Web Communications

WordPress “Multisite” & Plugins — OMG

Posted on by Doug Widner

Since almost everything requiring technological gymnastics that happens in a WordPress website is made possible by a plugin, it’s safe to say those 18% of all web sites built using WordPress are testaments to the value of “augmentation via plugin.”

Nonetheless, web life with plugins is dangerous. Not for the faint of heart. Problems are diverse, but one frequent problem has to do with “versions colliding.” For example, version 6 of Plugin-Y might have been crafted when the WordPress platform was in version 2.x. When the site owner updates his WordPress to version 3.0, Plugin-Y might start behaving badly. WordPress veterans know not to hurry into installing WordPress version updates; some go so far as to contact the support forums for their favorite plugins and wait awhile to see what happens (hopefully nothing).

More intractable plugin problems include one plugin conflicting with another. At berea.edu we’ve run into this a few times over the past year (our first year of deploying berea.edu as a WordPress CMS).

All this can lead to considerable anxiety for small site owners and bloggers, but when versions collide or plugins conflict in a massive WordPress “Multisite” installation like berea.edu it can be downright apocalyptic. And that’s why web content managers cannot independently install and activate plugins (or widgets).

Before a plugin makes it into berea.edu it is vetted by a team of people inside and outside the college. (They study the effects of the installed plugins on a test site that is, effectively, “off line.”) For their testing to remain useful, all plugins must run through the process and the ones that we decide to keep and activate remain on the server to interact with future plugins and WordPress versions.

For this security, we must all exercise patience. If you discover a plugin or any other “augmentation” you might like to use on your site. Drop me an email with the details and we’ll start the vetting process.

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