Web Development Woes

I truly enjoy Web development. I think what I like best about it is being able to build something and then watch it work. Had past circumstances been different I could easily see myself as an engineer or an inventor. While I never went down that professional path, I can still enjoy a similar feeling of accomplishment through working on my site.

I work very hard on my site. Some days it consumes me and I sit in front of my computer for 12 hours straight, with nary a restroom break. While my passion is what drives me, it’s my ignorance and amateurism that forces me to put in the long hours. I’m learning as I go, which I’ll admit is a terrible way to build anything, but what can I do? I don’t want to go to school for this. Proper education would take forever and I want to build my Web site now. Also, I think Web development is one of those disciplines where one doesn’t need to know everything to get started. This truth is why there are so many Web sites on the Internet of varying degrees of usability and aesthetics.

When I first started out my sites were visual vomit. I have no sense of moderation sometimes and if left to my own devices I’ll incorporate as much as I possibly can, including advanced features that I don’t quite have a grasp of yet. I had marquees, rainbow colored text, splash pages and – the mother of Web no-no’s – frames. On the other hand, this was about eight years ago and these touches weren’t so frowned upon back then.

Over the years, I built up my knowledge bit by bit, finally picking up Cascading Style Sheets when I moved my email list to the Internet and created my first blog with WordPress. Even that site still looked like garbage – riddled with Google Ads and low-resolution images. Fortunately, those days are behind me. On the other hand, today has taught me that there is so much more I don’t know, especially on the hosting side of things.

Last night I finally created a branded email address. I’m phasing out my workingauthor@gmail.com address and moving over to renegarcia@workingauthor.com. So update your address books if you have me in it. The reason I’ve held off for so long is because I’ve never been happy with the spam protection of my hosting company. I found that I was doing a little too much cleanup on my end and I hated having to dig through the spam bin for the emails that were incorrectly filtered. Gmail, on the other hand, is awesome. Their spam filtering is second to none. Only once in a blue moon does Gmail incorrectly flag something as spam. It happens so rarely that I am supremely confident in never checking my spam folder. Gmail does occasionally let spam through, but I’d rather it err on this side than the other since deleting occasional spam is less of a hassle than digging through spam to find legitimate messages.

In fact, I would have probably never switched over to a branded email if it weren’t for Google Apps. You can now run personal email through Google’s servers and take advantage of their spam filters. That’s actually how Buzzine does it. I thought it was a pretty slick idea so I decided to get onboard with Working Author. Here’s where everything got tricky. I won’t bore you with the details, mainly because I don’t even have a full grasp of them myself. Suffice to say that after I presumably got everything set up to have Google Apps manage my email I found that there was a delay in sending and receiving of about two hours. In the worst case, email would never be received and simply be lost in cyberspace. At that point in the evening it was close to midnight and I was fried so I decided to pick it up again in the morning.

When I got up today, a friend of mine emailed me to let me know that none of the links on my site were working. I realized then that something I had asked my hosting company to do for me must have screwed something up. To briefly explain, when you have Google manage your email, you can create a custom URL like http://mail.example.com/ for your Webmail access rather than the ungainly default one Google provides you. In order for me to create that custom URL I had to contact my hosting company to create a CNAME record pointing to Google. I have no idea how it was done or if it was done correctly. When you don’t know the process of something, your ignorance puts you at a great disadvantage when you have to tell people to complete that process for you. In any event, I thought that change must have busted all of my links so in a panic I told my host to undo all of the changes. I undid my MX records and canceled my Google Apps and then I waited for the changes to take effect. Excruciating hours went by and the problem persisted. I crawled my hosting company’s forums for help and found none.  I went to WordPress’ forums for help and still couldn’t get any satisfaction.

The problem with my search was that I was assuming too much. I thought that the issue had to do with the CNAME record so I was searching for WordPress issues related to CNAME changes. Only when I finally broke down and performed a very generic search for “wordpress links broken” did I find a forum post about my very issue. Apparently, my permalinks structure had been overwritten and it was simply a matter of resaving it. I’d never thought to do that in a million years mind you. In fact, I had downloaded my entire site and I was prepared to purge everything off the server and reinstall WordPress. Thank goodness I didn’t.

Everything looks to be functioning properly now, but after last night’s and today’s technical hardships I have nothing but love for IT professionals around the world.