Site News: Updates and Suchlike

Good morning everyone!

This morning, I’m updating WordPress and a host of plugins and doing a bit of tweaking and site maintenance. This is in preparation for updating the theme Monday, and then releasing some new stuff once we’ve got a stable platform.

That said, I’m just in the office this morning, so I won’t be tackling any other issues, but feel free to mention them in this thread and I’ll check in later.

Next week I hope to publicly launch our Issues tracker, as well as an all-new submission form for On the Road, as well as a redone Contact a Front Pager form. There are some neat things coming soon such as a localized version of the Pie filter that runs in your browser, couple with one or more comment improvements. I am also planning on a few architectural changes to speed up the site and to reduce the morning slowdown (which is from the daily backup). Once those are in place, I’ll replace the current site search with a much better one. More on that soon.

Open thread y’all

Site News and Open Thread


Just a brief tech update and open thread for non-healthcare conversation.

I’m pleased to report that the permanent test site is up and running. That’s allowing for much-needed fiddling and experimentation that doesn’t affect the live site. There are lots of tweaks and enhancements on the horizon, many things that will make your commenting and reading/watching experience better. I’m hoping I hope some small architectural changes will improve your experience, especially during the mid-late morning when the site seems……to…. c….r…a…w…l.

More about that soon, plus there will be a public-accessible Issues tracker that you can use to submit suggestions, complaints, etc. about the site. I’m always happy to get emails, but going forward, all issues will be entered there so things can be tracked. If nothing else, it gives us a permanent place for people to post ideas, suggestions, and gripes, and they will not get lost. So even if nothing gets done today, that report is still there, and might get looked at with a new perspective at a later time.

Later today, I hope to launch an improvement to the Site Search function. It has come to my attention that the current search isn’t doing what needs to be done as it doesn’t search comments. And yes, I know you can go to Google to search balloon-juice: XXX and it will search the site and comments for “XXX”. But really, the site’s search should also search comments, and we shouldn’t have to go off-site!


That all said, open thread.


ETA: As MissBianca Miss Bianca’s experience has shown, changing your nym (or commenting for the first time) puts your comment into moderation. We’re adding a little helper section to the comment form with some tips and this topic is explained to ensure that folks understand why some things happen.

To explain – the first comment you make with a nym and email address on a device is held in moderation; she skipped the space so the system thought MissBianca was a new commenter and so her first comment was put into Moderation. When she added the space, she was recognized as someone who had made comments previously and so that comment was not held in moderation.

Once that first comment is approved by a Front Pager, subsequent comments from that device, using that same nym and email address, are automatically published.


Should a comment disappear into the aether, please send me an email with the Post name (or a link to it!) and your nym and the rough time so I can investigate. When this happens, it almost always means that your comment was insta-Trashed as opposed to being held in Moderation or being marked as Spam.

Insta-Trash for comments from frequent commenters is an issue I want to solve, so please do let me know. Occasionally there are readers who have always had comments disappear and thus have never successfully commented. If that happens to you, please email me – something about your nym or the email address you’re using is triggering our detection mechanism and I’d like to solve that and add your voice to our conversation.


ETA again: Updated a slew of plugins that suddenly announced their upgradeable status.

Update Your Linux Machines Folks

Researchers found a major bug in Samba, a core component of many Linux and Unix systems as it controls storage and interfaces with Windows and other non-Unix things.

The issue allows a bad guy to run unapproved code uploaded remotely as a root user. Your firewall has to have the right port open, but lots of folks do that to solve a temporary need and then forget to close the port to outsiders.

So, should you have home or work Linux machines, take a few minutes and update them. This also applies to many less-obvious Linux machines such as my personal favorite, the RaspberryPi.

Many use them as cheap controllers for home storage, media centers, home automation, etc.  So don’t neglect them folks – if they get compromised, that’s just a ticking time bomb waiting to get worse.

Unrelated to this news, we’ll be tightening the site up a bit more in anticipation of increased efforts by bad guys.

On the test server front, the good news is that it’s up and running. There are still a few more details to take care of, and I’m pretty much not doing any work from now until Tuesday as I have lots of IT duties and plan to take apart, re-organize and put back together my home office. Fun fun.

Finally, don’t forget that tomorrow at 12:30 Eastern, my guest post on Oceanography will launch, with the author in the comments ready to answer questions. I found his intro to be very interesting, and it led he and me into an in-depth discussion of the numerous crises in our oceans that are here, or will be soon.


Open Thread!

Site Will Be Slow For A Few Hours

I’m actually cloning the site today, as opposed to getting distracted yesterday. This means the site may be a bit sluggish as I’m creating some big archives and transferring them to the test setup. I chose now in hopes of getting it all done before the 5 pm magic hour.


So my apologies if the site isn’t as responsive as normal, but take heart – your long personal nightmare will be over soon! :)


Also, another plug for a guest post on Oceanography coming at 12:30 Eastern on Friday. It will be neat, you’ll learn stuff, and can even ask questions!


Open Thread!



ETA: Slowdown over, ahead of schedule. Be well.


Site Tweaks and Suchlike

note: I pulled this and scheduled it for a later publish to not stomp on Betty’s post.  Sorry for the brief stomp, Betty!

Just a quick update:

The video as is back – yay more site revenue for good causes.

The video ad is back – boo, it makes the page refresh.

Well folks, we’re working on it. We’re seeing what we can do to make the best of both worlds.

Please don’t block all the ads on the site, they’re the lifeblood that a) keeps the community going, and b) ensure that good pet causes are supported. And, should you ignore this plea, once the refresh issue is past, please consider white-listing the site so that we get more ad revenue!

For today, perhaps tomorrow, as we experiment with some settings, the ad may go away, make the page refresh, or show an error message. Please be patient while we try to get it right.

This wouldn’t even be seen by you if we had a test server, but which we don’t…yet. I just started setting it up today, and expect to have it fully functional by the end of the week. When ready, it will be an almost clone of the full site, with a few configuration differences. It will be a full-time dedicated server for experimenting with new or changed features, etc. So less bumps in the future as we return to the ideal of a full-time test/development server!

Alongside this will be a proper Issues tracker so that problems, ideas, complaints, etc. about the technical side of the site can be put in one central, public place. No more spreadsheets, to-do lists, emails, comments, phone calls, etc. – just a simple, organized list of Issues.

More details will be forthcoming, but it is my sincere hope that we’ll be able to improve this site, smooth over rough patches, and hopefully add a feature or two here and there that makes your reader/commenter life better.

As a final piece of news, you may have noticed that there is an In Memoriam widget at the top of the sidebar. It’s temporary, just there for a few weeks, but please do keep greennotGreen’s family in your thoughts and prayers, and if you have a bit to spare, consider a donation to honor her, and to thank her and her family for sharing her journey. I know that I am changed from going through this; I suspect many of us are.

I don’t expect to be in the comments much, but feel free to post tech issues, ideas, etc. I am taking good ideas and adding them to the list. That won’t mean they all get done, but once they’re official issues, at least there’s a process and explanations if an issue is closed without resolution.


ETA: Please give feedback below if the desktop site is working better for you than earlier today or yesterday, or if it’s the same, or worse. If it is the same as before, also let me know.  I made some changes that seemed to fix things but then I just saw what I think was the partial reload, so now I’m not sure what to think.

WordPress Update In a Few Minutes

Just a (hopefully!) quick update to the core WordPress install.


I’m hitting the sack after doing it, so I won’t be in the comments; feel free to suggest site tweaks or what-have-you as I will be planning a lot of that this coming week.


‘night all!


Oh – Open Thread!

Site Maintenance

Fixed a few issues and got the FB autopublish working again.

Thanks Alain.