Wednesday, February 7, 2007

When Things Go Wrong

Missed writing Headlines last night. I couldn't blog.

Oh, I could access the blog. But I couldn't edit any posts.

You see, when I do Headlines, I'll have one window open to the blog and another open to news sites.

After I find a Headline that lends itself to something silly, I'll enter it in the post in the blog window, then save it as a draft. That way, if something goes wrong, I only lose the most recent Headline. I learned that the hard way.

But last night, something went wrong. Horribly wrong.

I couldn't edit the post I had started. And not only that, I couldn't edit any post. And I had no idea why.

My first thought was that a file was corrupt. You see, a blog ... and most Web sites and Web applications ... is made up of a bunch of files. And if something goes wrong with one file, the whole thing could crash. Or one critical piece could crash. And that's what I was encountering: the edit portion wasn't working.

All I got was a solid white page when I opened a post to edit it. And I had no idea why.

So, I'm logging on to the server and looking at the files. File sizes. Opening the files and looking at the code. And with all the possible files that could go wrong ... at least for someone who doesn't know all that much about the parts of the Web application.

Found nothing wrong.

Other than that it wouldn't let me edit a post.

I'm here to tell you, a plain white page when you're supposed to be on your blog is a scary thing.

After finding nothing wrong with the individual pages (that took a while), I decided to check the database.

Now, if you ever open a process to directly edit your database, you have to be careful. Very careful. Because one stray character ... or one missing character ... can blow the whole thing up.

So, I'm looking through the database, trying to find something that looks wrong. And, since I don't know exactly what to expect just by looking, I'm proceeding slow and careful, searching all the WordPress documentation I can find.

Finally, after all that, I decided to do something I should have done to start with.

You see, WordPress ... all by itself ... works rather well. But there's a lot it doesn't do.

But people come up with ways to make it do things it otherwise wouldn't do. WordPress calls these things you can add "plug-ins."

And it's a well-known fact (okay, not as well-known as it should be) that when something goes wrong with WordPress, the Plug-ins are the first thing to check.

So I turned them off. Every one of them.

Things started working again.

So, I had to go back and turn them back on.

That takes a while. You see, I'm running 27 plug-ins.

Yeah, that's a lot. I know it.

But I use Widgets in the sidebar. And 11 of them are for the sidebar. Others have to do with spam fighting (5 plugins for that), inline trackbacks that are so popular (4 for that), and other little things I like for one reason or another.

So, for some reason, one or more of the plug-ins caused a problem.

Turning them off fixed it. Then turning them back on, one at a time, things still worked.

So, if this happens again, I'll turn the plug-ins off to see if it fixes itself. Then turn them back on. Instead of spending several hours looking in the wrong place for the problem.

Lesson learned.

And if this saves you several hours of frustration and aggrevation, it's worth it.

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