Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Many Faces Of The Meta Tag

In my tutorials that instruct you how to make your blog friendly to search engines in general, and to the Google spider specifically, the meta tag is a key element.

The meta tags are very versatile code that should be located immediately following the blog title, in the blog header. You'll be using the Template Editor to view, and to modify, this code. As always, if you intend to make changes to the code, backup the template before and after making changes.

In a Classical template, you'll have something like
<head>
<title><$BlogPageTitle$></title>
<meta name="description" content="The Real Blogger Status: What Blogger Won't Tell You"></meta>
<meta name="keywords" content="Blogger, Blogspot, blogger.com, blogspot.com, outage, ..."></meta>
<meta name="verify-v1" content="xxxxxxxx" />
<$BlogMetaData$>


In a Layouts template, you'll have something like
<head>
<title><data:blog.pageTitle/></title>
<meta content='The Real Blogger Status: What Blogger Won"t Tell You' name='description'/>
<meta content='Blogger, Blogspot, blogger.com, blogspot.com, outage, ...' name='keywords'/>
<meta content='xxxxxxx' name='verify-v1'/>
<b:include data='blog' name='all-head-content'/>
<b:skin><![CDATA[/*


So you may want to add terms to your meta tag. In one case, maybe the keywords "abbra cadabra" are appropriate. I might instruct you to add a meta keyword tag
<meta name="keywords" content="abbra cadabra"></meta>

You might look, and see
<meta content="shaazam allakazam" name="keywords" />

already in place, where you were expecting to add the instructed tag. What do you do now? Do you delete the existing record, and hope for the best?

You could do that, but given the possibility that "shaazam allakazam" may also be applicable, the correct entry now becomes
<meta content="abbra cadabra shaazam allakazam" name="keywords" />


The meta tag can be formatted in two ways.
<meta content="abbra cadabra shaazam allakazam" name="keywords" />

is functionally equivalent to
<meta content="abbra cadabra shaazam allakazam" name="keywords"></meta>


And within the tag itself, you can have the content and name values in either order. So,
<meta content="abbra cadabra shaazam allakazam" name="keywords" />

is functionally equivalent to
<meta name="keywords" content="abbra cadabra shaazam allakazam"></meta>


Having noted that, you should know that some Blogger code won't parse all 4 variants equally, for all tags. But for some, like the meta tag, you will see this variation periodically.

And as always, note that you are much better off writing informative, interesting, and unique content for the blog. You need readers, for the blog - and you need content, for the readers.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

This Is Not How To Solve Your Login Problems

On Mar 22, 9:43 am, (Name Has Been Omitted To Protect The Gullible) wrote:
I'm seeing lots of login problems posts, so I wanted to share what worked for me to fix my problem. After migrating to new blogger, I could no longer get in. When I entered my id and password, I would just go in circles with a refresh, or sometimes a "click here to continue" link that didn't work. I went through all the blogger helps files and did everything they said to do. I also have McAfee, and thought that might be the problem I changed javascript settings, security settings, privacy settings, and made sure all the blogger.com URLs were in my allowed cookies. I turned McAfee off. Nothing worked.

So finally, instead of adjusting security settings manually, I just reset everything with the reset button. I use Internet Explorer.

Here's what worked for me:

  • Choose Tools > Internet Options > Security

  • Click "Custom Level"

  • In "Reset Custom Level" choose medium and hit "Reset"


I hated to hit that reset button, because awhile ago I had gone through all those security settings and custom set them one by one. So when I first read the blogger help files, I just adjusted the ones they said to change. It didn't occur to me until struggling for a few days that I should try just resetting all of them to default medium.

Good luck everyone.


An interesting workaround. Like all workarounds, it has its good and bad points.

The good?

If this produces results, then you are pretty certain that the problem was with security settings in your browser.

The bad?

Well, when you
"Reset Custom Level" choose medium and hit "Reset"
you just allowed every website access to your computer, under the security of the Trusted zone on your browser.

Check it out. There are 3 custom levels.

  • High.

  • Medium-high (default).

  • Medium.


You just set the Internet zone to Medium security, which is the most open you can make your browser. Medium security, which is how you set the Trusted zone. In other words, every website in the Internet zone (which is every website not in the Trusted, or Restricted zones) is now Trusted.

If the problem, in your case, is with Internet Explorer (and all of this is meaningless for Firefox) and its security settings, and not another program on your computer, or a security device on your network, the proper way to proceed is by designating Blogger.Com as a Trusted Domain. That will, selectively, enable Medium Level Security (again, the most open available setting) to Blogger.Com.

Just don't trust Blogspot.Com (all of the blogs, for heavens sake), Google.Com (ads from every commercial organisation in the world, and links to every website in the world), or HackerzRUs.Net (DOHH), unless you wish to join your computer to the latest botnet.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Could Not Connect To Blogger.Com

I suspect that all Bloggers see this well known pink warning periodically.




I don't think this is the fault of our Internet connections.


This warning was up for a few seconds, while I printed this picture; then it, conveniently, went away. That doesn't happen all of the time. Many times, I am busy in the Post Editor, with the warning displayed. Even when I hit the Publish button, and I am seeing the normal status messages associated with the Publishing process, the warning remains.

I've seen this when editing Classic Template blogs (this one, for instance), and when editing Layouts Template blogs (The Real Blogger Status - Beta, for instance). It's my impression that I see this more often during times when more people are posting in the forums, and presumably when more people are Blogging.

As far as what does not help with this problem:
  • Clearing cache and cookies does not help, consistently (though I will still suggest it as an initial diagnostic step).
  • Using another browser does not help. I use Firefox, almost exclusively. Upon trying Internet Explorer, however, I still see the message.


So now seeing my brief observations, I can think of a few questions which might be asked, productively, of those suffering from the problem. Help us solve this problem - diagnose the problem, from your perspective.

>> (Edit 2007/04/24): A very interesting discussion, and possible workaround, was offered by Pete Hopkins.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00016

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00016

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bX-qfealt

This is not a Major Malfunction in volume - 18 threads over 2 weeks, with some folks posting into multiple threads. But there does seem to be a trend. And some Bloggers, who have been reporting the problem for over a week, are getting understandably angry. It is a Serious Problem to those Bloggers, and it is not going away.

bX-qfealt
Additional information
blogID: nnnnnnnn
uri: /posts.g
host: www2.blogger.com


(Edit 3/28): Blogger Employee claims
Everything seems to be working fine on our end

as Bloggers state
It makes no difference on what operating system I log in on, what time of day etc.. I've tried different computers, clearing caches and restarting connections and computers - all the the same effect..


>> Forum search links: bX-qfealt

>> Copy this tag: bX-qfealt

Thursday, March 15, 2007

"Invalid Security Token" Error When Publishing

When publishing a post, or saving as Draft, some Bloggers are getting various error messages
Invalid security token.
or maybe
securityToken : Your request could not be processed. Please try again.
or similar messages
No further details are typically provided by the Bloggers, and apparently there's no bX- code being issued with the error.

I would bet that another scripting change was made recently, and the folks affected have cached script that's not compatible with their cookies. Apparently clearing cache and cookies is the proper solution - several Bloggers have acknowledged this solution in his/her case. Also suggest that the Blogger may need to verify how he (she) is logging in to Blogger.Com.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00015

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00015

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

bX-gcdngf

This problem is Serious. It started maybe 15:00 PDT today, and 6 hours later, there are maybe 20 separate threads, many with multiple different Bloggers complaining. It is affecting both blogs with Classic templates, and with Layouts templates, though not consistently.

Picture uploading is returning
bX-gcdngf
Additional information
blogID: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
uri: /upload-image.do
host: www2.blogger.com



The problem is not consistent!


I managed to upload this to The Real Blogger Status - Beta (Layouts template). I got this error, though, when uploading to this blog (Classic template), and to Nitecruzr Test (Classic template) and to Nitecruzr Test New Template (Layouts template).

It does not respond to clearing of cache and cookies (I tried twice).

This may be one for Blogger Support to work on, and hopefully urgently.

(Edit 3/14 17:00): Blogger has updated the problem, as Resolved.

(Edit 3/14 9:00): Blogger has acknowledged the problem.
We apologize for the trouble and are working on fixing the error.


>> Forum search links: bX-gcdngf

>> Copy this tag: bX-gcdngf

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Wordpress: Not Invulnerable Either

At least Wordpress will admit to their failings.

... This morning we received a note to our security mailing address about unusual and highly exploitable code in WordPress. The issue was investigated, and it appeared that the 2.1.1 download had been modified from its original code. We took the website down immediately to investigate what happened.

It was determined that a cracker had gained user-level access to one of the servers that powers wordpress.org, and had used that access to modify the download file. We have locked down that server for further forensics, but at this time it appears that the 2.1.1 download was the only thing touched by the attack. They modified two files in WP to include code that would allow for remote PHP execution ...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Post Edit Problem: Uploaded Photos Lack Link To Zoomable Full-Size Copy

One of the advantages of using Blogger, and including photos in your Blogger blogs that are hosted on Blogger, is the automatic thumbnail process. When you upload a photo, 2 copies of the photo are produced.
  • The thumbnail copy, which is properly sized to fit into the blog post.
  • The full size copy, which can be seen when you click on the thumbnail copy.


The code generated by the upload process includes both copies.
  • The thumbnail copy is displayed directly in the post.
  • The full size copy is linked from the thumbnail copy.


All of this is automatic. You upload the photo, and put the code wherever you like, in your post.

Recently, though, this is not the case. Several possibly related problems have been observed.
  • bX-*00002 : Uploaded Photos Lack Link To Full-Size Copy. In cases observed, the thumbnail pictures are only the embedded thumbnail sized image, with no anchor link to the full size photo. The full size photo is, however, apparently being uploaded, and in some cases, we can deduce its URL, add the anchor link to the affected posts, and correct that problem.
  • bX-*00004 : Full sized photos are too large and can't be zoomed. Previously, a full size photo, when displayed from the thumbnail link, would be properly sized to fit exactly in the browser window. A magnifying glass cusrsor would be presented; upon repeated (up to 3) left clicking, the picture would zoom to display greater detail.
  • bX-*00009 : Thumbnail pictures don't link directly to photos. In cases observed, the thumbnail picture is actually an embedded HTML object. You can't even click on that object and get a link to the thumbnail picture. This makes it harder to deduce the URL of the full size photo.


>> Forum thread search links: bX-*00002 , and bX-*00004 , and bX-*00009 .

>> Copy these tags: bX-*00002 bX-*00004 bX-*00009

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Publishing Problem: Only The Title Is Posting

Blogger Support reports resolution of a problem where
A fraction of old Blogger blogs are returning 403 Forbidden errors. All template images served from blogblog.com are also returning this error, resulting in broken templates.


Oddly, though, more reports of this symptom keep being posted in the forums. The primary symptom noted is inability to post anything but titles.

Subsequent advice in the forums is, for folks continuing to report the problem, to clear cache and cookies.

But several questions remain, in my opinion, unanswered.

First, when should cache and cookies be cleared? Before publishing? Or after publishing, but before viewing?
  • If the former, then all affected blogs have to be republished, after the owner clears cache and cookies.
  • If the latter, then the owner can simply continue publishing, but all folks who recently read the affected blogs now have cached corrupt content, and must clear cache and cookies.


Second, should we clear cache, cookies, or both? Both cache and cookies affect access to multiple servers, not just Blog*Spot. Telling people, particularly blog readers, to clear cache and cookies because of a Blogger problem, shouldn't be done casually.

Third, what is the actual scope of the problem? Old Blogger (unconverted?) blogs, or New Blogger blogs, with Classic templates? Blogger Status specifically mentions
We apologize for this failure of old Blogger (you can see why we’re getting rid of it).

Or have Old Blogger (unmigrated) blogs, and New Blogger Classic template blogs, been given the same (temporary) status?

If this is happening to you, try and diagnose the problem.


(Edit 4/6): It looks like this problem continues, but is a bit more problematic when it happens to posts saved as Draft.

(Update 3/21): Blogger Employee is considering the browser, and plug-ins, as a possible part of the problem.
What browser are you using? Is is the latest version of the browser? What happens if you use a different browser? Do you have any plugins installed on your browser? What happens if you disable them?


>> Forum threads: bX-*00001

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00001

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Schizophrenia When Editing Your Post

Lately, there have been a few odd complaints in the Google Blogger Help forums.
Help, my toolbar is missing buttons!
I can't change the text colour.
Where's my font name / size list selection?
Why do I see code, instead of text and pictures?

Now, these complaints aren't strange at all. Blogger makes changes to their code, and has even admitted to causing these problems, occasionally. You, too, can cause your problems - on your computer or network.

Besides permanent changes caused by security on the computer or the network, you can also have temporary, and transient, problems. If we don't use the same URL when we login, consistently, we can have problems. If we don't use the Post Editor the same way, consistently, we can have problems too.



Oh No! Where are my toolbar buttons?



If you don't see a tab for Compose mode, do not panic. Go to Settings - Basic, and under Global Settings, set "Select post editor" to "Old editor" (or to "Updated editor", if you're daring).



There they are!


If you don't spend equal time in Compose and in Edit HTML modes, when editing your posts, you may not realise that the Compose mode toolbar has a few more buttons. Why the difference? I have no idea.

Personally, I have been in Edit HTML many times, and wanted a font size change. Having to edit the CSS tags in by hand isn't as easy.

If you agree with me on this issue, tell Blogger to make the "Edit HTML" and "Compose" toolbars the same.

And don't switch from Edit HTML to Compose without thinking, when you have photos in the post, and have properly arranged the photos. Not unless you want to rearrange them. Stay in Edit HTML mode, and paste CSS rules into the code.

When I edit a post, I always switch back into Edit HTML, before Publishing the post. That way, when I open a Post Edit window, I always open in Edit HTML mode. Open in Compose mode, on a post with carefully arranged photos, even for a second, and you'll learn why this is a good idea.

Get used to recognising the differences between Compose and Edit HTML, and be observant when accepting blog membership from friends. And be aware of Draft Blogger, and of the New (2010) Post Editor. Or, one day, you'll be thinking
OH NO, my toolbar is missing buttons again!


(Update 2009/09/02): The toolbar in the latest Post Editor appears to be missing components, too.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Connectivity Problems With Blog*Spot From The UK

Numerous Bloggers, in various threads, are reporting inability to connect with Blog*Spot. This is similar to previously observed problems in China, Pakistan, and other places.

The problem is affecting various ISPs in multiple, widespread areas of the UK geographical region - all areas - England, Ireland (Northern and Southern), Scotland, and Wales - appear to be affected. The problem, as reported, only affects access to "blogspot.com", not to "blogger.com".

One Blogger in the UK has done a connectivity test, which appears to rule out an outright traffic block.

The problem has been seen by Blogger staff, and has now been acknowledged.

For more information, and a master thread list:

For those who cannot access Blog*Spot, this page may also be available as

http://www.pkblogs.com/bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/
2007/03/connectivity-problems-with-blogspot.html


or as

http://w1.hidemyass.com/index.php?
q=http%3A%2F%2Fbloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com
%2F2007%2F03%2Fconnectivity-problems-with-blogspot.html&hl=3e5


(remove gratuitous line breaks in URLs, after you copy the text).

(Update 2/10): The problem is still active, but (almost) all complaints are from Virgin / Telewest customers. What was done by Blogger Support previously is a mystery.

(Update 2/7 19:00): Blogger Employee has modified the previous advice to
We're going to continue to investigate this problem and see what we can do to come to a resolution, but it's tricky because the fault lays on the specific ISPs you all are using, not the Blogger application.


(Update 2/7 9:00): Blogger Employee now recommends that Bloggers work directly with their ISPs to resolve this issue.
I recommend trying to work with your internet service provider (Virgin Media or whoever it may be) to get to the bottom of this issue.


(Update 2/6 18:00): Several UK Bloggers indicate that, even after clearing cache, the problem is not resolved.

(Update 2/6 12:00): Blogger states that this has been sorted out and fixed, though from experience it appears clearing of cache and cookies may be required.

(Update 2/5 10:00): Blogger staff continue to work on this issue, and acknowledge that the problem is not solved.

(Update 2/4 17:00): Blogger staff have instituted a network workaround for the problem.

>> Forum threads: bX-*00003

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00003

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Friday, March 02, 2007

The Navbar and the "Next Blog" Link

If you have (had) children, or know someone who does (did), would you let a 6 year old child wander unsupervised thru the Red Light district of Amsterdam, New York, or San Francisco (as examples)? Probably not.

>> (Note 8/29/2007): There is currently a very real danger, for those who go "Next Blog" surfing.

Then would you let a 6 year old (12 year old even) use a computer, and restrict him (her) to *.blogspot.com?
Sure, why not? I have NetNanny (or another censorship product).

But NetNanny can't block all the blogs with bad content. And any Blogger using the "Next Blog" link on the Navbar is eventually going to land right on a blog that she (he) has no desire to see.
Oh No - another porno blog! My children are viewing this!!


This isn't a simple situation here - there are two problems here.

The first problem is that the "Next Blog" link gets visitors to your blog, and then from your blog to another. It's part of the Blogosphere. As a Blogger, when I have idle time (rarely, but it happens), I too like to "Next Blog" surf. It's hours of entertainment, and sometimes useful links. Millions of blogs, always something different.

But I get a bit pissed off when I "Next Blog" link to a blog where the Navbar has been disabled. And lately, that's about 1 in every 20 or so blogs. Try it yourself and see.

The second problem is, the Navbar is a highly recommended component in Google hosted Blogger blogs. I was officially informed today, 9/4/2007, by Blogger Support
While it's not officially against our TOS, we discourage folks from removing it because we think it's a great feature with more improvements to come.
To disable the "Next Blog" link, you have to disable the Navbar itself. But there are other components in the Navbar that are useful, particularly with New Blogger (Layout template) blogs.

We need a way to disable "Next Blog", without having to do without the Navbar itself.

We need to recommend to Blogger that they
  1. Optionally allow any blog to disable both in and out "Next Blog" links, as a unit. No "Next Blog" outlink = no "Next Blog" inlink.
  2. Enforce the requirement to include the Navbar, with the "Next Blog" outlink working, on all blogs that accept "Next Blog" inlinks.
  3. Eliminate the problem of the massive amounts of blogs dedicated to hacking, porn, and spam, that are so visible in BlogSpot.

Give us the choice to remove the threat presented by "Next Blog", just don't link in to a blog with it disabled. But require the Navbar, and enforce its presence, on blogs accepting inlinks from "Next Blog".

If you like, you can have your own Next Blog link. Forget about the one in the Navbar (when it's there).

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bX-1us3c3

This is a serious problem. It's not as Major as the bX-sp4hmm from a couple days ago, but it's being consistently reported in the Blogger Help Group.

Multiple people, deciding that using Google Custom Domains to publish their blogs, is not helping their efforts (detailed motivation unknown right now), are dropping GCD and republishing back to Blog*Spot. Or, they are trying, anyway.
bX-1us3c3
Additional information
blogID: xxxxxxxx
uri: /blog-publishing.do
host: www2.blogger.com

Here's 8 examples, from a search on "bX-1us3c3", thru Blogger Help Group.

** Of the 8 threads linked above, 3 of them (who provided details, as identified so far) stated that they setup forwarding from their blog to their external domain, THEN setup the GCD link from the domain to Blogger, and caused a redirect feedback loop. This, I don't think, is to be blamed on Blogger.

So, Nicole asks a good question
How do I fix it?


If a redirect feedback loop is to be fixed by us, we have to remove the components. A feedback loop requires 3 components, probably in this order.
  1. Forwarding from the blog to the external domain.
  2. DNS referral, from your registrar, to Google.
  3. Blog publishing to the external (custom) domain.
You're getting the bX-1us3c3 error when you try to reverse #3. Remove #1 and / or #2 first.
  1. Remove the forwarding in the blog.
  2. Remove the "CNAME" at your registrar.
Note that latter procedure #2 will involve latency, while the DNS records for your custom domain expire from DNS caches all over the world. Don't expect this to take effect immediately. It will almost certainly take longer than setting the DNS referral up in the first place.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Deleting Your Blog - A Known Problem

I'll say this again - if you really want to delete your blog, you ought to plan the deletion properly.
  • Delete all of the posts in the blog.
  • Delete any personal information in the profile.
  • Add a stub post.
  • Leave the URL in place.

You want to do all of the above, so that not only the blog will disappear from Blog*Spot, but from the search engines (and the search hit lists), all over the web.

But even when you do all of that, or sometimes when you don't do any of that, your blog remains on Blog*Spot - and an old copy of the blog yet.

Jordan aka Blogger Employee acknowledges this problem
It turns out that there's a small bug in the old version of Blogger, which sometimes causes a hiccup in fully deleting an old blog.


When this happens, there's just 3 things for you to do.
  1. Report the problem, using the Contact Form (and reply to the botmail, if you get any).
  2. Report the problem, in Blogger Help Group: Something Is Broken.
  3. Wait in the forum, for Jordan aka Blogger Employee, or Buzz aka Blogger Buzzer, to drop by with further advice.


>> Forum thread links: bX-*00017

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00017

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