Muschamp Rd

Time to Upgrade WordPress

November 1st, 2016
Muskblog in WPTouch

Although not what I wanted to be doing, it seems once again some script kiddy wannabe hackers have sucked up all my bandwidth. This time they are not just hotlinkers, this time they seem to be targeting a particular file and standard used by WordPress and other software, either they are trying to guess my password or they just wanted to see if they could bring down my blog/website by brute force. I eventually documented a lot of the difficulties I’ve had keeping the blog running for over a decade.

They succeeded temporarily and of course it was a potentially annoying or embarrassing time for it to happen but my webhost just put my website back online and now with the end of the month I have a full bandwidth quota again, but I certainly have not gotten popular, I rarely even post anymore because I’m trying to focus and I’ve already said too much that has gone unread and unheeded.

This post of course became too long and rambling, but it was necessary to try a lot of techniques to fix both ongoing problems and improve the overall performance of my blog.

Switching to running the latest greatest version of WordPress and of course some more plugins or changes to httaccess should solve my script kiddy problems. However there are a few other issues I need to fix and minor improvements I wanted to make so now that my website is back up and almost all my blog’s plugins are running again, I’ll probably tweak the theme and sidebar a little, or perhaps a lot…

Too many plugins running in the sidebar just slows down performance Twitter and Klout both seem slow, I was thinking of adding a plugin for Flickr and Instagram too. Too often people don’t consider performance on older computers with bad internet connections in the web design community.

My blog renders unacceptably on my iPhone now.

The biggest change I plan to make will only be visible to users of smartphones and some tablets. When Mobilegeddon came I tried to satisfy Googlebot quickly with one or two lines of code in the header, but the latest version of Safari on my iPhone renders my blog horribly so I will be switching to WPtouch. I’m not sure if I’ll go full on “pro” paid plugin just yet, I still haven’t paid for Yoast’s premium plugin but I do follow much of his SEO advice, I always seem to just miss out on opportunities to be popular or more successful, hopefully that finally changes and I’m in the right place at the right time for once.

I’m just going to hit publish quickly and then edit this post when it is live to test out various features of WordPress, my plugins, and eventually WPtouch. The last 2-3 weeks I’ve hardly studied for the Level 2 CFA® exam and this after making a huge effort to catch back up to my written study schedule. I will once again be devoting all my free time to that after of course I get my website back up and running better.

I’ve also decided to retire Mint, I had removed it from my blog previously, but honestly I haven’t been looking at it or even my Google Analytics dashboard much, I’m just not trying very hard to be popular and I’m more concerned with personal branding in search results than vanity statistics, but every now and then I check out my Klout score.

It seems I have long had a problem with spammers trying to “subscribe” to my blog, I thought I had a plugin fighting it but obviously not very effectively so now I must get rid of 24000 spam subscribers and I’ve disabled the option to even register at this level. Disqus should be handling all my real commenters of which there are very very few, I’ve never had an email list but it used to be possible to get new posts via email instead of just RSS which might be a legitimate use of that level of WordPress user, but now I just want to clean up my database it is too full of old garbage data, so I went looking for advice.

My blog renders better in landscape on my iPhone

I might reinstall JetPack as with it I can perhaps add this blog to my Klout score, of course no one cares so much about Klout these days and their widget doesn’t even seem to work reliably, I think I may have a valid API key for their service I might just see what I can code up, my efforts to improve this blog continue to be stymied another plugin seems to have let me down but honestly I can write the SQL myself. I did manage to get support so all my subscribers got purged, things still are weird, I’ve had to write this latest update 3-4 times, it seems my attempts to save it were timing out so still my installation is getting probed or DOS attacked obviously some people don’t like Hokkaido.

My blog as rendered on my new iPad Air 2

I may have to try some more plugins to fight off the bad guys, I still have plans to revise my sidebar yet again, I’m not sure if it is optimization, vanity, or just experimentation. The Twitter widget does not scale on smaller screens and the bigger thumbnails are also a problem floated right on a small mobile screen. It is definitely easy to write a list of plugins and techniques to try, but I need to be studying, I even bought an iPad to put my electronic CFA textbooks on because of course I hurt my back again squatting, I am doing a tonne of prehab/rehab and not going very heavy but still something went wrong, I should have ended the workout instantly maybe but I did more upper body stuff, we’ll see how I feel tomorrow, I don’t think it is as bad as my last back injury, I just am too injury prone now.

I reinstalled JetPack primarily to see if it will help my Klout score to have this blog included after finally learning how this could be done. I think JetPack has way too many features, features I’d already added to my website by other plugins or custom code. I can see how it benefits people who are brand new to WordPress but I definitely prefer Google Analytics over most other analytics options. JetPack has too many options one I may implement is infinite scroll, some don’t like it for performance or ad showing revenue generation, but I have no ads so maybe it is time for infinite scroll on Muskblog.

Muskblog under the default WPTouch theme

I also added back Records but to get it to work I had to reorder the plugins in my sidebar, some plugins don’t get along with other plugins which is I guess why some like JetPack, but if you really want a unique blog you need to implement features that others haven’t been able to get working.

This is why I don’t upgrade WordPress very often there is a bug in Records’ plugin code and has been for a couple months, but I didn’t notice it first there already is a support thread about it, I also don’t think I can easily add infinite scroll to my theme because it is not 100% modern best practices in WordPress theme design but also because I must have a footer to appease the CFA Institute so I guess we’ll just put that change on the back burner. I hope Jeroen Smeets can fix his JavaScript otherwise I might have to…

Now the Jeroen is aware of the problem he may fix it and people say Twitter has no value, it certainly is popular in the tech industry and is being abused during the latest US Election cycle. I’ve continued to spend way too much time “improving” my blog and website. I am using the default WPTouch theme, but I also spent several hours last night customizing and testing it. I was pleased to see all my carefully chosen and sized default images were leveraged. I tweaked some layout settings and colors but the biggest improvement I made was to the Blog Featured Slider.

This was a feature that is enabled by default in WPTouch but to leverage maximally you need to find out the Post ID of your greatest posts, the ones you want to feature. The Blog Featured Slider also leverages my now larger thumbnails but it doesn’t list the posts in the order I entered them into the comma separated list, I even chose my Top 10 China Photos post to be first as I thought it would look photogenic in the header. By default the slider shows the same last 5 posts that the list view does, not very sexy or user-friendly.

My settings for the blog featured slider

The other thing I had to do was create a custom menu for my mobile theme, I just used all my categories, which I had to put in alphabetical order manually and then I added a link to my about page which is hand-coded HTML so I tweaked it and my hand-coded homepage to make them a little easier to read and use on a mobile, but honestly WPTouch is so much better for my iPhone 5 SE which by no means is a cheap or old phone. I literally bought it a few months ago, it has 64 GB of memory and a good screen. My even newer, I literally bought it this week, iPad Air 2 only has 32 GB of memory but it must have an even bigger screen as WPTouch doesn’t consider it necessary to even show my mobile theme on that device.

I’d previously increased my default font size, but one thing I’ve noticed looking at my webpage last night on my iPhone was the link text. If the link text is too long or is too close to another link it is hard to click. Trying to be disciplined and include only one link per paragraph is a good idea, a list of links at the end of an article has long been a staple of online publishing and one of the many tweaks I made this week was adding 3 pixels of space more between each item in the list. Little usability tweaks like this can go unnoticed but if they improve stickiness then are worthwhile.

One thing that really pleased me about WPTouch’s default theme was how well it handled the bottom of individual posts, I don’t know if it is because YARPP and Disqus are two very popular plugins but the navigation and recommendation and even the commenting form seem pretty good, this was an area I put a lot of work into, when I redid my taxonomy and retroactively added featured images to almost 1000 posts it was with an eye towards getting really good recommended posts. I don’t know how often real people use it, perhaps there is better Google Analytics integration in the Pro version but I personally always checkout which posts are recommended on my blog and also some other blogs I follow. Changing the tags, categories, featured image, and content can definitely affect the recommendation algorithm, sometimes even I forget about a blog post I’ve written over the last decade.

Professional Share and YARPP seem to just work in WPTouch

I am still using Professional Share to handle my social sharing primarily because it is tracked well in Google Analytics, one of the reasons I haven’t switched to Yoast’s plugin let alone his Pro version for SEO is I am happy with how my website generally looks in search engines, if I wrote about Justin Bieber or was trying to sell something other than myself maybe I’d have switched by now. I still think I will switch but I’d have to heavily modify my theme as well as replace a number of plugins that handle meta data, Google sitemaps, Google Analytics, possibly even those that help with my taxonomy and social sharing and that is more work than I can devote to this blog at this time. I’m not even sure I’ll fiddle with my sidebar much more, I need to get back to studying everyday and I need a better job.

I spent way too much time on this blog post and improving mostly cosmetic issues on my blog. The malicious login and possible denial of service attack attempts were real, but if my blog and more importantly webmail hadn’t have gone down right when I wanted to send an important email after a job interview, I likely would not have had the impetus to finally install WPTouch and tweak my sidebar and theme more. I am definitely looking for a better job, so if any of these changes improve my search engine rankings and result in more traffic to my resume that is of course a big win, but honestly if the company I had interviewed for last had gotten back to me by the end of the week, I’d of course had said “Yes” now I must workout, study, and of course follow up to see if after six hours of job interviews I was finally able to land a better job.

Disqus works with WPTouch

Last night while surfing my blog in WPTouch on my iPhone I was also please to note that my insistence on using Flickr for hosting some of my photos seems to have just worked. Instagram also seemed to work, but the include JavaScript is much slicker for Flickr and I think Flickr is a better option if you have a lot of photos you want to share and leverage over a number of social networks. Instagram is very popular among some demographics and in some verticals, my Instagram feed is mostly gym selfies for instance. But if you go on vacation and take 100 photos or more or you’ve been carefully collecting and photographing your collection of miniatures for over a decade, Flickr is a much better repository than Instagram.

Instagram may be more viral, but does not always do the best job of protecting photo copyrights, most professional photographers who use it likely use a third app to watermark their images. Flickr again can be used to restrict who can see and use your photos which is a nice feature but may not maximize your virility.  Flickr images can also be indexed by search engines either directly or through a third website even through your own blog. Twitter is also good for rapidly sharing an image, if you upload it directly into Twitter. Flickr supports Twitter Cards but of course Instagram ceased supporting them after they were bought by Facebook.

I’m still not sure if either image sharing service is going to make it into my sidebar, even Twitter seems too slow using a VPN from inside China. I still host images including pretty much all the images in this post on because I’ve found for SEO and for driving traffic from Pinterest in particular it helps to host at least some of your images on the same domain as your actual content.

Stay busted image tag in YARPP

It seems there is an issue with Professional Share or perhaps with the metadata in my blogs header, as my attempt to share using the official Facebook share button just now seems to have failed, I was able to Tweet this post using WPTouch and my iPhone.

And it seems I have found an issue with YARPP which was already documented. This rendering issue does not happen every time. Being behind the Great Firewall makes debugging social media stuff extra hard. I tried to add to the support thread but it seems my posts have disappeared or not appeared. Maybe has noticed I’ve left a bunch of support thread comments in the last 48 hours. This is why I rarely upgrade my WordPress it always is more work than it should be. I tried to rollback YARPP but the version I have on my laptop is very old, so now I wait for support for yet another plugin. You can see the appeal of pro plugins alas just because you pay for support doesn’t mean your problem actually gets solved.

I got another mystery Chinese comment not left using Disqus, I deleted all the subscriber accounts, this must be a bug in the Disqus plugin itself, it never happened until after I upgraded, either that or it is an exploit that was added to WordPress itself, anyone seen this before?

Mysterious Chinese Comments left not using Disqus

I’m not sure what to do about Professional Share I could duplicate some if not all that functionality  in my theme, or switch to Shareaholic but then again maybe not. Then there is Yoast SEO which would replace or conflict with: Headspace 2, Robots Meta, XML Sitemap and maybe Professional Share. Even JetPack might be conflicting with Professional Share but I’m pretty sure the problem I documented was there for a while. Just for completeness the two plugins I must not upgrade are Robots Meta and Yoast’s old Google Analytics plugin, he appears to have sold it so now it is no longer free, but before that a feature was removed that I’m using to make my custom Google Analytics Dashboard work.

Add2Any is another plugin I researched to replace Professional Share, but it too seems to also do dubious stuff. Given the bloat and secret tracking features some plugins add maybe coding directly into my theme is less sophisticated but a faster loading solution with less mysterious tracking code and pixels added to my blog.

Now I really must stop updating this post and my WordPress blog maybe next weekend I can devote a little more time to all this if I can finally come closer to catching up to my study schedule I can try to improve my WordPress install. The busted Facebook button really bothers me and I must update my mashup codebase to work with the new Facebook SDK at some point, not a quick easy fix, I looked at it this weekend too. The like/share button does not require the SDK. Feel free to leave a comment with WordPress or job seeking advice below, Disqus seems to be working fine.

Update August 30th 2017

Today I updated my blog for the first time in a while and discovered that the Pinterest plugin I’m using will not let me pin the long skinny image I especially cropped for pinning on Pinterest. So of course I updated the plugin and it still didn’t work, so I am following a support topic.

My patience was sorely tested this weekend, it is harder and harder to access the Internet outside of China. It is almost easier to use your phone and apps rather than try to use my ever more out of date MacBook Pro. Uploading photos to Flickr was a challenge and the author of Professional Share has not updated his plugin for a long, long, time even though I wrote him about the bug I discovered. I don’t want to fix his plugin, I just want a plugin that works.

So on my next day off I will be fixing the social sharing and meta data on this blog. The metadata is actually perfect but Professional Share is handling the metadata and with both Facebook and Pinterest buttons no longer working it is time for a new solution, the first thing I will try is JetPack’s built in share buttons because I need to run that plugin to fight spam. I’m not above rolling my own meta data solution, Yoast updated an old blog post, but they don’t offer a social sharing plugin that just works that integrates into Google Analytics like Professional Share did.

It appears JetPack Sharing just works, the metadata all seems to validate and I’m even using the official buttons so both Facebook and LinkedIn are counting shares. I may have retire the Pinterest jQuery plugin as honestly it was a feature my old boss liked, I just have a browser plugin running. The one feature of Professional Share I will lose is Google Analytics integration, but honestly my blog is just not so popular and I want it to run as bug free as possible. I’d rather have working social sharing buttons than perfect Google Analytics tracking though I know how to implement it if anyone asks…

Update January 4th 2019

It appears another WordPress upgrade is imminent. I finally removed Mint and before that discovered just how much cruft is being loaded in my header and footer by plugins. I will probably removed HeadSpace2 and replace it with Yoast SEO. I would need new sharing buttons. I’m thinking of hardcoding them into my theme, because I know how to do that. I want to hide them from Chinese users as all but LinkedIn are blocked.

The other two plugins I want to get rid of are JetPack it is so bloated I used only a fraction of the features and I think Yoast SEO will replace some. And the other plugin that slows my blog way down in China is Disqus. I don’t have a big spam problem anymore but very few people leave comments and I want this website to run much faster. Migrating from Disqus back to WordPress native comments might also happen after my next WordPress upgrade.

I was going to put all this off until after I leave China but I can test Chinese page load speeds while I’m here in random cafes and I have to stay until the end of the month because of government and company policies. I’ve applied to too many jobs, no one hired me last year and not much hiring gets done in China until after Chinese New Year so I will go home and see my family. I am willing to relocate to Vancouver, Toronto, New York, Hong Kong. I just want a job I passed all the CFA Exams I should be able to get a job but the only job people want me to do is teach, I may end up teaching Economics or Computer Science.

But before that I’m going to work on my IT skills: Python, PHP, JavaScript, SQL, HTML, CSS, maybe even another higher level language like Java. I could brush up on my VBA, I want to learn Tableau anything to help me with “analysis“.

I already have a number of support requests created. The Internet seems bigger and less friendlier every time I have to research technical problems. I’m committed to speeding up WordPress this month. I’m going to delete revisions, some of my posts have dozens. And I’m going to keep tweaking this theme including possibly hardcoding more of my own solutions because I’m tired of plugin woes.

Lack of support is a perfectly good reason to move away from a plugin and one of the reasons “Pro” plugins exist. Even just better documentation and tutorials or best practices might be enough for me to solve my own problems. I gotta keep looking for a job, but on my next day off I may upgrade WordPress to 5 dot dot.

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  • Muskie says:

    It seems the text below the images for the related posts have gotten smaller. I spent a lot of time on YARPP and it appears they had something wrong in their HTML or CSS which is now working better, I also spent a lot of time editing old posts to have shorter better titles to try and benefit from YARPP. I’m not sure why I never became Internet Famous I seem to have done a lot of what I was told to do by experts, friends, teachers, counsellors, etc. but I am perhaps the least successful person I know but I’ve overcome a lot. I still am trying to be optimistic about my personal situation but the recent US Election is a harbinger of things to come I fear and suddenly busted WordPress plugins don’t seem so important. I must just cut out all distractions and study for 8 more months, I have no other path before me. I am 3-4 weeks behind my study schedule due to devoting time to fixing this blog, job interviews, and helping others. You’d think I’d learn my lesson, people just don’t reciprocate these days you really need to play your cards closer to your vest at all times and look out for number one, I have been far too honest and far too giving in my life, that is clearly not how you get ahead.

  • Muskie says:

    Someone left a comment on this post in Chinese, not using Disqus, I approved it but it does not show up WTF? How did he do that.

  • Muskie says:

    Now that a plugin isn’t working I get notified every time a new user registers and it happens all the time, but they never leave actual comments, hopefully there is a way to turn this off in the core of WordPress because these people are obviously robot spammers/hackers there is a checkbox that says “Anyone can register” maybe I can simply unclick that, now I get numerous messages that say:

    New user registration on your site Muskblog:

  • Muskie says:

    One of the two things most likely to break after a WordPress update besides one of you plugins is commenting or support for Asian language characters like this: 中文

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