Listen to this story
By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report
It is said that people should never complain because 80 percent of those folks who are listening don’t care, and the remaining 20 percent are happy that you’re having problems.
However, I would like to apologize to everyone for the repeated technical glitches that seem to be plaguing RV Daily Report, and especially its newsletters.
Many people have reported receiving two identical newsletters every day for the past seven days. Or they receive one real newsletter and one blank one.
Have no doubt, the situation is as frustrating to me as it is irritating to you.
We believe we have the problem fixed. But, truthfully, all I can do is cross my fingers and pray that people much, much smarter than me are correct in saying the issue was identified and corrected. I won’t know for sure until about 5 p.m. Eastern.
If it wasn’t fixed, we do have a backup plan for Tuesday – and another for Wednesday. Beyond that, going to work at Chick-fil-A appears to be my best option.
Have you ever been in a situation where you want to trust everyone because they come so highly recommended and it sounds like they know what they’re talking about in describing a problem and a solution?
I compare it to going to a clinic because you are having chest pains. After describing your situation and having a few tests performed, the doctor announces that it is actually an easy problem to fix and he proposes a solution at a reasonable price.
But you continue to experience chest pains.
So, you go down the street and consult with another doctor. After running more tests, he’ll tell you that the first doctor’s diagnosis was incomplete and, therefore, his proposed solution won’t work at all. The second doctor offers a fix he is confident will work. But, of course, it will cost more.
Now you’re really confused.
Seeking clarity or just consensus, you approach a third doctor who listens patiently, runs some more tests, and announces that the other two have missed an important symptom and if you were to implement either of the other suggestions, it would have drastic consequences. The third doctor claims his option is the only one that will really work.
However, each doctor ends his spiel with the same disclaimer. “I’m not telling you what to do. It’s your body. You have to choose what is right for you.” Gee, thanks!
So, based on your high school understanding of biology, who is right? They all are likely correct in some fashion. But, which solution do you gamble with knowing that your very life is on the line? Or, in our case, the life of our business.
Our problem is exacerbated by several other related situations.
First, our website is built on WordPress, a software program that is used by the vast majority of websites in the world.
It released a major upgrade in December, just weeks after I agreed to take over RV Daily Report again. That made it necessary to redesign the website to work efficiently on the new platform.
The problem is that WordPress requires a significant number of “plugins” to get it to do what website owners need it to do. A plug in is a bit of code that adds new features or controls how the information is processed.
In theory, it works like building an RV. You start with a frame, then add plumbing, wiring, coaxial cable, lights, appliances, faucets, flooring, security systems, etc., until you have a working recreation vehicle.
However, every time we install a new plugin, it slows down our website because internet browsers have to read through all the code in all the plugins just to render a working webpage. Without the special coding, the browsers or email programs couldn’t display things correctly.
When WordPress upgraded the primary software in December, every single plugin that worked on the previous version had to be updated as well to work on the new platform.
Therein lies our problem. The plugin that allows us to post stories on our website, which is an essential plugin, doesn’t play well with the updated version of the plugin that controls our newsletters, which is also an essential plugin.
It’s not as simple as driving to a company and standing on someone’s desk until the problem is corrected. Many of these software developers are located in foreign countries. Besides, even if it was an American software company, its technical support desk is very likely located in a foreign country.
Of course, nobody uses telephones anymore. They only communicate via email and web support tickets with a guaranteed response in 24 to 48 hours. That’s hard for a daily publication to deal with when a proposed solution arrives at 5 a.m., doesn’t work, and we have to wait until 5 a.m. the next day for a different solution.
Our tech team is doing a valiant job trying to cobble together a solution.
So, after being assured by a plugin developer that the problem was fixed last Friday morning, we discovered that two emails were sent out again on Friday afternoon. Once again, we shut down the newsletter plugin and service that sends them.
Because we did not have a way to send out newsletters over the weekend, we did not even try to produce our weekly edition.
This morning, the developers of the newsletter plugin asked us to turn it back on so they could troubleshoot the situation. Sure enough, as soon as I turned on, the software started spewing out a nearly blank weekend edition – and sent two copies to nearly 2,000 people until I could get it shut down again.
The latest problem appears to be that the plugin technical support crew can’t get past the security system put in place by the server technical support crew to protect the website from hackers who are relentlessly trying to break into our website for some unknown reason.
It is a never-ending series of challenges that require businesses to hire full-time technical support staff and web developers if the companies ever hope to maintain even a simple website.
One thing I know to be true, 24 hours after we finally get everything working the way it should, either WordPress or one of the 23 other plugins on our site will release an update, and the whole cat-and-mouse game begins again.
Would you like large fries with that chicken sandwich?