This is a reflection on my recent challenges associated with maintaining a blog and an explanation of why I persist in doing it.
I got talking with some of technical designers in my workplace recently. I was inquiring about the plausibility of a few ideas I was thinking about. I did not want to commit myself to something that was doomed from the outset. The question was then asked, “But you’re not a coder, right?” Technically, I guess I am not. I have developed a few solutions, in part based on code appropriated from others, but could I develop something from scratch. I guess not. This for me raises the question, in a world which coding is bandied around as the 21st Century literacy, what does it mean to code and be a coder? Is it about a broad understanding of the mechanics and meaning or is it the ability to make and do? Can these even be separated?
This problem raised its head again this week as I tried to fix a problem occurring with two of my sites. I was not receiving linkbacks from other sites. Although webmentions were coming through, there were mentions within blogs that were not even going through to my spam folder. Of course, this is not going to ‘break the web’, but it means that I am missing some of the conversations from those sending from their site.
I came upon the issue after receiving a few messages from people saying that their messages were being rejected or not flowing through. This was occurring in both directions, with my pings seemingly sending emails, but not properly flowing through to posts and comments. Here then are some of the steps I took to investigate. I share these with the hope that I can learn more about these problems, but also to record the steps for future reflection. They are in no way sequential and have been separated for the sack of representing them in a meaningful manner:
- Search the Web: Thanks to John Johnston, I stumbled upon Henrik Carlsson’s post discussing his own frustrations with webmentions. A reminder why having a wide serendipity surface is important. This in part spurred me to investigate further. I also reviewed the information on the indieweb.org site. This lead me to the Indiewebify.me site, as well as a number of GitHub repositories connected to the Webmention and Semantic Linkbacks plugins.
- Review Settings: Another approach I took was to explore the error.log files. Although there were some errors relating to other plugins, there was nothing associated with any of the IndieWeb plugins. Associated with the Indiewebity site, I discovered that my site was missing markup to the HTML used to support things like replies and comments. This led me to change both of my sites to themes supporting microformats – Independent Publisher for this site and ZenPress for Read Write Collect. Although the Microformats plugin supports the enhancement of most sites, it is still better to use a theme that supports Microformats 2 fully.
- Testing Scenarios: Associated with the exploration of the settings, I also did a number of tests. This involved using a WordPress.com blog to trial deactivating various plugins, such as Semantic Linkbacks, Jetpack and Wordfence.
- Seeking Help: Beyond all of these steps, I sort sought guidance from IndieWeb Group and the Reclaim Hosting Community. Although nobody could directly resolve my issue, it was helpful in identifying what the particular problem might be. I never left any comments in GitHub, as I was unsure how to clearly explain the issue. I was also concerned that it was something that I was doing, rather than a flaw with the code.
In the end, I decided to turn the Semantic Linkbacks plugin back on and see how it went. To my surprise, things seemed to work. I will continue to tinker and investigate. It is a reminder why I have a Domain of One’s Own. As Martha Burtis points out,
Learning WordPress should not just be about learning WordPress — it should also be about all the tacit lessons that go along with learning how to publish online in an open-source Web application.
I know that at anytime that the Facebooks and Wixs are waiting to greet me with open arms and every day I resist. So what about you? What have been your experiences? As always comments welcome, even more so from your own blog.
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