Weekly Update, 5/7/17

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.

Weekly Update, 4/23/17

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.

I installed a new theme (Bento), and a new plugin (Page Builder plugin). I also updated 3 plugins and 1 theme.

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.

Weekly Update, 4/16/17

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:

  • Oklahoma
  • Bryan-College Station, Texas
  • Harford County, Maryland
  • Texas District 20
  • San Diego, California
  • Cranbury, New Jersey
  • Illinois District 6
  • Arizona
  • 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.

Akismet activated for all sites

Thanks to prodding from a site admin (hi, Shea!), I dug in tonight and got the Akismet comment-spam blocking plugin activated for all sites on Indivisible.blue. Which means that spam comments left on your sites’ posts will now automatically be filtered out. Admins of individual sites don’t have to do anything, no API key to sign up for or enter. (If you want to adjust the couple of options, visit “Jetpack -> Akismet” on your dashboard.)

Learning WordPress

Here are some recommendations for sites, books, and courses to help you get going and make the most of your WordPress site on Indivisible.blue. Suggestions and contributions always welcome!

Note: If your site is hosted here, you can skip info about finding a hosting company, installing WordPress, and registering a domain; we take care of all that for you.

How to add social media links

You want to make it easy for visitors to find you on social media networks, and here’s how to set that up. This process can be a little different with each theme. For starters, here’s how to set it up in the default “twentyseventeen” theme.

  1. From your Dashboard, hover your mouse over “Appearance”, and click “Menus”
  2. Click the link, “create a new menu”
  3. In the box by “Menu Name”, type a name, like “Social Links Menu” and click either of the “Create Menu” buttons
  4. Now that you have a menu, you can add custom links to it. On the left-hand side, click “Custom Links” to open up that section
  5. In the “URL” box, type or paste the URL of your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever social media page you want. It should begin with “http://” (or “mailto:” for email); you can copy and paste it from another tab to make sure it’s right
  6. In the “Link Text” box, type a name for the link. On some themes, like “twentyseventeen”, this won’t be visible, but it’s still required. Just enter “Twitter”, “Facebook”, “Instagram”, or whatever. Linkable networks with built-in icon support include: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Medium, Snapchat, YouTube, Flickr, Vimeo, Reddit, and email
  7. Click the “Add to Menu” button, and the link will appear on your new menu
  8. To change or remove any links, click on them in the menu to open up the entry boxes again. You can also drag and drop those items to reorder them
  9. Click “Save Menu” to apply your changes
  10. Click “Manage Locations” to see where your WordPress theme lets you display menus (you have to display it somewhere)
  11. For the “twentyseventeen” theme, in the dropdown next to “Social Links Menu”, pick your new menu from the list, and click “Save Changes”
  12. Preview your live site, and you should see the icons for your networks in the footer of each page

There are other ways to display these – in “Widgets” in the side bar or footer, or in other menus – but this is one straightforward way that works well in this theme.