What I Learned Yesterday…

…and how I fixed it.

I was just about to go out and have a coffee with a friend.  I had the computer on and took a quick look at my mentions and noticed this.

Huh?

I clicked the link and sure enough, WordPress returned

Maybe there is something to do with this after all.

I clicked on the Archives link above and, sure enough, there was a gap where that post should be.  Now I’m starting to freak.  That was one of my more popular recent posts.  No problem, I thought, I’ll have a backup of it on a computer somewhere.

1)  I went looking – Qumana, LiveWriter, ScribeFire, WordPress for iPad, … no luck. I can’t remember what tool that I used to create the post.  Rats.

2)  In the process, I learned that the ScribeFire backup appears to be the index from the WordPress blog.

OK, now I’m starting to feel a little more than freaked – I’m on the verge of panic.  I don’t have a local backup and poking around on WordPress was fruitless.

3)  I know…I’ll try the Wayback Machine.

Crap.  If I wanted something from 2008, I would be in luck.

What to do?  What to do?  Then, I thought…what would Google do?  Heck, they’d cache it.

So, I take a guess at what the URL would have been (fortunately, the original Twitter message made reference to it).  So, I do a Google Search for the post.  As I wade my way through the results that a lot of others had retweeted and were similarly broken, I found a link that would have gone to the original site.  Hover over the chevrons to the right and a preview of the page pops up.    Bingo!

4)  There’s a link to the cached version.  I click on the link, Google provides a warning that this may not be perfect, but I know it is.  I never post anything until it’s written and proofread locally.

5)  I open a new tab in my browser, go back to the cached version of the post, highlight it, and copy it.  I flip to the new tab and paste the contents.  It’s like this never happened!  I figure that I should give thanks to Google for saving my bacon, post it, and let @stevestoneky know that it’s there.

If I hurry, I can still get into Windsor and have my coffee.

As I’m sitting in stalled traffic on Howard Avenue feeling pretty smug about what I’d done, I realize that I actually hadn’t solved the entire problem.  With the original post, some folks had favourited it and others had retweeted and services like Zite had made reference to the original URL.

How do I fix that?  It was posted on August 6.  It’s now August 17.

6)  It turns out that’s just a hiccup.  I don’t normally get up and blog at 5 in the morning but that’s when my posts appear.  There is a feature in WordPress that lets you schedule a post to appear at that time.  I’ve never tried to post to the past though!  With crossed fingers (and it’s difficult to type that way), I set the time and date.  In effect, I’m rolling back the clock.

And, it works.  I check the link in the Twitter message identifying the problem and sure enough, it links directly to the post.  I check the archives and it’s all in place.

I’m no longer freaking or panicking.  I’m happy that I restored the damage.  In the process, I learned a great deal as numbered throughout this post.  I hope that I never have to do this again.  I’m telling the story just in case it helps anyone else out who has the same thing happen to them.

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6 Replies to “What I Learned Yesterday…”

  1. Hi Doug
    Excellent news you were able to fix your post! Google cache can be such a life saver. I use it quite a bit. As some one whose day is spent troubleshooting blog problems I’m curious what happened to the original post?

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  2. Hi Sue
    I’m totally not ready to rule out user error. I do have a routine that has served me well for blogging. As you’d gather from the post, I try a bunch of blog editors always looking for the best of breed. The only thing that I did that strayed from normal was trying out an editor recommended and perhaps instead of creating a new post, it modified the original post to the new date/time?. As I’m sure that you would agree, the WordPress code base is pretty solid so I would point my finger there last. It’s got to be the guy in the mirror. I sometimes skim over messages like “Are you sure you want to do this?” Google’s cache really shouldn’t be part of a backup strategy.

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  3. Think what you’ll learn today is Sue spends too much time in her day troubleshooting and working through the logic of why blogs (and servers) might work in mysterious ways.

    So here’s my thoughts. The post was either deleted or time stamp changed several days after it was published. Google cache works differently from Google Reader. The fact you were able to find it using Google cache implies the post was online for several days and was removed only recently (if you look at the date under the cache version of your blog tht tells you the last time Google indexed your site). i.e the change the post must have happened between that cache date and yesterday when you spotted the issue.

    If the time stamp was changed then you should have been able to find the post in Posts > All Posts by searching that post title (I have seen posts accidentally changed to future dates – so check scheduled posts too). If it was sent to trash I would have expected to find it in you trash folder since it should be stored there for 30 days before it is permanently deleted. I would hope any third party app that you’re using does send a trashed post to your trash folder.

    Other thoughts. Subscribing to your own blog feed using Google Reader is good practice. Good idea to check posts displaying properly in feeds and, while you shouldn’t need a back up, posts aren’t deleted from Google Reader so is a better way of retrieving a lost post than Google cache which is reliant on when Google cache may or may not have indexed your site.

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  4. Sounds advice, Sue. I did the Posts > All Posts and couldn’t find it. It’s actually easy to spot since my regular posts are surrounded by OTR Links posts. You’re correct about subscribing to your own posts. Egotistically, I do subscribe to myself…never thought of it as a saviour though! Thanks. I use NewsSquares to pull in the RSS feeds regularly. The post was indeed up for a number of days. I’m absolutely positive that I shot myself in the foot. I’m just happy that I was able to restore it.

    I don’t envy you doing all that support day in and day out!

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  5. Definitely great you were able to restore it and RSS is best way to recover it. So good tip if you ever had problem like this again.

    Still not convinced on user error if it was deleted because unless one of your third party apps permanently deletes there is a lot involved to permanently delete inside the WordPress dashboard.

    Yeah funny that pretty much 7 days a week I’m troubleshooting blog issues and in my spare time I’ll troubleshoot a blog problem :). What can I say? I love my job do too much.

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