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Create a User For Content Changes in Code

I've not blogged for a while, and I've decided to doa series of shorter posts highlighting some useful techniques I've come across recently. Here's the first one!

In Umbraco, you may often have some task that manipulates content/media etc via the various service APIs. For example you might have a scheduled import task that imports pages froma feed, or a task that pulls in content or modifies content based on things happening in a thiord party system.

By default, all actions carried out using the services are flagged against user 0 (the default Admin user). This is fine, but it means it's hard to tell what changes were made by your tasks, and which were made by the ACTUAL administrator.

Most ofthe Save and publish methods have an additional parameter for User ID, which can be the ID of any back office user. The fun part, is that the user doesn't have to actually be able to access the back office. So you can create a user, called something like "Task User" (you could even create a different user for each task if you wanted), and ythen disable it's Umbraco access with the check box. Then update all of your code to include the user ID.

So this:


Would become something like this:

Services.ContentService.Publish(myContent, TaskHelper.TaskUser);

This means you can now pin down in the audit trail if content issues were caused by actual CMS users, or by one of your tasks!

Why did I start doing this? One of my clients inherited a site that had a public page that had a link to call a controller that deleted ALL of the content of a specific type, that no one new about until they had a pen test done, and the testers clicked on the link, deleting a sizeable chunk of important content on the site. The delete by content type method also permanently deleted the pages in question (but not the sub-pages). As we didn't know the page existed, or that the pen test was being run, it took us a while to track down the culprit. Had we had actions flagged against a task user, we'd have known straight away where to look!

One thing to note, if you are manipulating content through the APIs, you should keep it to a minimum to avoid clogging up your versions table. Only update stuff if you need to. If you do need to use lots of updates, it's worth installing something like FALM Housekeeping, or Unversion to keep things under control.

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