My oh my, can this really be a WordPress post? (feeling Groom-y)

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PorcuJim, originally uploaded by Serenae.

So, we have very quietly been running some WordPress blogs for the past month or so. I say “quietly” because we are treating this is as something of testing phase. Not so much testing the software (which has mostly run well, with a few hiccups on the custom hacked stuff), as testing how it works for a set of exemplar cases and monitoring the associated support needs. Hopefully I will be able to share the stuff that’s been happening in the not-too-distant future, as some of it is quite exciting.

There has been one technical issue that has bedeviled us. Even though we are running the system on a top-end hosting platform, and the usage levels are relatively light, some users report periodic stalling and hang-ups when posting or even commenting. The problem is particularly acute with the admin and management interfaces. The strange part is that reported slowdowns are not reflected in any anomalies with the server or activity logs. It seems worse for users off-campus, and perhaps worse for users on wireless networks.

I thought I had identified a major cause while traveling a couple weeks back. The management interface in Firefox was stalled, so I tried it in Safari where it worked like a charm. Firefox was still non-responsive, so I tried it again there with Greasemonkey turned off, which proved to be my problem. When Greasemonkey was on, the interface hung up, when off it was fine.

I thought this was THE breakthrough, but most of our users reporting problems claim they are not Greasemonkey (or even Firefox) users, or of other similar extensions such as Firebug.

It seems clear that there is some issue related to javascript, and network latencies. (Do I sound impressively techie with that last sentence? I hope so, as I am mindlessly parroting what smart people are telling me.) I am hopeful that someone else out there has dealt with similar problems… Are there things we can advise or ask people who complain about sluggish performance? Are there any plugins that might be causing the problem? (We have actually been fairly minimalist in our use of plugins precisely due to potential issues like this.) Is there anything we can do to address this problem in our management of the system?

I do hope to get this cleared up, as overall the early returns suggest that the platform is a winner.

4 thoughts on “My oh my, can this really be a WordPress post? (feeling Groom-y)

  1. What other platforms did you look at. WordPress seems to be the nice robust one people use. I have set up a few smallish websites using Drupal and I feel pretty comfortable with that platform. My experience with WordPress is zero. We are trying to pin down a nice CMS solution for our online classes and Drupal seems to have nice flexible content types. What are the advantages that WordPress has? Sure we eventually want a campus blogging platform and we want a nice flexible solution for both. The end-users will be very non-techie, so that is a concern.

  2. Have any of your users tried the Turbo feature (top right of the admin UI)? It uses Google Gears to load the admin UI locally (all css, javascript, supporting files get copied to the user’s computer so it loads stanky fast). Works great in WPMU, but it has to be activated for each blog a person uses (because it physically copies the admin stuff for that blog site to that user’s computer).

    Seems to work great on our site, making the admin stuff load MUCH faster. Combine that with WP-Super-Cache to only generate dynamic pages if necessary, and the load should go way down.

    That said, UCalgaryBlogs.ca currently runs in a shared virtual machine server, with the database in a shared MySQL server that has a LOT of load from other apps. Plenty of room for optimization 🙂

  3. Can’t help with WP or network issues, but posting and comments both involve database transactions. Have you checked the db? Things like corrupt indexes etc etc can have dramatic effects on response times. Even intermittent response problems can have db causes. No doubt your data admin folks have already examined this.

  4. Hahahha,

    I knew you had a WordPress Multi-User blog post in you yet, and you saved it up for the old “latency in the admin interface” issue I see. WP-Super Cache will help the loading of blog pages, but I’m not sure why you would be having this in the admin interface, seems kind of strange. We haven’t really had the system hang there, and we aren’t running super cache just yet. What mu-plugins are you using? I think the javascript in the new WP interface that comes with version 2.5+ is kinda nutty, and still has bugs. I had problems with Feed WordPress creating issues in the backend javascript, and not until I upgraded to 2.6.1 and FeedWordPress 0.933 (I think that is the latest version) did it go away.

    Also, I am happy to report Feed WordPress is now working with Donncha’s latest Sitewide Tag Pages Plugin, which is great relief for us, because Feed WordPrss is now back in action in full effect, and I can breath a bit easier.

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