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C’mon Get Trac’in!

When should you, that new user, use trac, and when should you not?

After every major WordPress release I trawl the forums and look for new superstars. I usually find one or two people who, like I did five years ago, catapult themselves into the stratosphere by taking notice of issues of communication and correcting them. That’s how that OMGWTFBBQ post was born! WordPress 3.0 dropped with a lot of changes and people lost their minds. That’s the best part of a complex release.

Screaming face in a muralThe worst part is people losing their minds in the wrong places.

Oh there’s nothing wrong with going batty over a change or reporting something is broken. What’s wrong is when you go into a half-dozen similar posts and repeat the exact same rant. Much like the superstars who get noticed because they’re being helpful, when you spam-rant, you become noticed in a bad way.

No release is perfect, and WordPress’ ideology of ‘Release and iterate!’ means that we know we’ll have missed something, or not totally finished another, and it’s not everything we want yet, but also that the fastest way to get ready is to get more people poking at it and breaking it. This means we know things aren’t perfect, but it doesn’t mean we ship broken code. Still, change breaks things, and some of those things are outside our control (like TinyMCE 4 changed how it implements a lot of things).

Naturally though, big changes cause loud complaints. For people who shout and demand to know why we had to change, the problem is where they do it, not so much how and with what language. The where problem is that someone will post a rant in a bunch of similar posts, or create a trac ticket when they haven’t done any debugging.

It’s pretty easy to remember that the support forums are not your personal soapbox to stand on and shout about how much everyone sucks (or is awesome, I know). The forums are a place to describe your problem and get help.

So … How DO you know when it’s time to get trac-a-lacking and make a ticket, and when it’s not?

Is it just you?

A quick search of the forums will tell you if you’re the only one with an issue. If you see one or two other people with similar issues, read deeper. Similar is not the same, so just because you both have a white-screen-of-death on the post editor does not mean it’s the same bug.

Did you do the needful testing?

Have you tried:

  • flushing any caching plugins you might be running, as well as server and/or browser caches.
  • deactivating all plugins (yes, all) to see if this resolves the problem. If this works, re-activate the plugins one by one until you find the problematic plugin(s). If you can’t get into your admin dashboard, try resetting the plugins folder by FTP or PhpMyAdmin (read “How to deactivate all plugins when you can’t log in to wp-admin” if you need help). Sometimes, an apparently inactive plugin can still cause problems. Also remember to deactivate any plugins in the mu-plugins folder. The easiest way is to rename that folder to mu-plugins-old
  • switching to the Twenty Fourteen theme to rule out any theme-specific problems. If you can’t log in to change themes, you can remove the theme folders via FTP so the only one is `twenty fourteen`. That will force your site to use it.
  • manually upgrading. When all else fails, download a fresh copy of the latest.zip file of WordPress to your computer, and use that to copy up. You may need to delete the wp-admin and wp-includes folders on your server. Read the Manual Update directions first.

(Can you tell I use that a lot?)

Follow Trac

Does it happen on a clean install?

The best testers test on a test site. Even on my personal, I don’t code on it, laptop, I keep a copy of MAMP handy, as well as a pure test site on a live server. But I’m weird. Still, if you’re even considering making a trac ticket, have a test site and test it there before you click that ‘new ticket’ button. It may feel like an extra hurdle, but having that clean test will make sure you’re not losing your mind sometimes.

Have you asked anyone else about it?

I admit, this works better if you know people, but if you do know someone, just ask. I bug my coworkers sometimes “Hey, do you see this? No? Okay…” It helps me sort out if I’m being crazy or not, and sometimes just asking “Anyone know why I might get this error…?” gets amazing results. Again, this works best if you have a network already, so don’t worry about this too much.

Hope you’re right…

Even I don’t know if it’s right to make a ticket all the time. I hesitate over those buttons a lot, and often delete the whole thing. It’s not super simple to know, so you have to make your best guess.