Thanks to Joe and Jason…this blog is live again

It has been months since I’ve posted a blog entry. Why? Initially, life got busy. Then, in October my wordpress site was hacked. making it impossible to see or use my admin console. I went searching for fixes to this problem on the internet and at the wordpress community site, but didn’t find a whole lot of useful information. I was advised to reinstall a later version of wordpress and clear out my plugins…

I tried those suggested fixes. But I took conservative measures. Instead of reinstalling over my existing directories, I cleared out my plugins and only reuploaded portions of my wordpress installation. That did not fix my problem. I then backed up my wordpress database and tried a new installation of all wordpress files. I installed my new wordpress files into a separate directory (just to test whether it would fix my blank admin page problem). This did not work either. Little did I know that wordpress kindly redirects you back to your known directory path (which is conveniently stored in in the wordpress database) so it was accessing my corrupted wordpress installation directory structure, not the new installation.

If I’d only overwritten my existing wordpress directory with a fresh installation that would’ve fixed the problem. But I didn’t. Why? Because I thought I was being conservative by pointing a new wordpress installation of wordpress files to my database (and leaving the old installation intact). Big mistake.

I spent a day sleuthing my “blank” admin screen. I turned on php debugging. WordPress was getting redirected to a non-existent file (supposedly), but it seemed that the file was in my blog directory path. What was going on? I wasn’t sure. Never did figure out why that happens. (I really want to know about paths during execution of wordpress).

Next, I rooted around in all my directories after perusing some scanty but helpful documentation on the path and file structure of wordpress installations. When I did, I discovered a few suspicious php files in my wp-contents directory. I renamed they (hoping they wouldn’t be invoked, and that maybe they were causing the problem). But no luck. Gr.

Finally, I turned to my colleague and good friend Joe Yoder of The Refactory for help. Joe, who in addition to being a world class designer and Adaptive Object guru, also hosts a fair number of websites. He, along with his colleague Jason Frye, fixed my problem within the hour. First they installed wordpress and my database contents on their servers to check that my database wasn’t corrupted (wordpress ran just fine). Then they FTPed a fresh version of wordpress onto my server, and presto! I was back in business. They left me my old, corrupted version of wordpress in a newly renamed directory, just so it’s there in case I want to ever go figure out what was wrong.

I learned a few lessons during this very painful process: Advice on wordpress troubleshooting you find online is pretty sketchy. The “real” experts out there are sysadmin folks who’ve done enough wordpress installations and troubleshooting to know what to look for…and when they can, they reinstall a new version of wordpress rather than try to hack on a partially working installation. Not everyone has a Jason or a Joe to lean on. I’m glad I did. Thanks, guys!

I’ve been told by another friend that the wordpress’ execution model is pretty complex. Lots of paths and looking in different places…But after this experience, I’d be happy to help someone who is a guru, more fully document how wordpress works, what the database table structure and contents are, what the contents of subdirectories and when they are invoked, etc., etc. I’m serious about this.

Why?

I like to know how things work. I’m a designer, after all. I like to know how software works. I’d also like it if people who had wordpress installation problems had an easier time than I did (I got pretty discouraged). In my explorations, I uncovered many frustrated people who were asking for help and didn’t get very far. It doesn’t have to be that way.

If a deeply wordpress savvy person would like to talk about co-writing a small guide on “principles” of operation of wordpress, I’m game. I like to write. And explain how things work. Simply. So people don’t just have to “guess” and hack in as they struggle to fix problems. And with such a guide, I believe life would be for those who want to blog as well as know what’s going on, under the hood.

2 thoughts on “Thanks to Joe and Jason…this blog is live again

  1. Hi Rebecca, I’m glad to have your posts! Back again!

    I noticed your database restore left some encoding problems (at least here for me!): quotes where substituted by a strange ” ’ ” symbol.

    Regards!

  2. Thanks Daniel…They are fixed now. I think that moving to/from machines might’ve caused the problem. I edited by hand to fix…but it is done now.

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