2013 in Review

2013 in Blogging by WordPress.com

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys have been busy putting together a personalized report detailing how everyone’s blog did in 2013. Here is an excerpt from my report:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 59,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 22 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Check out my full year in review! And if you have a WordPress.com or Jetpack enabled blog, keep your eyes peeled for your own report!

WordPress Functionality Plugins

WordPress Functionality Plugin Presentation

I recently gave a talk at the Pasadena WordPress Meet Up on Functionality Plugins. The presentation was short – more of an intro than anything else – but I hope someone found it helpful. For more information, you can check out the resources slide at the end of the presentation.

If you have any questions, or want to share some of your thoughts, leave a comment below. Now, enough rambling, here are the slides:

References:

Web Developers and the Impostor Syndrome

Last September, I had lunch with another WordPress Developer while at WCLA. During our discussion, we touched on an interesting subject. The Impostor Syndrome. I wasn’t aware of the actual term at the time, but the definition seems to fit our discussion.

The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

How does this apply to web developers? What the hell am I talking about?

Let me explain…

During our talk we both acknowledged that when we first started working with other developers, we were apprehensive about it. Not because we were against collaboration. Not because we were against working with other people. But simply because it was very intimidating.

I know for myself, it wasn’t necessarily a lack of confidence. I have always taken pride in my work, and I am confident in my craft. I know that I know my stuff! Yet, at the same time, there is a feeling of vulnerability when you expose the code behind your work to other people.

The “I Can Do It Myself” Stage

Prior to working with other developers, I tried to do everything myself. I worked at small agencies and was usually the only full-time developer on staff. This forced me to learn a lot, and to learn it quickly. But the projects continued to get more and more complex. And the workload kept increasing. I had to work with other people. I was terrified. What if they find errors in my code? What if I’ve been doing something incorrectly? What if I’m a fraud?!

At this point in time, I had plenty of accomplishments under my belt. I had an extensive portfolio, a long list of happy clients, and plenty of my own personal projects. But for some reason, that fear was still there.

Getting over the fear

Eventually, I had a project come up in my freelance world that I knew I couldn’t handle myself. The agency I was working with at the time had another developer that I was going to work with. Logically, I knew it would be okay. But, panic still set in. And I had to face it straight on. And guess what. The project went great.

Come to find out, this developer was far more advanced with JavaScript than myself. But I wasn’t exposed as a fraud or banished from the web development community. Instead, he offered some advice about parts of my code – which lead me to become a better developer. And on top of that, I was able to give him some advice about working WordPress.

Who would have thought… I was able to teach him something. To this day we still exchange emails and offer each other advice. When I have a JavaScript question he’s usually the first guy I ask. And when he has a WordPress question, he doesn’t hesitate to ask me for help.

Looking Back

Now, a couple of years later, I look at that first project as a significant turning point in my career. That’s when I started to collaborate. It wasn’t until I started working with other developers that I really began to pinpoint my strengths and weaknesses. And I have found out that it’s extremely valuable to know both of those.

I will admit that I still get jitters every once in a while when I publicly share my code. But it’s usually followed by positive feedback. On top of the thank you’s, I’ve also received valuable feedback that has helped me learn new things.

So… What’s my point?

I am a firm believer that everyone can learn something from everyone. And everyone can teach something to everyone. I’ve heard other people talk about the Impostor Syndrome (or similar feelings), so it doesn’t only apply to developers. And I don’t think that it is uncommon.

I wanted to share my story, and urge other people to take a step out of their comfort zone. Whether you are a seasoned developer, or you’re just getting the hang of HTML and CSS, you can learn by sharing and collaborating. So put yourself out there!

My experience with Website Movers

I have been maintaining a WordPress install that outgrew it’s shared hosting plan. I opted to move to WP Engine, as I’ve worked with them a lot in the past and have always been very happy with their service (Note: WP Engine is not at fault here, Website Movers is a third party.). The site I was planning to migrate was decent size (~1,500 posts spanning several years with pictures, media, etc.) but nothing out of the ordinary. I wanted to save some time and make sure the migration went smoothly, so I opted to outsource it. WP Engine recommended using Website Movers for the migration. Website Movers estimated the process would take 2-3 hours, and WP Engine comps the first two hours. So, it looked like we would be paying for 0-1 hour of work at $109/hr. We decided to move forward.

Preparation

Prior to migration, Website Movers suggests running a plugin called WPEngine Ready. This plugin looks through your install and alerts you if there are any plugins that WP Engine disallows. I ran the plugin and made sure that my install was compliant with WP Engine’s hosting. Easy enough.

Migration

Website Movers started the migration – Dumping the database, downloading all the front end files, etc. They then setup a test server. I was able to view the test server and make sure everything was working. After confirming that it was, we set aside a time to complete the migration. The final step would be to update the DNS records to point to the new hosting. They told us that DNS propagation would take 1-6 hours. We arranged a time to do so (a Friday). I made sure all of our authors would NOT make any changes for the entire day Friday to ensure the DNS information propagated.

They said they made the change on Friday before noon:

[Website Movers] Fri, 2 Nov at 11:46am
Hello Ryan,
I’ve finished the database sync, but the website content synchronization still in process. I’ve already switched the DNS. Please note the DNS changes may take up to 4 hours to propagate all the world.
Thank you.

The Results

Monday morning came around, and the site was still not pointing to the new hosting. I sent a message to them letting them know that it had been 72+ hours since they should have made the DNS switch but nothing had happened. I didn’t get a response. However, 15 minutes later, our entire website was down with a general Server Error. I got on the horn with them (after multiple attempts – they were having phone problems, as well) and told them the situation.

They told me to purge my browser cache, as it was working on their end. I purged my cache, and still nothing. I also got confirmation from three of our team members working remotely who said the entire site was down for them as well. I contacted Website Movers once again, and they said they would look into it.

They did manage to get the site up and running, but were unable to tell me what the problem was. At this time, the URL’s for our subpages were incorrect as well – After fixing that, they said it was a “gesture of good will”… Personally, I thought that was part of migrating a site. On top of that, some of our content was missing. I told Website Movers this, and they offered the following reply when asked if they could sync the data (as that was part of our initial agreement). I received the following response:

[Website Movers] Mon, 5 Nov at 12:09pm
Ryan,

We will need 1 additional hour approved ($109) to backup the configuration and perform the sync today. Please let me know if you wish to proceed.

Thanks!

They wanted $109 to fix something that should have been done as part of the migration. That didn’t seem very fair to me. I then sent them the following message:

Mon, 5 Nov at 12:38pm via email
Hi [redacted],

What was the server error then? The migration was not completed Friday as
was agreed upon.

Thanks,
Ryan

And they said:

[Website Movers] Mon, 5 Nov at 12:53pm
Ryan,

The server error at your website was related to the plugin jetpack which is not compatible with your hosting account.

Thanks!

That seemed strange to me, as I ran the WPEngine Ready plugin and Jetpack never brought up a warning. I checked WP Engine’s disallowed plugins list and Jetpack was NOT on there. Jetpack is actually endorsed and curated by WP Engine. They blatantly lied to me about the issue.

I followed up:

Hello,

I just wanted to say that Jetpack is not on the Disallowed Plugins list for
WP Engine. In fact, it is actually on their Curated Plugins list:
http://support.wpengine.com/curated-plugins/

Could you please investigate and let me know what the issue with the
transfer was?

Thanks,
Ryan

And they responded:

[Website Movers] Mon, 5 Nov at 6:19pm
Ryan,

Unfortunately we cannot continue working on your migration project unless you wish to approve some additional time. Please let me know if you have any questions or wish to discuss this with our sales representatives.

Thank you.

So… Not only can they not provide me with an answer as to WHY things went wrong, but they won’t even talk to me. I got on the phone again. I was told that a senior tech support agent would call me in 30 minutes. Four hours went by and I didn’t hear a thing and Website Movers had since closed for the day. I spent the rest of the night manually migrating content from our old install to the new.

The next morning I did get a call from one of their senior tech reps, and he did genuinely try to help. He investigated things on his end, but still couldn’t seem to provide any answers. He said that he would comp us one more hour of work for migration… But when I asked how much time total they needed, he then estimated it would take 3-4 additional hours. By this point, I had already migrated the remaining content manually myself, and I had wasted far too much time on the phone getting the run around. I decided to cut my loses.

Website Movers Review Conclusion

I understand that with anything web related issues can arise, and there is no bulletproof way to migrate a website. DNS records can take awhile to propagate, servers can get disconnected, etc. But the lack of accountability on Website Movers’ end is what frustrated me. The amount of time wasted on both sides could easily have been avoided if they were upfront about the issue and willing to work with me. Instead, they just denied everything.

I did talk with one of the execs at Website Movers, and shared my frustrations. He told me that he was sorry I had a bad experience, but when it came down to it, I got a free migration (Because WP Engine comped the first three hours). That irked me. It wasn’t free. I spent more than two full working days to solve this issue. I also had to manually complete parts of the migration myself.

I don’t like to badmouth anyone, but I felt that other people should be aware of this experience. Granted, even with my complaints, this was one isolated incident. Have you had an experience with Website Movers? Good or bad, I would love to hear.