Tag Archives: interwebz

Hello WP Engine, Goodbye Hosting Headaches

affiliate links pic Hello WP Engine, Goodbye Hosting HeadachesThere are so many things that can go wrong when you have a website. Losing data that isn’t backed up, getting hacked and figuring out how to fix it, hosting outages with no explanation or apology. Honestly, I was over it. Sure, I used to make money off of helping people with these problems, but I don’t have the time for that anymore and I’ve seen enough things go wrong that I don’t have time to deal with these headaches with my own site.

So I made the switch. I am officially hosted at WP Engine

I started talking to them last year after I’d heard really positive reviews from other bloggers. I set up my personal site there and gave it a few months to see how it went.

Without further ado, my thorough WP Engine review.

My Favorite Things About WP Engine

One of my very favorites? Getting emails like this:

We’ve just finished updating your WordPress site to version 3.8.2. Everything should have gone well, and your site should be all souped up with the new WordPress 3.8.2 goodness. Awesome!

No further action on your part is required, everything is running smoothly. We just wanted to let you know that your site has been automagically updated and you didn’t have to do a bit of work. Super awesome.

Instead of emails like this:

PHP, the web programming language, has several different versions and we will be phasing out PHP version 5.2 in the near future as it has been unsupported by its creators for several years now. You are receiving this email because your account was found to be using PHP version 5.2.

If you’re not certain of your sites compatibility with PHP 5.4, you can quickly and easily test it by changing your account to PHP 5.4 single using the outlined steps below. If, after changing your PHP version to 5.4 and your site looks normal and operates without any errors then your site is compatible. If you update to PHP 5.4 and you find your site showing errors or a blank white screen that is a good sign that something in your site is not compatible. Most commonly these are plug-ins or themes that need to be updated. Switch the PHP version back to 5.2 and login to your admin panel and check for any available updates. If none are available you will need to check with the plug-ins/theme developer to see if they have compatibility with PHP 5.4.

It is strongly encouraged you check your sites plug-ins/themes/3rd party scripts for any updates in the next 7 days to avoid any downtime or issues with this process.

Yeah, your eyes started to glaze over with that second email, right? Those were the kinds of emails I used to get from my host. And the time it would take me to decode how all of this applies to my site was not minimal. I have a lot of balls in the air and I don’t have time to deal with my site running anything except perfectly. I definitely don’t have the time for a crisis.

Sometimes WordPress updates can cause a crisis, which is why I happily let WP Engine test it out and then manage it for me without having to lift a finger. Sweet.

And while we’re talk about crises? My blog, and many many others, started to have outages. A lot of outages. An unacceptable number of outages. We didn’t get emails, we didn’t get apologies, we didn’t get a discount for our hosting fees. Want to talk to customer service? Good luck. I have yet to have any kind of problem with WP Engine. And if I do, I have people, real people, I can talk to. I can’t even mention them on Twitter without them popping in to say hi. They’re really on the ball. And I’ve visited their headquarters, which happens to be in my hometown, so I saw for myself that they are all right there just waiting to help.

Then there were many stories of people whose blogs would get a traffic spike and then go down unless they were moved to a more expensive hosting plan. WP Engine customer service is hands on enough that they can DEAL with a traffic spike, make sure you’re covered, and only talk to you about switching plans if it looks like this new traffic is going to be a regular thing. If you think you’re going to get a spike or you see you’ve gone viral, you can call them and they will actually answer the phone and help you. Shocking, right?

Got plug-ins? Sometimes a new plug-in or an update can cause crazy problems on your site. Not only does WPEngine backup your site for you daily, you can also request a backup before you do anything new to make sure you can go back and fix it should anything go wrong.

backups 1024x232 Hello WP Engine, Goodbye Hosting Headaches

Hacking is one of those horror stories. Malware put on your site without you knowing it, or bringing your site down all together, and then you’re footing the bill for hours of repair. WP Engine guarantees you won’t get hacked. And if you do, they fix it for free. WIN.

Biggest Drawbacks

So let’s be straight, nobody’s perfect. If you have a pre-existing site you’ll have to migrate hosts. Which can be tricky and time consuming on your own, or take some more cash out of your pocket to have someone else do for you. (I used The WP Valet. More on them in an upcoming post.)  

Your biggest issue is likely to be email-related. WP Engine does not host email accounts through your domain (aka [email protected]) but they do give you simple directions to set it up for free or for a small fee with Zoho or Google. 

They also have a list of disallowed plugins. Though for me, this is a perk not a drawback. You never know if a plug-in is going to mess with your site. And it’s really better to keep your number of plugins low. Many of the disallowed plugins are just not necessary anymore because WP Engine does so much for you. You no longer need a caching plugin to speed up your site load times, for example.

For those of you with bigger sites, the main concern may be the size of your plan. The smallest plan is for 25,000 visits a month. The next one up is 100,000. If this is an issue for you, I’d suggest shooting them an email to see what your options are.

Leaving the Cheap Hosts Behind

You know that saying “you get what you pay for?” It’s very true with hosting. Sure, my old host was really cheap, but I didn’t get anything except hosting. And with the outages, it wasn’t like my hosting was always doing what it was supposed to. (Oh, and can we talk about how it’s really cheap with your first sign up and then goes up on renewal? Or requires years of commitment at a time to get a good rate?)

WPE affiliate promo 6 15 Hello WP Engine, Goodbye Hosting HeadachesMaking the jump from $4 a month to $29 a month is not small. And yes, I am paying for my new hosting out of my own pocket. This is not a sponsored post. I made the change because I needed a host that had my back and once my blog bank account had the necessary funds, I made the plunge. My blog priorities are lined up pretty clearly and it was easy to put this on my list once I looked at it that way.

Oh and HEY LOOK AT THIS save some serious money if you sign up by June 15th. I’m jealous. Perhaps I should’ve waited to sign up?

You can get full info on what’s available in their plans here.

I see someone ask about hosting about once a week these days. It’s obvious there’s a lot of dissatisfaction out there. So give it some thought and if you have questions you can definitely leave me a comment or send the kind folks at WP Engine an email. 

This is not a sponsored post. My personal site was provided by WP Engine, but my new hosting for the blog and my migration were all paid for out of pocket.

Everything Is Pretty OK

A really great thing happened this week. In fact, a lot of really great things have happened in a pretty short period of time. 

On Monday I yelped when I found out I’m a BlogHer 2014 Voice of the Year. (Yes, I literally yelped. In the middle of an event.) I got it for this post, and the bad of that post with the good of the award got my brain all moving.

That post was from the worst of it. Definitely a Top 5 Worst for me. It was, thankfully, more short term than I expected it to be. But part of what made that time so terrible was not knowing when it would end and what I would do.

The six months or so after that post were better, but still not good. There was a lot of uncertainty, money was past tight, it just plain wasn’t there a lot of the time. Bills were paid very late. My credit score took a beating. It was less than paycheck-to-paycheck kind of life. My new job added stability and now that I’ve been here for a while it’s finally starting to even out and settle in. Sure, it’s no picnic these days. There’s still lots of pinching pennies and avoiding everything but the essentials and budgeting spreadsheets. But I will take that any day over where things were.

Still, in my head, I haven’t been able to shake off that feeling. My default position of “We Are In Dire Straits” has not yet modulated to “We Are Treading Water.”

I really want to get my head right. Especially because I have been surrounded with wonderful things lately. Good things are happening, things I have worked for, things I have aspired to, things I didn’t think could actually happen. I want to break out from under my cloud and let myself enjoy the happy. I’d also like the chance to appreciate the fruits of an awful lot of labor. 

I’m not sure why, in the midst of success, I tend to cling to my feelings of failure. I just went to Mom 2.0 Summit, as I mentioned previously, and I was there as a Speaker and as a Brand Rep. Those were things I never would’ve imagined not too long ago. But instead of being able to feel happy about that, I spent a lot of time wondering why the big bloggers always look so effortlessly stylish and put together while I feel like I constantly look awkward and just barely able to get by looking not terribly awful. Why do I let my stupid brain do that to myself? 

So hey, me, take a minute to give yourself a pat on the back. Take some of those hard-earned dollars and get yourself a pedicure–one of those treats that feels like something you don’t have enough money to do anymore. (It’ll probably be a couple weeks before you find the time. But pencil it in, k?) Enjoy your new writing gigs. Enjoy that feeling that you’re actually turning into a legit writer somewhere outside of your own head. And take a few more minutes, maybe even a few hours, to acknowledge that you made this happen in the midst of a really really really shit year.

I am sucking at optimism of late. I had a long and fantastic chat with Elizabeth a week ago and we talked about dating as a parent and she said, “I met my husband and married him within 18 days. So just think, in 3 weeks you could be married.” And something about those words just hung out and rented space in my head. Even in the dating world I have gone from, “I am awesome and a catch, dammit,” to “Will I ever have a boyfriend again?” While I probably won’t be married in 3 weeks, it reminded me how fast things change. And FOR GOODNESS SAKES, JESS, if there’s anything you should’ve learned in the last year, it’s how fast things can change. But yeah, that same silly brain of mine thinks Not Currently Dating Anyone = Never Dating Anyone Ever.

So hey, me, chill for five seconds, okay? If you’re having trouble describing the glass as half full then just add some water to the effing glass!

I’m glad I’ve had this little talk with myself. I hope it wasn’t too weird for the rest of you.

Breaking the Rules at Mom 2.0

I have written before about how I keep my conferences low-stress. This past weekend I attended Mom 2.0 and I could not follow some of my cardinal rules. It was my first double-duty conference, where I not only had to do all my learning and networking and hugging and squeeing and partying for myself as a blogger, but also had to do lots of meeting and networking and hugging and chatting and partying on behalf of the brand I work for. So while I did do my usual mix of social and anti-social, it looked a little different this time than it normally does.

Being Anti-Social 

My anti-social breaks are usually a conference necessity. I skip an hour or so to read or nap or just enjoy some quiet. But that wasn’t going to happen this time. Too much to do. If I wasn’t in a session I was walking the floor, talking to people, taking meetings, etc.

Another thing that was a little different for me this time around is that conferences usually offer a form of escapism. Get away from your kids, get away from your job, get away from everything in your life and spend some time with cool people having fun, talking, hugging, and partying. But these days I have every other weekend as my own personal escape. Sure, it may not have 500 people to hang out with, but it means my need to break loose is not as dire as it was back in the day.

 Breaking the Rules at Mom 2.0
Me and Mir

So what did I do to cope? Well, of the three nights I spent on the road, I was in bed by midnight for every single one of them. I heard many tales of karaoke, drinking, dancing, partying, and just plain joy. But I admit, I couldn’t go go go all day and then still have the stamina to go late into the night. For Thursday night I went to the conference party, came home with my roommate and new BFF Mir, talked and laughed and then went to bed. On Friday night, I had a work party, followed by a celebratory work outing, followed by a trip back to my room where I soaked in a hot tub and read a book. On Saturday night, I went to the conference party, and then slipped out with Mir. We had recruited people to come join us, but it turned out to be just us two. Some would probably say it’s anti-social for us to leave the big group and go off for just us. And I hear we missed some pretty amazing partying.

But while partying is great fun, I would not trade it for the hours I got to spend with Mir. We ate bacon (which was shamefully absent from our conference breakfasts so we had big time cravings for it), we had dinner, we drank booze, and I ate a big fat piece of cake. Mostly though we had the kind of talks that are my favorite thing in all the world. Those hi-person-I-just-met-in-real-life-but-let’s-share-our-deepest-secrets talks. (To be fair, I have known Mir in internet land for a couple years so we weren’t total strangers. But IRL changes things, y’all.) 

There are times when you make that kind of judgment call between two good things, and I admit, I feel pretty happy with my choice.

Being Super Social

This was definitely the biggest change for me as a conference attendee. It meant I couldn’t take those relaxation breaks I normally do. It also meant that I was forced to get out of my shell and talk to people. Having a roommate who moves in different circles than I do was also really helpful.

Being a brand without a booth is a little weird since you blend in with everyone else. You definitely have to put in the work to talk to people and let them know who you are. I also highly recommend two-sided business cards like mine: me on one side, work on the other. Hugely helpful to connect with bloggers AND brands and PR people.

Honestly, I was so busy talking to people that I took virtually no pictures. Besides a fuzzy selfie with Mir and a picture of my cake.

 Breaking the Rules at Mom 2.0Forced extroversion is good for me. It makes me do things I wouldn’t normally be able to do. I talked to bloggers I would normally consider “too big” to hang out with. It is a stupid hangup that is really more about me than it is about them, but it’s hard to get over nonetheless. It took me 24 hours to work up the courage to talk to Heather Armstrong, who I sent a couple of vulnerable, confessional emails to back when I was in the midst of deciding whether to leave the Mormon church because I felt like she was the only person who would get it. I’d never seen her in person before (holy crap, Mom 2.0 had a ton of people I’d never seen in person before, it was like blogging royalty everywhere you looked) and while I didn’t want to let it slip I also didn’t want to be weird and fangirly. I eventually just did it, dressed up in my costume for the work party complete with big hair and a peacock feather, and we swapped a few stories about our time back at the Y. 

Of course you will have to take my word for it for most of this because, as mentioned previously, there is an astonishing lack of selfies to document my adventures. A shameful lack, really. And I call myself a blogger.

Thank Yous

I will never win a big fancy blogger award like the Iris Awards given out at Mom 2.0 this year, but I’d still like to take a moment to say thank you.

I would like to thank everybody who told me my hair looked good. I hardly ever wear my hair mostly down because I am still figuring out the curly thing and I tend to get self-conscious. But at Mom 2.0 I wore it down the entire conference. Thanks in part to my roommate-slash-stylist and thanks in part to everyone who was nice about it. 

I’d like to thank my very small wardrobe for doing its best to meet the difficult challenge of looking cute at a very fancy blogger conference. I did not stick out like a sore thumb. And I fit into my fringe-y black dress that I haven’t worn since getting pregnant with Tessa, so that was also a big win.

I’d like to thank the Ritz-Carlton for its amazing coffee and Cafe Intermezzo for cake and bacon. Thanks to Atlanta for the beautiful weather and reminding me that the leaves will really come back to our trees and it will be glorious.

Thanks to my flights for not being delayed.

Thanks to the waiter who told me I look 19.

And thanks, cake, for being you.
 Breaking the Rules at Mom 2.0

Stuff I’ve Been Doing When I’m Not Blogging aka Most of the Time

Yeah, you’ve probably noticed I’m not so great with the blogging of late. I blame everything. Work, kids, house, dating, sleep, etc. This last little while in particular I can also blame Listen To Your Mother, but now we’re going on a nice long hiatus from that one for a while. (Which will hopefully mean I can get back to Red Letter Reads, which has been sadly neglected.)

But while I haven’t been around here quite so much, I have been doing other things. The kids have been doing things. And instead of writing a big blog post I’m just going to half-write a post with some of the stuff that has been going on.

I’ve been writing for Piccolo Universe, it’s a great gig. So far I have an article on teaching your child about giving by being a blood donor, and one on your back-to-work postpartum wardrobe.

I’ve been working at Wayfair, where I get to run blogger campaigns and it is pretty darn awesome. One of the first things I got to work on? This cool resource, which tells you how to make a butterfly garden AND what butterflies and plants work best in each region of the US. I’ve also started my very first blogger campaign and it includes a bunch of giveaways. I’m keeping tabs if you want to enter…

And without further ado, the not-so-exciting things I’ve been up to: the day to day whatever with a few adorable pictures thrown in for good measure.

Online Dating Throwdown: Match vs. OKCupid

When I started dating again there was only one option. It was the internet or nothing. I have social circles, but they’re largely married and their social circles are largely married, and as I’m way too old and uncool for the bar scene, that was it. 

I did online dating a decade or so ago and not too much has changed between now and then. Though one major thing is that it’s no longer horrible and shameful to be dating online. It’s now seen as reasonable and generally preferred to any other option. I recently read someone argue that online dating was bad because you immediately ruled people out. This made me wonder if they’d ever realized how many snap judgments we make about people we see in person. 

I’ve learned that while I can’t tell a lot about someone based on their profile, I can get a good idea of our compatibility. Someone who keeps their answers minimal, says virtually nothing about themselves, goes on and on about how they’re looking for a “drama-free” woman, insists their partner be adventurous and well-traveled, insists their partner be fit and athletic, insists their partner be anything really–these are people who aren’t going to click with me. 

I like thoughtful people, with extra bonus points for wit and smarts. None of that has to be book smarts, in fact I find snootiness unappealing, but it goes a long way towards the kind of conversations we’ll have. And for me that’s a big deal. 

Recently I expanded my search to include both OKCupid and Match, the two most popular places to go. And for those of you who may be curious, I thought I’d share my findings in a head-to-head comparison.

Size of Pool: Match wins this by a long shot. It didn’t take long for me to feel like OKC kept showing me the same people. 

Quality of Pool: About even, probably. There’s a lot more to say, but you’ll get it in some of these other answers.

Searchability: OKC wins. Match lets you put in plenty of specs, but I don’t look for specs in a person. I can find an exception to almost every rule. I’ve dated amazing guys without college degrees, low incomes, and unusual professions. I tend to do very little excluding, so searching is not too helpful for someone like me. If you’re particular about height, weight, race, income, etc. it can be more helpful. (However, be prepared for lots of lying. The number of guys who’ve said they were 5’9″ and then showed up and were exactly as tall as me–I’m not quite 5’6″–has been many. I’ve even seen guys on Match list every race, I don’t know if they don’t follow directions well or didn’t want to be left out of someone’s search based on race.) OKC lets you search on compatibility, and I know it’s hard to trust at first, but after a little while you start to realize that it does pretty well.

Engagement: Match gives you so many ways to engage… and yet I’ve found people there quieter and less responsive. You can Favorite, Message, Like or Wink or any combination of those. All of them will notify the other person you did so. And while men complain that women are unresponsive, I have a pretty long list of “Favorites” that I keep so I can remind myself to send them a message, but hardly any of them have responded to me favorite-ing them. OKC, however, is much better. Almost too much. I get more unsolicited messages, though many of them are from people I find interesting. Chat is commonly used, although you do have to watch out for people trying to talk to you all the time. But overall I prefer OKC.

Usefulness of Profile: Another OKC win. Its profile prompts are more interesting, even if they’re also more obnoxious. They give you better answers that tell you more about a person. And it’s Question section, even if many of them are ridiculous, also gives you a lot of information about a person, especially when it comes to some political or ethical issues that may be dealbreakers for you. Match is so blah that it leads to lots of dull profiles with little information. I don’t really care what someone’s “Favorite Hot Spots” are.

Nerd Quotient: I can’t tell if there are really more nerds on OKC or if it’s just that Match shows me a broader group of people. I can tell you that if you’re looking for a guy with a beard who rides his bike to work and lives in Somerville, you will find a million of them on OKC.

Ease of Use: Another win for OKC. Match’s menu bar has so much stupid stuff in it that I cannot keep it straight.

Exposure to People: Match takes this one. Sure, I find OKC’s search by compatibility relatively decent, but Match emails me a list of 24 people a day and I usually click through all of their profiles. I may only see 1 or 2 that look interesting, but it’s definitely involving me regularly more than OKC does. The thing I like best about OKC, though, is it sends you a little message to tell you if someone you may be compatible with is looking at your profile.

Blocking Ability: Haven’t had to use it yet on Match, but I did have a guy on OKC who kept making a new account after I blocked him, which I would then block, and then the cycle would continue. The block works and I did flag or report him each time this happened. I know it’s kind of impossible for any online dating site to ban a person since they can always make a new profile under a different email address, but the blocking ability makes me feel safer. Match does let you block and hide as well, convenient for when you see someone you know IRL and you don’t want to keep running into them.

Cost: I’ve found the free OKC is just fine. Free Match is not. If you don’t pay for Match it’s basically useless. However, Match does give you a guarantee that if you haven’t found someone in 6 months you can get the next 6 months free. I’ll let you know if they stick to that…

Responsiveness: Obviously this is subjective since I only pick out certain people to contact, but I do believe that if I find someone who looks interesting I shouldn’t wait by the phone. So how has it gone when I’ve reached out? My response rate on Match is abysmal. My rate so far on OKC is pretty decent, about 50%. I am hoping my average on Match improves, I’ve officially stopped contacting anyone who says they aren’t interested in people with kids (people who say they’re not often contact me anyway so I was pretty loose at first) and hopefully it’ll get better, but overall people on OKC tend to be much more into the idea of actually meeting and talking.

Creepy Factor: OKC is higher, for sure. I’ve received more than my fair share of emails inviting me to be “the lover of an older man” or the third to a married couple. OKC in general has a higher quotient of nontraditional relationships, including a good number of poly folks in a big city like mine. So if you’re really opposed to that type of thing or find it horrifying, OKC is probably not a good fit for you. I find those emails aren’t coming often enough to bother me. Match, on the other hand, is high on the boring quotient. Be ready for plenty of profiles that try and show off their personalities by such gems as “I’m just as happy going out as I am staying in.” I actually have a more traditional profile picture on Match where the people are more traditional and a quirkier one on OKC.

So overall I prefer OKC, but right now I’m not content to stay there. I may feel differently a few more months into Match, but I mostly joined Match to add to my pool and it’s certainly done that.

It Takes an Internet

For me, the phrase “it takes a village” has a very different meaning. Because I live a lot of my life online, my village is the internet. And I love my village.

There are a lot of people who would say it’s crazy to share so much of your deepest self online using your real name. Probably the vast majority of people. But this is who I am, an oversharer by nature and occasionally by trade. I find shouting into the void awfully unfulfilling, so I shout into the internet instead. Happily, the internet likes to shout back. 

Last summer I suffered through some really tough stuff and I decided to keep it quiet. It was terrible.

This summer I suffered through some even tougher stuff and I was done with quiet. I spoke my mind. And it’s been a million times easier.

I’ve also had the kind of support that I never could have expected.

You, my friends, have visited my site and read my posts. You’ve left comments and sent emails. 

You’ve talked to me and let me vent.

You’ve babysat my kids.

You’ve passed down clothes.

You’ve sent gifts.

You’ve gone so above and beyond.

I want to send you all hand-written thank-you notes. But given the way I’m managing my life lately this probably isn’t going to happen. Or at least, not soon. So for now, all of you, just accept my very very thankful-est thanks. 

You’ll have to bear with me for a while because I’m not sure how this whole working-while-single-parenting thing is going to go. I’m pretty new to them separately and putting them together is an awfully big hurdle. Plus I tend to be the kind of person who lets myself ease into such things. I give myself a lot of leeway. I let myself go really slow. I basically lead as basic a life as possible until I get my bearings.

Some day I’ll be up at night writing for you in the morning. But for now I’m mostly going to bed before 9 because I’m just done for the day and that’s that and it’s okay.

For now I know you and I know how wonderful you all are and I know that this is enough for you because you are so wonderful.