My intro to (real) cron jobs, or blogging from a Blackberry

I needed to set up a cron — think “chronological” — job for a person with a new WordPress blog. Why?

There’s a feature in WordPress where you can

  • send email to a secret email address
  • WordPress checks the email
  • then posts the email to the blog.

This means you can blog from anywhere you have an email connection, whether that’s a cybercafe in Mali or on your Blackberry from the Plenary Hall floor at General Assembly. (I’m thinking more the second at the moment.)

But there’s a hitch.

WordPress has to be triggered to check your email. You can do this manually by going to (link to my wp-mail.php) but if you’re going to do that, why not blog from a proper computer?

Can’t you schedule the host computer to check the wp-mail.php at regular intervals, thus releasing the mail to be posted? Yes, that’s what the cron job is for. (Any time you get something automated, like a mailing list password reminder, I bet there’s a cron job behind it.)

Unfortunately, many cheap hosting services don’t provide cron. Clever WordPress people have created work-arounds that simulates cron so when someone visits your site, your pent-up mail gets decanted. But these have their own problems, and I thought it was time to

  1. Time to see if the hosts I use have cron
  2. Learn it if they do

They do and I did. (This applies to everyone whose blog I’ve set up.)

More about how to do it tomorrow.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. I’m trying to use a chron job for something you’ll probably loathe — keeping an open-source ad server running and up-to-date! (Yes, I’m experimenting with expanded advertising opportunities, mostly to see what might work on a tight budget at a certain other website I manage.) The ad server requires a chron job, but even though I’ve followed the instructions as thoroughly as I know how, it doesn’t work. Alas!

  2. I’ve set up a variety of cron jobs on different hosts. Generally the issues I have had to resolve included determining which utilities were available and the path those utilities might be loaded in. It can be a big help to use SSH and see what happens when you manaually run the job, verify it works before you schedule it with cron.

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