When updates go wrong.
Way back in 2006, I wrote an article titled “Reader Engagement Site Improvements.” In it, I detailed a number of plugins I’d installed to help keep visitors around a while longer, looking at new content on my site.
One of these plugins is called Landing Sites. Its job is to check to see if a visitor has arrived (or “landed”) on your blog from a search engine it knows. If it has, it displays a custom message with links to possibly related posts. The idea is that if a visitor has come to your site because he was searching for something, maybe one of your other related posts might meet his needs. Here’s what it looks like on my blog, with some customization.
I used the plugin on both my main blog, An Eclectic Mind, and this Maria’s Guides site. It worked like a charm. My blog was even commended by another blogger for the use of this feature. (Wish I could find the link, but I can’t. Sorry.)
Then, I made a fatal error. When WordPress notified me that the Landing Sites plugin had been updated from version 1.3 to 1.4.1, I allowed it to automatically install the update. I didn’t realize until I updated my blog to WordPress 2.7 and changed the theme that Landing Sites had stopped working. Instead of showing a list of related posts, it was show some raw and ugly PHP code.
I figured the problem was with WordPress 2.7, so I just disabled it on my blog. I posted a comment in a WordPress.org support thread and waited for a response. The author of the plugin subsequently posted instructions for a fix, but it didn’t work for me or for others.
Today, Lorelle (of Lorelle on WordPress fame) e-mailed me to point out that the plugin wasn’t working on this site. (I admit it: I’m lazy and still have this site set up on WordPress 2.6.5.) That surprised me. I went into action, beginning the troubleshooting process.
No fix worked. But I was able to track down the old version of the plugin. I disabled the current version and deleted it. Then I reinstalled the old version (1.3) and activated it. The result: problem solved.
I then went to my blog, which is running WordPress 2.7, and installed the old version there. As you can see from the screenshot above, it works.
What does this mean to self-hosted WordPress users? Unfortunately, it means that plugin updates don’t always make things work better — or even right. In this instance, the plugin author “broke” the plugin by trying to fix it and releasing an update. I don’t know if the new version works for everyone else, but I know it doesn’t work for me. I don’t know why, and frankly, I don’t care. I’m just glad that reinstalling the old version fixed the problem.
I like the plugin and am glad to have it fully functional on my blogs.
A big thanks to Lorelle for contacting me when she found the problem. Since I never reach my blogs via a search engine, I probably never would have found the problem on my own.