Stupid Digg + a kitten

Sorry that the blog was down for a few hours. Yesterday I did a throwaway post that somehow ended up getting 3800+ diggs or so. I didn’t have WP-Cache or Supercache turned on, so my blog melted to a little puddle of fail. 🙂

Matt, you idiot! How you could run a modern WordPress blog without caching turned on?” you may ask. The first answer is that I’m stupid and figured that I was boring enough that I wouldn’t hit digg or Slashdot for anything.

The slightly-less-stupid answer is that turning on WordPress caching interacts really badly with the FreeBSD systems that my webhost Pair runs (I’ve written about this before). That means that for me, upgrading WordPress takes hours and is a pain in the butt. The last time I upgraded my WP install, I didn’t install Supercache simply because it was such a headache to uninstall before.

I have to do some thinking about what I might change (blogging platform, webhost, etc.) in the future to make this less painful. Frankly, the idea of racing to update my software every few months (so that I don’t need to worry about getting hacked) strikes me as a little backwards; I’d prefer to host my blog with some web service so that I never have to worry about security releases or downloading/upgrading software myself. I don’t blame WordPress or Pair, but the combination doesn’t work well for me right now.

One suggestion for WordPress: integrate caching functionality more tightly so that managing caching isn’t a multi-step process and doesn’t involve juggling plug-ins. Another WordPress suggestion: lower the price of VIP hosting ($600 setup fee + $500/month is too high; if you lowered that a lot, you could probably attract a bunch of people who don’t want to fiddle with WordPress upgrades) and make it trivial to do a CNAME like to VIP hosting. One suggestion for WP-Cache and Supercache: make an option that clears out all cache files and deletes all directories created by the caching plugin, then atomically disables caching. Maybe that option is there and I’ve missed it somehow. One suggestion for Pair: if I am the owner of a parent directory, let me delete any file or subdirectory from that directory. Then I could delete silly cache files that are owned by “nobody.” Again, I know the fault is primarily mine for not turning on caching, even if it’s a hassle.

Since you’ve been so nice to read my self-absorbed tale of woe, here’s a picture of my cat Ozzie, helping me hack on the blog:

Ozzie sitting on my

Three tips for “company blogging”

This is my personal blog. I don’t run my draft posts by Google’s PR or legal team, other than maybe 2-3 times when I thought a post might have legal implications. But I have learned a few hard-won lessons. So, when someone recently asked me for tips about talking to the public, I couldn’t resist. Whether you blog for the company officially or unofficially, here are my top three rules of thumb:

  1. Don’t make hard promises about the future. One of the beauties of web-based software and services is you get to decide when to push out changes. Don’t give up that freedom by promising a feature to the outside world by a certain deadline. Maybe later you’ll decide that a different feature is a bigger win. Or you may want to hold off for a week to polish down the last rough edges on a product.
  2. Don’t trash talk a competitor. Your product should be strong enough that you don’t have to diss a competing company. Back in 2002, an article in the Boston Herald showed up about another search engine. The article claimed that “The entire XXXXXXXXX Catalog is updated every 9 to 11 days.” I knew for a fact that wasn’t true and at first I wanted to rip that claim to shreds like a bulldog. But (with the advice of some wiser Googlers), I decided to take the high road instead of picking a fight. In fact, claims like that motivated Google to be fresher and faster. Now I believe Google has the freshest index of any of the major web search engines.

    Sometimes other companies will throw dirt in your direction. In that case, the challenge is to correct any misperceptions without picking a fight. But first ask yourself: do you really need to respond at all? If not, then maybe it’s better not to get pulled into an argument where everyone involved loses a little credibility. So far I’ve written 10-15 draft posts (and who knows how many I’ve written in my head) where I was snarky about another search engine, and then not published the post. Each time when I look back after a few months, I’m glad that I didn’t post.

  3. Don’t post when you’re angry. This is probably the most important tip. If you have to write something, go ahead, but don’t press publish until you’ve slept on the situation or had a chance to calm down completely.

I’ve broken each of these rules, and regretted it almost every time. What tips would you suggest when blogging about your company?

Best WordPress Plugin for Related Posts?

On my “Matt Cutts” twitter account a few days ago I asked other folks which WordPress “Related Posts” plug-in they would recommend. It seems like “Related Posts” extensions go in and out of vogue every few years, so I wanted to hear what smart folks were using lately. The plugins that got recommended the most to me were:

I did a little digging on each of these. My criteria (in order) was: the easiest plugin to install, that appeared to be actively maintained, and ideally would give me lots of options. The first one I ended up trying was Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP), and mitcho has really done a fantastic job on it:

– It’s trivial to install.
– You don’t have to edit your WordPress template.
– The relevance is good: the suggested posts are related, and you can tweak thresholds and how things are computed if you want.

So I think I’m happy. Even the things that I might want down the road (show the date of posts, RSS feed support, and sentence-aware excerpts) are on the to-do list. But the plug-in is very usable even without any tweaking. I’ll include a screenshot of the options page in case you want to see what sort of flexibility you have:
Yet Another Related Page Plugin

Well done, mitcho! If you feel strongly that another Related Posts plugin is better, feel free to say so in the comments.

Follow me on Twitter, FriendFeed, or RSS

I changed it so that anyone can follow me on Twitter or FriendFeed. The links to follow me are and .

And of course you can subscribe to my RSS feed if you want. You can subscribe by clicking any of the buttons below:

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If aren’t a subscriber yet, let those RSS buttons call to you. 🙂

New WordPress version 2.5.1 includes security fix

Read about WordPress 2.5.1 and download the new version here. It includes a security fix, so you’re going to want to upgrade. It’s well-known that older versions of WordPress get attacked by malicious bad guys, so I absolutely recommend upgrading as soon as you can to be safe.

By the way, if you subscribed to the WordPress development blog like I suggested, you’d already know about this security update. 🙂