Settling into the new routine.

This is what life on a weekday looks like after The Pick and Roll site was launched last month.

  1. Sleep an average of 5-6 hours.
  2. Get up, go to work. START GRINDING.
  3. Answer #TeamPnR emails if I have a few minutes to spare.
  4. Fix up publishing mistakes pronto if any of the other guys notice something.
  5. Enjoy an hour of lunch and quiet reading.
  6. Get off work.
  7. Enjoy dinner, family time.
  8. Proofread and format at least three drafts and schedule them for publishing. Leave feedback for writers.
  9. Attend to anything else that’s required. This varies from discussing new ideas for articles to checking site statistics to sorting T-shirt orders to preparing contests to finding some amazing new plugin to make the site better. For example, I spent about 3-4 hours last night creating the Editorial About page. Or sometimes, it’s just talking with Steve and Terry to get ideas on what needs to be done.
  10. Check the site to see if any drafts have been unattended to. Making sure nothing gets left on the shelf, very important.

Weekends are sometimes worse, especially if I have spare time on my hands. For example, I probably spent eight hours (minimum) clearing up drafts and tidying bits and pieces all over the place.

I’m looking forward to spreading the load out more among the editors, and to spend less time slogging like a workhorse every night at this. Not complaining though, it’s more of a labour of love than anything else.

The other upside: I’m starting to write more at Celtics Down Under, which is one of the reasons I started the site to begin with, but ironically got sidetracked into doing so much of the other stuff essential to running the site, writing got sidelined. Hoping I keep the writing up this time!

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WP Super Cache does not play well with WP HTTP Compression

So I was getting this cache issue with WP Super Cache, where it was refusing to serve the generated cache file. Enabling debug threw this error:

03:39:38 /category/articles/test/ No wp-cache file exists. Must generate a new one.
03:39:39 /category/articles/opinion-columns/ In WP Cache Phase 2
03:39:39 /category/articles/opinion-columns/ Setting up WordPress actions
03:39:39 /category/articles/opinion-columns/ Created output buffer
03:39:40 /category/articles/opinion-columns/ Output buffer callback
03:39:40 /category/articles/opinion-columns/ No closing html tag. Not caching.

Checking the source code on index.php made it clear there was no timestamp on the page, so what the hell?

Referring to this WordPress support thread made it pretty clear something else was interfering with the way the HTML was being generated, so I began disabling my recent plugins one by one.

Lo and behold, the caching test performed fine soon as WP HTTP Compression was disabled. (Not a knock on the plugin by the way, I’m just pointing out what happened.)

Cache Tester

Test your cached website by clicking the test button below.

Fetching http://pickandroll.com.au/ to prime cache: OK

Fetching first copy of http://pickandroll.com.au/: OK (1.html)

Fetching second copy of http://pickandroll.com.au/: OK (2.html)

Page 1: 2013-10-05 13:57:49

Page 2: 2013-10-05 13:57:49

The timestamps on both pages match!

And the world was right once more. Kudos to Darrel aka Big Mellz for his sharp eyes on noticing the bug, because it was only happening on the archive pages, rather than the index page, which always seemed to be fine.

Four overlooked aspects of IT in business operations

As always, IT is the the one aspect of business operations that is first to go under the knife for budget cuts, and the last to get approval for funding. Justification is tough, and management often believe that “things will work out” while keeping their fingers crossed.

To maintain effective BAU (Business As Usual) in a business –especially on an enterprise level– a certain amount of planning is definitely required.

Human resource planning

Despite the incredible level of automation we can achieve these days with server-side scripts and cron jobs, some duties remain in the realm of the administrator. Having your IT staff cross-trained in cases of emergency is always a good idea, especially during periods of crisis. Life happens, emergencies occur and people invariably absent themselves from work. Failing to plan for such contingencies, is effectively failing to ensure your business runs as usual, especially if time-sensitive tasks are required.

Infrastructure redundancy

Having DR (disaster recovery) plans is a must, if we are to avoid extended periods of outage. Whilst emergency firefighting obviously works to a certain level, having process in place to handle scenarios that have been anticipated would be much more effective.

Standby hardware, backed-up configuration, replicated data, all of these are essential to the recovery and continuation of business.

In short: maintaining a positive outlook at work is good, planning for the worst is much better. Show your clients you are prepared to carry on with business, rain or shine.

Infrastructure growth

Planning for growth is an essential key to preventing needless panic. Key indicators should highlight the need for upgrades and provisioning of required resources like bandwidth, network capacity, hardware and so on. Take into allowance the fact that things take time. We all like the idea of instant gratification, but the harsh reality of life is often otherwise.

Instead of blinding yourself, learn to recognise the truth and look ahead. Plan early, plan well.

Documentation and processes

The last aspect, which is often forgotten even by the IT staff, is supremely important and yet treated as a nuisance all too often. While often a time sink, change management and documentation allow transitioning of information between staff members in an easier manner, rather than relying on a face-to-face knowledge transfer. The human memory is a vague and easily smudged storage device on its best days. Write the relevant processes down, make sure coherent guides are drawn up to facilitate understanding, or even serve as reminders.

As mentioned, documentation too takes time, and this is something that is sometimes forgotten by management. There is always a focus on getting things done, but time should always be allocated in making sure all infrastructure setup and processes are written down in a manner that can be easily understood and used.