3 first months post-mortem

After 3 months of work with friends and family on small websites we developed collaboratively, I have some observations about the maintenance of this small network.

Simple to use for editors

First, WordPress really became very easy to use for most of the people, so, as far as you take care of the hard parts like setting the main multisite, backing up the databases, configurations and hacking small various things, they can really focus on their content and be very productive all by themselves. WordPress is the publishing platform per se and there is not such a thing as having to learn WordPress. You just start to type and you publish. Period.

As an editor, I have to admit that I have been a bit disappointed that no good integration of Markdown exists: I tried quite a lot of Markdown plugins and I think that sticking to the vanilla editing tools is the best bet. As a writer used to type in structured text format like Markdown, it is a bit painful and I had to relearn the WYSIWYG WordPress way.

Sysadmin and development

Having somebody who takes care of the infrastructure is important. As a common publishing platform, WordPress is a dedicated target for attacks, and security patches must be deployed fast when they are available. Your whole hosting server must also be updated regularly. WordPress got a powerful upgrading system. It is so good that even main GNU/Linux packages maintainers don’t recommend installing it from packages, but to download it from wordpress.org and to use the built-in updates tools.

The main things I developed personally are automatic scripts for various repetitive tasks:

  • Automation of  new sites Apache httpd virtual hosts and Let’s Encrypt TLS certificates. This is really repetitive, and you can just create a template and replace some wildcards by a dynamic domain name,
  • WordPress directory, files rights and permission management correction tools. When uploading and updating various files, you are messing up these rights, and they must be corrected precisely,
  • Themes deployment tools: You are developing the themes (templates and CSS) not in production, so you need a way to synchronize,
  • Backup scripts. You must do it regularly, so you need tools to backup your database, the configurations files and your pictures. Not having a script for backups means that you will be more likely to not do this task very regularly, and it might end up painfully.

For all this, I mostly use a Makefile with some small Bash scripts, and it was fun so far.

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