Should Automattic Disallow Scammy Ads (Poll)

The title of this post is ‘Should Automattic Disallow Scammy Ads’.

Scammy is an urban dictionary word rather than something you will find in the Oxford or Webster’s Dictionaries, but I am sure you get the idea that it means anything that is and/or related to a scam.

It doesn’t have to be fraudulent to the extent that it is illegal, just a crappy way of hooking gullible people into a dream that hasn’t a hope in heck of being fulfilled.

The first question then is, are there, in fact, any scammy ads on WordPress.com – at the end of posts and in emails?

For the answer, read on.

First, a bit of background about who owns WordPress.com.

In case you didn’t know, the WordPress.com blogging platform is owned and hosted by Automattic.

WordPress.com is run on a modified version of  the open-source WordPress software at WordPress.org that is used by bloggers on their self-hosted sites.

In a nutshell, if I run a self-hosted WordPress website, I can do pretty much what I like as long as it does not violate the terms of service of the hosting company.

And if I don’t like the terms of service of the hosting company, there are other hosting companies with more liberal policies and I can switch to their hosting.

Running a self-hosted website costs money. Having your site on WordPress.com is free.

There are some restrictions that come along with ‘free’. One of the restrictions is that I have to accept advertisements at the end of my posts.

That’s not quite true. I can pay Automattic a yearly sum so that I don’t have ads at the end of the my posts. I do that with this site at PhotographWorks.me and the reason above all that I do it is because of the poor quality of the ads.

In an article I entitled ‘Why, Dear WordPress, Oh Why?‘ back in 2012, I asked why the ads were so crappy.

It was a rhetorical question, although I kind of hoped that the people art Automattic would listen.

I hoped they would listen because I bought into the idea that Automattic wanted to do its bit to foster, nurture, and encourage the WordPress community.  

That had to be so because it kept declaring that community was dear to its heart in the democratisation of the Web.

In fact, if you go to Automattic.com, the first thing you will see emblazoned in big type across the page is this:

We are passionate about making the web a better place.

Ads In Emails

In a post entitled Real Life Is Bad For Blogging, Jen mentioned that advertisements will now be included in the emails that followers get when they subscribe to a WordPress.com blog to hear about new posts.

I just saw my first ‘ads in an email’ today in an email about a new post from Dapplegrey entitled Gone, Leaves.

This is the advert section at the end of the email:

Oh come on! Mother earns £16,409/month! The ad is so obviously a scam designed to hook in the gullible.

Does Automattic Monitor Its Ads

Does the Ads team monitor the quality of ads?

I clicked the ad and it went to a blank page. I stripped out everything except the subdomain URL and got a 500 error and similarly with the main domain. Well, that’s good.

The ad for how to invest in bitcoin without buying bitcoin also led to a dead page – blank dot org. Strange.

My point being that Automattic states repeatedly that it supports community and the integrity of community in the democratisation of the Web.

Advertisements like these don’t do anyone any favours – not least the WP.com readers who have sites of their own and wonder exactly what is being put out in their name at the bottom of their blog posts and in the emails notifying other readers of their blog posts.

If you want to add your two cents, worth – you can go to the post at WordAds Now With Ads In Email Subscriptions  and offer your opinion.

A Poll, A Poll! Answer Here!

Troubleshooting Plugin Conflicts

Troubleshooting plugin conflicts is fun.

Yes, I know, you can’t have plugins on WordPress.com sites. That is, you can’t unless you have the Business plan (more about that another time).

So this is for people who run self-hosted WordPress sites.

Today I had a plugin conflict. 

There. I said it.

Actually, in about ten years of running self-hosted WordPress sites, this is maybe only the second time I have had a plugin conflict.

So what does it look like?

In this particular case it looks like this; a bar that will not move stuck across the text in the back end as I am writing.

It was actually worse than this because I had an image to the left and text to the right, and I couldn’t get to it because the bar covered everything.

What caused it? My first thought was that the latest version of Yoast was conflicting with Gutenberg.

A moment’s thought said that wasn’t the case because I would have heard about it.

The worst possible answer would have been that the Yoast plugin was conflicting with the theme I was using. There was no way I wanted to stop using it, but at the same time there was every reason I wanted to continue to use the Yoast SEO plugin.

So I asked Yoast on Twitter and he/his team suggested a plugin or theme conflict. 

It looks like a theme or plugin conflict. Can you please perform a conflict check? How to check for plugin conflicts. Also, can you confirm if the issue persists with the latest versions of Yoast (9.0.3), Gutenberg and your theme?

The article on Yoast recommends using the Health Check & Troubleshooting plugin to troubleshoot the issue.  Here is the blurb for it:

Once you install and activate the plugin it puts you in Troubleshooting Mode. This has no effect on your site visitors, they will continue to view your site as usual, but for you it will look as if you had just installed WordPress for the first time.


Here you can enable individual plugins or themes, helping you to find out what might be causing strange behaviours on your site. Do note that any changes you make to settings will be kept when you disable Troubleshooting Mode.

You really have to see the Healthcare Check plugin in action. If you have a self-hosted site, go try it out even if you don’t have a problem. Actually, no, better not because it might screw up the database.

Take my word for it that is is amazing to see the site revert to a plain vanilla WordPress site and be able to turn plugins on and off to see what affects what. But only you, who is logged in as the admin see the site like that. The site looks normal to your visitors.

If you detect that I got all excited doing it, imagine how I felt when I turned off one particular plugin and the problem went away?

It was like the holidays came.

I know, what kind of person gets a kick out of a problem like this being solved?

Well I did.

Next step was to disable the Health Check & Troubleshooting plugin and deactivate the plugin that was causing the problem.

Then I contacted the plugin author and asked if he might try to fix the issue with his plugin.

I was aware that in a tussle between two plugin authors, who is to be the final arbiter of who should accommodate who?

Yoast is used in millions of websites, so the Yoast plugin has the big guns of numbers on its side, so I think the ball is in the other plugin author’s court.

The final stage, pending the other plugin getting updated, was to thank team Yoast for their help.

And that’s the story.