Sunday, March 30, 2008

Diagnosing Problems With Custom Domains - Case Study #3

In my first 2 custom domain case studies, I presented actual custom domains - all setup and working. Neither of those exemplify all custom domain setups though. In my previous post in this series, Diagnosing Problems With Custom Domains - Case Study #2, I showed a custom domain setup using the the "Buy A Domain For Your Blog" wizard. Not too long ago, one setup that way would be not only asymmetrical but incomplete.

Let's take a look at a fictional example "mydomain.com", setup when the the "Buy A Domain For Your Blog" wizard was first provided.

There are 4 URLs to study here.
  1. The primary domain "mydomain.com".
  2. The "www" alias for the domain "www.mydomain.com".
  3. The primary BlogSpot URL "myblog.blogspot.com".
  4. The "www" alias for the BlogSpot URL "www.myblog.blogspot.com".


First, let's dig the DNS records for the primary domain "mydomain.com".
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;mydomain.com. IN A

;; ANSWER SECTION:
mydomain.com. 3600 IN A 68.178.232.100


Next, the "www" alias "www.mydomain.com".
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;www.mydomain.com. IN A

;; ANSWER SECTION:
www.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
ghs.google.com. 586847 IN CNAME ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com. 203 IN A 72.14.207.121


This is different from my previous case study.
mydomain.com. 3600 IN A 68.178.232.100
www.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.


Here, only the "www" alias is using a "CNAME", and the wizard automatically publishes the blog to that. In this case, to "www.mydomain.com".

Let's do a Whois lookup on "68.178.232.100", the IP address pointed to by "mydomain.com".
parkwebwin-v01.prod.mesa1.secureserver.net (68.178.232.100)
68.178.128.0 - 68.178.255.255
GoDaddy.com, Inc.


In this case, we will only be able to publish to the "www" alias, "www.mydomain.com". Unless we do some custom DNS work, the primary domain "mydomain.com" will simply redirect to a parked page (the "parkwebwin" servers in GoDaddy name space, for instance).
mydomain.com
This page is parked free, courtesy of GoDaddy.com.

or maybe
Were you looking for mydomain.com?
It's currently being setup, courtesy of GoDaddy.com.


Now, let's look at browser connect logs. First, this is what we get for the primary domain "mydomain.com".
3/29/2008 08:50:42 Trying http://mydomain.com
Header:
HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8

Of course, the content shown will be the parked page (immediately above).

Next, the "www" alias "www.mydomain.com".
3/29/2008 08:50:17 Trying http://www.mydomain.com
Header:
HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8

Here, we should see the content of the blog, simply labeled "www.mydomain.com".

Now, let's look at the BlogSpot URLs.
3/29/2008 08:56:48 Trying http://myblog.blogspot.com
Redirect!
Header:
HTTP/1.0 301 Moved Permanently
Location: http://www.mydomain.com/
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8

Here, we should see the same content as above, simply labeled "www.mydomain.com".

and
3/29/2008 08:56:38 Trying http://www.myblog.blogspot.com
Redirect!
Header:
HTTP/1.0 301 Moved Permanently
Location: http://www.mydomain.com/
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8

Here too, we should see the same content as immediately above, simply labeled "www.mydomain.com".

Both "myblog.blogspot.com" and "www.myblog.blogspot.com" redirect to "www.mydomain.com", again as in the previous study. Since no access to the blog, using the primary domain URL, is possible, this is an incomplete result.

It's possible that proper use of Google Apps may transform an asymmetrical and incomplete scenario into an asymmetrical and complete one - that is, resolution of the "Another blog ..." error may also provide access to the blog through the primary domain URL.

An alternative to Google Apps would be a "301 Redirect", again equating "mydomain.com" to "www.mydomain.com".

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Publishing To A Custom Domain? Going Back To Blog*Spot Isn't Difficult

If you're currently publishing your blog to a custom domain, because you wanted to use a non-Blog*Spot address with some of the shiny Layouts template features, maybe you're tired of the occasional problems. Maybe you require the automatic redirect from BlogSpot to the custom domain, and the BlogSpot URL is redirecting to a bogus, unwanted warning.

Whatever your motivation, it's not hard to go back to publishing on Blog*Spot.

Just go to your Blogger dashboard, and click on the Settings link for the blog. Then, from the Publishing link under Settings, select "Switch to: • blogspot.com".

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Diagnosing Problems With Custom Domains - Case Study #2

The DNS setup shown in my first custom domain case study, "martinezumc.org", isn't typical for all custom domains. That domain, as I showed in my previous post in this series, Diagnosing Problems With Custom Domains - Case Study #1, was symmetrical - both "martinezumc.org" and "www.martinezumc.org" were defined with "CNAME" referrals, and I could have published the blog to either of the two URLs.

When you setup a custom domain while using the "Buy A Domain For Your Blog" wizard, this isn't going to be the case. In this case, the "www" alias will be defined with a "CNAME", but the primary domain won't be.

Let's take a look at "nitecruzr.net".

There are 4 URLs to study here.
  1. The primary domain "nitecruzr.net".
  2. The "www" alias for the domain "www.nitecruzr.net".
  3. The primary BlogSpot URL "nitecruzr-dot-net.blogspot.com".
  4. The "www" alias for the BlogSpot URL "www.nitecruzr-dot-net.blogspot.com".


First, let's dig the DNS records for the primary domain "nitecruzr.net".
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;nitecruzr.net. IN A

;; ANSWER SECTION:
nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN A 64.233.179.121
nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN A 66.249.81.121
nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN A 72.14.207.121


Next, the "www" alias "www.nitecruzr.net".
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;www.nitecruzr.net. IN A

;; ANSWER SECTION:
www.nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
ghs.google.com. 586847 IN CNAME ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com. 203 IN A 72.14.207.121


This is different from my previous case study.
nitecruzr.net.  3600 IN A 64.233.179.121
nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN A 66.249.81.121
nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN A 72.14.207.121
www.nitecruzr.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.


Here, only the "www" alias is using a "CNAME", and the wizard automatically publishes the blog to that. In my case, to "www.nitecruzr.net".

Now, let's look at browser connect logs. First, this is what we get for the "www" alias in the domain "nitecruzr.net".
3/29/2008 08:50:42  Trying http://www.nitecruzr.net
Header:
HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8


Next, the primary domain "nitecruzr.net".
3/29/2008 08:50:17  Trying http://nitecruzr.net
Redirect!
Header:
HTTP/1.0 302 Moved Temporarily
Location: http://www.nitecruzr.net
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8


As in the previous study, we see
HTTP/1.0 302 Moved Temporarily
Location: http://www.nitecruzr.net


This appears to be automatic, and it makes sense. When you setup a brand new domain, you'll likely want the primary domain = the "www" alias. The "302 Moved Temporarily" is a bit dodgy though.

Now, let's look at the BlogSpot URLs.
3/29/2008 08:56:48  Trying http://nitecruzr-dot-net.blogspot.com
Redirect!
Header:
HTTP/1.0 301 Moved Permanently
Location: http://www.nitecruzr.net/
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8


and
3/29/2008 08:56:38  Trying http://www.nitecruzr-dot-net.blogspot.com
Redirect!
Header:
HTTP/1.0 301 Moved Permanently
Location: http://www.nitecruzr.net/
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8


Both "nitecruzr-dot-net.blogspot.com" and "www.nitecruzr-dot-net.blogspot.com" redirect to "www.nitecruzr.net", again as in the previous study. This is a asymmetrical, but complete setup - that is, you can see your blog from any of the 4 aliases enumerated above. In earlier setups using the "Buy a Domain ..." wizard, the above results weren't consistently seen.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Diagnosing Problems With Custom Domains - A Caveat

When you work on a custom domain, and the work takes you a few tries while you make one setting, tweak another setting, then republish something, maybe make a change in a post or two, note two issues that may affect your efforts. C a c h e and D N S L a t e n c y.

Besides being dependent upon blog content, examination of custom domain publishing also depends upon DNS content.
  • Both blog content and DNS content are subject to caching.
  • Transmission of DNS content from the DNS Host (generally, but not always, provided by your domain registrar) to your local DNS server (generally, but not always, provided by your ISP) is affected by DNS Latency.


When you're trying to correct a problem with a custom domain setup, if you want predictable results from any change that you make, you're going to have to deal with both issues. Any change you make may not show up immediately, because of caching and / or latency, and with both issues involved in a given problem, there are possibilities of confusion. If you make two changes, and don't exercise patience, clear caches, and test after the first, you may not be able to diagnose a problem as effectively as you should. For best results
  1. Make one change.
  2. If your change involves DNS settings, wait - in some cases "up to 24 hours".
  3. Clear caches - both browser and DNS.
  4. Test results.
  5. Repeat as necessary.
This is lots more work than it should be, but when you start running into problems, and the problems don't resolve predictably, or the diagnostic results just don't make sense, you'd better slow down a bit, and work methodically.

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Diagnosing Problems With Custom Domains - Case Study #1

Google Custom Domains, that give us the possibility of having a blog with a non-Blog*Spot address, are a major improvement over plain old Blog*Spot to many bloggers. Occasionally though, problems arise, and diagnosing the symptoms, to allow us to focus on the problems, will require some technical ability, and the right tools. And, note the possible effects of cache and DNS latency, any time that you diagnose or examine a custom domain problem.

Here's a baseline study, which will show what you should see as the best possible case. My first custom domain, "martinezumc.org", I was able to setup with 2 "CNAME" referrals. I call this "symmetrically configured".

There are 4 URLs to study here.

First, let's dig the DNS records for the primary domain "martinezumc.org".
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;martinezumc.org. IN A

;; ANSWER SECTION:
martinezumc.org. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
ghs.google.com. 61848 IN CNAME ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com. 300 IN A 72.14.207.121

Next, the "www" alias "www.martinezumc.org".
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;www.martinezumc.org. IN A

;; ANSWER SECTION:
www.martinezumc.org. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
ghs.google.com. 61733 IN CNAME ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com. 185 IN A 72.14.207.121

This shows us two "CNAME" referrals in operation, ie "symmetrically configured".
martinezumc.org. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
www.martinezumc.org. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.


Now, let's look at browser connect logs. First, this is what we get for the primary domain "martinezumc.org".
3/28/2008 07:42:11 Trying http://martinezumc.org
Header:
HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8

Next, the "www" alias "www.martinezumc.org".
3/28/2008 07:35:25 Trying http://www.martinezumc.org
Redirect!
Header:
HTTP/1.0 302 Moved Temporarily
Location: http://martinezumc.org
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8

The key item here is
HTTP/1.0 302 Moved Temporarily
Location: http://martinezumc.org

When I setup the domain, the blog "martinezumc.blogspot.com" was published to "martinezumc.org", and I selected "Redirect www.martinezumc.org to martinezumc.org.".

Now, let's look at the BlogSpot URLs.
3/28/2008 07:52:38 Trying http://martinezumc.blogspot.com
Redirect!
Header:
HTTP/1.0 301 Moved Permanently
Location: http://martinezumc.org/
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8

and
3/28/2008 07:53:33 Trying http://www.martinezumc.blogspot.com
Redirect!
Header:
HTTP/1.0 301 Moved Permanently
Location: http://martinezumc.org/
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8

Both "martinezumc.blogspot.com" and "www.martinezumc.blogspot.com" redirect to "martinezumc.org". Blogger only recently corrected two design deficiencies in the Custom Domains product
  • Allowed "www.martinezumc.blogspot.com" to redirect to "martinezumc.org".
  • Allowed me to make the selection "Redirect www.martinezumc.org to martinezumc.org."
When these corrections were made, the Custom Domain product became usable for people with serious domain publishing requirements. This lets all 4 possible URLs (enumerated above) work predictably.

The domain "martinezumc.org" isn't typical of all Custom Domain setups, unfortunately. Next, I'll show an asymmetrically configured domain, my recently setup "nitecruzr.net".

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Blogger Spacing Issue Acknowleged

When "Beta" Blogger, later known as New Blogger 2006, was first rolled out, there were many new features, and improvements over "Old" Blogger, noted. There was also one feature, that was not seen as an improvement, noted.

When you include any indenting block of text in your blog post,
<blockquote> ... </blockquote>
<ol> ... </ol>
<ul> ... </ul>

for instance, the spacing of the posts, below the indenting block, would change. This makes the entire blog look sloppy.

Several workarounds were identified by various bloggers; not any one was simultaneously clean, effective, and simple, however.

After repeated complaints and reports, Blogger finally acknowledged the problem. Yet, it's still not fixed.

Blogger calls it "Cosmetic". We call it sloppy.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Your Blog Is Like You - Unique

The title of this blog is "The Real Blogger Status". This blog contains many posts.

The name of this blog is "bloggerstatusforreal", and its URL is now "blogging.nitecruzr.net" (it's also known as "bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com"). There can be only one BlogSpot blog with the name "bloggerstatusforreal", though there can also be "bloggerstatusforreal.com", and "bloggerstatusforreal.net", and each can be separate web sites, if desired. And any blog can have the title of "The Real Blogger Status".

You can create another blog (you can create as many blogs as you need, and they are all free), by using the Dashboard link "Create a Blog", but you will have to use another blog name - if you wish to publish to "BlogSpot.Com". If you want to create another blog in a custom domain cluster, that's easy enough, after you create a BlogSpot blog.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Using The "Buy A Domain For Your Blog" Wizard

The Blogger "Google Custom Domain" product, which gives bloggers a much requested ability to use a non-BlogSpot URL with a Layouts template, was first offered over a year ago, in January, 2007. I've been writing about Custom Domains ever since - the basic procedure of setting one up, and about the problems involved, and even about the many improvements that it's received.

Friday, March 21, 2008

No Trolling Permitted

In another techie forum, far, far from Google Groups: Google Blogger Help, there are a couple sub forums dedicated to providing advice about Computer Networking. Every couple months, somebody will post in there
Can you provide explanation of how Ethernet works, and how was it developed.
or
What are the advantages of using WiFi over Ethernet? Please cite 5 major factors.
These questions are easily recognised by the experienced helpers there, and are quickly labeled, as "Homework Central". And there's an unspoken competition among the experienced helpers there, to quickly and imaginatively label such questions, so no newbie forum members might confuse the threads with others containing serious content.

Such threads are not completely unwelcome, when they are occasional, as they provide some relief from the tedium. The experienced helpers will occasionally come up with witty responses - sometimes more questions, sometimes mildly helpful answers.

Homework Central trolling is specific to forums where the subject of the forum might be, legitimately, taught in a formal brick and mortar classroom, ie a high school or college.

In Google Blogger Help, we don't have "Homework Central" trolling - there are no brick and mortar classrooms where Blogging 101 might be taught. But we do have trolling.

And we treat trolls in Google Blogger Help with no more courtesy than we do in DSL Reports. Particularly in the case of the persistent and unimaginative drek that we have been seeing recently.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Always Test Your Changes

Periodically, we see an anxious query
I just got an email from a friend
Your blog looks like crap.
What do I do now? Help! Oh yes, I think I tweaked the template a couple weeks ago.

So if you made the change to the template "a couple weeks ago", why did you wait until today, to find out from your friend that you have a problem?

Blogger Blogs are easy to work on. As easy as they are to work on, though, they still demand respect, and responsible practices are still relevant.

Any time that you make a change to the blog, or even when you post a new article, check out the change, preferably using multiple browsers. When you test, you need to see the blog as your readers may see it - so prepare to logout and login a few times, to view changes then make adjustments.

If you have a second browser or computer, this would be an excellent way to use one - to stay logged in on one browser, and make changes much easier. Or, using a sandboxed browser is an alternate way to check what your readers see - you won't be logged in, from there. Alternately, an online website display service may be useful.

If you're making changes to the template, consider setting up a blog for testing, and make your template changes there first. Blogs are free - Xanax isn't.
  1. Setup a test blog.
  2. Save the template from your production blog, to your computer.
  3. Load the template, saved in Step 2, to your test blog.
  4. Export posts from your production blog, then import them to your test blog. This gives you a real test bed.
  5. Make changes, and test them, without worrying about what your readers see. They only see the production blog. If you mess up badly, go back to Step 3.
  6. When you're happy with the test blog, save the template to your computer.
  7. Load the template from Step 6 to your production blog.
  8. Save the template copy from Step 2, as a fall back.
  9. Wasn't that easier on the nerves?


Nowadays, and if you develop a template and decorate it using a lot of custom gadgets, merely copying the template from one blog to another may not leave you with an elegantly developed blog. Right now, there is no procedure for backing up or restoring gadgets. If that's a problem, you develop the template, then transfer the comments, posts, and URL to the newly developed blog. This is a bit more work, but it will preserve your gadgets.
  1. Setup a test blog.
  2. Save the template from your production blog, to your computer.
  3. Load the template, saved in Step 2, to your test blog.
  4. Export posts from your production blog, then import them to your test blog. This gives you a real test bed.
  5. Make changes, and test them, without worrying about what your readers see. They only see the production blog. If you mess up badly, go back to Step 3.
  6. When you're happy with the test blog, transfer the existing comments, posts, and the URL to the new blog.
    • Extract the comments and posts from the existing blog, to an XML file.
    • Import the XML file to the new blog, and publish all posts not already handled in Step 4.
    • Re publish the existing blog to a new URL.
    • Publish the new blog to the publicly known URL.
    • If you have administrators / members / readers, you'll have to add them to the new blog.
  7. Save the old blog, published to the new URL, as a fall back.
  8. Wasn't that slightly easier on the nerves?


And of course, in both cases, backup the blog and the template, before and after making any major changes.

Don't wait for your friends to complain.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Your Blog, Moved Permanently vs Moved Temporarily

If you're lucky, and can afford to have 2 homes, you may occasionally plan an extended stay in the second for while. You may email (or snail mail or maybe Tweet) your friends and family
I'm going to be staying at the cottage (mountain lodge, desert camp, ...) for a while. Send all of my mail there for the next couple months, but keep my current mail address on file.
This is different from sending them, and your business acquaintances (and banks, credit card companies, etc) a second notice
I'm moving next month. Please change your address for me.


Your blog, or other web site, can use either of the above address changes too. The first, a "302 Redirect", returns a "302 Moved Temporarily" when addressed by your readers browser. The second, a "301 Redirect" returns a "301 Moved Permanently", similarly. The effect, for your reader, is the same - they see the new address when they type the URL of the blog into the browser address window.

The difference between the 301 and 302 Redirects differs by how the search engines see your blog, and this is what's important. A "301 Moved Permanently" causes the search engine to replace all references in its files, to the source URL (the current address), changing them to the object URL (the new address). This is quite legal, the old address is simply replaced by the new address. All search weight is transferred from the old URL to the new.

A "302 Moved Temporarily" will have a different effect. This causes the search engine to retain the old address, and the new address, simultaneously. This, in turn, causes duplicate content indexing, which search engines see as a typical spammer tactic. They will penalize the search weight of any blog or web site using a "302 Moved Temporarily", for this reason.

It's not hard to setup a meta refresh in the blog template, to redirect your readers from the old URL "myblogoldurl.blogspot.com" (where you publish a stub blog) to "myblognewurl.blogspot.com" (where you publish your current blog).

Find
<head>

Add
<meta content='0;url=http://myblognewurl.blogspot.com' http-equiv='refresh'/>

Giving
<head>
<meta content='0;url=http://myblognewurl.blogspot.com' http-equiv='refresh'/>


Unfortunately, browser based redirects, using a meta refresh, or JavaScript redirect, will be seen by the search engines as a "302 Moved Temporarily". Blogger may detect this as a browser hijack, as it's splog detection constantly detects splogs that are using this same tactic. Plus, the search engine will continue to index the content after the meta refresh as "myblogoldurl", giving no weight to "myblognewurl".

When you forward the address of your blog, for any reason, be it the BlogSpot address to the domain, or any secondary domains to the primary domain, using a "301 Moved Permanently" redirect is by far a better idea.

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Republishing Your Blog From FTP (External Hosting)? Edit The Posts, To Move Any Photos To Blogger Servers

If you're in the process of moving a blog, currently hosted externally by FTP publishing, back to BlogSpot, you may take for granted the easy hosting change for the blog itself. The text components of the blog - comments, labels, posts - will simply be transferred back to BlogSpot publishing. The photos and other attachments will be another story.

When you upload photos using the Blogger post editor, you're doing 2 things.
  • Copying the photos to storage on a server - either Blogger (Picasa) hosting, or your external server (FTP publishing).
  • Inserting code into your post, describing where the photos are stored.
When you simply republish the blog, which moves the rendered blog code to a different blog host, the photos stay where they are, because the act of republishing doesn't edit the posts.

So, if your photos were hosted on an external server, they stay on the external server, until you edit the posts and move them.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Google Blogger Help Forums Are Replacing The Blogger Contact Form

Thanks to the tireless efforts of an ever growing community of expert Blogger Volunteer Helpers, the Google Blogger Help forums are becoming a useful source of effective and reliable help, to bloggers worldwide. Google is recognising this trend, and has shifted some of its support resources from answering Blogger Contact Form entries, to answering problem reports in the forums.

And, having added the Google Blogger Help Resources Center, they are also replacing or augmenting the Blogger Help database.

So, if you can't find help for your problem, or answers for your questions, here, in The Real Blogger Status, try the Google Blogger Help Resources Center, and the Google Blogger Help forums. Interactive help, from many knowledgeable volunteers, and Google staff, should prove to be more effective then simply using the Blogger Contact Form.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

You Buy It, You're Stuck With It

When you buy a new automobile in the USA, there's a consumer protection clause in most finance plans called "right of recession" which, when invoked properly, gives you, the consumer, the choice of terminating the purchase up to 3 days following your signing on the bottom line. Many retail stores give you the choice of returning some (not all) items purchased in their store, when accompanied by the right contents and documentation, for full or partial refund of purchase price.

When you purchase a Custom Domain, whether using a Google Partner purchase or a separate contract, that may not be the case. Generally, once you hit the "Purchase This Domain" button, you're stuck with the purchase.

When you purchase a domain, it's only 10 USD for a one year term. If you decide later that you needed a different name, just buy a second name.

When the one year runs out on the first name, just let it go. Buy 2 less coffees at Starsmucks this year, and move on.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Custom Domains Use 301 Redirect, From BlogSpot

When you setup a Custom Domain, the setup wizard provides encouraging advice
We won't leave your readers behind!
http://myblog.blogspot.com will redirect to your custom domain.

Blogger accomplishes this bit of trickery, using standard Internet protocol - a 301 Redirect - but it's done in two steps.
  • When you publish your blog, "myblog.blogspot.com", to your custom domain, "mydomain.com", all internal links within the blog are changed, from "myblog.blogspot.com" to "mydomain.com".
  • When the transition period ends 72 hours later, Blogger sets up a standard server based "301 Moved Permanently" for your blog.
  • Note that only the blog internal links are changed - any links which you added, from post to post, are your responsibility. Likewise, all external links are your responsibility.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Blogs Published To A Custom Domain Are Showing A Redirect Alert, To Readers Using The BlogSpot URL

When you setup a Custom Domain, the setup wizard provides encouraging advice
We won't leave your readers behind!
http://myblog.blogspot.com will redirect to your custom domain.


Blogger accomplishes this bit of trickery, using standard Internet protocol - a 301 Redirect, which equates "mydomain.com" to "myblog.blogspot.com". The redirect is setup only after you setup a "CNAME" referral, pointing "mydomain.com" to "ghs.google.com". This means that anybody viewing "myblog.blogspot.com" gets "mydomain.com", published to a Google server and indexed through "ghs.google.com". And anyone viewing "mydomain.com", intentionally, gets it directly from the Google server, as indexed through "ghs.google.com".

Recently, however, hackers and spammers have started to setup their blog "myspammyblog.blogspot.com", publish that to a custom domain, then redirect the custom domain not to "ghs.google.com", but to "DNS.myhackingcampaign.com". The reader viewing "myspammyblog.blogspot.com", now gets "myhackingwebsite.com", indexed by "DNS.myhackingcampaign.com".

Blogger is looking for cases of this deviousness. Unfortunately, right now, they are looking too casually, and are seeing false positives. Legitimate blogs, that are genuinely published to a Google Custom Domain, are showing an alarming notice.


This isn't good for your readers.



This isn't good for your readers either.


Who wants to be warned that they will shortly be viewing an untrusted blog?
This blog is not hosted by Blogger and has not been checked for spam, viruses and other forms of malware.
Visions of hacking abound in the minds of the readers seeing this.

If you have an established custom domain, it's likely that everybody looking at your blog is using the custom domain URL, in my above example "martinezumc.org", and nobody sees this alert in any great number. If you just setup your custom domain, though, and are now seeing this, you're probably suffering two problems.
  1. Your readers are a bit confused, if they use "myblog.blogspot.com".
  2. The search engine spiders aren't going to index your blog, as either "myblog.blogspot.com", or as "mydomain.com".
In other words, you're out of luck.

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Private Blogs Do Not Have NewsFeeds

The ability to view blogs, and web sites, and only view those that have been recently updated, is a useful feature that NewsFeeds provide. Some people take NewsFeeds for granted, and every so often you see an anxious query
Why can't my readers use a newsreader to read my blog, when I make the blog private?
as if newsfeeds are just another content protocol.

The concept of private blogs, which require authentication, is relatively recent, compared to newsfeeds. Both Atom and RSS protocols have been in use, well before dynamic templates and authenticated blog read access were provided, as features in New (2007) Blogger. This limitation affects both BlogLists, and email distribution of the blog feed, and Following - none of those features are available for Private blogs, right now.

Native Atom and RSS did not contain any provision for authentication of the reader. Anybody who knows an Atom or RSS feed URL can subscribe to that feed, using any of several different procedures. Since access to a newsfeed can't be restricted, it would be meaningless for a newsfeed (with universal access) to be published for a private blog (with restricted read access).

When you change permissions on your blog, so only specific individuals can read it, the newsfeeds for the blog are closed. This may change in the near future. Recently, changes were put into Blogger to enable validation through an RSS V2.0 feed, which will eventually result in the ability to authenticate reader access through a newsfeed reader.

Search engine access to your blog is controlled separately, and you may need to check those settings too.

For right now, a solution using Google+ may be the best choice for publicising private blogs.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Not Publicising Your Blog

Typically, a blog is for you to share - with your friends, or with one special friend. It doesn't have to be though, and sometimes you want nobody else to read it. The most secure blog is one that doesn't exist. Short of that, you can have one where nobody has permissions to read it.

In some cases, you publish a blog to generate a feed. You want people (specific people) to read the feed, but you don't want the world at large to know about the blog. When you do that, there are two settings, in Settings - Basic, which will interest you.
  • Add your blog to our listings? - If you select "No" your blog will not appear in the Blogger home page, Blogger Play, the "Next Blog" link, and similar places, but it will still be available on the Internet.
  • Let search engines find your blog? - If you select "No", everyone can still view your blog but search engines will be instructed not to crawl it.
If you want to have a feed, you cannot make the blog private, but you can make it (semi) invisible.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Controlling Caching Of Your Blog

If you have a blog that you update frequently (multiple times / day) with high impact content, you'll be wanting your readers to see your updates, promptly. Thanks to the caching policies of the readers browser, this may not happen consistently. You may also be concerned with your reader being confused about discrepancies between "yourblog.blogspot.com" and "www.yourblog.blogspot.com" - this too is a caching issue.

There is a way around the caching problem, but consider this carefully. If you want your blog to not be cached, at all, you can prevent caching. Add 5 meta tags into the header of the blog.
<META HTTP-EQUIV="Pragma" CONTENT="no-cache">
<META HTTP-EQUIV="Cache-Control" CONTENT="no-cache">
<META HTTP-EQUIV="Pragma-directive" CONTENT="no-cache">
<META HTTP-EQUIV="Cache-Directive" CONTENT="no-cache">
<META HTTP-EQUIV="Expires" CONTENT="0">


Think about this carefully though. Using cache is a general Internet principle. When you surf the same page, repeatedly, you do not want your browser reloading every page that you surf, each time you surf to it, when the page hasn't been changed. Caching is an efficiency feature. Some surfers will even restrict visits to your page, intentionally, if they notice that your page reloads each time they visit it, but with the same old content.

So only use this if the contents of your blog make it meaningful. Think of your readers, and ask yourself
Will my readers want to load my blog, over and over, each time?
If you can't answer "YES", confidently, don't do this.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

bX-yngvd9

Numerous bloggers are reporting this error when setting up their custom domains.
bX-yngvd9

Additional information
blogID: nnnnnnnnnnnnnnn****
host: www.blogger.com
uri: /

When you see this error, maybe some basic troubleshooting demographics would be useful.

>> (Note 3/5 11:30)>: Blogger Employee declares this problem is fixed.
We have fixed the custom domain problem that many of you have been having.


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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Custom Domains Using 301 Redirect In DNS Setup

When you setup your Google Custom Domain, the instruction for the DNS setup is rather basic.
Add one or more "CNAME" records. Point "www.mydomain.com", and / or "mydomain.com", to "ghs.google.com".
Unfortunately, not all DNS hosts support "CNAME" referrals to both the domain alias ("www.mydomain.com"), and the primary domain ("mydomain.com").

Most DNS hosts will support CNAME referral for "www.mydomain.com". Less will support CNAME referral for "mydomain.com", and there's a problem. Some people will try other solutions, like Domain or URL Forwarding.

Some DNS hosts, like GoDaddy, will substitute a 301 Redirect for the primary domain, pointing it to the "www"alias.
  • Sign into GoDaddy - either directly (using a bookmark) - or through the Google Apps "Advanced DNS Settings".
  • Go to "Domains >> Details" for your domain.
    • Click on "Total DNS".
    • Under "CNAMES (Aliases)", add an entry for "www", pointing to "ghs.google.com".
    • Click OK.
  • Go back to "Domains >> Details" for your domain.
    • Click on "Forwarding".
    • Click "Enabled".
    • For "Forward To:" enter the URL of your "www" alias, for instance "www.mydomain.com".
    • For "Redirect Type:" select "301 Moved Permanently".
    • Click OK.


Having equated "mydomain.com" to "www.mydomain.com" at the DNS server, you should be able to equate it in Blogger also. Use the "Advanced Settings" wizard, and select "Redirect mydomain.com to www.mydomain.com.". If you wish to refer to "mydomain.com" as "www.mydomain.com", with your Blogger blog published as "www.mydomain.com" using the "Advanced Settings" wizard, you will need to do both.

A "301 Moved Permanently" redirect is an effective way of equating the primary domain to the "www" alias, in many domains. Setup properly, it is even acceptable to the search engines.

But it has to be setup properly, and at the DNS server. Setup improperly, it will only contribute to problems with your blog, and its existence as a custom domain. Some DNS hosts will not support a "301 Moved Permanently" at the server level; if that's what you face, you will have to use a "CNAME", or find another DNS host.

A 301 Redirect setup in the browser code, and run in the readers browser, will cause problems with the search engines, and with many browsers. A client side meta refresh, or JavaScript redirect, will make the search engines believe that your blog is setup as a doorway page. Some browsers may detect this as a browser hijack. Neither possibility will help you, or your readers, in the long run.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Blogger Limits: Picture Storage

There is a limit on the amount of picture storage in Blogger / Picasa. The referential Blogger Help: What are the limits on my Blogger account? tells us
Number of Pictures: Up to 1 GB of total storage, shared with Picasa Web
then
Size of Pictures: If you are posting pictures through Blogger Mobile there is a limit of 250K per picture.

Picasa is one of the few Google applications which sells a service upgrade, for more storage - and one application which needs to be considered with great care, when you consider the future of any seemingly unused Blogger / GMail / Google account.

And, there's a known problem with Picasa and paid storage, with a clumsy workaround.
Users who have paid for additional storage space on Picasa Web Albums may not be able to use their additional storage space from within Blogger.

Google has provided the "Basic storage usage" wizard, to let us proactively monitor our storage use. In some cases, we may need to briefly log out then in of both Google and Picasa, to enable our access.

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Blogger Limits: Team Membership Lists

Now, we see news about a new limit in Blogger. The referential Blogger Help: What are the limits on my Blogger account? tells us
Team Members: There is a limit of 100 members per blog.
A member can be either an administrator, an author, or (if the blog is private) a designated reader.

In the help forums we have a dialogue where Blogger Employee admitted to a recently imposed limit per blog, of 100 Administrators / Authors / Readers, to reduce server overload.
there were lots of performance issues that arised as a blog amassed more than 100 readers.

If you have a private blog, you'll be able to have a maximum of 99 readers, since every blog has to have at least 1 administrator. With a private blog, the membership invitations include a temporary membership token that lets prospective members view the blog, without joining.

It appears that the use of the token may not be consistently subject to the 100 member limit - but be aware that the temporary membership token has an expiry, built in. If you base your membership access on use of the token, don't be surprised when some members occasionally complain of being locked out.

And even as severe as the limitation of 100 seems to some, other bloggers would be happy to be able to exercise that number.

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The Custom Domains "Advanced Settings" Wizard

Having more web presence than the plain old "myblog.blogspot.com" has been the dream of many bloggers for a while. Earlier, publishing by FTP to an external server filled that dream, but when New Blogger and Layouts Templates was introduced in 2006, FTP published blogs were excluded from using a Layouts template.

A blog published to a Custom Domain gives us the ability to publish a blog to a URL other than "myblog.blogspot.com", yet have a Layouts template. Note: Here, as elsewhere, "mydomain.com" is an example domain. You substitute the URL of your domain.
  • Start with a properly setup domain. Either
    mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
    or
    blog.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
    or
    www.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
  • To publish to "mydomain.com"
    • Get DNS for "mydomain.com" properly setup, on a DNS Host server.
    • Go to Settings - Publishing
    • Click on "Switch to: • Custom Domain".
    • Click on "Switch to advanced settings".
    • Enter "mydomain.com" for "Your Domain".
    • Optionally, and only with properly setup DNS, select "Redirect www.mydomain.com to mydomain.com.".
  • To publish to "blog.mydomain.com"
    • Get DNS for "blog.mydomain.com" properly setup, on a DNS Host server. This requires properly paired DNS addresses.
    • Go to Settings - Publishing
    • Click on "Switch to: • Custom Domain".
    • Click on "Switch to advanced settings".
    • Enter "blog.mydomain.com" for "Your Domain".
    • Optionally, and only with properly setup DNS, select "Redirect www.blog.mydomain.com to blog.mydomain.com.".
  • To publish to "www.mydomain.com"
    • Get DNS for "www.mydomain.com" properly setup, on a DNS Host server.
    • Go to Settings - Publishing
    • Click on "Switch to: • Custom Domain".
    • Click on "Switch to advanced settings".
    • Enter "www.mydomain.com" for "Your Domain".
    • Optionally, and only with properly setup DNS, select "Redirect mydomain.com to www.mydomain.com.".


From Settings - Publishing, select "Switch to: • Custom Domain".


Click on "Switch to advanced settings".


Enter "www.mydomain.com" for "Your Domain", and prepare to solve a CAPTCHA to save the new blog setting for the blog. And likewise a second CAPTCHA when you select "Redirect mydomain.com to www.mydomain.com".


It's a simple enough process, when we can get it right. If you get
Another blog is already hosted at this address.
or
Blogs cannot be hosted on a naked domain.
you have more work to do.
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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Custom Domains, And SEO

I'm not a fan of Search Engine Optimization ("SEO") in general.

Too much "SEO" advice nowadays seems to consist of abusing the search engines, using dubious content in a web site. If you're interested in the needs of your readers, you should focus upon relevant content in, and traffic into, your blog or web site.