EP391 – Dealing with set it and forget it WordPress websites

June 25, 2021

This week on WPwatercooler we’re discussing set it and forget it websites, you know the website you built for your friend and they never logged into it since the day you handed over the password. That website you build for a company in your city that uses it but has never logged into it.

We’re going to discuss the pitfalls of these websites and what solutions are there for sites like these.


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Episode Transcription

Jason Tucker: [00:00:00] This is episode number 391. Of WPwatercooler dealing with set, set it and forget it. WordPress websites. I almost had to deal with it right there. Brought to you by serverpress.com makers of DesktopServer they make local WordPress development, easy. Check them out at serverpress.com. And project Panorama is a visual project management platform for WordPress that keeps clients happy and eliminates a headaches and costs you time and money when managing projects, check them out over it. Project panorama.com. I’m Jason Tucker. I’m an it director and web developer. You can find me over @ JasonTucker on Twitter.

Jason Cosper: [00:00:55] It’s your boy, Jason Cosper, AKA fat Mullenweg here to talk some word press today.

Jason Tucker: [00:01:01] Follow us on a podcast over on apple podcasts, Google podcasts, and Spotify. And while you’re there, leave us a review. We’d really appreciate that. Lastly, if you want to go and hang out with us over on discord. Go to WPwatercooler.com/discord to find out how you can hang out with us over there in that chat room. Hello folks. How are you doing today?

Se Reed: [00:01:24] Sorry. I was jamming to our wicked tunes Friday and you’re like,

Jason Tucker: [00:01:34] I don’t know, I’m one of those people that listens to the radio or not the radio, but listens to music while I’m in the shower. So I always have this like morning, I’m like ready to go. I’m like, all yes, I got my music going. I’m good to go. So yeah, I need to have that Anthem type thing for the show in order to be able to like, be really awake and ready to go. All right, let’s

Se Reed: [00:01:53] Wait, I’m sorry. Before we get on the topic, I just was like, can I have a playlist? That is something that

Jason Tucker: [00:01:59] I go, I can’t keep up with the

Se Reed: [00:02:00] I needed. Jason Anthem playlist.

Jason Tucker: [00:02:03] Sounds good.

Jason Cosper: [00:02:04] Jason’s shower, anthems.

Se Reed: [00:02:08] Yeah, I really would like to know what that’s presented to me

Jason Tucker: [00:02:12] My whole family has to hear it because my whole family has to hear it when I play it. So yeah, it’s fun stuff,

Se Reed: [00:02:18] and we will definitely post the Shopify playlist Shopify. No, I’m fine. There we go. Spotify playlist in the show notes for all of you to

Jason Tucker: [00:02:26] Oh, goodness.

Se Reed: [00:02:28] anyway. Sorry, what was that topic thing? I just, Yeah. Today’s topic we’re gonna be discussing dealing with these websites where you just set it and forget it. You’ve built a website, you set it up and then you leave. And especially if it was a couple of years What do you do?

Jason Tucker: [00:02:48] forget it.

Se Reed: [00:02:50] Does anyone remember? Do you remember? It was for like chicken, right? It was like a chicken.

Jason Tucker: [00:03:00] Something

Jason Cosper: [00:03:00] Yeah, the Rocco rotisserie grill.

Se Reed: [00:03:05] that’s a deep cut. Okay.

Jason Tucker: [00:03:07] It’s a deep cut.

Se Reed: [00:03:10] Also in the show notes.

Jason Tucker: [00:03:12] So what got me thinking about this? What got me thinking about this is that I had a a friend of mine hit me up and he was telling me about a website that he built for his kids I guess like a dojo or some type of karate thing. And they built the website up and got it all set up and everything, and then they never touched it ever again. So this website is still bringing in people. They’re still finding it. They’re still able to get to it, but with an added bonus, And the added bonus is that the the Viagra spammers have showed up and have a set up camp. And now that site is ranking very high for Viagra A dojo now. right, exactly.

Se Reed: [00:03:56] I have a question first. Did you find out what version of WordPress that site.

Jason Tucker: [00:04:02] So it was very, it was like, I want to say it was like eight years ago that this site was built because his kid is no longer a kid.

Se Reed: [00:04:15] His kids like coding like college he’s like dad, I could just make that website better now, but, okay. So he just said, first mistake, building a website for your kids studio specific.

Jason Tucker: [00:04:32] I don’t know. I think there’s some, there’s something good about that. You’re You’re helping out the studio and all this stuff, but if you don’t show them how to manage it, or if you don’t set up a maintenance agreement with them to keep the site going. I, yeah, I can see this happening I have another one, another quick little story. So when I was starting, my, my little agency that was running for a couple of years I ended up going to a local dog groomer and the dog groomer had acute logo and everything was cute about this whole design and stuff that he had. And He’s yeah. I asked him, I was like, oh, do you have a website? And he goes, nah, I don’t know how to do it. Any of that sort of stuff. The guy literally had his cell phone is the phone number for the business, like eating didn’t have a phone. Like he, he had just the bare minimum and I was like, you know what, I’ll build you a website. So I like bought the domain name for him. I built them the website. And then I handed him over all this stuff. Here’s the domain name? Here’s the website. He, his email address was like@aol.com. Like it was just like all that sort of stuff. And a couple of weeks later he hits me up and he’s Hey could you update the prices on the website? And I was like, sure. So I updated the prices and I was getting free dog grooming because of this, which was really cool. So for two years, we’re getting free dog grooming. His website was keeping up to date. And then I don’t know, something happened and we ended up like no longer using his services. His website just sat there and rotted slowly but surely, and it didn’t have auto updates. And I think if it did.

Se Reed: [00:06:05] Right.

Jason Tucker: [00:06:07] It would have been really bad if it had auto updates because it just, would’ve just auto updated itself into oblivion Or maybe it would be running really well.

Se Reed: [00:06:19] know. That’s the argument for auto updates, right? Cause there’s all of these websites out there. There’s hundreds of thousands. It’d be really interesting to do the calculations. I think that’s probably most of those websites. bulk that, of those lower end websites that is always brought up. When we talk about not leaving behind a bunch of WordPress, like my guests. Again, based on no data here, but this is my guess that the bulk of those websites that are being used to justify backwards compatibility are just forgotten websites. Just sitting there, spun up a couple of demos someone. A site for someone that they never used or a site like this karate place. So that’s interesting from that perspective, like the idea that if someone was using the website, are they actively using like these older versions of WordPress or is that they’re just like really literally, no, one’s home. It’s like abandoned houses. This is, if this was housing in a city, people would consider that blank. Like just all of these, like shelves of a website and domains. Throughout the landscape of the internet,

Jason Cosper: [00:07:37] And if you’re not careful, you will end up getting Viagra squatters, right?

Jason Tucker: [00:07:43] Okay.

Se Reed: [00:07:46] whole image.

Jason Tucker: [00:07:48] The thing is that these websites, like if you were just bill, if this was back in the day, this is early two thousands, I went and wrote my HTML and maybe I use like server side includes maybe for something like this, like maybe I did some little trickery or whatever to make the template a little bit easier. It’s essentially a static one. There’s this, I just built a static website. I never have to update it ever again. It’s just going to work. The worst thing that can happen is new browsers come out. And the HTML markup that I did Is now, yeah, it’s not degraded and is now not working correctly. I’m using tables maybe at that point like in any of those sorts of things, we’re now it’s Do you have, you had the PHP, you have the entire lamp stack or it’s variation. Like you have the operating system and which it’s running on. You have the the server in which it’s running on. You have the programming language in which it’s being programmed, and then you have all these pieces. Yeah. And the database,

Se Reed: [00:08:49] It’s

Jason Tucker: [00:08:49] all of these things to break.

Se Reed: [00:08:51] just reminds me of a drawer full of produce. That’s so improved and I close it and then didn’t open it for a month. And then it’s all the different plugins. The plugins are like busy Keeney and the lettuce is like the PHP has thing and it’s all like very rotting and various. Okay.

Jason Tucker: [00:09:13] And then every once in a while that web host would email saying, Hey, by the way, if you’ve thought about updating to the latest version of PHP and you’re like, what’s a PHP. Sure. And then you hit the button and ended updates and then maybe things worked. I don’t know.

Se Reed: [00:09:26] When we were talking about this in our chat Steve, who’s not here today.

Jason Tucker: [00:09:30] Okay.

Se Reed: [00:09:32] Just in case you’re wondering why there’s a huge gap in our hearts was saying that he didn’t believe that websites were ever truly set it and forget it because we’re mourning the loss of the fact that I was complaining about the fact that I have to update everything all the time, every five seconds. And it’s just it gets. It gets annoying, all the things you have to stand up of. And I was lamenting the days gone by where you could like go a whole month without having to update 30 plug-ins. And Steve’s argument was that it never really existed that you always had to maintain websites, which I agree with, but. Nowadays, like the plugins, the updates are coming not even just like core and security plugins of just WordPress itself. But all of this stuff is coming at you. And even if you do set up auto updates, Encore on for major updates on all your plugins that you have the right license information in there for anyway. Can you really just set it and forget it still, even if you have all those auto updates and it’s just running like a little machine. I don’t think that’s, I think websites are hands-on experience and the disconnect between that reality and what people want it to be.

Jason Tucker: [00:10:55] Right.

Se Reed: [00:10:56] that’s a, that’s an interesting place that discussion.

Jason Cosper: [00:11:01] I think a site could be set it and forget it as long as, and you brought up a really great point. You’re not dealing with. Syncing issues as long as you’re not dealing with, oh I have to make sure my license is up to date because if you forget that and can stop getting updates. Then you’re screwed there. It’s basically about I think I’ve seen sites that in the pre auto update era, like in a previous life I used to have to, yeah. I, in a previous life, I used to have to clean up hacked sites and a lot of it was. Set it and forget it. A lot of people set up their sites just like this karate dojo set up a site. And they Jason you said in our group chat before the show that the only thing that the person was that the the sensei at the karate dojo was actually updating, was a Google calendar that wasn’t even part of the WordPress press.

Jason Tucker: [00:12:20] It’s embedded. Yeah.

Jason Cosper: [00:12:22] So the only thing that needed to actually be updated for them is something that didn’t even need WordPress. Now. I know all of us on the call all of us like listening all of us, like w We’re going to yes. If you’re listening to the show. Yeah. At one time or another have been guilty. Of having oh I’m gonna, I’m gonna use WordPress for this, even when it’s okay, maybe I shouldn’t have used WordPress for this. It sounds like all he needed all in this case, he needed was a calendar that people could go visit. And that

Se Reed: [00:13:10] You probably needed an address, which didn’t change over those eight years and a phone number would change the name on there. So it looked, I’m sure just enough, which you could very well accomplish with with an HTML page.

Jason Cosper: [00:13:24] Single page with an embedded Google calendar, they could have gotten away with that. And honestly okay, so set it and forget it in a WordPress it’s hard to do back in the day. I’m going to put on my,

Se Reed: [00:13:41] A lot of things to be able to set up and forget WordPress website, like there was a lot of setup involved in making that be able to run by itself.

Jason Cosper: [00:13:50] absolutely. I’m going to put on my my internet old hat here for a second. And back when I was building websites with just HTML in 1996 those sites Jason said things about tables, about like non-standard ways of doing things. Guess what? They still. Display in Firefox Chrome, safari, all this other stuff. So they still display like people can, it could actually forget about that. Cause unless they’re using some weird CGI bin and again, internet, grandpa hat, like I there are people who don’t know what CGI bin is. They’re better for it because it was horrible. But as long as they’re not running, something like that, as long as it was just a static page, that was something that you could set and forget.

Jason Tucker: [00:14:53] Yeah. Yeah.

Se Reed: [00:14:56] so is there anything I haven’t used ghost people talk about it, but is that an example of something that is I know it runs on It’s a Java script. And so it’s obviously that has to stay up to date, but for the most part, is that more of a, the thing that you could, is there, are there any CMS, is that exists right now where you know of that you can set and forget, or do you really legit have to like bust out some Dreamweaver.

Jason Cosper: [00:15:24] There’s a lot of the, a lot of the static, CMS, as I’m aware of there, there has been an uptake. In static, CMS is the ones I’m most familiar with. And it’s because I’m a developer and has spent a lot of time on GitHub are Jekyll and Hugo, which are not user-friendly at all. Like they as far as user-friendly ones,

Se Reed: [00:15:51] Developer, user-friendly or not user end user friendly, like which how unfriendly.

Jason Cosper: [00:15:59] They are developer user-friendly, but The patchy shit. okay. As, as long as your wedding, your neck beard grow in there. Fine. They’ll get the job done.

Jason Tucker: [00:16:16] I’m almost there. I’m almost there. Here we go almost there.

Se Reed: [00:16:20] I promise you, there are deep women out there who are plenty capable of, and I know them, I know some of them who are plenty capable of putting their kernels in their Paches without any Of those people, but those

Jason Cosper: [00:16:37] and I noticed, I know some women who are also very capable of growing and that.

Se Reed: [00:16:48] There’s the whole spectrum.

Jason Cosper: [00:16:50] Absolutely

Jason Tucker: [00:16:53] What about

Se Reed: [00:16:53] it’s not required. A neck beard is not required in order to install these programs, but it is a factor for your probability of

Jason Tucker: [00:17:05] right?

Jason Cosper: [00:17:06] can be a metaphorical neck beard. Absolutely.

Jason Tucker: [00:17:10] We’re talking about server lists.

Se Reed: [00:17:12] Sorry. I am going to, I would love to manufacture like strap on neck beards for women to wear the tech conferences. Okay. Side note, if anyone’s interested in that, just tweet at me, we’ll make that happen just for a fun installation. Okay.

Jason Cosper: [00:17:32] Jason.

Jason Tucker: [00:17:36] I don’t know. I guess when it comes down to is are we just talking about like serverless technologies here are we? And I hate the term serverless. There’s a freaking server Yeah. What does that even mean? I’m like, are we building up, like, when people are talking about the static versions of what WordPress, those are so much work to create. Oh yeah.

Se Reed: [00:18:03] those aren’t set it and forget it. Anyway, those are like maintain it constantly, Yeah. I used was it Netlify I used the, our whole set up and I tried forestry and I tried I tried a whole bunch of these different ones and I’m looking through a list right now. Cause I can’t remember any of these stupid names of these things, but like I’m looking at do them and I’m just like, I’ve tried a bunch of these and every single one of them.

Jason Tucker: [00:18:27] Yeah. It was like, I got to write some content and get hub or a thing that is going to shove it and get hub at some point. And then at that point, a serverless server is going to go and grab it and then display it onto the internet. Like it’s going to somehow that database, which is the repo is going to be the thing that kinda makes us get displayed. And I don’t think that I don’t think the dojo or the dog place are going to figure any of this stuff out.

Se Reed: [00:18:58] No.

Jason Cosper: [00:18:58] No.

Jason Tucker: [00:18:59] Okay.

Se Reed: [00:18:59] Now, and what ends up happening to those poor businesses is that the I’m sure this didn’t have Dio cause you you’re using WordPress, but there are some developers out there who don’t build in WordPress, which is Somewhat usable. It’s just on the scale of there’s a bit of a learning curve, but it can be used by the end user. But there are definitely people who have a kid who go to a crowding studio and aren’t using WordPress and they’re like, sure, I’ll build you a website. And there’s here’s your Ruby on rails? And then the bed then the Per the owner of that site is great. I have this site, I can’t update it. There’s incorrect information on me on the website now. And how do I find someone who does Ruby on rails? Like where is that person? So at least in the WordPress world it might seem as daunting to that karate shop owner or karate dojo owner that they also don’t know where to find a WordPress person, but You can’t really throw your arm out without hitting a WordPress person, someone who could do some word breasts versus some of these more obscure code banks. So

Jason Tucker: [00:20:10] Yeah.

Se Reed: [00:20:11] even if you are building a super simple website, there is an argument for using something like WordPress that is more common so that it can be updated and maintained by. If not the end user, the next round of parents that come on to the karate shop, like continually inherited by someone’s parents. Even so is what I’m saying is like that it’s still, it still seems like even in this case, it’s still the best use. That website was still up just throwing spam, but it was still there and still showing people what their address was. Yeah,

Jason Cosper: [00:20:53] I w I will say eight years ago, I, if I was put in this situation, I would have set up a WordPress site. I honestly would have forgotten about it. If I stopped going. If I stopped taking my non-existent kid to the dojo he probably had a yellow belt. He was doing good, but it just wasn’t for him. It’s okay.

Se Reed: [00:21:19] Pick up the cello.

Jason Cosper: [00:21:22] Yeah. Yeah, no. And the cello was much more his

Se Reed: [00:21:25] Yeah.

Jason Cosper: [00:21:25] cool.

Jason Tucker: [00:21:27] But then the band needed a needed a website too. So you ended up building one for them as well.

Se Reed: [00:21:32] Yeah.

Jason Cosper: [00:21:34] But see, it was a few years later and by that time, Squarespace and come around and I know this is a WordPress podcast, but if I’m going to make a site that set and forget, I would throw it on something like a Squarespace. If I really needed it to be WordPress, I would put the site on wordpress.com where handling all. Of the updates. All of that crap can be on someone else’s shoulders. So when I move on, it’s no longer my problem.

Se Reed: [00:22:09] I think that’s actually really the difference between even wordpress.com and a managed host, because even I, it shows like dream press or a WP engine. You still have to. Yes, they’re still emailing you with questions about XLM RPC overload and whatever else that you have to still have a developer for and the on wordpress.com and on Squarespace, they’re not asking you to do that. So I think that really is the answer to that is the set it, and forget it sites really are not even the managed hosts. They really are just on wordpress.com or. Because they’re also doing that same thing it’s word podcast.

Jason Tucker: [00:22:56] My solution for my friend was that, Hey there’s this thing called wordpress.com. They can take the website, they can take the backup of it. They can go and import it in there. They have their whole little tool to do all that stuff. And when they’re done, you have your website, it’s on wordpress.com. It still exists in WordPress. You’re not having to retrain the person whether or not they actually logged into it and played around with it or any, but at least it’s fucking ended up with a bunch of Viagra stuff all over it because it’s now protected by WordPress.

Se Reed: [00:23:26] Kismet on steroids,

Jason Tucker: [00:23:28] Exactly.

Jason Cosper: [00:23:30] you go to wordpress.com now and enter code Viagra dojo, 20% off.

Se Reed: [00:23:39] the only podcast sponsored by wordpress.com. But here you go. Here you go. It would be really great if we had us a Squarespace at the end of this, it really would be like, cause we want to be cool. Like all the other podcasts.

Jason Tucker: [00:23:57] Look, I’ll tell you right now. It’s not as if this hasn’t come up, but I have been approached by both Squarespace as well as Wix for sponsorship on this show, which is

Se Reed: [00:24:08] It’s just comedy, right?

Jason Tucker: [00:24:11] Yeah.

Se Reed: [00:24:13] The you were going to say, you don’t have to train. You did say that you will have to train the person who wasn’t using the website anyway to use the new wordpress.com website, but we’re post our column is actually fairly differently. Set up then. Even look at your heads. Yes. I was like vigorous nodding, insert figures nodding here.

Jason Tucker: [00:24:37] Okay.

Se Reed: [00:24:38] We’re add a backend setup is totally different than wordpress.org just regular old WordPress. And it’s not enough. It’s essentially super intuitive. The block editors there. So now once you’re in the block editor, The actual creating of the content is the same, but the dashboard essentially is not the same. So it is definitely more I actually think it’s very confusing personally, the wordpress.com dashboard. I think there’s a lot going on, but it’s all just it’s the same as Squarespace. No one has to do any importing. So karate dojo should definitely move to wordpress.com. It’s interesting, right? Because like you said, eight years ago, you would have made this recommendation to, you would have put it on WordPress and now you’re, you wouldn’t, you would make the same recommendation as wordpress.com. And I think that really speaks to. does the set it don’t set it and forget it thing is that tech is just always on the move and you constantly have to update your expectations and your knowledge and your just the just all of your inputs along with your plugins and your core. You know what I mean? Like I just feel like we’re just constantly updating new stuff. That’s like the whole tech industry is moving forward like that. And I think that is something that doesn’t always gel the same with other industries who think of websites more as buying a car, you buy a car and you got your car. Maybe you had to keep your car up, but you’re not like redoing your engine every five years or anything. So I think it’s it’s interesting. And then all the tech people always want to move to the next best thing and all the small businesses. Hold on. Don’t change any bank.

Jason Tucker: [00:26:39] It keeps changing no

Se Reed: [00:26:40] But he’s changing next. I’m sure there’s a really deep metaphor in there somewhere. If you want to extrapolate about change and human nature and technology, you just put that into a little blender and spin it up and then tweet it out there. Hit me up. If you do that, I want to

Jason Tucker: [00:26:59] Even that change piece if you look at the way in which businesses want to run, businesses, want to run with it out, any of that change that’s going on. And you had companies from like for instance, you had somebody like Reddit. Where it’s they build a a Linux distro that is set a certain way. And the company who’s going to be using it once too. And has X is a spec expecting to have that thing continue to run the same way. For X number of years. So they build these like the calm LTS versions of these. And so they’re long-term solutions for it, allowing it to stay that way. For a longterm period of time, WordPress doesn’t have that. WordPress doesn’t have that. Even Squarespace doesn’t have that because I remember even having a friend of mine who had a softball team where their whole softball team ran off of Squarespace. And at some point the Squarespace version of their like template or whatever was going away and they had to pick a different template and.

Se Reed: [00:28:06] right.

Jason Tucker: [00:28:07] She’s like, how do I do this, Jason? I’m like, I don’t know, like we’re in there, like digging around, looking at it, like, how do you even do that? And I’m trying to figure out how to use it or space for the first time. And I’m finding out that Squarespace itself actually ends of life, some of their versions of their their themes and stuff because they’re templates. I’m sorry we came out with a new solution. We’re moving you to a whole nother version of Squarespace. So even to think that that just because WordPress gets all these updates and oh, Squarespace is so much easier, I don’t necessarily think it is. And I think to go back to what Steve was saying just his blanket statement was I think that any of these websites are going to need an update no matter what, you’re never going to be able to just leave it. Yeah. I

Se Reed: [00:28:55] There is no setting it and forgetting it. It’s not a, it’s not a thing. Unless you wanted to get overrun with Viber spam and whatever else, which you know, is still doing

Jason Cosper: [00:29:07] I will shout out and they just changed it before the episode and shout out to the original set it and forget it website, which was the original space jam website. That thing has run for ages, basically since the first space jam movie, it was the exact same site until now they’re coming out with the LeBron space jam. So they had to change it. They put it@likeaslashclassicorsomethinglikethatonspacejam.com. But that old site, that was something that they set up. They didn’t update after they shipped it. And it ran for 20 years. With no problems.

Se Reed: [00:29:51] I would really like to read about that actually, because I’m a nerd

Jason Cosper: [00:29:56] So if you want to set it and forget it, go back to HTML. Forget WordPress what’s let’s let’s start let’s go back. Yeah.

Se Reed: [00:30:10] for going back classic

Jason Tucker: [00:30:12] Exactly going back to classic. Hey man, thanks for talking with me about this. I know it was my dumb topic and it was a fun one and I think it was a, it was interesting to explore.

Se Reed: [00:30:23] I just wanted to say,

Jason Tucker: [00:30:24] yeah,

Se Reed: [00:30:28] yeah, I was supposed to say to Andrew,

Jason Tucker: [00:30:34] yeah. We are an audio podcast. If you want to listen to us as an audio podcast, over to apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify. And if you just want to watch us, like most of you are, you can go and watch us on YouTube as well. Talk to you later. You have a good one. Bye bye.

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