Thursday, June 29, 2006

Putting A Post At The Top (A "Welcome" Post)

Many people have asked how they can have a Welcome or Index page in their blog. I have a Welcome page, on PChuck's Network, or on this blog, for instance.

The most obvious way to do this is to set the post date far into the future, so it always displays above any other posts, including ones which you may make in the future.

This is, fortunately, not hard to do. You can change the post date on any blog post, any time you feel the need.

Problems Uploading Pictures? Try This Process

In my work as a network troubleshooter, I work on many problems similar to this photo upload problems situation. We have:

  • Multiple people.
  • Multiple computers, all different.
  • Different browsers used.
  • Clearing cookies.
  • Some work in Compose mode, others Edit Html.
  • Incanting various runes and spells, while they work.

and some are successful in uploading photos, others not. WTF?

In my professional opinion (FWTW), this indicates at least two separate problems, in various combinations, causing variant symptoms.

Maybe we have a breakthru. In Google - Blogger Help - Publishing, we have pictures by trial and error... maybe help?, by Theodor.

By trial and error I found that when starting a posting by first
- giving some enters
- upload allt the pictures
- AFTER THAT adding my texts
has been working most of the times.


That agrees with MY experiences anyway. This is how I make a post with pictures.

  1. I look at all of my pictures.
  2. Sort them in the right sequence.
  3. Upload in reverse sequence. The upload process always puts each new picture on top of the previously uploaded picture.
  4. Go thru the code, insert breaks, captions, and other punctuation.
  5. Make one last look at the post as a whole.
  6. Publish Post.

If you try to add pictures to an existing post, and run into problems, start a new post. You can always add links between the two posts.

I'll be very surprised if, following this procedure, everybody's problems were to completely vanish. But I'll bet some will see an improvement. It may be possible to identify the other problems, if we can solve ONE problem. I think that this is a start in the right direction.

Patience, persistence, and publicity.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Why The Hijackings?

This is frustrating as hell. I've been suspecting this situation since 5/2, when Geeta reported Temporarily Out of Service. Being as I'm not an employee of Blogger, just another Blogger like everybody else, I have to sit on the sidelines with everybody, and watch the fun (NOT).

I can only remind each person with a hijack situation, to Report The Problem To Blogger Support. And anybody who has a clue about this situation, if it differs from what I am writing here, Please! let us know.

But I suffer, as does everybody else, while I wait for my turn at being hijacked. And wonder WTF I'm doing to protect myself (if I am), and why I haven't been hijacked.

Why (how) are all of these blogs getting hijacked?

The Possibilities

One of the recent victims of the hijackings has a blog where discussions about these possibilities are in progress. Your feedback, either here, or there, will be appreciated.

The Bottom Line
Somehow we have to help Blogger Support realise that there is a problem, and then help them see a pattern, so they can identify the problem. Whether the problem is with us or them, WE are the ones who suffer. To them, it's an 8 x 5 job. We spend hella more time worrying. Or suffering. And I'm not really sure which is worse. Being hijacked. Or waiting to be hijacked.

One of the problems is that, when there is a problem, nobody wants to diagnose the problem. They just want it fixed. Now. So the bad guys hijack our lives, with impunity.

WTF is this when a bad guy can abuse us, over and over, and the only solution is to move to a Wordpress blog?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Stub Post

What is a stub post?

My first one was, originally, Drop Back And Kick.

This is a better example. Just a simple post. No images, fancy formatting, or anything interesting.

What is a stub website? One that contains just one stub post - or no posts, and just a Welcome message.

You'll see stubs in the test forums.
Test.


That's all a stub is. A test post, or a test website. You can create a blog, and select a URL - but until you publish a blog, it won't exist. You'll get
The requested URL is not found on this server.
when you try to browse to the URL.

You can do better than that! Create, and publish, a stub post. Instead of your readers seeing
The requested URL is not found on this server.
using a Blogger generic error page, give them
Hey bro, that post isn't part of the blog any more.
in a blog post, with the blog template and all accessories. That's much more user friendly.

For a stub website (or Blogger blog), just setup a new blog, and add an HTML / Text gadget with a brief message
Hey bro, this web site doesn't exist any more (yet).
  1. Edit each post, and replace contents of each with the caption "Post Deleted".
  2. Republish the blog.
  3. A month after completing Step #2, delete all posts. Publish one post, "Blog Deleted" - or add a welcome post, "Nothing here!".
  4. Six months after completing Step #3, republish the blog under a 24 random characters name, making this name available for some lucky blogger - if, and only if, you do not fear your blog name might be valuable for spammers.


For a stub website (blog) that's used in a properly planned blog renaming, just have a single post
Hey bro, this blog has moved to http://xxxxxxx.com.
And forward the blog feed from the old URL to the new URL.

>> Top

Is Your Blog Getting Hijacked Thru YOUR Computer?

I'd hate to be the guy who stood in a crowded theatre (concert hall) and yelled
FIRE

so I'm sort of wondering if this advice is superfluous. But knowing computer security, it's all possible. All of the shite that I write about is very real.

And right now we're all smelling a lot of smoke.

Hijacking blogs is ONE practical use for malware.

Now, if there is a security weakness in Blogger that we don't know about it, that's up for Blogger Support to find and fix. And we have to pray that they do, and we have to feed them clues, when we have any, about what to look for. Which means, if we discover that our blog has been hijacked, we have to report the problem.

If there is a security weakness on our end, we need to know about that too. And fix the problem. Here are several possible problems.

Communication with other Bloggers is the best way to stop the hijackings. If they are our fault. But knowing what the hell is going on is the first step.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Moving To Your Blog To External Publishing? Plan Carefully!

Not everybody is aware of this detail, but Blogger One Button Publishing has 2 components:

  1. The Blogger web site creation database, ie "Blogger.com".
  2. The Blogger hosted web sites, ie "Blogspot.com".

Look carefully at your blog address. Is it "whatever.blogger.com"? Nope, it's probably "whatever.blogspot.com". Or it's something else entirely, in which case you've already done what I'm discussing.

If you've had your blog for a while, and you tire of the limitations and problems that are common with Blogspot web sites,

  • Storage limitation, ie 300MB of pictures maximum.
  • Name limitation, ie "whatever.blogspot.com".
  • The ugly Navbar at the top of the page.

Then you may be ready to publish your blog externally, ie outside of "Blogspot.com".

But, if you're going to switch to external publishing, think first.

  • If you ever tire of external publishing, and want to move back to your original blogspot.com address, you may have to contact Blogger Support, and have them delete yet another spam blog.
  • If you have any readers that you want to keep, you should plan on setting up a stub blog at your old address, saying something like

    This blog has moved, please make a note of the new address:
    http://whatever.example.com
  • If you plan to notify your readers separately, and simply abandon the current blog, you may have to contact Blogger Support, just to delete the old blog.

Minimise your exposure to potential spambot hijacks. Follow this procedure for migrating your blog to external publishing. Think about each step first, and do them in sequence.

  1. Setup the new host, get the domain name straight, put a stub website there, and test it.
  2. Setup a new blog, with a stub post as above, containing a single link, to your new, external host. Publish the new blog to a throwaway blogspot.com address, and test it.
  3. Backup your current blog, as it is now in Blogspot.com.
  4. Backup the template, into a text file. Save the backup file in several places.
  5. Change the Blogger settings, on your current blog, to publish to the external host.
  6. Change the Blogger settings, on your stub blog, to publish to your current blogspot.com address.
  7. Republish the main blog, to the external host.
  8. Republish the stub blog, to the just vacated main blogspot.com address.

If I was doing this, I would do all steps at the same time, one after the other. I would probably not take a rest break, and I certainly wouldn't let the sun go down, before completing the last step. Seriously. Read Spam Blogs #3, if you don't understand how frustrating it will be for you to have to have your vacated blogspot address used for a splog.

(Edit 2007/6/18): It is possible that Blogger has enhanced their FTP publishing procedures so these precautions may not be necessary. Read the instructions on the FTP Publishing wizard carefully.

(Edit 9/25): Also, read Spammers stole my old URL during transfer to FTP hosting!, for a real example of this scenario.

>> Top

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ticket Numbers #2

In No Ticket Number For Help Form Entries?, I expressed my dismay in submitting problem reports, and getting back acknowledgement, but without a ticket number.

Today, I submitted a Spam Blog Notification, and got an interesting botmail (and the typo is in my original report):
Re: [#545569] Spam Blog Nitification

Hi there,

Thanks for contacting Blogger Support. We will review your message and respond as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.

Sincerely,
Blogger Support


Did they restore the ticket number, and simplify the message content? Or does this vary depending upon which of the selections in the list is used:

  • My blog is gone!
  • I can't post. (I'm on Blog*Spot)
  • I can't post. (I'm on my own server)
  • I can't post pictures.
  • Template or Display Problems
  • Comments and Backlinks
  • Profile Issues
  • Team Blogs
  • Mail Features (BlogSend, Blogger Mobile, Mail-to-Blogger)
  • Add-Ons (Blogger for Word, Picasa, hit counters, etc.)
  • AdSense Issues
  • Blogger is Down!
  • Report a TOS violation
  • Other

Update (13:19 June 22, 2006):
A second botmail, with more detail, suggesting that action is pending?

Hello,

Thanks for writing us regarding this possible Terms of Service violation. We will examine it soon and take action as necessary.

Sincerely,
The Blogger Team



Original Message Follows:
------------------------
From: "{U 758968 B 0}"
Subject: Spam Blog Nitification
Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2006 20:02:33 -0000

This blog redirects to a commercial site selling a possibly illegal product:
http://phentermineus.blogspot.com/


ItemType: TOS
BlogId: 0
BlogName: No blog in particular
UserID: 758968
UserQueue: 20

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Report Spammers

These forums are for getting, and providing, help in using Blogger one button publishing. They are not forums for advertising whatever commercial products or services you supply. Spam is simply not permitted here.

Spam is like dog shite. The longer it stays:

  • The more it stinks.
  • The more dog shite you end up with.
  • The harder it is to remove completely.

You have to remove the spam immediately. The quicker it's removed, the less return the spammer gets, and the quicker he moves on and leaves his shite somewhere else. The less everybody complains (the stink), the less other spammers feel encouraged (the quantity), the easier it is to remove (the cleanup details).

If you see it, get rid of it. Only Blogger Support can remove it, and they will only do so when they get enough reports about it, and it rises to the top of their queue. So everybody reading the forums, and this article, has to do their part, and report the spam.

We laugh at, and curse, Blogger and Google, almost daily for their shortcomings. They made many mistakes in their design of their various products.

They made no mistakes in the design of the abuse (spam) reporting process. It takes less than a minute, to produce satisfying results, in spam reporting and neutralising. Processing spam, in the Google Blogger Help private forums - is very simple.

  1. Report the spam.

    • Find the spam post. If there are multiple posts in the thread, and the thread has a title "REPORT THIS SPAM" or similar, look at the first post in the thread.
    • Find the header for the spam post - where you see the spammers name, and the post date and time.
    • To the right of the date and time, you'll see a link "show options".
    • Following the "show options" link, you'll see (among others) "Report Abuse".
    • Selecting "Report Abuse" takes you to the Abuse Report, all filled out.
    • If you feel the need to comment, you can do so in the box for more information.
    • Hit the Report Abuse button.
    • Done - wasn't that easy?

  2. Neutralise the spam, if and only if you're the first person to react to this latest turd. If the Topic in the index is already "REPORT THIS SPAM" or similar, someone else beat you to it. Continue with step 3, and look for more spam by the spammer (very important). And remember, you can neutralise the next spam, if you're quick enough.

    • Find the link "Reply with quote" following the spam.
    • Having followed the "Reply with quote" link, erase all content of the spam.
    • Change the content of the Subject: field to a new Subject of your liking, maybe
      EVERYBODY, PLEASE REPORT THIS SPAMMER
      .
    • Put a message of your choosing in the Message: box. Please Do Not leave any trace of spam content in the message. When you remove dog shite from the sidewalk, you remove all of it - not just half of it. Maybe add a link to this article, or one similar, to advise others how to react to spam in the future.
    • Hit the Post Message button.

  3. Look for more spam by the spammer.
    • When you're looking at any turd by the spammer, look at the header. Beside the spammer's name, click on the link "View profile".
    • On the next screen, you'll likely not see a profile, but you will see a list of Recent Posts made by that person.
    • This will list the posts, by original subject / title, with the most recent posts at the top of the list.
    • Note the many forums listed, and the varying results that you'll have when reporting the spammers activities.
      1. The Google Blogger Help forums. These are the forums which we try to keep clean.
      2. The Google Spam forums. These are the forums which contain nothing but spam. These forums cannot be cleaned up.
      3. The various Google images of Usenet forums. These forums are not owned by Google, and cannot be cleaned up.
    • This asshole is posting multiple posts in groups 2 and 3, so we cannot easily use the Recent Posts list to find his posts, and report and neutralise them. We have to work a bit harder, but the results are worth it.
    • In addition to the posts listed on the "Recent Posts" list, follow the link at the lower right "Show all", and examine the "Searched all groups", by date (click on "Sorted by date" if necessary). Look for all posts made to any of the Google Blogger Help forums, on that same day.
    • Check each post made to any of the Google Blogger Help forums (follow each link, and examine the thread), to see if it has been neutralised (see step 2 above).
    • Report each post by the spammer (see step 1 above), as you check each thread.
    • If you find one post by the spammer, that's not been neutralised, please neutralise it.

  4. Update the thread. When Google Support removes the original spam post, the first post in the thread will be the "REPORT THIS SPAM" post. When you see that's the case, reply one last time, and change the title to "THE SPAM IS GONE" or similar. This closes the thread, and encourages each of us to react to spam promptly. And it shows Google Support that we appreciate their actions (and, in this case, we do indeed).


The above procedure will make spamming, in the Google private forums, totally worthless. Eventually the assholes will get the message.
Die, spammers!


Persistent Spammers
Check out the Recent Posts list for each asshole, now in a separate blog, with "noindex, nofollow" set. And experience some small but real sense of accomplishment.

>> Top

Monday, June 19, 2006

Here's A Neat Trick

Here's a link to PChuck's Kitchen.

Here's what looks like a link to PChuck's Kitchen. To the unwary, who are like the blogpsot victims, this might be a reason to post
Help! My blog has been hijacked by W3.org!


Let's look a little closer at the two links above.

See the extra "http//" in the second link? Now you know.

So, the next time you setup a link in your post, and the link goes somewhere weird (and ALWAYS test every link after you add it, and this is why - and I learned this from experience), don't get into the forum of your choice and scream
Help! My blog has been hijacked by W3.org!

because it hasn't. W3.org is a very well respected member of the Internet community.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops interoperable technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web to its full potential. W3C is a forum for information, commerce, communication, and collective understanding.

Splog With Navbar Disabled? Ha

So the latest trick, when a spammer plants another splog out there, is to Hide the Navbar. This may, or may not, also be a Hijacked Blog. It's done through a very simple modification to the template code.

This supposedly prevents us from finding and selecting the "Report Abuse" link, which would let us report the splog, and block it from being promoted. We are also not able to hit "Next Blog" and get away from there. Two common splogger tricks.

Blogger told us sometime ago that we are allowed to remove the navbar from our blogs (though they do not recommend such action). And removing the navbar is not at all a difficult task.

If you run into a splog, or otherwise offensive blog, open a new tab or window in your browser, and go to Blogger Help: Report a Terms of Service Violation, where you see the improved navbar "Report Abuse" wizard. This is the same wizard that you would get from the "Report Abuse" link in the navbar, you simply have to copy and paste (or type) the URL of the offending blog, somewhere in the wizard sequence.


Note that any claim that you make will be verified by Blogger before action is taken, and not all claims are automatically judged in favour of the claim made. Innocence until proven guilty is a way of life, and of policy, in the USA.


When you're surfing thru the blogosphere, and you run into a blog with no Navbar, just use the Blogger Help: Report a Terms of Service Violation link, fill in the form, and move on.

>> Top

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Why Are You Doing THIS?

Long ago, and oh so far away (no, that's a popular song from when I was young), I wrote an article Why Do I Do This?. This is not a rehash of that article.

I've had a few folks, (maybe misunderstanding my motives, maybe wanting to interfere with my message, who knows?) tell me, in not so many words but close
Chuck, you have your head where it won't see any sun.


It appears that my pointing out that
... all of these posts, in general, mean that I am trying to be a shill for Blogger.

Simultaneously, though, I wonder whether Blogger might become tired of my prodding them. I prod them to get off their coffee breaks and fix the problems. And to communicate with their unpaid staff more.

So, Chuck, why do you do this? Why do you write, just to piss everybody off?

To answer that question, I will start by reminiscing about March 6 - March 15, 2006. I am virtually certain that Blogger Support was NOT firmly aware of what was going on, during the first week of that incident. Obviously, their monitoring of their server infrastructure left something to be desired.

Now I suspect, from seeing how March 17 - March 18, 2006 (just 3 days after the previous incident was resolved) was conducted, it's somewhat obvious that Blogger Support did try to improve. But I know too, that they can and should improve more.

One way that Blogger Support can improve their act is to read the forums - Blogger Help Group - Publishing Trouble, Blogger Help Group - Something Is Broken, and others. People who don't feel comfortable filling in the Blogger Support Request form (if they can find it), will ask for help in the forums. When there's a high level of noise here, and the noise is consistent, maybe there's a widespread outage in process.

But as a Network Support and Troubleshooting Tech, I know that's not going to happen very soon.

Why, Chuck? Why won't Blogger Support read the forums? Why are problems, like the ones that inspired various posts, with such insightful titles, like What The FUCK IS GOING ON WITH MY BLOG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, What the *%^%$ Is going on with Blogger?!, and Hello Blogger Staff! Come in. We're all going nuts here! not being resolved immediately? Why doesn't Blogger Support work 7 x 24, and fix every problem that comes up with quantities of staff dedicated to instantaneous problem solving?

One of the reasons why Blogger can't devote enough time towards solving every problem instantly, and let us know what the hell is going on, is that they are busy fighting fires. Some fires are hardware failures, caused by overuse of hardware. One of the causes of hardware overuse is the explosion of splogging.

Now splogs are not trivial annoyances. They are hurting blogging in general, and Bloggers (us) in particular, in several ways. So Blogger Support is trying to practice splog containment in Blogspot / Blogger. But if you look at the numbers described in the various articles about the problem, it's pretty obvious that they can't do this alone, nor can they do this manually.

Blogger is using automated tools to detect, and to block splogs. Unfortunately, like any automated spam or hacking detection tool, there will be false positives (where innocent blogs are falsely detected as splogs), and false negatives (where splogs successfully hide their nature). The more that Blogger tunes their splog containment to reduce false negatives, the more false positives will occur.

And the sploggers don't create splogs blindly. The smart sploggers know what the limits are, and carefully tune their product to produce the maximum result, without being detected by Blogger tools. This results in more false negatives, and the need for detection tools to scan more strictly. And that leads to more false positives.

We are the ones suffering from the false positive detections. Every time somebody posts spam blog, or the like, they are describing the side effects of splog containment, and of false positive detection.

But the biggest problem is that Blogger needs to start publishing official information to this effect, and letting their unpaid staff know what the hell is going on. The problem here is not the problems (OK, not quite so much, with all condolences to those suffering from false positive splog detection, and from other known yet unresolved problems), the problem is the silence.

One tool that could possibly help Blogger, and us, know what's going on, is these forums. When there's a problem, we are urged to post here, and get peer help, because Blogger Support is busy fighting other fires. Right now, though, there is too much noise in these forums, to provide any real possiblity that actual problems will be noticed. Occasionally, Blogger Employee will post here. But the key word is occasionally.

Now, if you're a regular reader in the Blogger Support forums, you'll notice that right now, there are no problems indicating widespread outages (Now being 8:00 PST Jun 19, 2006). Despite what some may say, neither Blogger nor Blogspot is down. That doesn't mean that there are not lots of problems though. Some problems Blogger Support must resolve, others are for us to resolve. And if we can learn to troubleshoot our problems a bit, the noise level here will decrease, and Blogger Support can look here for problem reports more reliably.

But none of that will happen immediately. And Blogger has to contribute to the process of making it happen. Blogger Employee posting here is a start, as is (occasionally observed) improved problem reporting. And we have to encourage both practices.

So, why am I doing THIS?

  • A lower noise level in the forums may encourage Blogger Support to visit here more often, and to see problems more quickly.
  • With Blogger Support able to respond to problems more quickly, problems should get solved more quickly.
  • With Blogger Support able to solve problems more quickly, the noise level, relative to June 7 - 9 2006, will be lower, the next time that there are widespread problems.
  • With Blogger Support able to solve problems more quickly, they will be more available to deal with spam and splogging.
  • Less spam and splogging means better service for us, and better positioning in searches. This leads to more visitors to our blogs.
  • Less spam and splogging will lead to less needless load on the hardware, less hardware related failures, and more stability overall.
  • More stability overall will lead to more traffic to our blogs, and to better search results.
  • All of the above will lead to a lower noise level in the forums, which will make widespread problems more obvious.
  • And we can return to writing blog content, instead of gathering in the forums and griping. More content in our blogs will lead to more traffic to our blogs, and to better search results.

I use my blogs to help people with network issues, as well as Blogger issues. Blogger provides the hardware and software infrastructure, I provide the content and thus the readers. My readers provide the eyes, which read the ads, which prompt the advertisers to pay Google for ad services. It's a circular partnership.

That's why I am doing THIS.

>> Top

Nobody Has Hijacked THESE Blogs

My blog (one of them anyway) was http://nitecruzrrecipes.blogspot.com/ (now, it's http://recipes.nitecruzr.net/ - but, I digress). Now, I'd hate to have to type that by hand. But that's MY blog.

On the other hand, neither http://nitecruzrrecipes.blogpsot.com/, nor http://nitecruzrrecipse.blogspot.com/ is my blog. If you typed http://nitecruzrrecipes.blogpsot.com/ into your browser, you'd hope to get
Server not found

Firefox can't find the server at nitecruzrrecipes.blogpsot.com.

  • Check the address for typing errors such as www.example.com instead of www.example.com.
  • If you are unable to load any pages, check your computer's network connection.
  • If your computer or network is protected by a firewall or proxy, make sure that Firefox is permitted to access the Web.

If you typed http://nitecruzrrecipse.blogspot.com/ into your browser, you'd hope to get
Not Found

The requested URL was not found on this server. Please visit the Blogger homepage or the Blogger Knowledge Base for further assistance.


And I did, when I tried the last example. The first example, though, will give you a webpage that I will not look at. You may follow the link, if you wish - it's there for you, and it's sanitised, using PKBlogs for your protection. If you do, though, you'll possibly be providing a few cents to yet another spammer. But how is this possible?

It's quite simple, and it's legal. Google, or Blogger, owns blogspot.com. Doug Powell owns blogpsot.com. The "hijacker" (and I don't know if there is an actual term used for this type of hijack either) has registered blogpsot.com. That's quite legal.

Unfortunately, a few Bloggers don't know of this little scam. So, when they see a spammer's blog come up when they think that they've typed their own URL, they freak, and think that their blog has been hijacked. In this case, though, they're mistaken.

Relax, and get on with your life. Various hijackings are happening, but this is not one. Neither Doug Powell (owner of Blogpsot.Com), nor W3.Org, is hijacking your blog.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Of Fables And Blogger

In the story of Chicken Little, the main character runs around screaming
The sky is falling!! The sky is falling!!


Last week, Blogger / Blogspot had yet another major outage. Thousands of Bloggers were left with nothing to do but gather round and scream
Blogger is down!! Blogger is down!!


This week, we have some Bloggers who continue with
Blogger is down!! Blogger is down!!

even though they could be blogging. What's up with that?

And unfortunately, like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, the more they scream
Blogger is down!! Blogger is down!!

the less folks will listen. Including Blogger Support. This affects all of us.

Please, if you're able to post, and to read others posts, don't get online and scream
Blogger is down!! Blogger is down!!
.
Because it's not.

STFU unless you can contribute something useful.

Update (10:55, June 17):
I was wrong - Blogger really is down. I'm imaginarily typing (and publishing) these words, and you're not really reading them. If you believe that, please get help.

Interesting Posts In Google Blogger Help

Even though There Is No System Wide Failure, Bloggers are in shock. This is like any natural disaster; every time earthquake surviviors hear a noise, they think it's another quake. Here, every time Blogger times out, or gives an error message, people think that its down again.

But we still have to analyse, and report, the problems. So, what do you say to posts like these?

How to best reply to these posts?

  • What is the problem? Publishing (Blogger.com), or Viewing (Blogspot.com)?
  • Does the problem affect all blogs, or just specific ones?
  • Is the problem seen from all computers, or just from yours?
  • And finally - - wait for it - - HAVE YOU REPORTED THE PROBLEM??

It almost seems as if some folks live to post
This is getting crazy, anyone else down this morning?


Now I'll admit it - posting this does give me some comedic relief. It's fun winding WG and the others up. But mainly I do this because I can post here, quickly. So, before starting to write an actual technical blog article, in my other blog, I post here, and look to see if this post comes up with these words. If it does, I can tell that WG has her / his head somewhere wrong again.

Bottom line - if you're reading this, neither Blogger nor Blogspot is down. At the moment, 10:00 PDT 13 June 2006. I can't predict 10:05 PDT 13 June 2006 though.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

No Ticket Number For Help Form Entries?

Let's see if this goes into the bit bucket.

When your unpaid staff takes time to fill out one of these forms, and gets back botmail saying "We don't have time to read your form", that's one thing.

When we get back botmail without a ticket number, there's no illusion even that you read our forms.

So why have the form? Why not simply tell everybody to email directly to "nosupport@blogger.com"? It's hard to sincerely advise folks to fill out the form, when there's absolutely no illusion that it doesn't go directly into a bit bucket.

Help us to help you, please.


Here are the threads where we will explore this issue.

Update (June 22, 2006): TOS violation notifications, at least, appear to warrant a ticket number.

>> Top

There Is No System Wide Failure

...with Blogger / Blogspot right now, 10 June 2006, 11:30 PDT. I created this post, at 11:00, and have been adding to it and others in this blog since then.

Neither

  • Blogger - the infrastructure / system to build websites.
  • Blogspot - the infrastructure / system to display the websites.

is down. I just wrote this post, and you are looking at it right now.

There are two known open issues right now. These issues affect specific people, not everybody, and neither are part of a systemwide failure. If either of these issues affects you, saying "Blogger is down", indiscriminantly, won't get you help.

Both cases might be easier solved, by more people providing input. You need to provide your input in the proper manner, though.

So, what do you want to do?

  • Gripe about the problem.
    • You are doing fine - just keep at it.

  • Solve the problem.


Now, if you want peer help, you should be able to find it - at Google Blogger Help - Broken, Google Blogger Help - Publishing, and / or Blogger Forum. Registration, and assistance, at any of the three is free (you do have to register), and generally polite. But you do need to provide some thought, when asking for help.

Here are some interesting posts, in Google Blogger Help. What do you say to folks like these? Their attitude is understandable - it's called shock. Shock brought upon by Blogger NoSupport.

>> Top

Friday, June 09, 2006

Improvements In Reporting #2

Wow. Look at Blogger Status now.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Late last night we pushed new code and once again replaced harware in order to combat the problems of the past few days. As of this morning it appears to have improved the responsiveness of the site, altho' there are still fixes we want to make to get Blogger faster for everyone.

Also, we are working on fixing the problems some users are seeing with photo upload failures.

Posted by Jason at 10:46 PDT
Thursday, June 08, 2006

For many users, Blogger will have been extremely slow or down for most of the morning. We continue to work on fixes for this problem and hope to have it resolved as quickly as possible.

Update (4:45p): We are planning another infrastructure overhaul to address the significant problems we've been having in the past several days.

Update (6:59p): We've made another change that has improved performance, but we are also planning to make additional changes this evening.

Update (10:45a, June 9): The issues with the database servers have been resolved last night.

Posted by Jason at 11:14 PDT


Compared to what I quoted in Another Day Of Anguish, we have major improvement.

Let's try and encourage this improvement. It is badly needed.

The Real Blogger Status / WordPress Edition #1

The Real Blogger Status / WordPress Edition is now online.

All I did was run a script from the WordPress Dashboard - Import. It was predictable, and simple.

  • Indicate Blogger as my blog host.
  • Backup settings in blogs being imported.
  • Log out of Blogger, from the Dashboard.
  • Log in to Blogger, thru the Import script.
  • Select the blog to be imported, from my Blogger blog list.
  • Watch and pray.
  • This blog is not terribly large, just a few pictures (no, actually just 1), and maybe 50 posts. It took a good 5 minutes, with a nice console type display showing what was going on.
  • The Import script finished, and that was that.


Having finished, I now have a blog in WordPress. That being said, it's just a blog.

All in all, a brief and disappointing exercise. It's pretty - check it out. But there's lots more to be done, before The Real Blogger Status / WordPress Edition can be seen as a mirror to The Real Blogger Status / Blogger Edition.

See The Real Blogger Status / WordPress Edition #2 for the continuing experience.

I Blog Slowly

I publish each post dozens of times - that's why I like blogging. I'm still working on my most previous blog, Another Day Of Anguish.

My current project, The Real Blogger Status / WordPress Edition, is just a stub right now. I just started it, and as any new blog, the Wordpress blog starter puts in a welcome comment. So this morning, I went to remove the comment - cleanup the stub, and get ready to mirror it from The Real Blogger Status / Blogspot Edition. And imagine my surprise when I found a real comment from a real blogger. Already.

Blogger Employee: Are you reading this? Check this.

>> Top

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Spam Blogs #3

In Spam Blogs #2, I briefly touched on the issues of spam in the blogging world. The problem is worse than the previously referenced articles.

In Washington Post Security Fix: Fake Blogs Use Security Fix to Support Bad Advice, Brian Krebs discusses how the splogs are being used to advertise, among other things, fradulent security products.

...they will link to one or two anti-spyware products that either aren't worth a fraction of what they cost or have earned a reputation for marketing by scaring people into thinking -- often falsely -- that they have massive spyware infections on their computers.


In TGDaily Number of websites grows at record pace, they mention that Blogger reported 660,000 websites added just last month. I wonder how many of them were splogs? And how many of the chronic Blogger failures are due to the increased load caused by the splogs?

See Splogging Bots, for a discussion about how splogs are being created in such volume.

Another Day Of Anguish

Blogspot appears to have been up all day, so my blog viewers, apparently, didn't lose interest. My hit counts are almost equal to a month ago; though discounting the fact that half of my viewers are reading this blog, not my main one, we are still suffering. But Blogspot, today, was not the concern.

Blogger was the story today.

Since today, the action was in the forums, mainly Google Blogger Help: Something Is Broken, and Publishing Trouble, that is where today's story comes from.

  • From What the *%^%$ Is going on with Blogger?!, drjewest writes

    It really is tragic because its just another example of American indifference to customer service. When the country is bankrupt and has to receive foreign aid in a few years maybe folk will wake up and do their jobs. But of course then it will be too late.

  • From What the *%^%$ Is going on with Blogger?!, Blogger Employee writes

    We're currently having some trouble with one of our databases. This is likely the cause of the problems that you are experiencing. We're aware of the issue and are working hard to resolve it as quickly as possible.

  • From What the *%^%$ Is going on with Blogger?!, blogonaut writes

    1. If it´s downtime one day, blogger is likely to be sluggish and jumpy for the next few coming days and as we´ve experienced today, hardware problems can return and become worse.
    2. It´s really bad that blogger don´t post to their status page immediately.
    3. Good thing is that if blogger is down, blogspot usually work better... it can be slow but is usually not gone completely, which means people can still access our blogs although we can´t update them. That said, today was awful :)
    4. Yeah, I´m thinking of moving as well but a) I´ve just finished too many hours on my template.... b) I´ve always hated Wordpress´s interface and I don´t like it more just because Blogger is having trouble c) I fear a mass-migration to other platforms, which mean they´re gonna get into trouble as well. Pls. tell me what you think, I´m still struggling with this issue!
    5. Learning from the posts in this forum in the past days, the problem is not always on the blogger side ... clean out cookies and cache and switch browser for a while if you can´t post and you have no reason to think blogger is actually down again... It´s better than waiting a few days for a reply from support and it can work very well.
    6. Back up... as soon as blogger is running as normal again I´ll be heading for the help page and learn how to make a back up of all my posts!

  • From Google has better things to do..., electricwind writes

    Google has better things to do than to attend to Blogger outages and outrages...

    Remember, Blogger only costs money for Google--while they're busy making their billions..

  • From Google has better things to do..., CyberNewsmaster writes

    I suspect Blogger actually generates revenue for Google through Adsense. It's a great model. Get other people to write content for you. Split the profit from ads on their blog...

  • From blogger sluggish today?, J.D. Matthews writes

    Hey Blogger Employee, why don't you stop posting useless comments like that in here and get over there and fix the friggin' problem? We're all aware of the issue, and you can take your apology and stuff it until you get everything running right.

  • From Simple recipe for keeping Blogger users happy, Marsh writes

    When the problem has been identified, update the Status page with a brief description of the problem (hardware failure, denial of service attack, etc), who is affected, and give a conservative estimate of the time for a fix (and triple it). A range might be useful too, like 8-24 hours.

  • From Simple recipe for keeping Blogger users happy, Blogger Employee writes

    Thanks to everyone for their honest feedback, it is truly appreciated. We do our best to keep you folks in the loop, and to make Blogger as reliable as possible. Unfortunately, as noted in my earlier post, despite the efforts made yesterday, Blogger is a bit sluggish today.

    Additionally, some folks may be experiencing intermittent outages. I assure you that our engineers are doing everything in their power to get Blogger up and running normally again ASAP.

  • And, in addition to the pain and anguish shown above, Blogger Status suggests
    ...we are also planning to make additional changes this evening.

  • And for the last quote, in blogger sluggish today?, MaryK writes

    Okay, Blogger Employee - this is helpful information for the 10 people who read this group. How about updating your OFFICIAL Blogger Status page for your other 10 million members?



The last post is the most telling. Let's look at the most current Blogger Status post, as of today - Friday, June 06, 2006:

Thursday, June 08, 2006

For many users, Blogger will have been extremely slow or down for most of the morning. We continue to work on fixes for this problem and hope to have it resolved as quickly as possible.

Update (4:45p): We are planning another infrastructure overhaul to address the significant problems we've been having in the past several days.

Update (6:59p): We've made another change that has improved performance, but we are also planning to make additional changes this evening.

Posted by Jason at 11:14 PDT

That is symptomatic of the same problem - ongoing lack of communication. We see the same, stale, content that we saw there, yesterday evening. If we see a problem today (Friday), how do we know if it's the same problem, returned? Or a new, unrelated problem? Or maybe a problem caused by the final changes made last night (if any were made)?

Blogger Employee: We appreciate that you are willing to take 10 minutes out of your busy day of playing frisbee and napping on the couch to post a few words of comfort (identical content, pasted into half a dozen threads), but you are (were) replying to people in real pain.

Jason speaks in the highest overview - "...infrastructure overhaul..." and "...another change that has improved performance...".

These words mean very little to the typical Blogger. We see the post editor - or the photo upload - up right now. Here's an immediate decision to be made. Will it be up for 2 more hours, or just 10 more minutes? Should I rush and finish this post now, or maybe take a shower now, and do some better work after I am refreshed? Decisions to be made, constantly - and your vague status reports don't help us with those decisions.

And this morning's content, which is unchanged from last night, provides no sense of closure. Was anything actually done last night ("...additional changes this evening")? Or will you maybe make an unplanned improvement sometime today?

And here's a thought. If you find using Blogger Status to be less than useful when Blogger (or Blogspot) is down, mirror Blogger Status on another service. This blog, The Real Blogger Status, is being mirrored this weekend. Watch this blog (or its mirror) during the next Blogger / Blogspot outage (NOTE the truthfulness of this statement depends upon how long it is until the next major outage).

>> Top

Of Blogger and K-Mart

Having written about my early memories of shopping in Richmond, Virginia, I was saddened to read the news from a fellow Blogger and Richmond resident:

...Miller & Rhoads and Thalheimers are alas, no more. Both went out of business and their buildings are slated to be torn down in some downtown renovation.



Miller & Rhoads, Richmond VA, c. 1931 (gone)


That sad news was delivered thru my website GuestBook, as it was impossible to write a Blogger comment.


Thalheimers, Richmond VA, somewhat later (gone)



K-Mart, on the other hand, however questionable their service, is still with us. And K-Mart is getting bigger, having recently bought out Sears / Roebuck (aka Sears).

So many Bloggers are thinking about moving to alternate blog hosts, like Wordpress. Well, The Real Blogger Status is being mirrored there, this week. But do I expect that to be a long term solution? Regretfully, no.

K-Mart, though known for providing less customer support, outlasted both Miller & Rhoads and Thalheimers. And engulfed Sears / Roebuck, which was a mail order giant from years back.

I have no doubt that Blogger will continue to expand, even as some Bloggers move to Wordpress. And one day, Wordpress will be engulfed too. Those of you fleeing Blogger for greener pastures may not be away for very long.

Stay and fight the problems now, or flee and fight the problems later. Your choice. If you stay and fight, though, don't expect a lot of cooperation.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Here's The Problem

I don't know what was down, nor what was fixed. I can read a brief note in Google Blogger Help, by Blogger Employee. And I can read the latest Blogger Status post.

For me, I was unable to publish anything for several hours today, though, as far as I can tell, my blog was still accessible. And the GBH note tells us that something was done, and that Blogger is somewhat aware that we were concerned.

That's a good start, but only that.

The problem here is that there's never enough information provided for any Blogger "customer" to determine the nature of a problem, when it happens. The only thing we can ever do is submit another Blogger Help form. And since we never get a reply back from that (please don't call the botmail a reply, that's purely an acknowledgement), we never know if our problem is something that gets fixed, or if it just randomly went away.

The Blogger Status page refers to "a hardware problem", and "new hardware" to "restore the site". We don't know what was down, so if we see another problem today, we don't know if it's:

  1. The previous problem, returned.
  2. A new problem, affecting just us.
  3. A new problem, affecting everybody (or common to more than just 1 person).

So we gather in GBH Broken, GBH Publishing, and BloggerForum. We piss and and moan, and eventually BS posts something. And sometimes they fix something.

But we never know what gets fixed. And eventually something else breaks, and we never know what breaks then either. Just that
  • We can't post.
  • We can't access our blog.
  • Other folks can't access our blog.
  • We can't upload pictures.


In the meantime, PChuck's Network / WordPress is under development.

Having said all of that, I will point out that Blogger is only part of the problem. Until we (Blogger unpaid staff) learn to Troubleshoot Our Problems, I can understand (somewhat) why Blogger Support ignores our daily crys.

When we post
My blog is down.

how is that going to help anybody, or to motivate BS to do any research?

  • What is the blog URL?
  • What is the exact problem? If you see an error message on the screen, learn to Copy and Paste the complete text.
  • When did you first see the problem? When did you last not see the problem?
  • What is the scope of the problem? Try another computer. Try another computer on another network. Try a different browser. Try something.
  • And finally, Have You Reported The Problem?

All of the above are useful information, when you're trying to track down a problem. I don't know for sure if the Blogger Support staff spends too much time drinking coffee, playing frisbee, or napping on the couch. What I do know is, if we don't learn to provide professional diagnostics, BS is never going to be able to help us.

Diagnose The Problem! Help Them To Help Us!

>> Top

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

How Did He Do THAT?

That's a question I ask myself almost daily - when looking at websites in general, and at blogs in particular. Just about everything I do in my blogs is copied from somebody else. There's no classes "Blogging 101" etc.

Well, here is yet another reason why I push Firefox.

View Selection Source


If you are looking at a web page or blog, and you see a feature that intrigues you, simply:
  1. Highlight the portion of the webpage that interests you.
  2. Right click and select "View Selection Source".
  3. A view page source window will pop up, with the code to produce just the highlighted elements, from step 1, highlighted.


What better way to learn? Try my sample article.
  • Click on the link.
  • Highlight the portion of the page beginning with "yesterday", and ending with "Experience". It helps to highlight objects before and after the area that interests you, to get the context.
  • Right click in the highlighted area, and select "View Selection Source".
  • If you find the source, as displayed in the popup window, hard to read, just copy the highlighted code (Ctrl - C), open Notepad, and paste.
  • Voila.
  • So THAT's how he (she) did it!

If you have just Internet Explorer or Opera, sorry. Get Firefox.

Going further, the Firebug add-on in Firefox will show you, dynamically, the code behind any container or object on the web page. You can examine CSS or HTML, and you can look at the CSS attributes, the physical layout, or the DOM for any object that interests you.

You can, alternatively, look at the source code for the entire page. With Firefox, it's "View" - "Page Source"; with Internet Explorer, it's almost the same - "View" - "Source". Firefox presents a listing, with important keywords and sections in different colours; Internet Explorer presents you with a Notepad window. Both are useful, in their own way.

An alternative to using browser based code interpreters would be vURL Desktop Edition. You provide the URL of an interesting web page, it extracts the page, and displays the source code and a compiled and sorted list of all links within that web page. The drawback of vURL would be its presentation of source code. With Firefox and "View Selection Source", you are presented the web page code with the area of interest highlighted; with vURL, you are given the entire web page and you have to search on your own, and find the code for the area of interest.

Anyway, once you find code that interests you, find out how to use the code. The W3 CSS / HTML website is excellent for this purpose.
  • Go to the W3 website.
  • Find the Site Search applet in the upper right of the web page.
  • Type the CSS / HTML tag, with the brackets around it, that interests you. Hit enter.
  • The search results will include a number of hits. The top hit should link to the tutorial page for that tag.
  • The tutorial web page will briefly describe the tag, and its characteristics.
  • Near the bottom of each tutorial web page, look for "Try-It-Yourself Demos". The demos are like live labs, with code on the left, and the resulting display on the right. You can type in changes and see results as you watch.
I see similar possibilities in the EchoEcho CSS Tutorial.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Image Uploading #5

Image uploading is down again.


(Update, 10/27): This issue is continued in Image Uploading - 6.

(Update, June 29): Problems Uploading Pictures? Try This Process may provide a start in isolating the multiple problems.

(Update, June 15): Diagnostics requested by Blogger Support:

After a failed image upload in Mozilla Firefox, please complete the following steps:

  1. Go to "Tools">"JavaScript Console."
  2. Select "Errors," and copy and paste the messages that you see (if any) into your response.


(Update 11:17, June 14): By Jason, in Blogger Status:
We continue to upgrade hardware and make changes in response to last week's problems. Additionally, we are still investigating the photo uploading problem seen by some users. While this problem has been reported by a number of people, it is not consistently reproduceable - we're working with the folks who are running into this to gather as much information as possible about how it occurs.


IOW, help us by reporting your problem. Every computer is unique, and your involvement may contribute to the diagnosis of the problem.

(Update, June 29): Problems Uploading Pictures? Try This Process may indicate a start in the right direction.


(Update 15:35, June 9): Hints suggested by Blogger Employee:

  1. Clear your cache and cookies, log in, and try again.
  2. Check to ensure that Java Script is enabled.
  3. Try another browser, to see if that makes a difference. (I've had success using Mozilla Firefox).


IOW, help us to help you. Try alternate solutions, and let us know what does and doesn't work. See the above note.

Now, understand this. Blogger Support is working on this issue. But, they state it as an intermittent problem, which means that they need more diagnostic data to find the cause of the problem.

>> Top