There are days and then there are days. Yesterday – in fact much of last week – was not a good tech day. Nope. Not at all.
I want to write – gardening and fiction – but I find myself sorting out tech-excretia more than I spend time writing. And the last few months have been a graduate course in: 1) membership sites 2) security software 3) writer platform building and 4) dealing with frustration (mine and readers). Note there’s no writing in there.
It all started back…
A few years ago I had a membership site at Online-Gardening-Courses.com and it was working well enough, and I was learning how to make the software do what we all wanted it to do. It got hacked. The backups were corrupted. Long story – but the short version is I didn’t do anything with it for a few years except apologize to the odd reader who wrote asking about it (the mailing lists were lost as well)
Found a long-lost backup that wasn’t corrupted. Smiles all round as I reloaded it up and contacted the members. How cool was that? Yeah!
Decided to see if there was any interest in my general readership. There was. Opened it up to new members and life was good.
Now Comes The Fun Part
In opening up the new course site, I charged a very low price because it was pretty new, unfinished and I wasn’t sure how the tech would all work together. You may remember the “cup of coffee a month” line.
New members asked for a few new features. I installed them but this meant moving servers (move #1) and this worked with a few bumps but we had some members with login issues. Installed some software to smooth those out. This worked for a few members but some gave up in frustration. OK, I get that.
The new WordPress login systems are a bit advanced – somewhere around bank level – but having been hacked once, I was good with this. As an aside, I use 1Password for my password manager so I don’t have to remember all these powerful passwords and this really works. I could never get them straight otherwise.
Life moved on and I spent too much time sorting out login issues and figuring out how to make x plugin work with y plugin (Let’s hear it for Googling error messages to get answers) Serious security system (Securi.com) and backups were installed (Vaultpress).
I’m not techie, but I follow directions well (Mayo may disagree). Adding plugin after plugin into WordPress to do more and more was bound to create errors sooner or later. And when the next reader survey pointed me towards a forum, formal courses and some other things, I quickly understood I was in serious tech-issue territory. This stuff was beyond my pay-grade. These advanced plugins all wanted to control the database and all wanted to be in charge and they wouldn’t play nicely together. The solutions were described in tech code and all I could hear were those famous words, “Danger! Will Robinson, Danger!” playing over and over in my head.
I was spending way too much time sorting out tech stuff while trying to meet reader expectations. My writing time dropped. My fiction writing got put in a drawer. Instead of being outdoors in the garden or on my boat, I was hunched over a keyboard trying to understand how to make toddler-behavior-technology play nicely together. Creative frustration pushed out of another drawer to land squarely on my shoulders and perch there like a very heavy raven.
It was time for a serious solution.
And Then I Remembered
When I ran my nursery, I had a team. At the height of the sales season, there were 11 of us in the nursery and everyone had a job, knew that job and did it without me having to constantly check with them. They were all good people and I trusted them, and gave them the ability to make things right with customers without having to check with me every time they wanted to do something. They simply did their job and I did mine – and somehow we got through the growing and sales season.
As a writer, I needed a team. Specifically, to begin with, I needed a tech team. (I need other members but that’s another story) And I started researching. Found a few companies to hire on retainer to solve tech issues as they rose. Well recommended. Found a few sites that hosted membership sites so I didn’t have to do anything but write (now we’re talking).
Decided the hosted membership site was the way to go and, long-story-short, wound up with Rainmaker. This is a hosted WordPress system that Copyblogger uses for their own platform and also sells as membership software. This is serious software and supported by a full time tech team. And yes, if Copyblogger can run on this, I surely can. (Move #2)
The Move Was Going Smoothly.
The Rainmaker team moved a very complex website with over 500 articles and multiple member levels onto their servers. It was a tough job and I was grateful they did this.
We chatted while they did this and there were some issues with incompatibility of different plugins. Their gallery image system wasn’t compatible with my old one so I’d have to redo these. This wasn’t serious and none of the others were a problem either. I calculated it would a few weeks work to check the pages, posts etc and upgrade everything.
My site, protected by Securi’s Cloud Proxy service had a problem. The error messages said there was new malware on it and the entire site went down so no visitors would be infected. I have no idea where the problem was as this was well and truly out of my league. Securi was supposed to fix it as part of the contract.
And Something Inside Me Snapped.
I was done with all this stuff. Even though some of the images aren’t fixed, even though some of the posts aren’t reviewed, I’d had enough tech problems to last me a lifetime.
I quickly navigated to Rainmaker, pushed all the “go” buttons so Rainmaker would run my site. My expectation was that in 24-48 hours life would be smooth(er). I anticipated pulling the fiction out of the drawer and took a very long walk along some of our country roads. Disabled all Securi systems so there’d be no problem with moving.
Came back to a different error message from Securi on my site. Wrote their support about why there’d be error messages when the site was no longer protected. Haven’t heard back yet.
But We’re Not Done Yet
I pushed the buttons yesterday. This morning I woke up to an inbox full of posts from the website. For some reason, the move had triggered the RSS system to resend a list of posts. How exciting! Another WTF moment of the week and it landed before the coffee.
This, of course, was followed by a bunch of password change requests as people found they couldn’t sign into the site (because it was half there, and half somewhere else)
And, as I write, one person who decided she’d had enough changing passwords so cancelled her membership.
And The Coffee Has Landed.
I’ve taken a deep breath. This is a first world problem. Yes, it’s serious when it comes to writing and earning a living but really, in the bigger picture I’m fortunate enough to have this problem. I’m fortunate enough to be able to find a solution.
I live in one of the most gorgeous parts of Ontario, Canada. I have a loving partner, tremendous family (and four adorable grandchildren – but then again, aren’t they all) have some great friends, and I garden and earn my living by writing about it.
Took another deep breath and decided I’d do some writing today while I waited for the site to move. This is the first. It’s called clearing out the mind and getting rid of the stuff in the way of really writing.
So my mind is clear, I’ve vented from the writer’s perspective and I’m about to move forward.
But first, there’s another cup of coffee waiting