Learning Something New

I seem to really lag on my blog posts, so I am going to start filling up with some smaller posts in between more researched and meaningful rants. This one in particular, as I am starting off on a new journey.

I have decided to begin learning data analysis. For years I have used Google Analytics but never digging deep into the data. I generally tend to look at small surface data such as referral sources or landing pages. Maybe following site flow after a marketing campaign (one that is tagged properly). Considering that my primary client base is made up of many small clients (as appossed to a few large clients) I tend not to have significant amounts of data to analyze. Nor do I have the clients that value this analysis. I want to do more.

After reviewing several online courses I have decided to start the Udacity Business Analyst Nanodegree program (formerly known as the Predictive Analysis for Business). This is a great introductory program which teaches skills for data analysis as well as new tools such as Altreyx and Tableau, which are in high demand at the current moment.

While the Udacity course is structured and they schedule milestones for you, it is done at your own pace, which I like as I can continue to work uninterrupted while still completing my objectives. I also found an additional great introductory course from Future Learn. Data to Insight is the the University of Auckland New Zealand. It is a true introductory course and is an excellent companion to the more rigourous Udacity class. Also the Data to Insight class is an 8 week program and the instructors (and students) expect you to stay on track. The principles and lessons learned overlap each other and I am very much looking forward to progressing through both of these classes in the coming weeks.
Photo credit from Freepik

Why I Quit My Web Design Career

Phone call comes in at 9:47 am and is picked up by my secretary. I cannot take the call because I am on the phone with an existing customer working on a project.
As protocol, we ask for a phone number, website and email address. This helps us to not only get contact information, but also assess the feasibility and quality of the lead (for example a potential client with an AOL email address is a very low priority…. Seriously people its 2017, if you are still using AOL for business communication, you have much bigger issues that no web company can solve for you).
The potential client, “Mike”, needs a website re-design. He has an emergency and will not leave a website address or email address.
Within 20 minutes, I finish my conversation with my existing customer and call back Mike (my new lead).
Ring Ring Ring.
Mike: “Hello?”
Me: “Good morning, may I speak with Mike please?”
Mike: “Who is calling?”
Me: “This is Steven from South Florida Web Studio returning his phone call.”
Mike: “Thank you, we have already found someone to do the work.”
Me: “Ok, thank you.”
Mike: “Good bye”

At least there was no time wasted, but seriously… You found someone to fix your emergency website re-design project in 20 minutes?

I am curious to call back just to find out what the project was.

Web design used to be a glamorous, well paid and respected profession that has gone the way of so many other outsourced jobs. Whether it is global competition, automation or just a slow in overall demand, the career is definitely not what it was 20 years ago, or even 5 years ago for that matter.

Seriously, I have not quit yet, but I am on my way to learning new skills that will benefit larger organizations, businesses and society as a whole. Something that will have purpose and meaning. Something that I am passionate about and makes me jump out of bed in the morning to get started.

Stay tuned….

Image credit @parkerabyrd

A WordPress plugin update broke my site

I ran some WordPress updates this afternoon and wouldn’t you know it, my site got an error and went offline.

Fatal error: Class ‘W3_Config’ not found in /wp-content/plugins/wptouch/core/class-cache-smash.php on line 96

“No big deal” I thought, “I use WPEngine, this is not an active site, I will just restore from last night’s backup and then troubleshoot from there.”

Uh oh, this is an old site running on Media Temple Grid Service. I do not have automatic nightly backups. Well, I do use ManageWP so I know I have a backup there. So I log into ManageWP and notice that with the new Orion interface, I only have monthly backups. It is still not the end of the world because there has not been an update on the site since the last backup. So still no problem.

I click the restore button. ….   Error  ….

At this point, I decide to find the culprit with a little research and learn that W3 Total Cache plugin is causing the error with WPTouch Mobile plugin. So I decide to delete W3 Total Cache plugin directory and alas my site is back online.

At this point I have spent about 40 minutes messing with this problem. But I would like to know why the backup does not work. So I submit a support request with ManageWP and they say that I need to provide them with FTP credentials and MySQL credentials. Since it is a shared account, I have a global FTP and need to create a new one just for this one particular site. Easy enough, I login to MT access center and create a new user. Set proper permission and passwords and I am good to go….

Nope… FTP user times out trying to retrieve directory listing. So now I have to get to tech support with Media Temple. I have an option to request a phone call. So I do that and wait. Doing some research for the next 20 minutes. Finally the call comes in. Now I have a tech support agent on the phone and he tells me to login to my user account through Filezilla, which I do but I see an empty directory. I then go into my FTP user creation and set the path of the website, like I did originally, and try again. Still no files in the directory. I go back into my user and see that it did not save. So the Tech agent notices the problem and says he will have to look into it. In the meantime, I had another issue with the database not connecting either.

For the database, he said I will have to whitelist the IP addresses. He showed me where to do this in the MediaTemple control panel. And I found the 45 IP addresses that ManageWP uses. I am told I have to enter them all in one by one. So as he trouble shoots my FTP user account. I go and begin to manually enter in one by one the IP addresses. Of course when I get to number 10 I get an error because Media Temple only allows 10 IP addresses to be whitelisted on their Grid Service.

At this point, I just give up and wait for the the Tech Assistant to come back on the phone. He has resolved the FTP issue and my account is now working properly. But there is no solution to the Database issue and I cannot connect. So I am not sure if the techs at ManageWP will even be able to try and resolve the error with the backup.

Now over two and a half hours into this problem, at least my site is up and running (although it is running without any caching) but I have no backups in place and do not know if it will be fixed.

I am throwing in the towel at this point. Eventually, I will have to migrate to WPengine and that will solve my problems with caching and backups, but too late tonight to get started on that project.

Until my next rant… Happy Pressing.

A final note, a fix was posted quite quickly for this issue, I did not try it myself but you can either google the error or try this: https://wordpress.org/support/topic/fix-for-fatal-error-class-w3_config/

Hoxsey Diet Support BBPress Forums

We launched our first bbPress website yesterday. www.HoxseyDietSupport.org is a forum for individuals who are seeking treatment at the Hoxsey Biomedical Center in Tijuana, Mexico and are looking for more information to assist with dietary restrictions.

bbPress has long been on my list of plugins to test for WordPress. I was have always been drawn to the idea of implementing a forum on my favorite CMS and integration using bbPress is practically seamless, compared with other solutions like PHPBB or Vbulletin or possibly one of the other forum plugins available in the WordPress repository.

Although the support for bbPress over the years has ebbed and flowed (like most plugins) at least it is still being supported and testing it on a non-critical site makes the most sense for me at this point.

As of today the site is live and running but we still have many features to add. For starters, we need to customize the dashboard for users. I am not sure why, but our favorite SEO plugin has to put a widget on the dashboard and it shows up for the subscribers and participant roles. It looks like we will have to add some functions to remove this from the page since the users of the forum do not care about SEO. Also on our list is finding a good plugin to allow for forum participants to upload images. We are looking at GD bbPress Attachments right now as it seems that it will allow for other file types and give us the control and security we need.

So far I am really liking working with bbPress. Only time will tell if it will be the effective tool we need to provide the support we are looking for to help disseminate information about the holistic treatment of the Hoxsey Tonic. I will have to see as the forum gains usage.

Visit the Hoxsey Diet Support Forums for more information.

New Project For Legal Industry

Building websites and WordPress projects for clients has its privileges. I learn many new lessons on a daily basis. I am able to experiment with many different types of plugins, themes and code. Every project has a different mix of code and technology that we use and as we design, I am always thinking of other ways to utilize the knowledge gained.

While I do enjoy working on client projects, it is always fun to be able to create my own designs without restraints of client business specifications or requirements. I am excited to start on a new project this month and will be focusing a new effort to provide a web application specifically for law firms, attorneys and legal professionals. The first (beta) version of FreshLawyer.com will target startup law firms and even graduating law school students. Shortly thereafter, we will expand our market to include re-designs of existing lawyer websites and small firms. Finally, FreshLawyer.com will also cater to the larger and growing law firms, to offer a platform that can be easy to use for a sole practitioner as well as a global firm with hundreds of attorneys and thousands of employees. It will be a custom website builder, powered by WordPress specifically for the legal industry.

Our mission is clear and our documentation is in process. Proper documentation is key to any successful web project. We started on the logo a few weeks ago and finalized it last week. The primary marketing website is in process and we should have more than just a landing page setup within the next two weeks.

Our new project for lawyer websites will begin development in the next few weeks and the first phase will be completed by the end of July. I am looking forward to helping promote the small law firms and start-up attorneys that need a simple, quick and affordable solution without having to compromise on quality.

I have several other internal projects that are in the works as well. Some that I am very excited to write about, but that will be for another day. In the meantime, it’s back to client work.