A while back now I had started to notice that a couple of the WordPress blogs I provide support services for somehow never needed updates. At first I thought “hey, that’s great; the owners are actively participating”, but then it dawned on me that like the update notifications I wasn’t getting notifications from Wordfence that these installations were being logged into by other admins, so I started to investigate. Sure enough, when I started comparing versions, a number of the plugins were off.
As with so many WordPress issues, it was reasonable to guess it might be a problem with a plugin, so (in one of the non-public installs that was affected) I started deactivating them, beginning with the oddest. When I got down to only the plugins I use on almost every other site being active and still no difference, I decided I needed a more direct approach. I turned on debugging by changing define(‘WP_DEBUG’, false); to define(‘WP_DEBUG’, true); in my wp-config.php and accordingly I got an error where it had been failing silently before.
It was SlideDeck, one of my favorite plugins – apparently changes in WordPress core 3.7 caused their 2.3.3 to not only fail to see updates for itself, but all plugins. I found and followed Digital Telepathy’s instructions for correcting the issue (not that the severity of the issue was properly conveyed in their detail) and I was pleased to find things got right, applied the fix to all affected installations. I had been uploading the same .zips and expecting I would see if they needed to be updated – because all the other plugins were current during the installation process, I didn’t notice the one that was due at the time failing to be recognized.
Lesson learned! Even if it seems wasteful to go fetch new .zips with every install when the plugin should update subsequently, I’m going to make sure that all plugin uploads start with current versions. I’m also going to keep in mind that WordPress (and perhaps PHP in general) fails a bit too gracefully, so turning on debugging may be the only way to confirm a problem. Finally, I’m going to make an effort to do more reading on the websites of plugin authors, keep my ear to the ground.
However much blame I put on myself, there is a degree to which the authors of plugins and WordPress itself should do more to combat the issue. I contend that WordPress should have features that make certain errors or types thereof more obvious to the casual administrator. I also believe plugin authors should do more to engage their community and would suggest they consider features like an in-admin news feed should an author fail to seek out and find an important update on their website.
If your blog doesn’t seem to need updating, turn on debugging and make sure you’re not getting any errors on your Updates page. If you have any thoughts on what WordPress and plugins for it could be doing better to combat this issue, please leave them in a reply and/or present them to the authors in question. If any of this has been helpful to you or otherwise had an effect, please like, share or comment on your experience below.