Tag Archives: wpmu

Improved add user feature on UBC Blogs

Today we implemented probably my favorite new feature on UBC Blogs. It’s not a sexy plugin like the Section Widget which is very cool and useful for someone trying trying to make a WordPress/CMS , but is is a VERY useful and VERY MUCH needed Add User feature on blogs.ubc.ca. If anyone has tried to add more than one user to a blog on our setup they know what I am talking about, for those that haven’t here was the problem. There was a huge bug in our system if someone tried to add a user to a blog that was not already in the system the user would most often not end up in the blog, the problem resulted from the CWL layer and a username/email mismatch. They could add a user to the blog IF they read the instructions on how to add a user to a blog properly on our system (basically ensure the user is in the system then add the exact username and email they signed up with) sounds easy? Wrong 95% of people do not read instructions doesn’t matter how many PhD’s they have nobody RTFM anymore they just fill out forms and click. So there has been ALOT of support issues especially at the beginning of the term and quite a few unhappy users. We told users about the “Add User Sidebar Widget” to bypass these issues which worked for some but was still too many steps for most to comprehend (amazes me really).

Now with the new Add User site admins can bulk add users either by email or Student/Staff/Faculity ID. By email users receive an invite similiar to the default WordPress Add User if they are in the system they will be added, if not they will be directed to sign up. If the admin uses ID’s they will have to tell the user ahead of time to sign up for an account (I expect some problems with this) once the user logs in for the first time they will be added.

I know there are bulk add user plugins out there already but they would not work with the CWL and to be honest I think this Add User functionality is much slicker.


Also we are not connected to the SIS (probably never will be) so this is the next best thing at the moment. Special thanks to OLT super programmers Pan Luo and Godfrey Chan for working on this. This was Pan’s first time working with WordPress and he did a great job implementing the new CWL features, Godfrey showed him the ropes in WP plugin development which he is pretty much a master of. The Selenium QA tests they developed for this also make me very happy ūüôā

UBC Blogs Stats and Growth

This is inspired by Jim Groom’s recent post. I used to be a little obsessed with stats I did a brief stint doing¬† the “Internet Marketing” thing back in the heyday so the numbers were very important $$ but now they take on a little different meaning in academia (justification of existence?? which == $$ I guess)…

UBC Blogs in it’s current state (using WordPress MU) has been online since September 2008 the OLT has been hosting blogs for many years prior on a Moveable Type platform. We are currently officially a pilot which means (at least the way I interpret it) we cannot really advertise the service and we hide the account setup/login page… That being said we still have a decent number of users and blogs probably 10% of the user base was migrated over from the old Moveable Type platform the rest are newbies. We have a another server for more VIP sites (basically means mapped domains and custom themes) which sees about the same traffic with only a couple dozen sites.

User and Blogs Growth
This chart is interesting shows the user account growth chart in the system overtime 1438 users and 795 blogs.

Blogs growth

Blogs growth (click for large)

Content Growth.
We ran this a few weeks ago on verf(too much of a hog to run on production) to check the total posts and comments in the system. These numbers go way back to 2004 because some of the old MT blogs were moved into the new system. Still pretty impressive numbers with over 24,000 posts. I am pretty sure this has to be one of the larger websites on campus in terms of number of hosted pages.


We haven’t been using Google Analytics since the start but here are some numbers from this term so far.

Sept-Nov 2009 stats

Sept-Nov 2009 stats

Bounce rate is not the greatest 60% of people leave after visiting one page.

How are people arriving?

Top 10 URL’s this term

Interesting that four of the blogs are courses: digitalliteracy2009, etec522sept09, etec540sept09 and micb405 (private).

Where are people coming from? Top 10 visiting countries.


From our web traffic and content growth it seems that this campus “publishing platform” is alive and well and growing at a healthy rate despite being on the down low.

A Word on WordPress Spam.

A couple weeks ago Brian and Novak mentioned they seemed to see more spam after the upgrade to WordPress MU 2.8.4 interesting I thought so I checked my blog the main blog which had virtually no spam, looking at their blogs they had quite a bit of spam but Akismet was catching 95% of it so I though no big deal, I also chalked it up to the fact people read their blogs and in the case of Brian’s alot of people read his blog (still not the most popular on blog on blogs.ubc.ca which receives virtually no spam odd but not that odd). The last three days things changed and it was basically out of control, the two blogs combined were receiving over 4000 spam messages a day, most were being caught by Akismet but many were getting through. I checked the other top 10 blogs and they had nothing in comparison. I was starting to get paranoid if this happened to other blogs on our site this would for sure end up being a DoS.

On further investigation, looking at Novak’s blog he had reCapthca off for some reason (not so Super Novak)… after he turned it on spam went down a little but it was still up big time. Next step was looking at the server logs at first I thought we could use some .htaccess trickery to block the bots from hitting the wp-comments-post.php

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} .wp-comments-post\.php*
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !.*blogs.ubc.ca.* [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^$
RewriteRule (.*) http://%{REMOTE_ADDR}/$ [R=301,L]

But the bot was smart enough to send proper referrals so this would not work. What to do next? I started grepping through the server logs to see what the bots were hitting on their blogs both were being hit by old posts (although both do not post that often so almost everything is old) but I mean old like over 3 months old. Both had a lot of spam being directed at post on a “Forum like display plugin” post as well as a couple others. So on both blogs I set turn off comments after 90 days (Novak) and 120 days (Brian) and I disabled trackbacks. This pretty much had an immediate impact spam was virtually stopped on both blogs. In conclusion this is a temporary fix I recommend everyone having spam issues right now should do this (I always recommend disabling trackbacks).

This definitely is a bigger issue if bots can spam and bypass both reCaptcha and Akismet (in some cases) WordPress has a fairly serious security issue hopefully WordPress addresses this soon.