I have a need to capture data in a WordPress plugin and append it into some sort of log.

The data I want happens to be slow SQL queries from $wpdb->queries. I'm hoping to present useful "dirty dozen" SQL queries to my users to help them with optimizations. It's a companion plugin, or maybe a feature set, for this plugin. (I'm aware of the performance issues around this kind of system instrumentation. Capture sessions will be limited in duration. Etc.)

In each relevant pageview I will capture some data and log it. Then later my plugin will retrieve, process, and delete the log. How can I do this data capture in a WordPress-friendly way?

I'm thinking of using a transient to hold the log. I'm using expiring transients in my hope to avoid unprocessed logs from accumulating. My data flow would look something like this (pseudocode).

$logdata = get_transient( $tName );
$logdata .= $newdata;
set_transient( $tName, $logdata, 86400 );

But, on a busy site multiple php instances will race each other. One instance will do its get_transient(), then another instance will do its get before the first instance does its set. So one of the instances' data will be lost.

If I were to do this with plain old MyISAM-compatible SQL I'd do something like this:

UPDATE wp_options WHERE option_name='tname' SET option_value = option_value + 'newvalue'

That avoids the possible race condition. It would be great if there were an append_transient($name, $val, $timeout) function to do this operation.

I could also lock the table, but that would be really rude.

If I knew my plugin was on a site with InnoDB in its database I could use an SQL transaction. But I don't know that.

Is there a better way?

  • 1
    If you're considering a transient, does that mean the log should expire? Why not just use a custom table? What are you logging, and how frequently do you expect to log it? Sep 16, 2021 at 12:38
  • Please see my edit. I hope to avoid a custom table if at all feasible.
    – O. Jones
    Sep 16, 2021 at 13:03

2 Answers 2


You can create a lock by using flock on one of your existing files (or create a special one fo this. Get the lock before you start the canculation and release it after the result was stored.


I finally solved my problem with this function. It appends to a transient in the MySQL database in a race-condition-safe way.

/** Upsert and append data to a WordPress transient.
 * This function deletes the transient from the WordPress options cache to avoid stale data.
 * @param string $transient Transient name.
 * @param string $value Data to append.
 * @param int $expiration Transient expiration (default 120 sec). 0 means the transient does not expire.
 * @param string $separator Separator between appended values (default '|||').
 * @param int $maxlength Stop appending when value reaches this length to avoid bloat (default 512 KiB).
function append_to_transient( $transient, $value, $expiration = 120, $separator = '|||', $maxlength = 524288 ) {
    if ( ! $transient || strlen( $transient ) === 0 ) return;
    if ( ! $value ) return;
    try {
        global $wpdb;
        if ( $expiration ) {
            $name = '_transient_timeout_' . $transient;
            wp_cache_delete( $name, 'options' );
            $query = "INSERT IGNORE INTO $wpdb->options (option_name, option_value, autoload) VALUES (%s, %d, 'no')";
            $query = $wpdb->prepare( $query, $name, $expiration + time() );
            $wpdb->get_results( $query );
        $name = '_transient_' . $transient;
        wp_cache_delete( $name, 'options' );
        $wpdb->get_results( $wpdb->prepare( "SET @upload = %s", $value ) );
        $query = "INSERT INTO $wpdb->options (option_name, option_value, autoload) VALUES (%s, @upload, 'no')"
                 . "ON DUPLICATE KEY UPDATE option_value ="
                 . "IF(%d > 0 AND LENGTH(option_value) <= %d - LENGTH(@upload),"
                 . "CONCAT(option_value, %s, @upload), option_value)";
        $query = $wpdb->prepare( $query, $name, $maxlength, $maxlength, $separator );
        $wpdb->get_results( $query );
    } catch ( Exception $e ) {
        /* empty, intentionally, don't crash when logging fails */

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