Caught up on some updates this morning, including WordPress 5.2.1 and a handful of minor plugin and theme releases. Also added a new site for a group in Michigan to kick the tires on!
This important feature has been available to sites for quite some time, but I’ve neglected to publicize it more: thanks to the excellent Let’s Encrypt project, any site on this network can be configured with a secure TLS certificate, free of charge.
A certificate like this is what lets browsers encrypt the data they send and receive with websites. You know it’s in use when the URL begins with
https, and your browser also shows a lock icon in the address bar:
It’s an important level of protection for users, especially if they’re filling out forms or sending data to your site, and it’s even more important for administrators who are sending their passwords across the web.
If you want this feature but don’t have it yet, or if you have any questions, just contact me via this form or email!
…and ready to try to post more regularly here. I’ve spiffed up the theme and tidied up the details of what this is about. Though the network continues to proudly host sites for many groups, this site has looked abandoned for too long. Will I stick to posting better than I did with the three (3) “weekly updates” I posted through all of 2017? Follow along to find out!
I’ve become more and more concerned about the power that the giant, corporate social networks have over our lives, information, and discourse, and will probably tend to post about that. For example, this TED talk about Facebook’s role in Brexit:
And if you’re interested in that, her behind-the-scenes account of giving that talk is also fascinating:
In the theatre, senior executives of Facebook had been “warned” beforehand. And within minutes of stepping off stage, I was told that its press team had already lodged an official complaint. In fairness, what multi-billion dollar corporation with armies of PRs, lawyers and crisis teams… wouldn’t want to push back on the charge that it has broken democracy?
Facebook’s difficulty is that it had no grounds to challenge my statement. No counter-evidence. If it was innocent of all charges, why hasn’t Mark Zuckerberg come to Britain and answered parliament’s questions? Though a member of the TED team told me, before the session had even ended, that Facebook had raised a serious challenge to the talk to claim “factual inaccuracies” and she warned me that they had been obliged to send them my script. What factual inaccuracies, we both wondered. “Let’s see what they come back with in the morning,” she said. Spoiler: they never did.
Lots of action in this update (especially since I missed last week’s).
- Site email – I discovered that automatic email notifications were exceeding my mail service’s quota, which sometimes caused delays in my receiving feedback. That’s been addressed, and I should hear from you more quickly and reliably.
Login security – I enabled a small – but I think important – security improvement on the login screen. Normally, if someone enters the wrong login information, WordPress will say either there is no user by that name, or that the password for the (correctly entered) username is wrong. This is a bad security practice, and I’m amazed that WordPress has this as the standard behavior. The reason it’s bad is because it gives brute force login attempts more information than they should get: it tells them which user IDs are valid (and worth trying to guess passwords for), and which aren’t (so they don’t waste time trying to guess those). The fix simply blanks out that message, which is admittedly less user-friendly, but the security improvement is significant.
New & updated plugins
- New sites – Last but certainly not least, we’ve added four new sites to the network. Several of them are still getting set up or kicking the tires, but one that’s wasted no time at all is CornynStakeout.com. Targeting one of the terrible senators right here in my own Lone Star State, I’m proud to have helped this site’s creator get this site live quickly and easily. It was mentioned by the national Indivisible Team on Twitter today, and has had about 3,000 unique visitors since then.
This past week on Indivisible.blue:
I updated to the new WordPress core maintenance release, version 4.7.4. From the release notes:
This release contains 47 maintenance fixes and enhancements, chief among them an incompatibility between the upcoming Chrome version and the visual editor, inconsistencies in media handling, and further improvements to the REST API. For a full list of changes, consult the release notes and the list of changes.
Lastly, I worked with the patient admins of the Bryan-College Station (TX) site, as we worked through some wrinkles with the security plugin that temporarily locked them out of their site. I continue to see a number of hacker login attempts, and this is an area where I’ll be working more.
I’ve been meaning to start posting updates about all the things happening here at Indivisible.blue for some time, and haven’t managed to get it going. But here goes! I’m going to try to post at least a quick blurb every week, just to be on a regular schedule.
One big step for the network took place in early March: I doubled our (admittedly small) server capacity. Increased usage was causing occasional database crashes due to lack of memory, so we went from a server with 512MB RAM and 20GB disk (costing $5/month), to another with 1GB RAM and 30GB disk (costing $10/month). That change only took one button click and a server restart, which is one of the reasons I chose Digital Ocean for server hosting in the first place. The new capacity has been working well since then.
That increased usage is due to continued growth in the number of groups setting up their sites on Indivisible.blue. The total number is now up to 21, and includes groups from:
- Bryan-College Station, Texas
- Harford County, Maryland
- Texas District 20
- San Diego, California
- Cranbury, New Jersey
- Illinois District 6
- Sausalito, California
Besides adding these sites and helping them to get going, I’ve also updated kept WordPress up-to-date, updating plugins six times, and themes twice. One new theme has been added (Bento), as well as a new plugin (Page Builder).
The last big news this time is that I added the first new HTTPS security certificate for a group’s custom domain, using the free Let’s Encrypt service. I plan to add those for remaining sites, but haven’t gotten to that yet. If you’re eager to get that set up for your group’s site sooner rather than later, let me know (by email or the contact form).
That’s it for now. As mentioned, I hope to make these updates more regular. I may also write on a few other topics, to maybe help get some conversations going about the issues groups face running their websites effectively.