When My Blog Went Bump in the Night

One night a couple of weeks ago the blogging gremlins crept into this blog’s database and stomped around, trashing the place. I first noticed the results of their fun when a new post didn’t show up on the blog, even though the WordPress dashboard assured me that it had been published. I then saw other signs as well: the feature photos on individual posts were not properly centered, and the row of sharing icons underneath the body of each post did not display correctly.

I tried deleting and republishing the latest post, but it still didn’t show up. I contacted tech support at my hosting company, Dreamhost. They tried a number of things that tech support guys do but couldn’t get anything new to publish, either. Finally, they notified me that the situation was not a server problem and suggested that I try to restore the database to a time when the blog was working properly.

By then it was time me to leave for my Thanksgiving retreat on the coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where I would have neither cell service nor internet access. By the time I got back home, it was too late to do a database restoration because backups are only saved on the server for five days.

My knowledge of blogging is like my knowledge of driving: I know how to start the car, put gas in it, and watch for flashing alerts, but beyond that I know nothing about how or why the car does or doesn’t work. WordPress allows me to blog the same way: I’m fine as long as it works well (which it almost always does), but I know nothing about how it integrates all the individual parts and where it puts them together and saves them. When it comes to doing anything to the files stored on a server, I’m in way over my head.

When Dreamhost’s tech support couldn’t fix the problem for me, I knew that I had only two options: (1) give up this blog altogether, or (2) scrap the current setup and start over.

Since giving up wasn’t really an option, I looked with dread at the prospect of starting over. The first post on the old version of Change of Perspective went up on August 14, 2007, so I’d be losing eight years—eight years!—of work. I took a deep breath and told myself to look at this as an opportunity to improve the blog rather than as a disaster.

Even though the blog no longer displayed beyond a single page, I was able to look at the earliest posts through the WordPress dashboard. And do you know what I found? I had posted a lot of the early material before I decided what the focus and purpose of the blog should be. And much of that material was now either insignificant or outdated, or, most often, both. I started using Scrivener to manage blog content back in mid 2014, so I had a year and a half of good material that I could repost. Suddenly starting over became an exciting challenge.

Because I still had access to my work through the WordPress dashboard, I was able to download the blog’s media library, although I had to do it one item at a time, a time-consuming project. And I was able to copy other information, such as my “about” page content and post categories, and save them to a text file for use in re-creating the blog.

The next step, though, was more difficult. I combed through Dreamhost’s copious support documents to find out how to perform the steps I thought I’d need to go through to set up the new blog:

  1. Remove the old installation of WordPress
  2. Remove the old database
  3. Install a new, shiny clean edition of WordPress that would create its own new database

I even emailed this list, along with what I had found out about how to do each step, to tech support to ask them if this process would work. They replied that it looked good.

Tomorrow is the big day when I (try to) launch a reboot of Change of Perspective. Wish me luck! I’ll let you know how it goes.

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