Thursday, November 30, 2006

Blog Ownership Stuck With The First Google Account? Don't Delete It

Under Classic Blogger, it was possible to transfer a blog from one administrative account to another, by adding the second account, then deleting the first. Incorrectly done, though, you could end up with a blog with no administrator, and no way to add an administrator. And another trouble ticket for Blogger to resolve.

So Blogger changed the possibility, with Blogger Beta. Under Beta, you can add a second (or third, or ...) adminstrator, but you can't delete the first administrator. That takes care of the possibility of having no administrator. But it creates a second problem (which apparently Blogger doesn't find important) - you can end up with an account that has no need to administer a blog, but having been the first administrator, is stuck with that ability none the less.

Having accepted that fact, one bright person came up with the idea

OK, what if I delete the first account?


A drastic, but seemingly effective way to resolve the problem.

But today, it appears that procedure is both drastic and fatal. When you delete the original administrative account, the blogs associated with that account disappear. This is stated by Blogger Employee, in Blogger Help Group: Something Is Broken Since switch my blogs aren't on dashboard Help blogstars or Employee.
...the problem appears to be that you deleted the Google Account that these blogs were registered with. Be aware, when you delete your account, your blogs go with it.

In other words, do not delete an account having any blogs associated with it.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Including A Video In Your Post

Photos are an easy way to make your posts more interesting. Going one step further, we have moving photos, ie videos.

Just Link To The Video, Hosted Externally
Including a link to a video is as simple as including a link to a photo, hosted elsewhere.
>>The Perfect Plumber
&gt;&gt;<a href="http://video.google.com/videoplay?
docid=2638976382458360943&q=plumber">The Perfect Plumber</a>

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Or Embed The Video In The Post
But look at my post in PChuck's Network: Don't Do It Yourself - If You Don't Think About What You're Doing

Here we have a Shockwave Flash movie, Embedded in the web page.
<embed style="width: 400px; height: 326px;" id="VideoPlayback"
type="application/x-shockwave-flash"
src="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?
docId=2638976382458360943&q=plumber">
</embed><br clear="left"><a
href="http://video.google.com/videoplay?
docid=2638976382458360943&q=plumber"
rel="nofollow">The Perfect Plumber</a>

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Embed The Video, and Allow For Tags Supported By All Browsers
For another example, look at my post in PChuck's Musings: Why I Prefer To Live In California

Here we have a Shockwave Flash movie, embedded in the web page, and enclosed as an Object. You should use the Object / Param tags, in addition to the Embed tag, because not all browsers recognise the Embed tag.
<span style="text-align: center; display: block;"><object height="350" width="425"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Q62dija6bsM"><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Q62dija6bsM" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="samedomain" height="350" width="425"></embed></param></object></span><span style="text-align:center;"> »<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q62dija6bsM" rel="nofollow">www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q62dija6bsM
</a></span>

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Get The Code Needed From The Video Host
Many video hosting sites expect that you will, eventually, be passing their displayed material along to your friends; that's the fun of using the Internet. So they will make it easy, and provide the code for you to embed their video in your web page. Look at the embedded code above. Following the embedded object itself, you'll see the link back to the website. There you can find the code that you need, for your video that you just uploaded, or for somebody else's video.

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Add Your Own Video To The Video Host
Adding your video to your blog is as simple as 1-2-3.
  1. Upload the video to YouTube.
  2. Find the "<Embed> ... </Embed>" code for the uploaded video, and copy it.
  3. Paste the copied code into your blog.

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Setup A Live Video Feed
If you're really adventurous, consider UStream.
  1. Provide a connection from your computer, to UStream.
  2. Find the "<Embed> ... </Embed>" code for the live connection, and copy it.
  3. Paste the copied code into your blog.

Now you can broadcast yourself live. Shades of The Truman Show.

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Be Aware Of The Possibilities
Now, the above sample code is from a blog with a Classic template, which uses liberal HTML. If you are adding code to a blog with a Designer or Layouts template, you'll want to read about about a critical detail - XHTML differences in New (Layouts Templates) blogs.

And, when you get your video code from YouTube, it will come out in one stream, with no gaps or line breaks. When code is published online, in blogs like this one, there will be extra line breaks inserted to make the code readable. Be sure to remove all gratuitous line breaks from your code, before publishing.

Also note that the above examples show content enabled in your posts, as HTML. You can, just as easily, create a new HTML / JavaScript page element, and if you like position it as a Welcome post at the top of the page.

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Add A Caption
Want to add a caption to the video, maybe some text beside it, like a picture with a caption?


This is one example of why I prefer to live in California.




»www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q62dija6bsM



<span style="float:left; text-align:center; display: block;"><object height="280" width="340"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Q62dija6bsM"><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Q62dija6bsM" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="samedomain" height="280" width="340"></embed></param></object></span>
This is one example of why I prefer to live in California.
<br clear=left />
<span style="text-align:center;">
»<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q62dija6bsM" rel="nofollow">www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q62dija6bsM
</a></span>

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Make Sure To Size It Properly
When you position your video, whether in a post or the sidebar, you want to make sure that there's room for it to fit. If the video is too wide for the available horizontal space, you could end up with another post / sidebar alignment problem. Let's say that we just don't have 340px of width available, so let's reduce the width by 25%. We likewise reduce the height by 25%, to keep the aspect ratio the same. Instead of 340 x 280, let's make it 255 x 210.


This is one example of why I prefer to live in California.



»www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q62dija6bsM


<span style="float:left; text-align:left; display: block;"><object height="210" width="255"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Q62dija6bsM"><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Q62dija6bsM" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="samedomain" height="210" width="255"></embed></param></object></span>
This is one example of why I prefer to live in California.
<br clear=left />
<span style="text-align:left;">
»<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q62dija6bsM" rel="nofollow">www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q62dija6bsM
</a></span>

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Or Add A Blogger Video Bar
Another way to include a video (or more than one videos) is to add a Video Bar gadget. This is a very simple process.
  • Add, and position, the Video Bar. You can put it in the sidebar (if you have room), or in the blog post area.
  • Specify a Search Expression to allow the page element to select the video(s) that you're interested in.
Note that specifying a search expression will be simpler if you're interested in displaying video(s) with unique tags (if you're picky), or displaying videos that Google wants you to display (if you're not picky). If you're uploading your own videos, you'll want to add unique tags to the videos, so you can setup your Video Bar to select your videos, and not some others with a similar search expression.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Use Post Pages When Advertising Your Blog

In one Microsoft help forum, some time ago, one wanta be helpful guy would answer dozens of help requests daily, by copying his entire library - 800+ lines of technical information - into each post.
This should take care of you. If it doesn't, post back here with your questions. Now, read my entire compilation of experience. Your answer is in here - somewhere.


Now that Blogger provides its easy to build online web sites, anybody can do the same using a blog.
Blah blah blah. The answer is somewhere in my blog.
>>http://myblog.blogspot.com


Possibly this is done from ignorance. He doesn't know about addressing his posts. This is how spammers and trolls operate too.
Want advice? Check out my web site - it's in there somewhere.


Genuinely helpful folks, when they give advice, make their advice complete and relevant. The easiest way for you to do this is to link directly to the right article. To do that, your posts need to be individually addressable.

Go to Settings - Archiving. Make sure that "Enable Post Pages?" is set to "Yes". That gives each post its own page.
Blah blah blah. The answer is in this article in my blog.
>>http://myblog.blogspot.com/myarticle.html
That's better.

But wait - there's more.

Thanks to the magic of anchor tags, you can link directly to the section in the relevant post.

Blah blah blah. The answer is here, in this article, in my blog.
>>http://myblog.blogspot.com/myarticle.html#ThisTag


That's much better, and now complete and relevant.

When you give advice, send the reader right to the advice. If the reader finds the answer immediately, he'll appreciate you more, and read the rest of the blog later. And hopefully, bookmark the blog, so his friends will find you later.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Registering An Address For An Externally Published Blog? Be Careful!

When you register an address for a Blog*Spot blog, it's a pretty simple process. Setup a new blog, give it a Title, and a URL. The URL will be something like xxxxxxxx.blogspot.com, where "xxxxxxxx" must be unique. There is only one way to check for availability of any "xxxxxxxx", and only one way to register your choice for "xxxxxxxx", and make it unavailable for someone else.
  1. Enter the blog Title.
  2. Select an available URL.
  3. Select a template.
  4. Add a post to the new blog.
  5. Publish the new blog (this step only necessary for a Classic blog).


When you publish your blog externally, it's a bit more complicated.
  1. Hire a service to host the blog / web site.
  2. Register your URL.
  3. Hire a service to provide you a directory (DNS) entry.
You may hire a package deal, where all 3 components are provided by the same service, maybe even your ISP. You may get all 3 components for free, ie no actual hiring involved. But you will have to spend some time on step 2, choosing and registering the URL.

Now, choosing the URL for an externally hosted blog / web site is not as simple as choosing a Blog*Spot URL. You will register the URL with the company that actually provides the registration service. There are, unfortunately, multiple companies that provide the service, and no one company has a master list of allocated URLs. So you can only tell them what you prefer, based upon what's available at the time. If the registrar verifies your choice as available, they register it in your name and you now own the URL of your choice.

So the folks experienced in registering URLs use a lossy process. They find several possibilities, then have their registrar register one of the choices, usually in a list sequenced by preference. And here's where the problem starts.

If you see a possible URL, based upon your listing what's available at any time, there's no guarantee that the same URL will be available an hour later, or even 5 minutes later. There are multiple registrars (as I indicated above), and at any time, other folks like you could be choosing the same URL. This is a much more common situation when you are choosing a URL based upon current trends. If you think it's trendy, you probably aren't the only one.

But that's not the only problem here. Besides other people like you, you may have to compete with an automated domain squatting process that observes your research, sees what names you check for availability, and registers those names for itself. If you decide 5 minutes, or an hour, later to register a specific URL, you may find that it's not available. At least, not available for the normal registration fee of $10. Try $1,500 - payable to Domibot (or any of several different names that they operate under).

I hope that you haven't read this far, and are now wondering what I'm smoking. I'm perfectly serious - and you can read about this further, if you like. Here, too, we have a discussion where this problem was discovered. And, if you're wondering
Just how much money can Domibot make, anyway?
you may want to read Bob Parsons (GoDaddy) The add/drop scheme... where the scam is discussed in detail, and in dollar value.

So, if you're planning to register a URL, and are looking for a good one, that's descriptive and unique, be aware of the possibilities. If you read the discussion (and be warned - it's a pretty long one), you'll find that no one really knows how Domibot operates. There are 3 ways to deal with them.
  • If you find an available URL that looks good to you, register it on the spot.
  • If you later find that your choice is available for $1,500, pay the fee.
  • Wait until the URL is again available, either 5 or 10 days later.
Read the linked articles, if you think I'm dreaming. I'm not.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Page Cannot Be Displayed (Error 404)

This is a very popular error message, being seen recently. And by popular, I don't mean well liked, as in
Chuck is a popular guy.

I wish.

I mean we are seeing it a lot, recently. Or it's being reported a lot. Or maybe, it's always around, but the other problems are down a lot, so this one is visible.

The problem here is, it's used so much we don't know what it means. It could be anything like
  • Your computer won't connect to it.
  • We don't know where it is
  • We know where it is, but we won't let you connect.


In Microsoft Windows Networking, it might be a combination of the old Error 5 aka Access Denied and the Error 53 aka Name Not Found. Both of these are very popular (and again not well liked) errors in Windows.

So how do we fix it? That's the bottom line.

You start by identifying who's responsible for it. The message itself is coming from your computer. Start with a little basic troubleshooting. If the problem is just you connecting to one or more web sites (like your blog, and maybe other blogs), then it's vaguely possible that the problem is in your computer or your network, or maybe your ISP's network. If either is the case, then the ball is in your court. Help is available, though.

If you can eliminate your computer or network, and your ISP's network, and the Internet as a whole, then the problem is probably in Blogger somewhere. This is a huge network in itself. Now you have two choices, and I recommend that you try both, simultaneously.
  • Report the problem to Blogger, directly.
  • Report the problem to your peers (and to Blogger indirectly).
And report the problem objectively, and calmly. Help the people who will try to help you.

When you report the problem, whether in a Blogger Help form, or to an open forum, try to include some description of the scope of the problem.
  • What are you trying to do? Read a blog, publish to your blog, publish a picture to your blog?
  • Just your blog, just some blogs (which blogs?), or all blogs?
  • (Currently relevant) Are the blogs in question Classic, or Beta, blogs?
  • What browser do you use? Brand and version will be useful.
  • Did you try from just one computer, or from multiple computers?
  • Did you maybe try from another location (another network, maybe your friends computer)?
  • Is the problem constant, intermittent, occasional? Did it just start, or have you always seen it?
  • Have you changed anything on your computer or your network recently?
These are all standard troubleshooting questions, and all are useful to anybody who has to help you diagnose the problem.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Migration From Blogger Classic To Blogger Beta - Planning The Process

We've been seeing mixed experiences with the migration from Classic to Beta. Some folks are just closing their eyes and jumping - and landing softly with no problems. Others are finding it a bit of a rough landing.

If you spent any amount of time adding custom components to your template, when you set the blog up originally, it's possible that the migration process won't easily convert your custom template. You might want to do a little planning, and experimentation, before you migrate.
  • Most standard template objects can be created in the Page Layout editor. Try setting up a Google account, with a new Beta blog, using a template similar to yours. Add your custom features, and see how well it works for you.
  • When you get the invitation to migrate your account, first make a test copy of your blog, using a copy of the template in your Classic blog. Then migrate your account, and convert the test blog first. If you like, you can easily copy the template from the Beta blog that you setup earlier.


A little extra effort might go a long way towards making the template conversion go easier for you, and keep your blog operating for your readers. It's your choice - and I know what I'm going to do.

(Edit 12/14):
This week, having gotten the tap on the shoulder, I did a dry run migration, and identified some interesting issues.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Changing The Post Date

When you write posts in your blog, generally you'll want them to show the date / time when they were written.

A blog is a journal, and sometimes you will want to insert posts with a different date.
  • You may want a post to show a future date, to bring it to the top of the blog.
  • You may want a post to show a past date, to reflect a past experience. Or maybe you want to make a new post, and keep it off the main page, as a separate section of the blog.
  • Maybe you want all of the posts to be in forward chronological order, instead of (normal) reverse chronological order.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Post / Sidebar Alignment Problem In IE - A Cure?

I've written about differences between Firefox and Internet Explorer, and about one specific symptom which seems to result from this difference. One of the challenges here has been that not all blogs exhibit this symptom. Most likely because not all blogs (not many most likely) try to cram page elements into spaces where they don't fit.

But occasionally, you run across blogs that seem to be impervious to this symptom, even though they appear to be inviting it. And today, I ran across a possible reason why some blogs don't have this problem.

And it's not hard to make your blog, too, be impervious to the symptom. Just find the stylesheet code, and insert the portion in red.


/* Page Structure

#outer-wrapper {
width:740px;
margin:0 auto;
text-align:left;
font: normal normal 100% 'Trebuchet MS',Verdana,Arial,Sans-serif;
}
#main-wrap1 {
width:485px;
float:left;
margin:15px 0 0;
padding:0 0 10px;
color:#333333;
font-size:97%;
line-height:1.5em;
word-wrap: break-word; /* fix for long text breaking sidebar float in IE */
overflow: hidden; /* fix for long non-text content breaking IE sidebar float */
}
#main-wrap2 {
float:left;
width:100%;
padding:10px 0 0;
}
#main {
background:url("http://www.blogblog.com/
rounders/rails_main.gif") repeat-y;
padding:0;
}
#sidebar-wrap {
width:240px;
float:right;
margin:15px 0 0;
font-size:97%;
line-height:1.5em;
word-wrap: break-word; /* fix for long text breaking sidebar float in IE */
overflow: hidden; /* fix for long non-text content breaking IE sidebar float */
}


The rule names will vary, from template to template. Just find the rules with the float setting, and with text related settings like font-size and line-height, and add the code. This will vary, depending upon whether your sidebar is positioned on the left or right. The solution will be the same though.

Insert the code, save the template, and republish the blog.

(Edit 11/23): There's also some identified, but not completely understood, issue of a 3px padding next to a float element, again apparently only in IE V6 and previous.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Squashed Navbar - And Only In IE

Not a major problem, but a trend. At least, two blogs identified with the problem. In Internet Explorer, the Navbar is squashed into a box, in the upper left corner of the screen. This is visible only in IE V6 and previous. IE V7 seems invulnerable to the problem.

This appears to come from a miscoded template - in both cases (below) the template has multiple <body> tags.


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Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Problem Resolved, Or A New Mystery Begun?

So today, Blogger Support, represented by Buzzie, reported in Blogger Help Group: Publishing Trouble 24 hours of no posting, no commenting, no nothing, at 11/4 12:00
We have fixed the problem. Again, sorry for the inconvenience. if you still have trouble don't forget to mention your blog url.


The above quote was in response to yet another report of
We're sorry, but we were unable to complete your request.

an often reported problem recently.

Slightly earlier, at 11/4 11:57 we see a similar message
We have fixed the problem. Again, sorry for the inconvenience. if you still have trouble don't forget to mention your blog url.


This for todays problem, after 12 hours of hell,
Your post was not saved due to a database error. An engineer has been notified.


So what happened here? Did they fix two problems in one day, or was one problem present for the past week, and got fixed in 30 minutes? Was this yet another 30 minute fix?

For a livelier viewpoint, see Roberto's Report: Have The Chooks Come Home to Roost?.

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An Improvement In Problem Resolution?

So here's the latest glitch, as chronicled in Blogger Help Group: Publishing Trouble, in PST.

  • First report 11/3 22:10.
    I am getting this bizzare when trying to publish my posts:
    "Your post was not saved due to a database error. An engineer has been notified. Please copy your post to your computer and try again later. You can check Blogger Status for information about known problems with Blogger."

  • A dozen or so other victims replied, during the next few hours. Increased concern, and discussion all night, about how long this outage would last. The suspense mounts.

  • The latest Google lamb, Buzzie, shows up at 11/4 11:33.
    I am sorry to hear that you guys have problems. Can you tell me the urls for the blogs that give you trouble, so we can figure out what's going on?

  • An interim report 11/4 11:47.
    we have identified the cause for the publishing problem and it is getting fixed as we speak. I post back, when we all clear on our end.

  • Problem fixed 11/4 11:57.
    We have fixed the problem. Again, sorry for the inconvenience. if you still have trouble don't forget to mention your blog url.


I wonder if Buzzie would have even posted, had the problem victims identified their blogs in their original posts?

This is an improvement. Let's try to encourage this involvement, and maybe eventually Buzzie could post a couple hours after the first post, not well into the next day? Think of how short the thread could have been. Did it really take them a mere 30 minutes to identify and implement a fix? Would Buzzie have posted at 11:33, had they not had a solution in mind already? When would Buzzie have posted, had they spent the next 12 hours or so, diagnosing the problem?

But still, an improvement over The Silence. And apparently a more effective method than processing the problem thru Blogger Contact Us, and Blogger Status.


(Edit 11/4 16:30): Interesting. Was this problem (12 hours of hell) related to an oldie
We're sorry, but we were unable to complete your request.
or did they fix 2 problems in one day? Now we have a real mystery.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

500 Internal Server Error

Everybody has seen this error. The more that you publish to your blog, the more that you will see it.
This server is currently experiencing a problem. An engineer has been notified and will investigate.


Sometimes, if you wait a few minutes and try again, you'll be able to publish. Other times, you could be an hour - or more - with the same thing. You cannot say what works or doesn't, as you can't ever reproduce the problem analytically.

You may be able to work around the problem, by using a different Blogger server. Of course, by the time you clear cache, and shutdown and restart the browser, Blogger might have fixed the problem. So you can't really tell, can you?

Of course, you could report the problem. Right.

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