Why I think Automattic’s Jetpack is spyware

In 2014, just before the Automattic Utah Grand Meetup I got an automated email from my site. It said that there was a suspicious file in a folder on my site. I checked, the contents were okay by me and I carried on.

On the way to the GM my mind suddenly popped up with “Hey, that folder, it’s not part of your site. Why did I get that email?”

I will try to explain.

If you have a self-hosted WordPress site – like this one you are reading – and nothing else on the server your www / public_html directory will look like this:

But you might be hosting other domains, you might upload images, text, data to other folders that you know about but no-one else. In that case your www / public_html directory might look like this:
Jetpack example

Look at those four folders at the top.
They do not have WordPress installed, they are not part of the WordPress installation and they may well be private to you.

Jetpack looks inside them.

Does it log your data? No idea
What data does it actually send to Automattic? No idea

When I installed Jetpack I expected that it would look after the files inside /wp-content. Plugins, uploads.

What I did not expect was that Jetpack would go out of the WordPress folder, go to root and roam around freely looking at whatever it wanted.

I checked the terms of the Jetpack install at the time and this was not mentioned.

I p2’d a concern but … tumbleweed

I do not believe that Automattic make it clear exactly what Jetpack will do. They should do.


If you have Jetpack installed on your site and you have nothing else there that you would not mind being known by someone else, fine. Use it.

But if, like me, you do have other domains / folders and you expect privacy? Remove Jetpack.

Contact Form 7

Watching Dragon’s Den tonight and a dragon asked why a product was called DR21
The reply was that is was version 21 that worked

Contact Form 7?
The first 6 did not work.

Source? Me. I met the CF7 author in Japan

Need a Contact Form?
Use CF
Do NOT use Jetpack

WP and needing a default theme

If you do not have a default theme the Site Health check on the dashboard whines about it.

To get around that, download a default theme
Delete everything inside the theme except style.css

Edit the style.css and delete everything after the */ on line 21.

Now upload the theme folder with just that edited style.css in there to /wp-content/themes

And now the Site Health will not whine.
If/When the theme updates, just edit the version on line 4. Or be proactive and change the version now to 10.4

Two weeks


It’s been almost two weeks since I left Automattic / retired and I was thinking about what I miss / do not miss.

What do I not miss?
– my alarm. It’s so good to be able to wake up when my body wants to, not at 6am. Even Zelda has adjusted. Given how I sleep now I was in a permanent sleep deficit.
– the endless stream of information I had to read and remember be they p2 posts, slack chats or whatever
– the computer. I’ve switched that on only to post here. I write on Windows, save the file to my Sync folder and then on the Mac use Marsedit to post (see sidebar). Not spending so much time staring at a computer screen is wonderful.
– reading the sort of post I would copy into http://www.blablameter.com/ and say to myself “Not wrong, it’s bullshit”.
– emojis. Seriously. I’ve seen enough emojis to last me forever.

What do I miss?
– Support. Fixing things for people, explaining things to people, making people smile.
– Communication. Not just the general chat that would happen in Support Slack channels but also in the team channel, in DM’s. I think I underestimated how much I would miss that.

What am I doing given Covid?
– Every day I pick at least one thing that needs doing to the house which I have put off. Today it was fix a leaky pipe in the garage so I could use an external tap. Others have been sort the spider plants so they are better placed (it’s the only plant I can ignore and it just keeps growing. I think I have around 20 now from the initial one), fixing the garden water feature that Jacqui loved, reorganising kitchen cupboards. All mundane everyday stuff, but it’s good to have a goal. I have many such goals left.
– Spending more time with the dogs/cats
– Cooking. And I don’t mean “make something hot”. I mean actually preparing food. That plus my new knives has meant liberal use of plasters as I slice chunks out of my fingers. My brain thinks I’m as good I was in the 90’s. My muscle memory has failed. Much blood is shed.
– Lots of dumbbell workouts.

What have I not done?
– Spent time game playing. I did complete Firewatch but I’ve not yet played a game upstairs in the ‘old office’. It still feels like ‘work’ in there. That will pass.

And I’ve just rejoined Mastodon. I had 3 accounts and deleted them all a while ago, but it’ll be good to have a place to rattle out the random junk that would otherwise land here. I’m @markr on mastodon.social

Neil – the guy who does my tattoos – also paints. His studio walls at https://inkling.tattoo is adorned with the work he, Katie, Michelle and Jack do. I’m thinking – just pondering – about commissioning him for an artwork on canvas that reflects Jacqui and what she meant to me and the girls. Still very early, might come to nothing, but it might…

Been sat in the garden writing this while Zelda uses the GoDogGo machine. She loves it, I love that she loves it. Recommended.

Leaving Automattic

I just posted this (which I have slightly edited) to an internal p2.

I am leaving Automattic

This has nothing at all do with Automattic, WordPress or any event / person here or anywhere else.

The seed for this was planted in 1985 when my – and Jacqui’s – nursing career started. Back then retirement was an option in the National Health Service when you got to 55 years old. In 2017 my wife Jacqui and I started talking about my leaving and it was planned to be June 2019 when I hit that age. She did all the planning.

In December 2018 the multiple sclerosis took Jacqui away from me. Her death I’ll never get over. Losing the closest person to you for over 32 years is something you just cannot explain. My world has changed completely. I spent a lot of time last year trying to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I have no idea. As that road led me nowhere I flipped it around – what do I not want to do? The answer to that came quickly.
I do not want to spend as much time sitting in front of a computer.

I am in my 17th year of doing WordPress Support and tomorrow will start my 15th year here. I still love doing Support – how can you not love being a hero to someone every day? – but I am in a huge rut. For so many years I did only three things – I was either working, caring for Jacqui or sleeping. These days I’m either working, sleeping or not knowing what to do. That void needs filling and this rut needs flattening out.
So I am going to do the one thing that I know Jacqui would have wanted me to do and follow her plan.

What will I be doing? Covid has changed plans so … I have a huge gaming backlog (Fallout New Vegas beckons), a very long list of books I want to read, many vegetarian/vegan recipes I want to try. Summer approaches, longer dog walks and getting back into cycling. Post-covid I will spend more time at the local library where I am a trustee on the board of the charity that runs it. I also want to find other local charities and volunteer positions to help with.

It’s been really really cool to have met great people from the WordPress.org forums who were there in my time including @mdawaffe (he had long hair then! I have pics!), @macmanx, @cena.

[Lots of Thank You section]

It’s been good to have been with WordPress since 2004, to see it grow into the platform it is today. I am proud to have been a tiny part of that.

My last shift will be the morning of Tuesday 14 April. I’ll pop into our team Zoom chat at noon to say goodbye and raise a glass to my team mates. I know I will cry. I am just typing this.

Take care, stay safe and thank you.

That’s it.

Stick a fork in me, I’m done.


Stopping my 6am alarm (I will have to talk to Zelda about this)

Is it the right thing to have done? Yes, it is.

Regrets? Nope, I don’t do regrets. Act, move on, do not look back. Life has no Undo.

The future? I have as much of an idea about mine as you do yours.
Shit happens.

Plans for post-Covid?
Trips to Sheffield and Axbridge

17 Jan 2004 I installed WordPress – and now I’m here


Link death

The all-new Twenty Nineteen theme highlights what I’ve noticed across the very many blogs which I both happen to see while working and also while browsing the net of an evening. The new theme is a single column affair. No sidebar. No widgets. No links.

Funny how so many people want others to link to their own site but they won’t link out…

I used archive.org to look at snapshots of this site since 2004. At one point I was showing 12/42 randomised links at a time (I’ve yet to find a database backup from then but it’ll be on a CD somewhere) so I made a list of most of the domains I used to link to. Those unlinked either go nowhere, or to a very different owner, or to some spammy site. Those linked are good links.


Of all the above while clicking through only Raincoaster’s site jumped out as having a good list of links to other blogs (I’ll be reading those too).

So why aren’t people linking? Is it just the lack of a sidebar? Is it full width pages? Single Column themes? It’s not like the number of blogs is going down. Are link lists considered ugly? Are new ‘influencer bloggers’ not using them? Sidebars being used for twitter, insta and affiliate ads?

A quick skim of some older established blogs shows blogrolls, so why not new?
I am guilty of missing a blogroll too, something that I am rectifying.

And note all those http links in that list… and those lapsed and squatted domains.