Housekeeping, blogger style

This post has nothing to do with bees but is an answer to those folks who’ve been asking, “What’s up with your website?”

My problem began so slowly that I didn’t notice it at first. I didn’t notice I was lining up various things to do while I was waiting for the site to load. If I was answering comments, for example, every time I hit “approve” or “save” I got up and chopped vegetables or fed the chickens or split firewood. It wasn’t until I installed a timer on my site that I knew I was in trouble. It could take 180 seconds to load.

First I blamed my computer. I ran diagnostics, cleared registries, updated software, all of which made my computer run better but didn’t affect my website. I then blamed my internet connection, but that checked out as well.

Next I started tinkering with the site itself. I loaded the newest version of WordPress, I condensed photos, I disabled widgets, and I deleted as many plug-ins as possible, which means no more visitor maps, no more auto-link to Facebook and Twitter, no more slide shows, no more cute little pull-quotes, and on and on. Nothing made any difference.

Next I ran a program that looked for broken links and I fixed those. Then I ran an optimization program. This one floored me. It found and deleted 6512 drafts of already published posts. I only have 732 posts, so that comes to 8.9 drafts a piece. How could that be? Turns out that WordPress saves every one. So if I go in and fix a spelling error, it saves that entire draft forever and ever. This one step reduced my database by 35%. It also deleted unapproved comments and a bunch of spam. But did it improve my load times? Not a chance.

Next to come under fire was my hosting company, BlueHost. Their customer service is second to none, but even they didn’t catch it right away. They helped me change some code in the guts of the site (scary), and they had me connect to a CDN, which allows cached copies of my site to exist on servers all over the world. Then someone hit on it: my CPU was being throttled, sometimes as much as 3600 seconds/hour, which when you think about it, is the whole hour.

Long story short, when BlueHost asked how much traffic I was getting, I told them what my stats program told me. But it turns out that my actual traffic was much higher—too much for the shared server I was on. When you are on a shared server and you use more than your share of the CPU, you get throttled to no more than your allotment—and your site slows down. Usually this works, because you may be throttled for just a few seconds/hour and there is no noticeable delay. But in my case, I was being throttled about 80% of the time—my bee site had turned into a hog site.

Once I made the decision to upgrade my hosting plan (more money, naturally) the problem went away. The site starting loading in under one second, but I also opted for a dedicated IP address, which is causing another set of problems. Now I get an intermittent 404 notice (file not found) or this reassuring error message: “There is no website configured at this address.” As it happens, this is true because I now have a different IP address. Apparently, until old cache is totally cleared out, this notice will occasionally appear.

You would think that’s the end of it, right? But no, the biggest change is yet to come. Although I love the theme I’m now using, it’s not completely responsive. Responsive is the term used to describe how well a site adapts to various mobile devices—and mine gets only so-so marks.

The decision to change the theme was a hard one for me because I like the way the site looks and I’ve tweaked it quite a bit over the years. On the other hand, I don’t want to go completely through the animal kingdom (from bee to hog to dinosaur) so I’m going to change it . . . once I get up the nerve.

If anyone out there followed me to the end of this diatribe, I welcome any suggestions you may have for Honey Bee Suite. Is there anything you would like me to include that I haven’t? Are there things that you wish I would drop? Now is the time, because the whole thing is due for a shake out. In the meantime, thanks for reading!

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Comments

Dave Strickler
Reply

Sorry to hear of your tech woes, but it sounds like it’s a problem of growth. These, as they say, are good problems to have.

As a software engineer (I write software that runs on the web), you’re doing all the right things. A CDN, and a non-overloaded CPU at BlueHost should fix most of your problems. The CDN will take most of the load off of BlueHost, but it make take a few days for it to happen. Once the CDN transition is complete, you may not need a dedicated server at BlueHost, but if you can handle the extra expense, it should be a good piece of mind investment.

As for a responsive theme, you may not have to look that far. There are a few plugins for WordPress that will give your mobile visitors a better experience on your existing theme. I use one on my site (http://bees.onestandish.com) for iPhones and it helped me keep the theme I have (and like).

Rusty
Reply

Dave,

Thanks for the words of encouragement; I always wonder if I’m going in the right direction. One thing, I don’t have a dedicated server, just a dedicated IP, which is a whole lot cheaper but protects me from blacklisting when an entire IP gets nailed. According to BlueHost, they have as many as 2000 sites at one IP address.

I will look into the plugins for mobile devices. I’ve heard they exist but I don’t know anything about them. Something new to learn . . .

Thanks so much.

Mark Luterra
Reply

I just got one of those 404 errors when looking for your site today. Tried Google and Facebook links and got the same error. Ten minutes later it’s working, and loading much faster than in the past.

Rusty
Reply

Hey Mark,

Thanks for letting me know. If it goes on for too much longer I will complain to BlueHost again, but since they told me in advance this would happen, I’m trying to be patient. At least when it finally loads, it loads fast.

Mark Luterra
Reply

Got the same message again today – “no website configured at this address.” Seems very odd that this should come and go if it is a cache problem.

Rusty
Reply

I agree. I got the message this morning too. I too think the cache should be cleared by now.

Tricia Lockhart
Reply

I find even your non-bee comments hit the spot. Not sure whether this is useful or relevant or anyone knows more than I do about this – having just got a much better camera (18 megapixels) when I take photos I use best resolution because I don’t know what I will eventually do with them. Inevitably it is from these I choose the illustrations for my WordPress blog.

I do use and love Faststone Photo Resizer. I am pretty sure it was free though it always surprises me because I find it so useful. One of the things you can do is batch resize photos and set things like how to rename (I tend to add sm_ in front of a filename for a smaller file) and where it is saved (original location or new location….) and once you have selected your files there is one button press and the photos get changed as per spec. In fact, I can be very lazy and put off doing this – but any time spent here is time saved at the stage of uploading to the blog. Once you have some settings you like you can then apply them repeatedly by selecting them rather than starting from scratch. A specialist in that area told me the human eye cannot actually detect a resolution higher than 400 dpi – and surely that is particularly true online.

Tricia

LJ Gormley
Reply

I haven’t had any problem with loading the site. One observation and it may be an oversight on my part: is there anywhere to simply ‘like’ a post without getting involved with FB etc?

Thanks for the info about WordPress and drafts. I may have to run one of those programs…

Rusty
Reply

I used wp-optimize which you can download from WordPress.

Kevin
Reply

I’m currently using a WP plugin for mobile devices, wptouch – they have a free version that adapts your site to mobile devices (Android and Apple) that you can try out.

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wptouch/

Scott
Reply

Good morning Rusty:

You got me . . . I have been sending everyone I know to your site for info, so that likely has contributed to the added traffic . . .

Suggestions: Trim the “fat” from the current content, and make available via searchable archive instead, making use of FTP vs. http. Then address responsiveness by doing what everyone else is: In addition to the regular site, offer a mobile version of HBS for smart phone/i-pads, if it’s in the budget. If not, take advantage of the increased traffic, by adding a counter, then, when numbers support it, begin soliciting some bee supply/queen companies to run adds on your site to offset the cost of improvements. If HBS is evolving, it needs support, and that costs $$……..sooooo . . . go get those ad $$ to facilitate that. No one can begrudge you for that.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Vickie
Reply

I know nothing about computers and I didn’t know anything about bees until I started my first hive and happened upon your website. Whatever you do, I know it will be informative, entertaining and valuable to me as a new beekeeper and I will look forward to the new change. Often I had wondered who the “Wonder Woman” was and am glad you posted your picture. It’s always nice to have a name with a face :-) With all this said, I am thankful this Thanksgiving to count you, Rusty, as one of my blessings! Keep up the GREAT work! You are appreciated.

Rusty
Reply

Vickie,

I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but I don’t think “Wonder Woman” was ever among them. Still, thank you for the kind words. Here’s wishing you a bountiful Thanksgiving.

Brad Raspet
Reply

I know the feeling . . . keeping my site really simple, clean. I enjoy your web page very much, informative and fun. Keep up the good work.

P.S. I never noticed a slow down… :>)

Rusty
Reply

Brad,

Thanks, that’s good to know. It’s hard to tell if people are giving up or being patient or not noticing.

Larry
Reply

I received the “404” notice this afternoon and yesterday but no problems this evening. I knew you were working on the site, so I wasn’t too worried. Your site is the one I go to first, because your posts are concise and very searchable. Thank you for your work and quick response to questions.

Rusty
Reply

Larry,

Thanks for letting me know about the 404, and thanks for reading!

R Raymond
Reply

I also got the 404 message. Googled honeybeesuite, loaded your site, clicked on save favorites and overwrote the old saved favorite. No more trouble. Keep on keeping on, girl.

On a different subject, the top cover of my Hive One blew off (had a brick on it too) in our big wind storm which included and/or was followed by 3.5 inches of rain. Hope and pray the queen survived. Seems like they are flying ok today. Swept lots of dead bees out this morning. Is there anything I can do to help them now?

Have a nice Thanksgiving.

Rusty
Reply

Ron,

Good idea on the 404; I’m going to try that myself. As for your bees, make sure they have lots of ventilation so the moisture dries out asap. I couldn’t believe the amount of rain we had this past week. It was coming down in buckets, not like the Northwest at all. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.

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