First, some background. We’re 100% volunteer, with some staff members putting in serious hours outside of what we do to feed and shelter ourselves and our loved ones. We make enough from advertising and our generous reader donations to keep P-Mag on a dedicated server, which lives with thousands of other servers in a place much warmer than Indianapolis. Dedicated servers don’t tend to be cheap to rent. We get too much traffic to share a server; in our early days we were kicked clean off a shared plan, with no warning after we got Stumbled Upon™. Good times. Our little server is a champ, and we frequently push her beyond what she’s technically supposed to be able to do, and we have a series of supports in place to keep her live most of the time. We’ve got a lot going on under the hood, and it takes a certain amount of juggling to make all the parts play well together while not being an unnecessary drain on resources. Don’t get me wrong, I totally love this shit, but I’m not an expert. Yet.
A lively community + fancy pants add-ons + frequently changing front page + one badass but limited server = quirks. The first three variables aren’t changing, and we wouldn’t want them to, so the answers lie in the server.
One thing we do to keep the P-Mag server from shitting itself is use a third-party caching service called CloudFlare. CloudFlare takes all the static resources and stores a cached version of them, which it serves up to users who are not logged in. CloudFlare is awesome, but it’s not perfect. Without regular purges, it can sometimes serve up a cached version of the entire site, sometimes from weeks ago. Solution: We’ve got a regular scheduled time to dump the Cloud Flare cache once per day. CloudFlare is also responsible for the periodic CAPTCHA messages that pop up. It tries to catch malicious visitors, but it seems to throw a lot of false positives. If you get the dreaded CAPTCHA, contact me, I can add you to a whitelist. Spam is a HUGE problem on a blog like ours, we get almost none, so overall the extra pain in the ass is worth it.
The image uploader in the comments is a pain in the ass. If you’re struggling, make sure your images are small enough to fit in the comment box (it will refuse to upload anything that will bleed into the sidebar) and that the file size is small. The limit is 1mb, but the smaller the size, the better your chances of the uploader taking it on the first try.
Embedding YouTube comments also has proven to be a hit or miss thing. Your best chance is to copy the short URL that appears under the video, in the sharing area. Paste that URL into the reply box, then highlight it and click the broken link. The vids only work when the URL isn’t a hyperlink. I’ve noticed recently that the software will second guess us and make the URL a hyperlink anyway. At this point in time, I have no idea how to fix it.
Several folks have noticed a bug when they try to reply to a comment on a post with many comments. The reply box has been appearing in random places, from under the comment to the bottom of the thread to the bottom of the page. I’m pretty sure I fixed it, but I’m not positive without a little more testing. The comment box should be where you expect it to be now. I hope.
Every once in a while, a new member will get stuck in account activation purgatory, and they won’t receive a confirmation email. If that happens to you, use the contact form under the About tab at the top of the page to send a notice. We can resend the email and manually activate users. It only happens when we get a ton of registrations at the exact same time, I think it’s a bug from too many server requests at once. (Also, check your spam folder.)
Sometimes the pages can get stuck while loading during really busy times. Usually, I can stop the dreaded endless load by hitting shift-reload.
We’re close to bringing in enough ad monies to expand to a second server, which will give us much more power under the hood. We’re also constantly working to optimize the site so it uses the server resources efficiently. There will be other glitches along the way, but the long term plan should have us running like a well-oiled machine — with all our whistles and bells intact — in a couple of billing cycles.
I think that covers the main foibles, if you’ve got other issues, let me know in the comments and I’ll let you know what we can do about it!