No, this isn’t a Halloween post. This is about something scarier – WordPress. OK, it’s even scarier than that. I am going to try to explain something technical without making you roll your eyes, groan or remind me too many times that it’s Monday. At least there’s no math involved. Let me start by giving you one bit of information that might send you straight to today’s gallery – I don’t have a silver-bullet kind of answer. That’s because, there can be so many things wrong. Let’s get the technical stuff out of the way as painlessly as possibe. I’ll start with a simple definition:
“A cookie is a small amount of data generated by a website and saved by your web browser. Its purpose is to remember information about you.” – Tech Terms.
There are three things that are important in that deinfition:
1) Data – Data can be anything, your userID, the URL of your blog, your email address, your name. For the purposes of a program being able to find it again, with it not being corrupted, it’s usually stored with names related to the program. For example: ‘wordpress_logged_in*’ is the cookie WordPress uses to identify that a WordPress user is logged in.
2) Saved by your web browser – This is important. WordPress is what is referred to as a “stateless” application. WordPress asks your browser to store a cookie, and then later, WordPress asks your web browser a) if it has that data and, b) what the value of the data is. If you’re like me, and visit sites from Firefox, Chrome, Safari (on an iPhone), these cookies have to be set/stored in all the browsers you use.
3) Information about you – Data is not information. Data, combined with other data, can become information. A data element that says “logged in” is useless without also knowing the “User ID.”
Let’s assume I visited your blog, for the first time, yesterday. I liked what I saw and I wanted to leave a comment and I want to follow you. You have your blog set up to ask me for my WordPress UserID, my blog URL and my email address. Your blog asks My browser to store that information (3 named data elements) in cookies. When I go back to your blog today, you ask for the data in those cookies. When it finds those cookies, your blog knows I am following you. I can comment without logging in, and the little box at the bottom right says “Following.”
So why are so many people having problems where the above paragraph isn’t happening?
It’s complicated, and it may be any of the following:
You set your browser not to accept cookies. If you don’t accept them, my blog can’t store the fact that you’ve been here and logged in before.
You set your browser not to accept third-party cookies – huh? Dan, you didn’t mention third-party cookies, what the heck are they? – My blog is noFacilities.com, but your UserID is associated with WordPress.com. When my blog asks your browser to store WordPress.com data, I appear to be storing information about a third-party site. This is a huge security issue, and most web browsers disable third-party cookies by default.
My laptop at work disables third-party cookies. It’s part of our corporate security
policy which can’t be changed. When I go to my own blog (you know, during
lunch) I have to log in. I can go to my WordPress Admin page, because that’s on
WordPress.com and the cookies are from WordPress.com, so they can be stored.
You had problems with some website and the tech-support guy said “clear your cookies and your cache” and you did. Remember, the cookies you need to tell me who you are, are stored on
your computer, not my blog.
You computer is running Windows and some aspect of the every-other-Tuesday-event known as Windows Update, changed something.
How do you fix this? Until WordPress figures out a better way to handle who’s following who, you need to allow cookies and if you follow bloggers (like me) who have custom domains, you
Another way to solve the problem is to use a password storage application or allow your browser to store your login credentials at all the blogs you visit. You’ll still have to login, but it will be easy.
The gallery has some photos from this weekend in New England. I have a very busy day scheduled, so I may not get to comments here, or to visit your blog until later today.