Upgrade Anxiety – We all have it

As I type this I can see an icon indicating 10 plugins need to be upgraded on my blog. Most are minor upgrades with tweaks and fixes that don’t really affect me. Some, like the WP Super Cache update, are enough to give me nightmares of my blog having serious technical issues.

Oh wait…hah! Well, I actually did totally mess up my blog a couple years ago. I thought simply installing the WP Super Cache update would automatically preserve all of my settings. If you aren’t familiar with this WordPress plugin, it essentially provides a performance boost to your blog by having a gazillion caching-related knobs, bells and whistles that you can tune.

Yes, I did research the topic of upgrading beforehand. And at the time, deja vu, I found very little useful information other than people recommending you should upgrade. Caveat Emptor. I ended up paying a tech support person $175 to fix my mistake and my blog was totally messed up for about a week.

Okay, so now I make sure to backup/export all my WP Super Cache settings . Yet I still get the heebie-jeebies every single time I get its plug-in update notification.  A few friends offered some not-so-tongue-in-cheek suggestions of why don’t I just learn about all the different settings and just experiment. “You have the skill(z),” they told me. I couldn’t argue with that.

What it really comes down to is “how” I want to spend my time. Like most members of the Esri Developer Evangelist team, I’m totally slammed at work and the outdoors keep me busy after hours and on most weekends. I don’t really care to learn the nitty-gritty intricacies of WP Super Cache and it’s hundreds of configuration permutations, along with all the other stuff I have to learn to stay on top of the latest technologies, APIs, etc.

In hindsight, now I know the WP Super Cache website doesn’t have a single link or tab that explains the various settings and configuration options. There are ten steps listed that don’t even begin to cover what happens if you change something, or what are the pluses and minuses of doing one setting versus another.

Lessons Learned:

  • You don’t have to accept all upgrades whether it’s your laptop, smartphone app, etc. I’ve gotten really good at skipping some. Others, like Chrome, happen automatically and even though they also occasionally introduce new bugs.
  • Note to self: Always, always back up your software, databases and settings.
  • Some upgrades deserve more attention than others. WP Super Cache is one of those upgrades that deserves your full attention to details. Spend time on forums reading and asking questions before hitting the upgrade button.
  • Some upgrades simply aren’t worth it. I’ve dropped a number of plug-ins that mysteriously started gathering information from my blog such as AddThis. I was running a protocol analyzer at the time and I noticed strange http requests to a 3rd party URL. Not only were the synchronous http requests slowing down my website, but when I visited the 3rd party website the details of what they did were extremely vague.
  • The last lesson learned is actually a note to software vendors that may be reading this. Too many upgrade notifications per month is very annoying. Unless you find a fatal bug, one upgrade per month is about my limit.