WordPress: Post authors not getting their e-mail notifications

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Blogging
January 19th, 2005 • 12:55 am

One of the problems with using open source software such as WordPress is that documentation can be woefully inadequate and technical support difficult to obtain for specific issues.

I was able to experience this first-hand this week, with a nagging problem that I have been experiencing with the WordPress-driven web site that I am currently putting together for my employer.

The problem is the following: My blog has one administrator (myself) and several authors who can contribute posts. Like all other blogging tools, WordPress lets readers submit comments on specific blog items through a form.

From what I understand, when a reader submits a comment on a blog item written by author A, both the blog administrator (myself) and author A are supposed to be sent a notification by e-mail. As the administrator, I have been getting all the notifications without any problems. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of my authors. With the exception of one e-mail notification that was delivered to one of the authors something like 5 hours after the comment was submitted, my authors have never received the notifications that they are supposed to receive.

Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea of what could be causing this. I am getting the notifications as the administrator, so obviously it is not something that blocks all e-mails. My authors’ e-mail addresses are on the same domain name as my own, so it’s not a problem with “external” e-mail addresses from other domains.

I have already spent hours going through all the available WordPress documentation to try and find clues about what might be wrong here. And that’s what has led me to discover that the documentation is woefully inadequate.

At some point, I thought that the problem might have to do with user levels. I, as the administrator, am a level 10 user. Readers who submit a comment are level 0 users. Blog authors who can add posts to the blog are level 2 users. However, when a level 2 user logs in, the WordPress control panel that he has access to is a limited version of the one that I, as the administrator, have access to. This is normal.

What is not normal is that there is nothing in the control panel about e-mail notifications to authors. The only setting about e-mail notifications is under Options > Discussion, in a section that says “Email me whenever” followed by two check boxes, one for “Anyone posts a comment” and one for “A comment is approved or declined“.

But this is a setting that level 2 users cannot see. It’s only accessible to higher-level users. Does this mean that the level 2 users cannot change the setting or that the setting does not apply to them? In other words, does the “me” in “Email me when” refer to the user that is currently logged in or to the administrator? One would think that it is the former. But then why can’t level 2 users see this setting?

As an experiment, I tried increasing the user level for my blog authors. I followed the indications provided by the WordPress documentation, but, as far as I can tell, these indications are completely wrong. For example, lever 3 users can definitely not see the “Options” tab in the WordPress control panel, contrary to what the documentation says.

In any case, I went all the way to 9 for my post authors, and finally they were able to see and change the settings under Options > Discussion — but get this: When author A logs in as author A (i.e. not as the blog administrator) and changes the “Email me whenever” settings, if I then go to that same Options > Discussion tab when logged in as administrator, the settings are changed!

In other words, my suspicions were correct: the “me” in “Email me whenever” is not the currently logged in user! It is always the administrator.

This is simply totally wrong, and completely misleading.

But for me, the main problem remains that I have no idea what to do in order to ensure that my post authors get their e-mail notifications. This “Email me whenever” section is obviously about the administrator only — which means that there is absolutely nothing in the WordPress interface about e-mail notifications to post authors other than the administrator.

And yet these notifications are supposed to exist. I can see the PHP script for them in the WordPress files. And, as I said, one of my authors did get one notification once. But I cannot get it to work reliably, and I have no idea what might be preventing these notifications from getting out.

(I don’t have any kind of spam blocking feature on the server that might be blocking these notifications. In any case, the e-mail notifications to the administrator are phrased almost identically, and they get through without any problems.)

I am at a loss. I have posted a request for help on the WordPress forum, and have yet to get a single answer.

Open source software is supposed to come with the wonderful support of a community of dedicated users and developers, and with extensive documentation. My experience here seems to indicate that the situation is far from being that rosy. The documentation is wrong, the interface is badly designed, and the technical support is, well, inexistent in this particular instance.

Not good.

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