Calling All IT-Connected NC Readers! We Need a New WordPress Support Person or Firm!

We seem to have had a bad run of luck on the WordPress support side, although some of that is due to the peculiar nature of our service needs, in that we need a high level of service from someone seasoned and skilled. That is harder to find than you might think. There are many WordPress people who are more than competent to run less demanding sites, are confident they can handle ours, and then find out (despite our doing our best to clue them in) that they didn’t know what they didn’t know.

By way of background, we use WordPress as our blogging software. It’s a sound choice for many reasons, including that it can be tuned in many ways (for instance, it’s very well adapted to multiple users, with a large range of roles that can be assigned), has a large community developing plugins for further customization, and therefore also has a relatively large pool of professionals who can provide support. Some sites much larger than ours, such as Huffington Post, use WordPress.

The bad news about WordPress, however, is that precisely because it is so feature-heavy, it requires someone who really knows WordPress to do a good job with it. You do not want to hire a generally good code jockey and have them learn WordPress with you as their guinea pig. And the weak point of WordPress is that is scales badly. It is a notorious database hog and is more prone to breakage and funny anomalies than other website software.

Even though NC is a simple site in many respects, because we have a very active comments section that we insist on having on our servers and hence in WordPress, we run the database very hard. We’ve made a number of adjustments and we think we’ve solved that problem as best we can.

However, we have some significant tasks that need to be completed, and we also need to have “routine” support, which in NC’s case may not be exactly routine. For instance, if the site falls over in the middle of the night, our very responsive webhost can usually get it going again, but in the past we’ve had WordPress be the source of site seizures. While we can’t expect an individual or firm to be on deck 24/7, we do want someone who can give us top priority when we can get a hold of them if we do have an emergency.

So essentially, we have three sets of needs:

  1. Big projects,
  2. Small site tweaks/tuning, and
  3. Emergency service

Even though we’d describe our set of needs to our past service providers, and they were confident they could meet them all, we’ve found it does not seem to work that way in practice. For instance, our last service provider is not at all set up to provide emergency support, and also made changes to our live site (!) without testing them on our development site. That practice caused serious problems for us.

It may be that we have yet to find the right person or firm, or it may be that we need to bifurcate somehow, as in use two providers for different needs, which would also give us a bit more redundancy in terms of emergency service. However, having two providers runs the risk of sibling rivalry/sniping between them, which would create more managerial load for Lambert and me. So the mythical one service provider is probably the best solution, with all the caveats above.

Also, well-meaning readers beware: this is NOT a hosting issue! This is strictly a software issue. Services like WP Engine are hosts, which are not what we need (and separately, we had a bad experience with them).

Below is our next big project. Someone who is competent to handle this is almost certainly competent to handle our other support needs:

We need what amounts to a redesign under the hood, or what in the lingo is called a “mobile first” design. We do not want to change the look and feel of the desktop site, but NC does not render correctly on mobile devices. (In essence, the current implementation should have “Let CSS be CSS” by leveraging the CSS cascade. It doesn’t. Rather, we have a “mobile last” implementation that uses style-by-style over-rides for mobile. That’s hard to maintain and doesn’t work very well.)

We’d be open to the idea of someone taking on this project from start to finish and handling the rest of our support needs at the same time on a trial basis.

Please let us know if you have worked with anyone who has the right skills. If you are volunteering yourself or someone you know personally, we will need references, as experience has shown us that we need to verify that you have done this type of design/redesign work previously.

Thanks for your help and interest!

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  1. craazyman

    Oh Irony

    This sounds like one of those corporate complaints they can’t find “the right people”. The peanut gallery would rip this to shreds. Some New York Money Queen wants a shoeshine boy — but can’t find one with 5 years experience polishing Cordovan bluchers with a spit shine.

    What about training somebody? Is every worker out there an idiot? Doesn’t a Harvard Business School CEO run this joint? That would get the peanut gallery foaming at the mouth.

    hahahahahah. sorry just cracking myself up. :-)

    1. EmilianoZ

      Yep, next thing you know, they’ll just outsource to some famished IT worker in India for $2/hr.

      1. Clive

        And then after a year some consulting shop will be brought in and say “your outsourcer’s rate card is too high, we can get the work done by two children in a cage in China…”

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      So being candid is now used as a basis for attacking us and undermining our effort to find new people? What you wrote is a kick in the teeth and completely unfair.

      We have repeatedly asked for referrals and have never turned anyone down based on the price they asked for their services. There seems to be a well established price range for WordPress people in the US and it varies somewhat by their range of skills (as in are they primarily WordPress people or are they good code jockeys on other fronts, and to a lesser degree, where they are located).

      In fact, we’ve turned down providers who approached us with low prices because their team was overseas because our strong sense was that their service standards were not up to our needs. We also turned down a domestic provider who offered us a “too good to be true” price structure because although he was clearly very proficient in other types of programming, he was much less experienced on WordPress, and we had a strong sense he did not know what he did not know about WordPress (he also insisted on hosting our site, so exiting a relationship with him if he did not have the WordPress chops we needed would have been vastly more difficult than finding a project/support person).

      Our problem, and we’ve known this to be true for years from a WordPress support standpoint is that NC is in the top 1% of blogs in terms of how hard we run it on WordPress (due to our traffic level and how active our comments section is, since every comment is a database update) and our 24/7 uptime demands.

      The overwhelming majority of WordPress people have not worked with a site like ours (or if they have, they are employees, as in employed at the few ginorous sites like Huffington Post and not available to work for us). We are very clear that the requirements of our site are demanding, that most WP people have not encountered it. We get people who say they understand our needs but either have competence or personal issues (like they took on our site in addition to commitments they had, and were overloaded, or wanted huge amounts of unproductive interaction and reassurance and wanted to belabor every task we asked to have completed) that made them a bad fit.

      Our experience in finding that it surprisingly difficult as a freestanding site to find decent WordPress help is shared by other sites in our space. Barry Ritholtz has had similar tsuris, as have smaller, less demanding sites such as Angry Bear. A second problem is that some people may have designed a site or two or even a few and think they know WordPress well enough to handle a site like ours. That was the case with the very first WordPress person we hired. We discovered with him, as Lambert would describe it, that his problem-solving was like an ant pushing a crumb. With his persistence, it would eventually fall into a hole (as in the problem would finally go away) but he seemed to flip settings and change features at random, and have no idea/theory of what might have caused the problem, and no diagnostic approach.

      So you are really off base in charging us, by implication, with being cheap.

      1. craazyman

        Holy Cowbells

        I mean really. Just kdding Sorry I thought it was funny, I’m a fanboy not a critic! I guess women sometimes don’t get a guy’s sense of humor. I guess I should have been more reflective, but I honestly did not mean to give offence in any way. Really. I can buy you a drink and dinner some night if you won’t hit me with a fist.

        I knew something was wrong when it rejected my coment about the utility story a ffew days ago — it was a disturbance in the force.

        Usually only the most ludicrous comments I try to post get lost. But this one — it was a thoughtful analysiis of electricity markets and the relationship of linear regression to reality. It got eaten! Oh well. I knew the DELETE-IT algorithm was misfiring. That clued me in something was up. Sometimes you can feel things in the air, but sometimes you can’t. OR at leaast I cant

        1. craazyman

          anyway, time ran out on the edit clock.

          it was so ludicrously untrue of a characterization, such a misplaced charicatture — really the opposite of your reality, a total reverse of that reality = I thought it would be obvious it was just a riff.

          also what about the smiley face! I thought that would mean sometihing.

          I guess I need to be more sensitive to possibilitties for misintepretation. There’s a great line in The Great Gatsby where Fittzgerald writes somethiing about how bad it can get and then you “realize how horrible a rose can be” or something to that effect. It was beautiful how he put it. But hes a master. It gets like that. Sorry if it came across on one of those days.

          1. craazyman

            sorry about rambling on like a moron, but I have to give the master his due. It’s always better than you remember it, when a master writes it. It was after Gatsby realized Daisy was lost to Tom Buchanan forever and The Master wrote (this is from my hard cover edition):

            “He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about . . . ” – The Great Gatsby

            Faaaak, how good is that? It’s so good there’s nothing left to say.

        2. JTFaraday

          “I guess women sometimes don’t get a guy’s sense of humor.”

          Yeah, that’s probably true.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          It was the comment at the top of the post, two people piled on, and the comment at the top of a post has a disproportionate impact on the entire thread. If I had not intervened, there would have been more of the same. That would have taken the thread even more off topic and gotten any prospective candidates worried about what they might be getting into.

          1. EmilianoZ

            The disproportionate importance of the first post, I think that has something to do with the “anchoring” phenomenon described by Tversky & Kahneman. Maybe the order of the posts should be randomized every 30 mn.

            Shame on Clive. What a mouton de Panurge!

            1. Clive

              “mouton de Panurge” … Quelle fromage for my French, I had to look that one up ! Pardon mon ignorance. Now, that Panurge fellow, an “exceedingly crafty knave, libertine, and coward”, he sounds like all those cool kids in school that I secretly wanted to be like. But of course, I never dare be so much as late returning a library book…

    3. abynormal

      are you fu*king high? seriously craazy, i never took you for one to bite the hand that feeds…oh well, live n learn.

      “The old endless chain of love, tolerance, indifference, aversion and disgust.”

      1. ohmyheck

        “are you fu*king high?”… I think that goes without saying.
        He was making a joke and it bombed spectacularly. He apologized.
        I for one, am going to cut him some slack.

        1. abynormal

          we all bomb…we can’t see each others facial expressions etc and this puts on us rice paper more often than if we were face to face. craazy has been here long enough to know how hard the technical end of the site weighs on Yves. when i see an NC personal thread for assistance and my stomach tightens…i worry about her health and how much she can endure.

          craazy threads a wicked weave and i for another will continue to follow him…he reminds me to lighten up or i’ll be breathing dreams like air. lawd knows ive apologized to Yves (a few times).

          let’s carry on Naked Kings N Queens

          1. ohmyheck

            “breathing dreams like air.”… you never cease to amaze me. And I hold you in highest regard…. thank you for everything you contribute. :-)

  2. katiebird

    It sounds like a dream job to me. And amazingly, I’m currently working on several Responsive Web Design sites (one of them WordPress). (deep breath) and Bootstrap 3…. It’s a new world. Challenging but a lot of fun.

    I know you’ll find someone good.

  3. hunkerdown

    You’ll notice that the big WordPress sites are, in general, *not* using WordPress comments. Many use Disqus; HuffPo appears to have rolled their own (or at least is not burning them into the page as is WP’s usual setup). So, if I might ask, exclusively in relation to comments, what does WordPress actually *do* for you?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      1. Readers have firmly and loudly rejected the idea of third-party services like Disqus, which they’ve encountered on other sites. And that was before we made meaningful investments in making the comments section more user-friendly, like making it easy to insert HTML tags, giving a preview feature, and allowing readers to edit and delete comments for up to four minutes.

      If we were to switch to a third-party service, we’d see a significant drop in the number of comments. That would hurt not only our traffic level, since comments are a big draw to the site, but over time, our quality. We rely on interaction with the commentariat to keep us sharp and to provide intel.

      2. We regard the comments as important intellectual property of Naked Capitalism. Having it on another site means we do not have control and ownership of it. For instance, once in a while someone will get very upset about a comment (as in deem it to be defamatory) and demand that we remove it. Those people are nutcases and have always gone away. However, nutcases are capable of being nutty enough to sue. If our comments were on a third party site (as in those providers make just about nothing providing the service), I can guarantee they’d roll if they got a nastygram from a kook demanding the identity of the comment provider (as in they are not prepared to spend one minute or one legal dollar protecting the people or sites whose comments they host). We would fight (and given the state of precedents, almost certainly win).

      1. Jim McKay

        Just wanted to say… good answers Yves. Customizing comments as you describe is inviting to users. Using cookie cutter, 3rd party managed comment plugins as hunkerdown suggests: very bad idea.

        Down thread suggestions of moving to Drupal/Joomla… again, bad idea. Drupal is… bloated: user friendly for inexperienced or moderately inexperienced coders, but built on what is now dated design paradigms: DRUPAL works fine, but there’s a lot more code being executed to get the job done then in more current, best design practices. Joomla is very good for what it’s meant to be: it’s not meant to be exclusively blogging “presentation”. It also has security (hackable) issues difficult to manage for large volume sites.

        The redesign from WP to Joomla (or host of other good OS CMS’s) is not prohibitive (routine really): just they aren’t the right tools for what you do here.

        Amongst the Open Source CSM’s, you’re on the right platform.

        We could do this work you ask for… with distinction. Would not be interested in full time maintenance, but could…

        – do your major updates/upgrades in timely fashion, craft/build the test suites to prove it on trial IP before for full inspection, before going “live”.
        – whatever your DB issues, there’s no reason for stress/bottlenecks on DB from, as you seem to indicate… based on comment volume. If you’re experiencing this, something’s wrong . This should be smooth as silk: your volume of comments not that large. Transaction rate/volume you have here should not challenge DB performance.
        – we would be willing to train webmaster and/or team for proper maintenance after upgrades. Competent techs, who don’t keep up w/version changes (common)… if they have solid WP experience, can be brought up to speed. Need someone who’s capable of “lifting the hood” and going into source code, however.

        Briefly, among other things… we deliver highly customized “portals”: multi functional sites. We dig in, rewrite and or combine source code from WP/MAGENTO and several other Open Source platforms to combine the best of each, seamlessly invisible to the frontend, depending on customer needs. We include custom ERP integration as one package, managed by one common backend.

        Not offering this to “get some work”: we’ve got plenty. Think maybe, however… can get both your underlying WP code fixed/upgraded/solid/secure, handle major updates (depending on schedule), and train dedicated (do you have someone in house?) webmaster w/solid WP backround to “keep up with the new stuff”.

        You have my email. If you’re interested and want to talk, send me (or have one of your trusted tech people) contact me… I’ll provide ph. #, details, and maybe access to some of our private customer and/or demo sites.

        1. Michael Robinson

          Just want to support this.

          Your site performance problems are not WordPress problems, they are database problems. A WordPress expert should not be assumed to be competent to fix database problems. Get a database expert to fix the database problems.

          1. hunkerdown

            Have you even ever looked at WordPress code? No? I can assure you that WordPress is a broken piece of s–t and has one of the worst object-relation mappers I’ve seen in any production code. There is a sound technological reason why people use Disqus, and that is because WordPress is a toy that happens to sorta work in production well enough given enoguh babysitting.

            My ideal solution would be to host a captive comments server that doesn’t have to deal with years of bad meat or irrelevant concerns added to the stone soup.

      2. Jim McKay


        BTW… did you ever get your SAFARI issue solved, that limited your advanced GOOGLE search access?

        If not (this was never mentioned in thread where you brought it up), try:

        – Open Safari
        – Click Safari > Preferences
        – Click: Security
        – On Security tab, under Web Content, make sure “Enable Javascript” is checked.

        Disabled JS is most common cause of problem you describe.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Thanks for the reminder. I keep switching to Chrome when I need to do date searches, which is a really dumb work-around. But it turns out Javascript was enabled :-(

  4. diptherio

    Yves, I can pass this along to the tech co-op listserv, if you like. I’m sure you’ll get at least few responses from that. Let me know if that’s ok.

  5. Ernesto Lyon

    It may be time to bite the bullet and move to a platform that you won’t be at the bleeding edge on. Maybe Drupal or Joomla?

    I know, easier said than done.

    1. katiebird

      I tried working with Joomla for a while but it seemed painfully slow on every platform I tested it on. Like, has my computer died slow. That was 2 or 3 years ago though. Is it any better now?

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      We’d have to completely redo the site, which is an enormous cost and time sink. It’s not even remotely in our budget.

      To my knowledge, Drupal does not have all the bells and whistles that WordPress has. And I’d have to learn new software, something I despite. I’d rather get a root canal than learn a new program.

      WordPress is not “bleeding edge”. It is very widely used. We are just a more demanding user of it, and I doubt going to Drupal would help, particularly since we’ve worked around what is the weak point of WP, the database problem, by implementing and optimizing caching. It does inconvenience readers sometimes (as in it might take a minute for their comment to appear, which they find disconcerting) but we now get hardly any complaints, so that compromise seems workable.

      I think the real issue is our uptime demands v. the general state of software, and the fact that we are competing with MSM sites that have dedicated staff. Look, Microsoft is only, what, at best four sigma? That means they EXPECT the equivalent of nearly a day of downtime a year. So I’m not convinced a change would make our situation better, but would simply replace on set of problems (complexity due to a ton of features) with another (needing to spend a lot to constantly re-do the site to keep adding features/functionality that we determine we can’t live without that we have to code in order to have it. The latter is not just a huge money cost, it is a cost on my most valuable resource, my time. I do not want to be running IT or having to think a lot about site design needs).

      1. Lambert Strether

        Drupal has more bells and whistles, but after a disastrous bug that actually endangered people’s complete servers, I can’t in good conscience recommend it. Sadly, I think that community has jumped the shark. Joomla’s worse.

        Adding, it took me about two solid days of work and nailbiting to work through that bug with my host, backing up and restoring my site, and making sure the server wasn’t infected. NC doesn’t have that amount of time. In fact, I didn’t.

  6. William Cole


    I’ve developed several WP sites pro-Bono for non profits, and would love to help you out here. But my day job would most certainly get in the way of any emergency support requirements. Based on what you are saying, you definitely need a team of folks to handle testing/development/emergency support. Would be skeptical if any one person says they could handle this by themselves – even working full time.

    Agreed that WP has a tremendous library of 3rd-party add-ins which really add to it’s usability. But since the add-ins are not validated or regression tested with each release of WP (i.e. they way the Apple store independently validates all apps with iOS releases), it can be a real pain. I don’t know of any Fortune-100 firm that uses WP in an industrial way.

    That’s not to say that it can’t be scaled up. But the scalability is dependent on the LAMP host/version technology stack that WP sits on. Deploying on a 3rd-party web hosting environment is problematic, as you have no control over the version/configuration of PhP, MySQL, (etc). There is also the problem of load management on a shared commercial service. (Believe nothing when it comes to service level agreements that firms like GoDaddy or Bluehost try to sell you. There is no way those guys can predict and manage the load balancing on the back end to give you consistent performance.)

    I think this may be where half the hell in your life with your site lives. Deploying on your own dedicated servers would solve many of these issues. (Not sure if HuffPo has their own server farm or uses a dedicated 3rd party provider like Amazon or Google.)

    A trick I have used in the past is to (1.) deploy on your own dedicated servers, allowing you to control the technology stack and, (2.) segregate the WP pages and their associated comments into 2 separate web services on different servers, which unblocks many of the REST/session management bottlenecks. Just a thought…

    Keep up the great work!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      We have long had a dedicated server at our webhost, and he’s made running WP sites a mini-focus of his business. He consults to major firms in Silicon Valley as well as teaches, so he has much better technical chops than most webhosts.

      He’s going to upgrade later this year to give us full redundancy, so hosting is not the issue. By mentioning that we are demanding users of WP and mentioning the database, I may have unwittingly given the impression we are having stability issues. We aren’t and haven’t for a very long time. And any sluggishness on the site comes entirely from the stuff from our third-party ad service.

      We really have not had any emergency issues for a while save ones created by the service we just tried and parted from (and they created two major problems in less than a month, not good, and one of them it took Lambert and our webhost 2 hours to identify and undo. If Lambert weren’t a good general tech jockey, we’d really have been stuck).

      The big potential source of emergency troubles for us now is spam attacks (which our host and not our WP person handles), plugins breaking when we do upgrades (hasn’t happened on the last two upgrades but is always a risk) and something going awry when new features are implemented (that ought to be caught on our dev site). We also have had stuff just go pear-shaped randomly, like one night the upload images function didn’t work, which would have meant no antidote. I have no idea why that crapped out, but our then WP person fixed it.

      In other words, your thesis is not correct. Our hosting is fine and we’ve got the caching/load problems under control as a result of a good deal of optimization that he did.

      The problem is we have some bad coding in our last redesign that we need to rip up and redo, and that is not a small task, and we have another major WordPress issue in the pipeline after that, flipping our categories to tags and assigning categories to our existing posts. And a site like ours alway needs some tweaks (like our ad service asking for code to be added, or a new mini feature we want to add).

      1. Jim McKay

        the big potential source of emergency troubles for us now is spam attacks

        What kind… can you describe them? Rogue email code embedded in your pages, and hijacking your subscriber’s email as spam targets? (BIG WP problem in last year or so… very fixable).

        Since I don’t see typical spam in your comments, thinking spamming problem… whatever it is, must be something not visible on NC’s frontend?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          No, Chinese spambots attack all sites of any decent traffic levels. A US tax journal, for instance, also gets hit. We’ve got normal attacks well under control, but once in a while they are much worse than usual.

          1. Jim McKay

            That’s an issue entirely separate from WP, if it’s as you say (you’ve eliminated specifics).

            Of note:

            – WP has, varying through different versions, unique vulnerabilities so that… hackers can exploit non-WP (eg: email, messaging or other non-standard communication ports used on a host’s OS setup). These can be utilized by any spammer (Chinese or otherwise), for anywhere from harmless but nefarious activities to exploits capable of getting any exploited IP address blacklisted (seen a lot of this).
            – The Chinese bots… almost all of ’em, are looking for data intended to be private. And many of them are good at “drilling through” firewalls and getting it. This is not usually referred to as “spamming”. Protecting against this is the hosting service’s responsibility, entirely: this kind of stuff needs to detect intrusions at the firewall… long before bot arrives at a given IP’s subranges (NC’s for example). Keeping up with this is a fulltime job in itself… the staff and/or 3rd party services providing this never stop improving. It’s an ongoing cat/mouse game. Even GoDaddy (which has been very good on this front) is fighting to keep up right now.

            It’s impossible for even 1 or 2 full time (and very capable) Net/Sys Admins to do this successfully w/out a budget providing access to the best of 3rd party tools as they emerge/become available.

            There’s some other paradigm changing technologies just appearing, which are going to give a big leap over these kinds of intrusions for a good while (single sign on, for example).

            I think maybe you need a top notch consultant who really knows what they’re doing, to advise on a 1/2/3 year strategy before you guess (essentially) or hope w/a talented WP specialist. s

  7. Nan

    Please ignore if you have all of the following in place.

    I have seen repeated posts by you on problems with your suppliers over the years. As an IT guy it sounds to me that you may need to think about your IT processes and properly defining SLAs. E.g. having production changes without sufficient testing and customer sign off is really poor by your supplier and should trigger a penalty in some form. ITIL is at least in Europe a standard for this. As this would be supplier independent you could quite easily go to the next supplier and say this is what we want, so the work would not be in vain.

    It would also allow your supplier to properly price the service and to tell you when something is not covered. Thinking about these things before they occur generally allows for a more open discussion than when things are breaking down and everything needs to be fixed immediately. One downside may be that the service level you expect is simply not covered by the money you are willing to spend.

    The way you currently lay out your requirements is that it reads not very well defined and open ended. For instance, I can’t tell what emergency means for you. What constitutes an emergency? Site down? Comments down? Comments slow? … And what is the resolution time? Days, hours, … Any serious IT company will need this to give you proper support and allocate staff.

    Part would also be to split between first, second and third level support. You seem to look for the word press guru who also does operations. That rarely works. If I am a great word press guy I don’t want to tackle mundane tasks as rebooting servers, taking emergency calls in the middle of the night, … I have more fun and make more money doing projects. And yeah, I might deal with project leftovers.

    For operations you should standardize and document. It shouldn’t take a WordPress super specialist to deal with occasional outage (incident). If its a known issue (problem in ITIL talk), there should be instructions on how to proceed that the first or second level support can follow. Too many incidents should trigger an analysis and a fix.

    Writing SLAs is tedious, but given your negative experiences might well be worth it.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is a nice school of thought, but you are assuming we are a larger site dealing with larger vendors than we are. We are dealing with individual providers and very small firms. I’ve done a lot of project management over my life in all sorts of settings, and the degree of formality/documentation you are calling for is overkill relative to the size and complexity of our tasks.

      It should be common sense that you don’t run live tests on sites, particularly on that is a high traffic publication with an international, meaning 24/7, readership. We never had to tell ANY previous support person that. It’s like having to tell a painter to scrape and prime the walls before he applies paint. You assume a basic level of professionalism. Our last firm, despite having a pretty rigid ticketing system, was remarkably lax about other basic protocols.

  8. Yoni

    Hi Yves,
    We’re a WP shop that has written plugins, modified guts of WP (though ill-advised, due to updates) and played with every DB config you can imagine. We also have a mission to work with social justice oriented, progressive organizations and presences. I’ve corresponded with Lambert before, but happy to take on any work if you so decide!

  9. meadows

    I just have to say how appreciative I am for this site. I have learned so much and the regular updating is great. There’s a lotta smoke and mirrors out there and it is terrific when you guys pull back the curtain.

    So there is this struggle between keeping a current not functional system afloat and an alternative system as replacement not yet in place.

    I would suggest that it’d be great to lay out a system that would better be in sync with regular people. What would it look like and would it have a name?

    Give me a name and describe it.

  10. TMoney

    For comments – have you approached CalculatedRisk, the comments platform could be integrated into WP and seems to be able to cope with LOTS of comments. It would take the pressure off your WP db. I suspect hoocoodanode is a labour of love and would appreciate a paying customer !

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I know you mean to be helpful, but our readers said they didn’t like hoocoodannode when CR implemented it. See these comments also:

      Plus as I indicated earlier, we want comments on our severs, period. We regard that as our intellectual property and our obligation to enable us to protect the commentariat from litigation threats if anyone were to try to go after someone who left a comment they did not like.

      1. hunkerdown

        What are your thoughts on a *captive* comments engine, then? I understand the ownership issues (and thanks for laying it out above, Yves); those would be sorted. Correct me if I’m wrong, but comments aren’t very closely coupled to the posts, other than by the identity of the post itself, and having the WordPress comments engine and every plugin installed inspecting them as they go by seems… inefficient.

        It seems like something I could bang out on a slow weekend. Hope I get one of those soon…

  11. flora

    I’m not a WP expert. My only thought is that it would be a good idea to have someone who is a WP expert be on your hiring committee. Maybe there’s someone good you know of who isn’t available for your work but would be available to hire as a short term consultant to help vet resumes, correspondence, interview, etc. Just my 2¢. Good luck.

    1. flora

      And, if nothing else, a simple one hour consult with an expert may give you new questions to ask prospective hires that will indicate their level of expertise as it applies to your requirements. (Imagine how different the PE investing world would be if prospective investors asked PE firms a few of the questions you ask.)

  12. Art Eclectic

    Dang, I’m still at the intermediate level in becoming a WP developer. I’d love to help you out but you need someone more experienced and my talents are focused more the design and usability side.

    I have met a few good people locally at WordCamp, if you come up lacking after this post let me know and I’ll make some introductions.

  13. Jon S.

    I’m a loyal reader and I’ve never commented before. I am the IT Director of a large organization. I’m also a respectable PHP programmer and dabble with Drupal. Throwing more advice and take it for what it’s worth. Front-end designers usually make terrible back-end systems managers and vice-versa. Those are very different skill sets.

    Split the roles. I assume you are running this on a LAMP stack. Your back-end guy should be a competent programmer, Linux admin & DBA. He should be monitoring every aspect of the system all the time. The monitoring program should kick off programs he writes to resolve problems prior to them occurring. If he is doing his job correctly, he shouldn’t have to do anything. This is how Unix admins worked in the good old days.

    Implement proper change management. Your design guy should not be given access to the production server. Let him/her work on dev & test machines only. Let Lambert or someone else move changes into production with a solid roll-back plan if something unexpectedly fails.

    Finally get some automated test software. It’s an expense, a hassle and a lot of work up front. But worth every penny over the long haul.

    Your at the point where you need proper IT governance policies in place. You just didn’t know it. Congratulations.


    1. Yves Smith Post author

      We can’t do that because when we have a problem, the WP guy, who is more than a design guy, needs access to the production server. WP people do not just do design, they will do our upgrades, test and install plugin, and deal with any negative consequences when we do upgrades. We’ve also have problems on the live version that our WP people have to diagnose and fix. The new job of our to-be-engaged WP person is to fix the CSS, which again is NOT a design job, and the big project after that is plumbing, and not design, related.

      We already have role bifurcation and agree otherwise. We’ve had people who want to host us and do WP and that doesn’t strike us as a good idea at all. We have a very good host now and he’s been a real soldier on the few times we’ve had problems that are more in his wheelhouse (like dealing with spambot attacks).

      And Lambert is not going to do IT. That is not his job and I’ll lose him as a writer if I ask do that in anything other than emergencies when I can’t raise the WP person and he might be able to fix it.

      1. Kyle

        Hi Yves,

        (In essence, the current implementation should have “Let CSS be CSS” by leveraging the CSS cascade. It doesn’t.

        The new job of our to-be-engaged WP person is to fix the CSS, which again is NOT a design job, and the big project after that is plumbing, and not design, related.

        I’ve just run a CSS error report on your site. It’s useful in analyzing where the CSS problems are. Obvious problems are that you’re making multiple calls to the same style sheet and also to what appears to be older style sheets plus others that appear to be modifying only a certain area of the page. These can be handled by amalgamating the preferred coding in each style sheet into one style sheet and just make one call to it. There are multiple inline style declarations that can be moved to a style sheet also. They appear to be work arounds but would do just as well in a style sheet.

        I have it in sequence and also broken down into just the errors alone and style sheet calls alone.

        If you’re interested in having this for future reference for your new WP person and also for you, how would you like me to get this to you. Here or email? The file is free gratis.

  14. Anonymized-Commenter

    I know folks who handle things like Just Security, though I don’t myself (much as I’d love to volunteer). They might be willing to look into taking on another project. Would you like me to put you in touch? If so, please let me know.

    Additionally, a good shibboleth for anyone you talk with is that they should know about Varnish, which even in a comment-heavy site like yours ought to do wonders for how hard you’re hitting the DB. If your previous folks haven’t at least suggested it (or a similar caching solution), they’re doing you a disservice–it helped keep that aforementioned site up with minimal intervention all weekend when a post made it to the front page of Reddit…

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks. We’ve been caching for years.

      I’m generally game for referrals but am not clear re the reasoning behind the Just Security referral. They may be very good technologists in general, but what we need is a WordPress person or firm which understands the demands of a publishing site. Too many of the WordPress people we’ve come across seem to do product/service sites with blogs attached, and the requirements are different on a lot of axes. A less demanding WP site is also pretty different. You’d think those difference would not affect the ability of tech people to handle our site. A program is a program, after all. But we’ve found out the hard way that it does.

      1. Anonymized-Commenter

        Hi Yves,
        The JustSecurity mention was because it’s a high-traffic political commentary blog built on WP. They made the decision not to allow comments (to avoid many of the issues you’ve talked about here, and since the law profs who run the content don’t have time to moderate) but otherwise it seemed like a fairly good parallel.

  15. Steven Greenberg

    I just had some thoughts that I could share, but it has been days since I first read this post and I have not been keeping up with the comments. I have read a few right now, but I haven’t had the time to read them all. So forgive me if I say something that has already been said before.

    I can go into a long history of my experience with Drupal, but suffice it to say that keeping the Drupal software up-to-date is a full time job in itself. At some point I had let one of my Drupal sites get so out-of-date that I decided it would be easier to redo the website in WordPress than it would be to bring the Drupal software up-to-date. I had resisted using WordPress for anything but a blog because i couldn’t imagine how you would use it for a general website. With some encouragement, I put my mind to it and realized what a fool I had been for avoiding using WordPress compared to Drupal. Keeping WordPress software up-to-date compared to Drupal is a no-brainer. WordPress is literally just a push-button operation for me, whereas Drupal required a lot of thought, a lot of manual steps, and it was subject to errors that took a while to fix. Drupal kept making incompatible new major versions that required site conversions to use. The contributors of third-party add-ons were way behind in keeping up to the Drupal changes. So, even if you put in the effort to upgrade to a new Drupal major version, you couldn’t always use some of the add-ons that you had been using, and there were no replacements. They even went to another major version rewrite before the third party packages had caught up to the last one. The last thing you need is to have a software vendor force you to adapt to their new versions when you have your own set of priorities for your staff.

    I am now using the Customizr responsive theme in WordPress. I think it adapts pretty well to various sized displays, but of course, your blog may put more strain on it that my little one does. I first tried Customizr on the general website I was rewriting. Eventually I also realized that it would be next to trivial to switch my seven year old theme on my blog to use Customizr, too.

    The one thing that WordPress does not allow me to do that Drupal did allow was that I could write PHP in the posts and pages of the web site.

    You seem to know quite a lot about the technical aspects of the problems your web site faces. So it looks like you should be in a good position to talk to other managers like the people at HuffPo and other large sites who use WordPress. What kind of people do they hire? What kind of salaries do they pay? How many people do they have on their staffs? Where do they find people?

    It occurs to me that if you had a nice job description written up, your readers here could use it with their Linked-in connections to help you find someone.

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