS feeds I no longer am interested in reading content from. I was absolutely shocked at how many RSS feeds from websites I discovered that were actually “broken”. Broken meant a variety of things ranging from the feed completely not working and the site gone, to feed just broken, to blogs or websites that have changed their RSS feed for whatever reason and I never knew it.

The majority of broken feeds I discovered were the result of blogs or websites that have changed their RSS feed or did something to their RSS feed that resulted in me not seeing any of their content for the last few months or even over a year.

If you are a blogger or website owner – the first best practice is you should be subscribed to your own RSS feed and checking it regularly. This is a good way to see what others are seeing when they subscribe to your RSS feed. If it breaks or is not updating correctly – you will likely see this behavior yourself and be able to respond and fix.

The next best practice is that if you absolutely have to change your RSS feed for whatever reason, you should look at putting in some sort of redirect that will redirect users automatically who are subscribed to your old RSS feed URL to the new RSS feed URL. This will result in no user action for folks subscribed to your RSS feed and they will continue to see updates as expected without knowing your feed even changed.

Of course there are also SEO (search engine optimization) issues if your RSS feed is busted too.

And just posted about how bloggers are (and should) be using RSS to push their content out to social networking services like Twitter and Facebook. If your RSS feed is busted, guess what? You’re content isn’t hitting these services and you’re likely losing exposure to the stuff you write.

Why RSS is still important (today)

I hear a lot about how RSS is no longer important (e.g. subscribing to an RSS feed of a blog) now that everyone gets their information from Twitter or Facebook these days. While I agree that most people get their information from social networks like Twitter today than they do “subscribing” to an RSS feed – I do disagree that RSS isn’t important, at least today. It’s just less important for the average person visiting a blog (or website) but its still very important to the existence of a blog. Let me explain why.

The problem with RSS was that it never quite got to the point where it was something easily understood by the average person visiting a blog. My mom would never understand the concept of “subscribing” to an RSS feed of a blog or “subscribing to a blog”. It was easier for them to just add that blog to their Favorites (or Bookmarks) in their browser so they can revisit in the future. Along comes Twitter and Facebook which makes it extremely easy for people to consume information and easy for bloggers to push their blog posts out for people to read. The average person understands the concept of following someone on Twitter. Following someone could mean following a person or following a website. Most websites today automatically push their blog posts out to at least Twitter. And that’s where most people consume the content people blog.

But with bloggers pushing their content to Twitter – do you really think there is someone manually tweeting when a new post is published?

No.

At least not likely.

This is where RSS comes in.

Social networks today have become quite good at aggregating information from a variety of sources – including RSS. It’s almost a standard option. There are a bunch of services offered in Twitter’s extensive ecosystem that will take your blog’s RSS feed and automatically tweet it. My favorite is Twitterfeed. And both Facebook and Windows Live offer the ability for you to configure an RSS feed to bring in anything you publish to your blog and display it in your news feed. As a blogger and someone who runs a few blogs, I want to be able to push my content out to the major social networks for people to consume and as easily as possible. Today RSS allows me to do that.

RSS today is more important to content publishers like bloggers than it is to anyone else. It is very important for pushing blog content out to important services like Twitter, Facebook, or Windows Live for people to consume their content. It’s just no longer important for bloggers to recommend people “subscribe” to their blogs. Instead, the recommendation is to follow them (the blogger or blog) on Twitter.

Side note: The advantage to Twitter that is really exciting to me as a blogger is that its much more interactive. My Twitter feed is a place I can push my content to people that follow me but also interact with them and discuss my content beyond the comments section of my blog.

Now I say RSS is important today. It may not be very important in the future though. Actually, it probably won’t. If you look at Twitter, Facebook, Windows Live, and other social networks like Foursquare – they are all developing APIs that web developers can use to tap directly (and more integrate more deeply) into their services. Blog platforms are beginning to take advantage of this. Blogs and websites in general are looking at becoming more integrated into these services. In the future, it is likely a simple RSS feed won’t be enough. Actually – it won’t.

It will be interesting to watch this space in the next year or two.

Anybody know of a major website that is no longer publicly offering an RSS feed but instead asks their readers to follow them on Twitter or “like” their Facebook Page?

Twitter’s Tweet Button

I’ve added Twitter’s new Tweet Button (see details in their blog post here) to my blog. This button makes it easier to quickly share a post to all your friends on Twitter. For bloggers, Twitter is an excellent resource for getting exposure to blog content they write.

UPDATE: I tested the Tweet Button myself. Doesn’t seem to be showing the number of “tweets” that have been posted from the button although if I click on the number “O” it shows my test. Weird. Not sure what the deal is.

UPDATE 2: Now it seems to be working. It seems there is a slight delay? Are others experiencing a delay in tweet counts?

Considered Posterous, but sticking to WordPress

I updated my blog to WordPress 3.0 RTM over the weekend. Time to give this place a little more attention. I debated moving away from WordPress all together and going to someplace like Posterous which is a little more automated. However everyone I know who considers themselves a serious blogger continues to use WordPress for their blogs. Many do, however, have Posterous accounts they treat as “secondary” to their blogs where they post images and other social updates to. I have done the same here – you can go to here to check out my Posterous account which I have configured on a subdomain. It is curious to me to see so many people using a service like Posterous as a secondary service to their main blogs. I’ve yet to see a good integration of both into a single site. If you’ve seen a site that integrates the two, let me know as I would like to see what that looks like.

When I was investigating using Posterous for my blog, Posterous’s CEO Sachin Agarwal had tweeted about taking in bug feedback. I jokingly replied to him that I thought not supporting Windows Live Writer was a bug (although I was being serious in that they should support Writer). His response to me on what I considered some valid and honest feedback was that he considers using Windows “a bug”. That kind of put me off a bit. Granted, I’m a bit biased. I know Sachin worked at Apple, supports their products 100% (just like I do with Microsoft), and is “inspired” by Apple and has never owned a PC according to his Twitter profile. But seriously… what kind of response was that? So Posterous is going to ignore the huge customer base that uses Windows today (it looks like Posterous doesn’t support IE8 either)? On Windows – Windows Live Writer is simply the best blogging tool available. It would be a huge benefit to Posterous to support it in my opinion and create additional value to people looking to move to Posterous. Perhaps he misunderstood my initial reply as being a bit snarky and if that’s the case – I do apologize. But if Sachin considers using Windows a bug – I take that as a heavy sign Posterous will likely not be doing anything special like supporting Windows Live Writer for Posterous – at least officially. Scott Lovegrove has made a plugin for Windows Live Writer that enables using Writer to post to Posterous blogs. Scott’s plugin works well. But I was looking for official support. It looks like Posterous is also focused on competing with the likes of Twitpic anyway. I wish them luck.

So in short – I’m sticking to WordPress as the blog platform of choice for my personal blog.

Trying out WordPress 3.0 Beta 1

Just installed WordPress 3.0 Beta 1 this evening. WordPress 3.0 Beta 1 was announced last week. Usually its unwise to use beta software to power your blog but I figured I’d live a little dangerously.

In WordPress 3.0, they are introducing a brand new default theme called “Twenty Ten” which offers several customization features. I’m trying the new theme out right now. So far I really like it. I’m going to test out the theme’s new customization features over the weekend. I think investing less time in trying to develop my own theme from scratch and perhaps doing some actual blogging might be beneficial.