Clearance - the workings of one David Paul Ellenwood

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One Journey Ends & Another Begins

21 June 2011 11:21:20 | Comments (1)

There are a few moments in my life that are seared into memory with a jumble of mixed emotion.  Today is one of those days.  After months of prayerful consideration, this morning I announced my resignation from Sleeping Giant Studios, LLC.  June 30th will be my last day of full-time employment.

The past six years have been an amazing time of learning, growing and working toward better websites and better web applications for our many fantastic clients. We’ve learned so much together and we’ve built many amazing things together.  I’m confident that Sleeping Giant will continue to provide the absolute best quality and service for many years to come. It just isn’t in their character to do otherwise.

My season at Sleeping Giant has also been a time of growing intimacy and community with a group of guys—and their families—that I’ll never forget.  Everyone at Sleeping Giant has become family to Erica and me.  We will miss you all dearly. I’m most thankful for the opportunity I had to work for “the world’s best boss.”  I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, if I were ever to have employees working for me I hope I could run my shop half as well as Jon Hage has run his.  Thank you, Jon, for being incredible.

With the sadness of leaving comes the excitement of starting something new.  I’m pleased to announce that I’m going out on my own as a freelance web craftsman.  I’ll be focusing my services toward front end design and development, WordPress consulting and a bit of server administration here and there.  Of course, there are countless details to square away during this transition.  Keep watching this space for more news about the new venture.  I’m sure it will be interesting to say the least.


WordPress Development Using A Shared Database

26 January 2011 0:04:03 | Comments (9)

Over at Sleeping Giant Studios, we have a number of developers all working on the same WordPress (WP) projects and using SVN (via Beanstalk) for source control.  As such, each developer’s workstation has a checked-out copy of the project codebase.  (And WordPress itself is in a subdirectory of the project as an SVN:External, but that’s another post for another time.)

We’re also using a shared development database meaning that everyone develops against the same database (and data) while maintaining separate working copies of the project codebase.  (We do this to reduce the amount of system administration we have to do on each workstation and also to ease content-entry sharing.) Working this way presents some problems because WP is designed to run against a single URL which gets stored in the database as a few different wp_options.

The workaround for this is actually pretty simple.  We define all of the URL options that WordPress needs as PHP constants in wp-config.php skipping whatever is stored in the DB.  Using the examples on the wp-config.php Codex page, we can even set these constants dynamically using PHP $_SERVER[] globals so we never have to hard code them to a specific URL.  For a default installation of WP in the root folder of a site we define a set of PHP constants in wp-config.php like so:

/** Sanitize SERVER_NAME, just in case **/
$server_name = htmlentities( $_SERVER['SERVER_NAME'] );

/** Custom WordPress core location **/
define('WP_SITEURL', 'http://' . $server_name);

/** Custom home location **/
define('WP_HOME', 'http://' . $server_name);

/** Custom wp-content location settings **/
define('WP_CONTENT_DIR', $_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT'] . '/wp-content');
define('WP_CONTENT_URL', 'http://' . $server_name . '/wp-content');
define('WP_PLUGIN_DIR', $_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT'] . '/wp-content/plugins');
define('WP_PLUGIN_URL', 'http://' . $server_name . '/wp-content/plugins');
define('PLUGINDIR', $_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT'] . '/wp-content/plugins');

This allows each developer’s working copy to run using their workstation’s URL regardless of the values set in the database.

As with everything in life, there are a few issues with running this way.  Here’s a few we’ve noticed:

  • A rare plugin might not work this way.  Frankly, incompatible plugins are few & far between and we choose to avoid them because not using WP’s plugin best practices is foolish.
  • Posts (or pages or anything in the wp_posts table) added by each developer end up with GUID’s set to their workstation’s URL in the wp_posts table.  There are a couple other places this might creep up (in wp_options and some plugins’ custom tables for example).  This hasn’t caused any problems for us.  We tend to do a full search and replace for URL’s in the DB before going to staging or live deployments anyway.  This just means running the search and replace script against several URLs instead of just one.  We use’s SearchReplaceDB.php script to accomplish this.  It finds and replaces serialized and non-serialized strings throughout the entire DB.

In the future, I’ll planning to write up how we setup each project as an SVN repository using SVN:Externals to manage the WordPress core codebase and all the WordPress hosted plugins.

And Mathews v4.5 went live

10 November 2009 21:22:31 | Comments Off on And Mathews v4.5 went live


We launched a refreshed version of last week.  While the majority of the site remained the same, we updated the site homepage to a more “open” concept and added a few new features to the site.  Most notably, Mathews now has a powerful new video gallery where they can host and server their own video content without relying on us to upload and “post” the videos for them.

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