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Well, That Was a Bad Idea

Long ago, I gave up on trying to upgrade my copy of Movable Type -- my hosting provider, WestHost, didn't make it easy. I was having problems with spam -- first comment spam, then trackback spam -- but I couldn't install MT-Blacklist and I couldn't upgrade to a newer version of Movable Type that would include anti-spam features. I thought of switching hosting providers, but in the end simply turned on TypeKey authentication for comments (effectively ending comments on my site) and completely disabled trackbacks.

Yesterday, I wrote this blog entry in response to an entry by Andrew Sullivan, my favorite political blogger. Andrew wrote back saying that he'd link to my entry today. I woke up this morning thinking of the hordes of people who would shortly be visiting my site, and thought it would be a great idea if I reenabled trackbacks. "No problem," I thought. "I'll turn them back on and just deal with the spam problem as it happens." Er, not so fast there, Sparky. Within minutes, I was being flooded with trackback spam -- a new entry every 20-30 seconds or so. I couldn't keep up. I once again disabled trackbacks and sat licking my wounds.

"I know," I said. "I'll upgrade to the latest version of Movable Type. It's supposed to be easy -- just upload the files, run, and go." I downloaded Movable Type and read through the installation instructions. Fairly straightforward -- just copy some settings over, upload everything, check permissions, and go. It didn't take me long and I was ready to activate my shiny new Movable Type 3.2-powered blog. I entered the URL and... a series of errors. Not good. I Googled the error text and found that I wasn't the only one to have the same problem. Far more worringly, other WestHost users had reported the same problem months ago, with no word of a fix.

At this point, the main page of my blog was still up, but all functionality was dead, both for users and for me. No comments, no trackbacks, and no new posts. Nothing. About this time, Andrew linked to my blog entry. How much better could my timing get? I decided to switch to a Movable Type-friendly hosting provider, and fairly soon was up and running with Yahoo -- chosen for no other reason than they were the only such hosting provider with 24-hour, toll-free technical support.

It took a few tries to get everything put right again, but now my blog is up and running once more, and hopefully e-mail to me is no longer bouncing as it was a couple of hours ago. And blog readers no longer have to register with TypeKey to be able to comment, and trackbacks are once again enabled. But for the first few hours after Andrew's link to me, my blog was down, save for a static, non-interactive home page.

What did I learn from this? That upgrading to a new version of my blogging software just as one of the world's more popular bloggers was linking to me probably wasn't the best idea I've ever had.

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