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John T. Unger

Trouble-Shooting Your Blog: Simple Mistakes can Have Complicated Results

John T. Unger July 16, 2006

This is a reader-participation post— I have a question I want to throw out to the crowd, but first a wee bit of set up to put it in context:

Sometimes the simplest things can throw you… I actually have sat down to the keyboard a half dozen times in the last two weeks to work on hacks, but I totally destroyed the template on my test blog while trying to implement one of them. I was working without having made a copy of the templates first, a very bad idea as I've mentioned in the past. Rather than trying to undo the changes, then, I just cloned the template from this blog and applied it to the test blog… after all, if the hack had worked, I was planning on using it here. But when I went to republish the files, it got part way through and crashed. Okay, well, I've seen that before. So I tried again, and got the same result. Hmmm. After all, I know that the templates work because I'm using them here.

So I tried cloning a different template and applying it to the test blog. Yet again, it crashed and I gave up for the day. I was pretty sure it must be something on the server end, and I just figured I'd come back and fix the test blog later. But the next day I tried to apply a cloned template, I got the same result. I kept banging my head on the wall trying to figure out what was wrong with my templates for a while, until I finally got frustrated enough to submit a help ticket. Of course it was a pretty simple thing… The templates I use all have categories enabled and reference them in the sidebar, but I hadn't enabled categories for the test blog (which is weird… I could swear they were enabled, because I'm pretty sure the old template used them too!)

Anyway, it was such a simple problem that had nothing to do with the code I'd written that it gave me an idea. I submitted the following suggestion to the help system at TypePad:

Subject: trouble-shooting check list

Hi Team,

I had a minor error that was causing my blog to crash during republishing for the last week… I finally submitted a help ticket and it got sorted out right away. It was a simple thing that I thought I had even checked but apparently not, eh?

Anyway, it occurs to me that with as many support tickets as you get in a day, maybe there's a checklist of most common user errors that you use for triage? And I wonder if publishing a list of "top ten user errors" to typepad hacks might be sort of thing that would help a lot of users do their own trouble-shooting and lighten the load for you guys at the same time?

In their response they mentioned that they are hoping to "update the error messages to present more valuable information to users so they can resolve the problem without needing to open a ticket" which is great news, actually. No idea when this will happen, but since they usually don't talk about things like this unless progress is being made, I would expect that it will come through sometime in relatively near future.

In the mean time, I though it would be a great idea to ask readers to submit similar examples of simple mistakes that had far-reaching consequences. What are some of the experiences you've had where a mistake in blog settings caused failure on a large scale? Share your thoughts below in the comments! Maybe together we can build a useful trouble-shooting checklist.

More Like This: Advanced Templates , Community , Community Projects


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