Wishlistcast Plugin Not Working?? Read This…

The WishlistCast plugin is used by hundreds of sites worldwide, and is tested against latest WordPress (3.8.1) and latest Wishlist (2.80.2002 at time of writing). It will generally work with older versions of both WordPress and Wishlist too, though I recommend staying up-to-date wherever possible.

So what happens if you’ve configured it all and it still isn’t working for you?

Or worse – it was working fine, and suddenly stopped working.

Well, there are really only two things that can be wrong:
1) Something is amiss in your configuration, or,
2) Something is blocking the call from getting from Nanacast to the plugin

Checking your configuration
From helping a number of people debug issues in their configuration, the most common mistake I see is spaces being added to the front, end or even in the middle of the Outgoing API when it is copied into the Nanacast setup. There should be no spaces anywhere in this URL. Or quotation marks for that matter! You should be able to copy and paste the URL into your browser. You should see a plain white screen. If you see an error message, then that’s probably the clue you are looking for.

 

Is the call being blocked?
Another common issue is when the call from nanacast is not reaching the wishlistcast API. In every case I’ve investigated so far, this has been caused by over-zealous mod_security rules put in place by the hosting company. In this situation, you need to contact your hosting company and get them to identify and white-list the mod-security rule.

You can check whether the call is getting through by examining the Outgoing API Call Log inside your Nanacast account. It’s a little hidden away in the menu – here is the direct URL (you need to be logged in to your account):

http://nanacast.com/api/outboundlogging.php (Outbound API Call Log)

See the notes below on how to check the Outgoing Call Log for issues.

It was working – and it has suddenly stopped working
Ahhh.. my favorite kind of bug. The mysterious “it stopped working” bug.

After over 30 years of creating software, I can say with some degree of certainty, that if a piece of software has been working fine and then suddenly stops working, then 99.9% of the time, something has changed to cause it to stop working. (The 0.1% allows for unanticipated conditions in the code itself – remember the “Y2K bug” that was going to bring an end to civilisation as we know it… but I digress… back to Wishlistcast…)

If you have just upgraded WordPress, or Wishlist, or changed your membership levels, or upgraded to a new version of the Wishlistcast plugin, then it is possible that one of these upgrades is the culprit.

If you’ve just installed a new plugin (for example a security plugin for WordPress – particularly if you’ve used that security plugin and/or manually managed to change the location of your wp-content directory), then the new plugin might be causing havoc.

If nothing has been changed in your WordPress setup – then quite probably it is not the software that has stopped working that is at fault.

Like when I upgraded my Mac earlier this year and suddenly my scanner stopped scanning. The scanner had not changed. But the software that talks to it (Mac OSX Mavericks in this case) certainly had.

In this situation – chances are you will find the culprit by examining the Outgoing API Call Log in Nanacast.

Checking Outbound API Log – What You SHOULD See

wpid335-Checking_Outbound_API_Log_-_What_You_SHOULD_See.png

This is what the Outgoing Call Log should look like on a successful call.

If you click on the “Data” area, you will see all of the parameters being passed by nanacast to the plugin. These should include the members email address and password.

When you click on the “Server Response” area you will see what Nanacast received as a response to the call.
Note that you have to click on the Server Response to see the error in the response – an empty value in the column does not indicate a blank response!

If everything is working, this will usually be empty – which shows up as a small white box when you click on it.

Outbound API Log – What An Error Response Looks Like

wpid336-Outbound_API_Log_-_What_An_Error_Response_Looks_Like.png

This is an example of what the Outgoing Call Log will look like if the server response is NOT what we want to see.

This example is the dreaded Mod_Security issue – which means that your server host is blocking the call. (You need to contact your hosting support to help resolve this).

You may also see “403 – Forbidden” errors – for example if a WordPress security plugin is preventing the call getting through.

Or “404 – Not Found” errors if you have a bad URL in the Outgoing API.

A side note on Mod_Security:
Be aware that Mod_security issues are more difficult to debug than other server issues – and my experience has been that the front-line support person won’t be able to spot the issue.

As an example – here is a direct quote from a hosting support person in a situation where I KNEW the call was getting blocked by mod_security (because I could see the message in my Nanacast Outgoing API Log):
“Adam R.:We are not seeing any mod_sec rules being hit by that URL.”

Given that the server is very clearly responding with a message telling me that mod_sec rules ARE being hit… well, let’s just say I tend to believe the computer in this case – they aren’t good at making stuff up… 🙂

Keep in mind that these poor over-worked and under-appreciated folks are usually following a standard trouble-shooting checklist, and are likely incented to close calls as quickly as possible. If they can tell you “no problem here” and move on to the next call in the queue, then that is a good outcome for them.

Unfortunately – the checklist has them looking in the wrong place. Typically they look at the server error logs – which don’t show mod-security issues.

To see the mod_security issue and figure out which rule is being triggered, they will need to get a server admin to use ‘apachegrep’ to specifically look for your domain while you are triggering the rule (for example, by manually adding a member through Nanacast).

Once they know which rule is being tripped, they can whitelist that rule for your site – preferrably JUST for the wishlistcast_api.php URL being called from nanacast.

If the calls are being blocked by Mod_Security, then the only people that can help you unblock it are your server admins – i.e. your hosting company. Unfortunately – there is nothing Nanacast support or I can do to “work around” the problem. The only way this can get resolved is for your hosting company to take ownership of and resolve the issue for you.

If you are really stuck, then go to Fiverr.com or UpWork.com and hire a WordPress expert for a couple of hours. And if it takes them more than a couple of hours, then trust me, they aren’t an expert!

Need more than a quick fix?
If you need a full custom membership site built from scratch, then get in touch with Jon Hollenberg at FiveByFive. Jon literally wrote the book on WordPress – the Five-By-Five team do awesome work!

 

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