ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

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ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Micky Hulse-3
Hey all,

In order to fix this cron error:

<http://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/11831>

...the IS guy at my work opted to enable ALTERNATE_WP_CRON (I was
kinda hoping he would have tweaked the server vs. patch with the
alternate cron setting).

The above ticket and the below post seemed to give us the most
information about the alternate cron:

<http://wordpress.org/support/topic/scheduled-posts-still-not-working-in-282#post-1175405>

I have my concerns about using the alternate cron... Specifically,
paragraph got me worried:

"This alternate method uses a redirection approach, which makes the
users browser get a redirect when the cron needs to run, so that they
come back to the site immediately while cron continues to run in the
connection they just dropped. This method is a bit iffy sometimes,
which is why it's not the default."

I guess my question is this: On a medium traffic site (let's say ~1.5
million page views a month) could the alternate cron redirection cause
problems for the front end user? What about SEO?

I just don't like the thought of redirects happening for users for the
sake of a cron that may or may not need to run. Am I being irrational?

I'm wondering if I should just disable ALTERNATE_WP_CRON and turn off
WP_DEBUG (i.e. out of site, out of mind).

Thanks!
Micky
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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Otto-19
The ALTERNATE_WP_CRON mechanism works like this:

- User visits the site.
- Cron determines that it needs to run and ALTERNATE_WP_CRON is enabled.
- User gets a redirect to the same page that they're seeing right now,
but with an added doing_wp_cron=... parameter added to the URL.
- User goes to the new address and gets the page. Completely
transparent redirect.
- Meanwhile, the original process that sent the redirect goes off and
does the wp-cron stuff instead, in the background.

So, user won't notice a thing. The redirect is smart, and only happens
when there's actual jobs to be run. It doesn't redirect 1-in-20 or
something like that, or on-the-hour.. it only redirects when there's a
job that needs to get done. No jobs = no redirects.

There is an extremely thin chance that the doing_wp_cron could show up
in the link for a search engine bot, however, WordPress includes the
canonical link in the meta data by default to prevent that additional
query variable from being an issue in search results. No SEO impact.

-Otto


On Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 1:14 PM, Micky Hulse <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Hey all,
>
> In order to fix this cron error:
>
> <http://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/11831>
>
> ...the IS guy at my work opted to enable ALTERNATE_WP_CRON (I was
> kinda hoping he would have tweaked the server vs. patch with the
> alternate cron setting).
>
> The above ticket and the below post seemed to give us the most
> information about the alternate cron:
>
> <http://wordpress.org/support/topic/scheduled-posts-still-not-working-in-282#post-1175405>
>
> I have my concerns about using the alternate cron... Specifically,
> paragraph got me worried:
>
> "This alternate method uses a redirection approach, which makes the
> users browser get a redirect when the cron needs to run, so that they
> come back to the site immediately while cron continues to run in the
> connection they just dropped. This method is a bit iffy sometimes,
> which is why it's not the default."
>
> I guess my question is this: On a medium traffic site (let's say ~1.5
> million page views a month) could the alternate cron redirection cause
> problems for the front end user? What about SEO?
>
> I just don't like the thought of redirects happening for users for the
> sake of a cron that may or may not need to run. Am I being irrational?
>
> I'm wondering if I should just disable ALTERNATE_WP_CRON and turn off
> WP_DEBUG (i.e. out of site, out of mind).
>
> Thanks!
> Micky
> _______________________________________________
> wp-hackers mailing list
> [hidden email]
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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Micky Hulse-3
Otto... You rock! Thank you for the clarification and pro help. Much
appreciated.

On Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 11:35 AM, Otto <[hidden email]> wrote:
> So, user won't notice a thing. The redirect is smart, and only happens
> when there's actual jobs to be run. It doesn't redirect 1-in-20 or
> something like that, or on-the-hour.. it only redirects when there's a
> job that needs to get done. No jobs = no redirects.

Sounds good to me. I don't have any WP crons scheduled that I'm aware
of... We aren't using many plugins, so I don't think there's a problem
there.

The strange thing was, it seemed like we were getting that warning on
almost every other page refresh (I mostly remember seeing it on the
backend) before turning on the alternate setting.

Anyway, I feel much much better about using the alternate cron. Thanks
so much for you help!

Have a nice day!

Cheers,
Micky

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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Mike Schinkel-6
In reply to this post by Otto-19
Downside is that the doing_wp_cron= param show up in the browser and users bookmark them, email them, share them, etc.  not to mention they are confusing and ugly.

Better option IMO is to have server admin set up a real cron task and have it call /wp-cron.php.

-Mike

Sent from my iPad

On Oct 9, 2012, at 2:35 PM, Otto <[hidden email]> wrote:

> The ALTERNATE_WP_CRON mechanism works like this:
>
> - User visits the site.
> - Cron determines that it needs to run and ALTERNATE_WP_CRON is enabled.
> - User gets a redirect to the same page that they're seeing right now,
> but with an added doing_wp_cron=... parameter added to the URL.
> - User goes to the new address and gets the page. Completely
> transparent redirect.
> - Meanwhile, the original process that sent the redirect goes off and
> does the wp-cron stuff instead, in the background.
>
> So, user won't notice a thing. The redirect is smart, and only happens
> when there's actual jobs to be run. It doesn't redirect 1-in-20 or
> something like that, or on-the-hour.. it only redirects when there's a
> job that needs to get done. No jobs = no redirects.
>
> There is an extremely thin chance that the doing_wp_cron could show up
> in the link for a search engine bot, however, WordPress includes the
> canonical link in the meta data by default to prevent that additional
> query variable from being an issue in search results. No SEO impact.
>
> -Otto
>
>
> On Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 1:14 PM, Micky Hulse <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> Hey all,
>>
>> In order to fix this cron error:
>>
>> <http://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/11831>
>>
>> ...the IS guy at my work opted to enable ALTERNATE_WP_CRON (I was
>> kinda hoping he would have tweaked the server vs. patch with the
>> alternate cron setting).
>>
>> The above ticket and the below post seemed to give us the most
>> information about the alternate cron:
>>
>> <http://wordpress.org/support/topic/scheduled-posts-still-not-working-in-282#post-1175405>
>>
>> I have my concerns about using the alternate cron... Specifically,
>> paragraph got me worried:
>>
>> "This alternate method uses a redirection approach, which makes the
>> users browser get a redirect when the cron needs to run, so that they
>> come back to the site immediately while cron continues to run in the
>> connection they just dropped. This method is a bit iffy sometimes,
>> which is why it's not the default."
>>
>> I guess my question is this: On a medium traffic site (let's say ~1.5
>> million page views a month) could the alternate cron redirection cause
>> problems for the front end user? What about SEO?
>>
>> I just don't like the thought of redirects happening for users for the
>> sake of a cron that may or may not need to run. Am I being irrational?
>>
>> I'm wondering if I should just disable ALTERNATE_WP_CRON and turn off
>> WP_DEBUG (i.e. out of site, out of mind).
>>
>> Thanks!
>> Micky
>> _______________________________________________
>> wp-hackers mailing list
>> [hidden email]
>> http://lists.automattic.com/mailman/listinfo/wp-hackers
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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Otto-19
On Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 1:59 PM, Mike Schinkel <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Downside is that the doing_wp_cron= param show up in the browser and users bookmark them, email them, share them, etc.  not to mention they are confusing and ugly.
>
> Better option IMO is to have server admin set up a real cron task and have it call /wp-cron.php.
>
> -Mike

Ideally, those would not show up very often. If you had a very large
number of cron jobs running on the system, then they'd be likely to
get them more often, but realistically the only ways core sets up a
cron job that a user could see would be Future Posting and the
twice-daily version update checks. Crons are also used for pingbacks,
but those happen at the same time as the post, so the very next admin
hit after a post is likely to trigger them instead of a user process.

And even when the link does get saved or shared, it doesn't really
affect anything. The flag is ignored for everything that isn't cron
related.

The best option is to make it so that your server is capable of making
http hits back to itself. If you're blocking loopback, then that's
really not a valid security measure to begin with.

-Otto
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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Micky Hulse-3
In reply to this post by Mike Schinkel-6
Hi Mike! Thanks for the reply, I really appreciate the help! :)

On Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 11:59 AM, Mike Schinkel <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Better option IMO is to have server admin set up a real cron task and have it call /wp-cron.php.

Ahhh, yah, that's a good tip. I'd agree with your sentiment about the
URL being less than optimal with the query string (that is, if it
shows.)

I don't think we have any WP crons setup at the moment... Off the top
of my head, I'm not sure where I'd look to see if there's any setup.

So, just to clarify, your suggestion would be to turn off the
ALTERNATE_WP_CRON setting, ignore the warning messages (which would be
hidden if debug is turned off) and use a real cron task to call
wp-cron.php on a set interval (that is, if we have cron jobs to run)?

Thanks!
M

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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Micky Hulse-3
In reply to this post by Otto-19
Thanks for the additional info Otto, I really appreciate it.

On Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 12:04 PM, Otto <[hidden email]> wrote:
> The best option is to make it so that your server is capable of making
> http hits back to itself. If you're blocking loopback, then that's
> really not a valid security measure to begin with.

Unfortunately, we are blocking loopback. When I mentioned *not*
blocking loopbacks, our IT guy had some concerns about tweaking the
server for the sake of WP (or something to that effect).

So, to summarize the solutions:

* I could just roll with the ALTERNATE_WP_CRON setting and let the
URIs do their thing (if/when the cron needs to run, which shouldn't be
too often).
* Disable ALTERNATE_WP_CRON, turn off debug (for the production
server) and setup a standard cron task and have it call wp-cron on a
set interval.

I think for now we'll go with the former solution... Based on Otto's
reply, I don't even think we have any WP cron jobs that would affect a
front end user... But if things do get wonky (i.e. lots of URIs with
doing_wp_cron= query string, then we'll consider switching to the
latter solution.)

Now that I understand how things work, for our site, I have a feeling
that ALTERNATE_WP_CRON won't be a problem.

On the other hand, if I were to make the final decision about our
server setup, I'd just allow loopbacks!!!! I guess our network/IS guys
are just super security strict.

Thanks so much folks!

Cheers,
Micky

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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Mike Schinkel-6
In reply to this post by Otto-19
> Ideally, those would not show up very often.

My preference would be it never shows up.  

The URL is a public interface so I like it to stay clean.  It's an okay workaround for end-user bloggers w/o a technical staff ALTERNATE_WP_CRON doesn't seem a proper solution for anyone who has a server admin or has server admin skills and especially not for a high traffic site. IMO of course.

So what if a post goes viral on Twitter?  Some of the links will have doing_wp_cron= and some may not, for example.

> And even when the link does get saved or shared, it doesn't really
> affect anything. The flag is ignored for everything that isn't cron
> related.

According to RFC 2616 3.2.3 URI Comparison[1]:

"When comparing two URIs to decide if they match or not, a client SHOULD use a case-sensitive octet-by-octet comparison of the entire URIs (with exceptions that don't matter in this case.)"

So any search engine or bookmarking service following the spec will see the URL with and the URL without as two different URLs.

> The best option is to make it so that your server is capable of making
> http hits back to itself.

Yes. That, or set up a real cron task.

-Mike

[1] http://www.w3.org/Protocols/rfc2616/rfc2616-sec3.html#sec3.2.3

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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Mike Schinkel-6
In reply to this post by Micky Hulse-3
On Oct 9, 2012, at 3:07 PM, Micky Hulse <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Off the top of my head, I'm not sure where I'd look to see if there's any setup.

There are several plugins for that.  Here's one:

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-cron-control/

-Mike
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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Otto-19
In reply to this post by Mike Schinkel-6
On Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 2:18 PM, Mike Schinkel <[hidden email]> wrote:
> According to RFC 2616 3.2.3 URI Comparison[1]:
>
> "When comparing two URIs to decide if they match or not, a client SHOULD use a case-sensitive octet-by-octet comparison of the entire URIs (with exceptions that don't matter in this case.)"
>
> So any search engine or bookmarking service following the spec will see the URL with and the URL without as two different URLs.

It's called rel=canonical and it solves that problem for search
engines and bookmarking services that support it. Which is most of
them.

http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=139394

-Otto
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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Mike Schinkel-6
On Oct 9, 2012, at 3:20 PM, Otto <[hidden email]> wrote:
> It's called rel=canonical and it solves that problem for search
> engines and bookmarking services that support it. Which is most of
> them.
>
> http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=139394

Unfortunately not every bookmarking and sharing service pays attention to rel=canonical because its more work they may not have done.  And it doesn't fix the ugly. =)

-Mike
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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Micky Hulse-3
In reply to this post by Mike Schinkel-6
On Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 12:19 PM, Mike Schinkel <[hidden email]> wrote:
> There are several plugins for that.  Here's one:
> http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-cron-control/

Awesome, thanks! I'll check it out. :)

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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Ben Lobaugh
In reply to this post by Mike Schinkel-6
Mike do you have a better way to do it? The understanding here is that
this is an alternative workaround for when you do not have access to
system cron and in situations when the standard wp-cron method does not
work. Sure, there is a very slight likelihood that you could see an ugly
URL, but in situations where all of the above are true it should be
acceptable.

If you have another idea a patch to "fix" the behavior would be welcome

P.S. If you are forced to use the work around you could setup one of the
dozens of free ping services to hit your site in an attempt to counter
the bad behavior

On 10/9/12 12:32 PM, Mike Schinkel wrote:

> On Oct 9, 2012, at 3:20 PM, Otto <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> It's called rel=canonical and it solves that problem for search
>> engines and bookmarking services that support it. Which is most of
>> them.
>>
>> http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=139394
> Unfortunately not every bookmarking and sharing service pays attention to rel=canonical because its more work they may not have done.  And it doesn't fix the ugly. =)
>
> -Mike
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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Micky Hulse-3
Hi Ben!

On Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 2:52 PM, Ben Lobaugh <[hidden email]> wrote:
> P.S. If you are forced to use the work around you could setup one of the
> dozens of free ping services to hit your site in an attempt to counter the
> bad behavior

Interesting... I hate to sound like a dunce, but could you elaborate
just a bit further? :)

Thanks!!!

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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Dion Hulse (dd32)
For the very specific case of the following error:

Warning: fopen(http://localhost/wp/wp-cron.php?doing_wp_cron)
[function.fopen]: failed to open stream: HTTP request failed!

One option to fix it, is to disable the faulty HTTP transport which
isn't doing it's job on the server (usually it's caused by a bad
configuration, but some linux distro PHP builds are known to cause it
as well) by adding the following in a mu-plugin (or the theme
functions.php I guess)

add_filter( 'use_streams_transport', '__return_false' );

It has the downside that it may stop ALL outgoing requests if the
server doesn't support cURL and fsockopen also doesn't work - but
usually at least one of these is available on the server..
I usually suggest hitting the Plugin install page, if you can search
for a plugin after adding the above, all your problems should
hopefully disappear.. if you can't browse plugins, you'll have to
remove the above line of code and curse at the server again..

On 9 October 2012 17:57, Micky Hulse <[hidden email]> wrote:

>
> Hi Ben!
>
> On Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 2:52 PM, Ben Lobaugh <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > P.S. If you are forced to use the work around you could setup one of the
> > dozens of free ping services to hit your site in an attempt to counter the
> > bad behavior
>
> Interesting... I hate to sound like a dunce, but could you elaborate
> just a bit further? :)
>
> Thanks!!!
>
> --
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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Mike Schinkel-6
In reply to this post by Ben Lobaugh
On Oct 9, 2012, at 5:52 PM, Ben Lobaugh <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Mike do you have a better way to do it? The understanding here is that this is an alternative workaround for when you do not have access to system cron and in situations when the standard wp-cron method does not work. Sure, there is a very slight likelihood that you could see an ugly URL, but in situations where all of the above are true it should be acceptable.

The better ways are to open the loopback as Otto mentioned or to set up a cron via the server.

> If you have another idea a patch to "fix" the behavior would be welcome

It's possible instead of inspecting $_GET['doing_wp_cron'] when ALTERNATE_WP_CRON is true we could inspect get_option('last_cron') to see if it's been less than 60 seconds and if not ignore cron but I haven't tested the theory to see if it would actually work.  And since there are acceptable workarounds and I don't have the bandwidth to try it right now I'll leave as an exercise to the reader to validate the theory. :)

-Mike



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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

abdussamad
In reply to this post by Micky Hulse-3
I think Ben is talking about sites like:

https://www.google.com/search?q=web+cron&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

Sign up and set them to fetch /wp-cron.php periodically.

But may I ask why you can't just setup a server side cron job? That
would be ideal in this situation.

On 10/10/2012 02:57 AM, Micky Hulse wrote:

> Hi Ben!
>
> On Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 2:52 PM, Ben Lobaugh <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> P.S. If you are forced to use the work around you could setup one of the
>> dozens of free ping services to hit your site in an attempt to counter the
>> bad behavior
> Interesting... I hate to sound like a dunce, but could you elaborate
> just a bit further? :)
>
> Thanks!!!
>


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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Micky Hulse-3
Hi!

On Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 1:05 AM, Abdussamad Abdurrazzaq
<[hidden email]> wrote:
> I think Ben is talking about sites like:
> https://www.google.com/search?q=web+cron&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8
> Sign up and set them to fetch /wp-cron.php periodically.

Ahhh, I see! I haven't used one of those services before. Thanks for
shedding light Abdussamad. :)

(This has been a great thread to read. Thanks to everyone for all the
info and advice.)

Cheers,
M

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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Nicola Peluchetti
In reply to this post by Dion Hulse (dd32)
> For the very specific case of the following error:
>
> Warning: fopen(http://localhost/wp/wp-cron.php?doing_wp_cron)
> [function.fopen]: failed to open stream: HTTP request failed!
>
> One option to fix it, is to disable the faulty HTTP transport which
> isn't doing it's job on the server (usually it's caused by a bad
> configuration, but some linux distro PHP builds are known to cause it
> as well) by adding the following in a mu-plugin (or the theme
> functions.php I guess)
>
> add_filter( 'use_streams_transport', '__return_false' );
>
> It has the downside that it may stop ALL outgoing requests if the
> server doesn't support cURL and fsockopen also doesn't work - but
> usually at least one of these is available on the server..
> I usually suggest hitting the Plugin install page, if you can search
> for a plugin after adding the above, all your problems should
> hopefully disappear.. if you can't browse plugins, you'll have to
> remove the above line of code and curse at the server again..
>
>
>
This specific error happens ( if i'm not right correct me ) on every CRON
run when cUrl is disabled. This is because the class WP_Http_Streams
doesn't support a timeout of 0.01 seconds, which is what's used by the
standard CRON.
So if there is no cUrl installed all CRON jobs are destined to fail (
silently, as Wordpress silence all errors ). For this reason i wrote a note
on this trac
http://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/18738?cversion=0&cnum_hist=9 hoping
they put transports in the right order.
I'm a developer of a widespread plugin and i need crons to be working for
the correct behaviour of the plugin, would you see a lot of risk in
disabling streams if no cUrl is present ( cUrl is the first transport and
it works with a 0.01 timeout ).
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Re: ALTERNATE_WP_CRON... Is it worth it?

Dion Hulse (dd32)
On 19 October 2012 07:20, Nicola Peluchetti <[hidden email]> wrote:
> This specific error happens ( if i'm not right correct me ) on every CRON
> run when cUrl is disabled. This is because the class WP_Http_Streams
> doesn't support a timeout of 0.01 seconds, which is what's used by the
> standard CRON.

It''s not a bug that affects every instance of the class, It's very
specific to a version of PHP included with a linux distro (and when
curl is disabled/not installed), and also certain Mac localhost
installs - in both cases, it's due to timeouts in the DNS lookups
IIRC, which doesn't apply to most installs of PHP.
If thats the case, 0.01s or 10.00s will generally fail on the affected
hosts (Feel free to test that out for me to confirm..)

I would love for someone to step forward and actually fix the problem
instead of the options of just building a wall around the problem and
hoping it never raises it's head again.
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