We’ve been users of WordPress for many years and are huge fans of the free-to-use publishing platform.
Yesterday was the first time that we’ve hit a major problem with it – and it was a significant one.
We use it on many of our publications including VentnorBlog, that covers Isle of Wight News.
Matt Mullenweg, the man behind the platform, and his team continue to push forward development leading to WordPress frequently getting updated, with new versions popping up giving additional features on a regular basis.
Over the two and a half years we’ve been using it, it’s been exciting to see WordPress mature.
We run a number of different versions across all of our publications, only upgrading when there’s a feature in a new version that required.
Decision to upgrade
VentnorBlog was running on WordPress 2.2 and because we wanted to take advantage of the new photo gallery feature that was introduced in version 2.5, we made the decision to upgrade to the current version, 2.6.
The upgrade process to a new version of WordPress is always a little nail-biting, given that you have to delete the code of the previous version, while taking care not to remove any sections that have customised code.
Once that was over we ran the upgrade script as advised and were surprised to see a number of error messages displayed – “WordPress database error.”
Seeing the words Error and Database in the same sentence is never a relaxing experience, but we were somewhat reassured when at the bottom of the screen we saw “Your WordPress database has been successfully upgraded!”
Going into the WordPress dashboard, everything appeared to be OK. It was only when looking through the public facing site did we notice that all of the categories were missing.
We’ve got 148 categories on VentnorBlog, so this was a significant problem for us.
Others have lost categories too
A quick dash to Google brought up reports of problems including quite a number of entries on the WordPress Forums.
The consensus? Upgrading to version 2.6 caused categories to disappear.
We’d seen no mention of this in the 2.6 upgrade notes, but for those who look, there is a defect ticket for it.
One of the posts on the support pointed out that you should carry out each individual version upgrade, eg 2.2 -> 2.3, then 2.3->2.4, etc.
Sure, this is in the extended upgrading notes, but most people will read the the brief version that we saw read
Upgrading from any previous WordPress to 2.6:
1. Delete your old WP files, saving ones you’ve modified.
2. Upload the new files.
3. Point your browser to /wp-admin/upgrade.php.
4. You wanted more, perhaps? That’s it!
With this significant flaw in the upgrade process being discussed widely around the Web, as well as on WordPress’ own forums, it would be hard to think that WordPress don’t know about this major flaw.
Back on 17 July, David Cumps was posting about how he worked his way around the problem and his 118 comment present testimony that he wasn’t alone.
We know that it takes a lot of work to get new version out, and that this is something that isn’t lightly entered into, but we’re shocked that WordPress aren’t warning people of the possible problems they might hit – all it would take is altering the Readme file slightly.
Not doing this really doesn’t seem WordPress-like at all.
It’s great to see the plans for new features in v2.7, but when you’ve just lost all of your categories, it takes the shine off them a bit.
As with all of these thing, having a bad experience, no matter how well intention the idea behind the project, dents your confidence.
We’ll continue to love WordPress, but next time we’ll be that little bit more cautious about upgrading.
Solutions available – Hurrah
If you find yourself in the same position, all is not lost.
David Cumps provided a long, detailed and graphic illustration of how he got around the problem.
For a more automated approach, take a look at Remy Blaettler‘s description of how he achieved the same in a few lines on SQL.
There’s a caveat, while Remy’s approach restored our categories, they were all placed at the top level, so our nested sub categories were lost. We’re working on this, but are just really grateful to get our categories back!