Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Indian Spam Overwhelms Blogger Help Group

Right now, the "Indian" spammer has successfully conducted a Denial Of Service attack against the Google Blogger Help Group.

It appears that Blogger personnel are not taking action either.

My sympathies to you who need technical assistance. Keep trying to get through the spam, and we will try to help.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Keep Your EMail Address Safe, Yet Be Contactable By Your Blog Readers

Most bloggers benefit from being contactable by their readers. It's not hard to combine a web site link with email.

Send me email.

Hover your mouse over the link above ("Send me email"), and look in the browser status window.
<a href="mailto:someone@example.com?Subject=This%20Is%20A%20Test">Send me email</a>.
Yet making your email address freely available in your blog, in an easy to use "mailto:" link, is not a smart thing to do. Spammers still have scraper bots that roam through the Internet, looking for any web site with a visible "mailto:" link, and scraping those links that they might find.

Attach your primary email address to a "mailto:" link, just once, and you won't do it with the next email address that you might setup.

Instead of having a "mailto:" link, put a picture on your blog, with your email address in the picture. Email scraping bots won't be able to scrape from a picture. Your readers will have to do a little extra work, but most of them will understand.

You can make your own picture, or you can get a free button provided by many websites.



I use buttons, provided by Nexodyne, in many of my blogs.

For even more security, I've seen some buttons that include a script, which asks the viewer to solve a word puzzle (yes, another CAPTCHA) before the email address is revealed.

Also, instead of putting your main email address in the picture, setup a secondary email address. GMail addresses are free. Setup an account, with a name similar to the blog, making it easy to remember. When you setup your new GMail account, set it up to forward to your primary account. Nobody who types in your blog related email address, from the picture, ever has to know your primary email.

With a custom domain published blog, you can even have a whole domain of email addresses, that you can allocate at your need.

If you ever have a problem with spam, or if you discontinue your blog, discontinue the forwarding from the blog related account. No more spam, at least from the blog.

For an alternative possibility, you can have an easy "Contact Me" form, using a link to the comment form under a specific post.

If you insist on using a button, as above, directly linked to your email address, that's not hard to do. Note as above, I'll use only an example email address.




As above, hover your mouse over the button, and look in the browser status window.
<a href="mailto:someone@example.com?Subject=This%20Is%20A%20Test">
<img style="border-width:0px; float:left; margin:0 10px 10px 0;" src="http://bp0.blogger.com/_pzC_7PLtN-0/R57GuJa0NTI/AAAAAAAAA7Y/mb3gUvSbQLo/s320/The+Real+Blogger+Status+EMail.gif" border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5160780719117841714" />
</a>
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Sunday, January 27, 2008

More Traffic To Our Blogs?

Recently, we see periodic queries about strange visitors to our blogs.
Why does my StatCounter log show odd links into my blog?
What is "www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID=", and why do I see traffic from that link?
Why am I getting strange traffic to my blog after I publish changes?


All of these questions, until Mid November 2009, were related to the same thing - the "Next Blog" link in the Navbar. Now, all of this is changed.

When you publish to your blog, your blog goes into a huge database, listing blogs just updated. You can see a replica of this database in the Recently Updated Blogs list. The RUB list is huge - it shows a 10 minute slice of Blogger publishing, and at any time, will have from 4,000 - 8,000 entries, with new entries constantly being added (just as old ones drop off the list).

The RUB database is important to the Blogosphere. When anybody clicks on the "Next Blog" link in the Navbar, an entry from that database results in the link leading to someone's blog. If your blog was just updated, chances are that someone will land on your blog, and your visitor meter will show another entry.

In the recent past, there were hundreds of thousands of illegal blogs, created by spammers and being constantly published. Until January 2008, many people clicking on "Next Blog" would have landed on such a blog, which was created for the sole purpose of hacking your computer, and delivering spam to your desktop, and to other peoples email.

A bit over a week ago, Google put a stop to this. Now, owners of many (but not all) genuine blogs, like yours and mine, are seeing more traffic, when we publish changes. The traffic comes from the "Next Blog" link, which is seen in visitor logs as originating from "www.blogger.com/navbar.g".

If you see the new traffic in your logs, don't be alarmed. It's not somebody trying to hack you, or to steal blog content. It's ordinary bloggers, and bloggers readers, surfing to random blogs, using "Next Blog". It's what the "Next Blog" link was created for.

Enjoy the traffic to your blog. Publish more, and enjoy more. More readers for you, which is why you blog, right? Having said all of that, I will advise you that, if your blog contains any questionable content, particularly interesting pictures that you wouldn't want your kids to see, you need to be aware of, and you may need to use, the Content Warning setting in Settings - Basic. Or, you can block traffic from "Next Blog", if you really feel the need.


Note that this post is about the "Next Blog" link in the navbar. It's not here so you can get more traffic to your blog, by posting
Great post!
Here's my blog: http://mypimpedblog.blogspot.com
If that's your intent, go away. Or, if you are trying to publish spam here, feel free to include the URL of your blog - I'll see you in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken one day, and you can have a lesson in the Blogger 4 Step "Hey, my blog isn't spam!" - followed by my arrogant reply "Yes, it is!".


(Update 2009/11/12): The next generation of "Next Blog" is here, and it's totally different.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Post Editor And Spell Checking

Blogger, and the Post Editor, are wonderful tools in helping us produce a legible and quick document on the Internet. Blogging is an easy way of reaching out to the world with our messages, and many folks are doing just that; without interference from porn blogs, many messages are being seen again. Yet the post editor presents us with a major challenge.

The post editor is designed to save us from ourselves, and our spelling and syntax mistakes. In whatever language we type, when we make egregious mistakes, the post editor automatically corrects our mistakes. And in some cases, what we type must be used as "commands" to the post editor, or to the browser as it processes the HTML in our blogs.

What happens if we, intentionally, type a mistake, to show others what mistakes not to make outside the post editor? Our intentional "mistakes" are corrected, without our intent. So Blogger, and intentional HTML design, provides us a way to intentionally type things that are outside normal syntax.

When you compose a post, in "HTML" mode, you can't type "G0d", in some cases. Not as "G0d", anyway, without the spell checker being involved. In some cases, you have to type "G&#48;d".

Similarly, we can't type "<" and ">" in our text, as the "<" and ">" characters are used as control characters in HTML. In these cases, we have to type "&lt;" and "&gt;", respectively, until the post editor in New Blogger June/July 2008 is generally available. And there are more techniques for coding other special characters, some of which don't even appear on the keyboard. For these, we need character reference tables.

For more information about "&" coding, see So, You Want An "& Command", Huh?, and HTML Character Entities. For character reference tables, see HTML Latin-1 Character Entities Reference, and HTML 7-BIT ASCII Reference.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Custom Domains and Two Level TLDs

Now that the Blogger Custom Domain product is maturing, and the bugs are slowly being worked out, the special needs of people not in the USA are becoming visible. Right now, if you have registered "mydomain.com", and setup a proper "CNAME" referral, you'll probably want to use either "www.mydomain.com" and "mydomain.com", interchangeably. All things being equal, you probably can, though some work may be involved.

But what if you registered "mydomain.co.us", or "mydomain.co.uk"? Could you redirect "www.mydomain.co.us" or "www.mydomain.co.uk" as easily? Recently, Blogger Employee provided good news
We do support 2 level TLDs.

Maybe we should ask what specific TLDs are supported, and under what conditions are they supported.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Google Certificate Expired


Several bloggers this week have reported seeing this warning.


This symptom may affect authenticated access to Blogger, Google, Picasa, and other services.

In one case (only one case) the blogger in question checked the clock on his computer, and found it to be several months off. In other cases, restarting the browser produced relief, and the symptom didn't return.

It's possible that this originated with the January 2008 Microsoft Security Updates, though we have no verification of that suspicion yet.

No noticeable complaints have been observed elsewhere, outside the Blogger general support community.

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Another Small Step For Blogger

Look in the sidebar to the right. See the new accessories? This morning, I observed activity on both Blogger Support web pages Blogger Status and Known Issues for Blogger, so I added those feeds to the sidebar here.

You are welcome to browse both sites in detail, and see the relative improvement that both show, as of yesterday. Being not born yesterday, I won't predict that we will see a complete immediate improvement in problem reporting.

But this is a start. Let's hope that this continues.

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One Small Step For One Man ...

One giant leap for Blogger kind?

The answer to that question remains to be seen. However, it appears that Blogger is starting to do something about one problem - the frequently reported porn associated with the "Next Blog" link in the Navbar.

Eventually, Blogger will be able to relax its heuristic spam blog detection, which will lighten the load of complaints about falsely detected blogs. With less complaints, Blogger Anti-Spam Team can focus on the real problem.

Not bad for a Friday, especially considering yesterday's Wildfire.

Thanks, Pete.

Of course, we all know that this is just one symptom removed. The real problem remains.
  • Blogger Support, apparently, being able to block all spam blogs from the "Next Blog" link is a start. It implies that they can identify the unwanted blogs.
  • Individually identified false positives, unfortunately, will never happen. How many non-spam blogs will be blocked from "Next Blog" too? Since the "Next Blog" link is random, no blogs are ever guaranteed readers from that link. And not a lot of bloggers have the ability, or the inclination, to monitor their blogs getting readers from "Next Blog".
  • So, to keep it in perspective, I don't see that the new "Next Blog" filter can be applied to the Blogosphere in general, without some pain. Maybe, though, Blogger can do some automated testing, and look for false positives and false negatives with some level of success. I hope that they will try, anyway, before they deploy the filter, currently being tested with "Next Blog", to the Blogosphere.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

bX-uxu3fu

This one seems to have started about 15:00 PST today. So far, maybe a dozen threads in Something Is Broken, most threads with multiple posters, much cross-posting.

Several bloggers suggesting the problem is template related. Several error messages noted in various foreign languages.
bX-uxu3fu
Additional information
host: www.xxxxxxx.com
uri: /

This information will help us to track down your specific problem and
fix it! We apologize for the inconvenience.
Exception trace -- Internal only!

java.lang.StringIndexOutOfBoundsException: String index out of range:
-1
..
..
and much more debug information

>> (Update 1/17 18:45): Problem appears resolved.

>> (Update 1/17 17:30) From Blogger Employee:
This error (as well as some others) is coming from a recent change we just released. The errors are transient and we're working on them right now.


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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sploggers And The Shell Game

In every city of any decent size, you'll find con artists who are interested in one thing - your money.

One of the most common short con games, that you'll find on the streets of most cities, is The Shell Game, or an alternative version Three Card Monte.

In both The Shell Game and Three Card Monte, you attempt to track the location of an object, while it's being moved around in front of you. With The Shell Game, a small object - maybe a pea - will be placed under a shell or a bottlecap, and the shell (and 2 other shells without peas) will be shuffled around the playing surface. With Three Card Monte, a playing card of significant identity (for example the Queen of Spades) is shuffled around with 2 other cards.

The object of these games is for you to be able to immediately identify the hidden object, and its position in the group of three, when the shuffling stops.

It's a simple game, and if you have nerves of steel and can resist the distractions which the game operator (or one of his co workers) will throw at you constantly, you can win.

If the game isn't rigged. If you don't lose your wallet, or camera, to the thief who comes up behind you while you are watching the game with full concentration.