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Meta Wordpress WordPress.com

Why self hosted?

This site still runs the latest version of WordPress but the main difference between this site and my old Watirmelon.blog one is this one is self hosted and not on WordPress.com like my old site was since 2006.

“Why self hosted after 14 years?” I hear you ask. I did work for Automattic who runs WordPress.com for over three years and I am a huge fan of its products and platform but there comes a time when long-standing bugs/missing features weigh you down and make you switch away from something you love.

The first bug was a security limitation on all WordPress.com sites whereby you can’t embed any content from another WordPress.com site.

See I want to embed content from my own site in my knowledge base, but on WordPress.com it isn’t possible – and it just silently fails and falls back to sad looking text hyperlink.

An awesome WordPress embed

WordPress.com offers an awesome feature to email new content to subscribers but the inability to change it from anything but immediately was a constant anxiety inducer: if I accidentally hit Publish before being completely ready it would immdiately email 1000+ subscribers with no undo 😕

I now use MailPoet which enables configuration of when to send emails to subscribers – I send an email once a day at 1pm local time if I have created any new content since it was last sent. This alleviates my publish anxiety as I know I have until 1pm each day to fix it before it’s emailed.

I also really wanted to add an automatically generated table of contents to each page in my knowledge base – there was no way to do this on WordPress.com.

One thing I realised by moving to self-hosted is just how much WordPress.com offers without any plugins. I didn’t realise WordPress doesn’t offer in built site stats – that’s a WordPress.com thing.

I try to avoid WordPress plugins since they’re notorious for slowing down your site, however I did end up a small list of handy things that I need:

  1. Akismet Anti-Spam: name says it all 🐷
  2. List Pages Shortcode: to show child pages of a page in a page – just works on WordPress.com
  3. LuckyWP Table of Contents: table of contents
  4. MailPoet 3
  5. Site Kit by Google
  6. SyntaxHighlighter Evolved
  7. Widget Context
  8. Wordfence Security

One thing I can’t do at the moment is automatically publish to Twitter and LinkedIn, but due to my Publish Anxiety anyway I use a manual process for that.

The final question you may ask is why I didn’t use the Business Plan on WordPress.com that allows most plugins and would have solved most of my issues?

This site runs free of ads and creates zero income or revenue for me. The Business Plan would enable some of the features I mentioned above, but it’s AUD$396 per year. My employment income has fallen due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 and I can’t justify that cost when my current managed host costs approx AUD$50 per year to host the same site (8 times less).

Categories
Meta

Welcome to my new site 🙌

Welcome to my new site. I thought it was time I gave it a new name: RIP WatirMelon 💀

My focus over coming months alongside my regular blogging will be building up a comprehensive software testing (and more!) knowledge base which will act as a source of information about different aspects of software testing. An example:

If you previously subscribed by email, you’ll need to do that again. See this page for details.

Welcome 👋

Categories
Meta WordPress.com

Welcome to WatirMelon.Blog!

From today you may notice this blog has a new domain name: WatirMelon.Blog!

I am very excited to be one of the first blogs in the world with a .blog address, before the new .blog domain officially goes live on November 21. If you’re interested in a .blog address for your blog (on WordPress or otherwise), you can register your interest now in any .blog domain name via the get.blog site.

I will continue to own the old domain WatirMelon.com so any links using that domain will continue to function by redirecting to the new watirmelon.blog domain 😎

Categories
Ask Me Anything Life Meta

AMA: helping change ways

Sean asks…

Have many people told you that you’ve helped change the way they consume (and abuse) the internet? Alister, thank you very much for radically changing the way I approach data, everyday tasks, testing, and development.

My response…

Well actually… once I was conducting a job interview and the candidate said something along those lines but I put it down to him wanting me to give him the job 😜

But thank you for the enormous compliment. If I can make a single person change their mind on something I write about then it makes it all worthwhile 😎

Categories
Meta Wordpress

Testing in Production, Oops, No ‘Undo’

Earlier today I accidentally published a test blog post to this site (titled ‘d’) which meant that the ~450 email subscribers to this site would have received that empty blog post via email. I am really sorry about that: I’ll explain below how it happened, and why it shouldn’t happen again.

The way we do testing at WordPress.com is we test new designs and features against ‘production’ backend WordPress sites, which are typically test sites/blogs we have set up under our own WordPress.com user accounts, or test specific accounts we may also use. As with any testing that touches something in production, there’s some risks involved and this morning I accidentally published a test blog post to this WatirMelon site, which I avoid using for testing purposes.

Like many unfortunate events: the reason it happened was a combination of a few different things: I was testing a new mobile editing feature which happened to have an issue where you can’t see the site you are publishing to when you click publish – so I had no visual feedback that I was using this WatirMelon site. I was also using Chrome dev tools to inspect the DOM at the time, and I thought it was in select mode, when it actually wasn’t – the Chrome UI doesn’t differentiate these modes very well. Finally, clicking publish on WordPress.com is (currently) an irreversible action: as soon as I clicked it I realised I had stuffed up but had no way to undo my actions: the emails were sent, it was too late.

I have been advocating internally an option that allows a grace period to undo the publication of a post or page, similar to GMail’s life saving ‘undo send’ feature, for some time, and I recently raised this as a public WordPress.com enhancement request.

This is to address the ‘publish anxiety’ I have (and I imagine many others also have) knowing that clicking a single button is irreversible.

Allowing user actions to be undone, or emphasising ones that are irreversible, is part of Jakob Nielson’s classic 10 usability heuristics.

User control and freedom: users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.

In the meantime, I wrote a GreaseMonkey/TamperoMonkey UserScript that offers an additional confirmation dialog box when clicking “Publish” on WordPress.com. This extra step should be enough to stop me accidentally clicking Publish like I did today and clogging your inboxes with junk.

My UserScript is available as a Gist if you’re interested in it.

And sorry again.

Categories
Meta

The more I think about it the bigger it gets

Every day on my drive to work, I drive past this sign:

The more

The more I think about it the bigger it gets

Like all good artwork, this sign can mean different things to different passersby.