Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Two Templates

Your Blogger blog uses two different yet related CSS templates, in formatting and displaying your posts.

The blog template defines objects that are consistent for the entire blog - and the post template defines objects that are consistent for each post (though the content of each post will vary, from post to post).

The post template, when the blog is published, becomes part of the blog template - but the two are maintained separately. This lets you change your blog template (and the page layout) without affecting the post template (and the posts layout), and vice versa.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

New Custom Domains "In Transition"

DNS, which is the backbone of Google Custom Domain publishing, is a distributed directory of all Internet hosts, like the Google servers where your domain is published. We say that it's distributed because the data provided to you by DNS resides not in one, or two, but millions of servers, all over the Internet, and owned by many different companies and individuals.

When you setup a new domain, using a DNS Management utility provided by your domain registrar or another DNS host, you can add the DNS entry when convenient to you. Some DNS management utilities will provide advice
Please wait 12 to 24 hours before trying to use your new URL.
or a similar message, simply because the DNS information that you enter, through the utility to your DNS server, has to be distributed to the other DNS servers, all over the Internet.

If your registrar's DNS servers aren't immediately accessible to the Google servers, and you try to publish to your brand new personal domain, mere seconds after you setup the new domain with your registrar, the Blogger "Advanced Settings" wizard may not be able to access the DNS entries which you just created. You'll probably see an old friend
Another blog is already hosted at this address.
where the wizard is simply saying to you
We don't see that domain pointing to "ghs.google.com".


In an alternative scenario, your registrar may be immediately accessible to the Google servers, you publish your blog to your custom domain, and you're happy. But wait - there's more! One of your readers, on the other side of the world, sees your advertisement
Hey! Checkout my new non-BlogSpot URL for my blog!
and checks it out, and gets another old friend
404 Not Found
because your reader uses a DNS server that has no immediate access to your registrar.

The latter two scenarios involve you when you manually set up your custom domain - using your registrar's DNS utility, followed by the Blogger "Advanced Settings" wizard. If you use the Blogger "Buy A Domain For Your Blog" utility, you use neither of those wizards.

The latter wizard takes a mere few seconds, when you're properly prepared. That wizard, replacing both the registrar's utility and the Blogger "Advanced Settings" wizard, can't include a 12 to 24 hour delay. So instead of the wizard taking 12 to 24 hours, it does immediately the work of the registrar's setup, and queues up a separate task - the equivalent of the "Advanced Settings" wizard - to run after the (formerly) "12 to 24" hours. To make sure that the "12 to 24" hour period is not too short, Blogger gives you (the DNS system) "72 hours" to catch up.

When you finish the purchase and setup of your new custom domain, go to your dashboard, and click on the "View Blog" link. There, you will likely see an old friend in the making
Your blog is in transition


Unfortunately, as I state above, the observed transition period has been 72 hours, not "12 to 24 hours". During the 72 hours (currently, slightly longer)
  1. The blog contents will be published, using the new domain URL.
  2. The BlogSpot URL will continue to load the blog with the BlogSpot URL.
  3. The custom domain URL "mydomain.com" will load the blog with the domain URL.
  4. You will, effectively, appear to have 2 separate blog aliases.
  5. Accessories like Following will issue mysterious error messages.
    We're sorry...

    This gadget is configured incorrectly. Webmaster hint: Please ensure that "Friend Connect Settings - Home URL" matches the URL of this site.

During the transition period, consider carefully the dual personality of the BlogSpot URLs. Remember that the "www" alias of the BlogSpot URL does not simply redirect to the root of the BlogSpot URL, in the same way that the root of the custom domain URL might redirect to the "www" alias. Expect unpredicted behaviour here, when comparing the BlogSpot URLs.

If you are concerned with search engine reputation and visibility, and are diligently keeping your blog's sitemaps updated, you'll want to consider these issues carefully. You should wait until after the transition period has ended, to update the sitemap.
  • You don't want the search engines trying to index a URL that might give them a "404" from their own DNS servers not having your new domain.
  • You don't want the search engines trying to index the new URL while the old one is still active, and distinct, lest both the BlogSpot and domain URLs be perceived as "duplicate content".
  • You don't want the search engines to start indexing the domain URL, until the BlogSpot URL provides the "301 Moved Permanently" to the domain URL, and gives the new domain its starting kick.
  • You do want the search engines to start, re indexing the entire blog, as soon as possible - after migration completes.
Timing is everything, here. Wait until the Transition period ends, and the "301 Moved Permanently" is in effect. Be aware of the issues - and manage the migration, aggressively.

If you purchased the domain using "Buy a domain", the above details are not a problem, because Blogger applies the Transition time period, automatically. If you setup the domain yourself, after purchasing from a registrar - as is the case for every domain purchased after 2012 - you need to maintain a Transition period, yourself, or expect problems, during the first week or so.

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Mail-to-Blogger Can Provide Anonymous Ability To Post

In the forums, we see periodically the query
How do I let everyone in my company post to my blog, without requiring them to register?
and my answer is typically
You can let them post comments, but to post actual articles, they will have to register.


And as we have learned, there is a limit in the number of registrations - each blog can have up to 100 members - administrators, authors, and readers - and no more. Apparently, up to 100 people can post to any blog, and no more.

That's not completely true. To use the Blogger Post Editor, through your browser, to post articles, you have to be a registered blog member. But, if you setup a Mail-to-Blogger account, and give out the Mail-to-Blogger email address, anyone knowing the address can post using their email program. Although here, you can moderate any posts, before publishing, should you feel the need.

This solution will have 2 caveats.
  1. You are now opening the blog to anyone who knows the email address. Don't use an easy to guess private address component. And, establish a back door, for distribution of an updated private address component, when you do this. Plan to change the address periodically, and upon quick notice.
  2. This will require that everybody posting use email. They won't be using the post editor. The people using this will have to check their email Inboxes after posting, and look for "undeliverable" notices caused by unexpected changes in the address (caveat #1).


Maybe this procedure will be more useful if you request your anonymous readers post a comment to a specified blog post, you moderate comments, and you can post their articles under your name.

This is not an excellent solution, but until Blogger extends the 100 members limit, maybe it's better than nothing.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Custom Feeds And The Google Sitemap

Custom feed services, like FeedBurner, give you much more than a native Blogger blog feed. You can aggregate content and pull in material from other blogs and web sites, you can provide more user friendly formatting, and you can even track the number of readers who subscribe to a FeedBurner custom feed.

Your Blogger blog even supports your use of a custom feed. If you setup the Post Feed Redirect option, all links in the blog that would reference the native blog post feed are replaced by the custom feed. Your blog readers, when they click on a link that says
Click here to subscribe to my feed!
automatically subscribe to the custom feed. This is good for your readers, and for you.

Unfortunately, use of the feed redirect option isn't a good idea for everybody, immediately. If you're using a Google Sitemap, to make it easier for the search engines to index your blog, and bring you more readers, you'll need to use the native blog feed.

With the blog redirecting all blog post feed references, to a custom feed, the sitemap will be broken. The Google Sitemap requires a feed that has the same URL as the blog. A custom feed has the URL of the custom feed service. This breaks the sitemap, unless you modify the feed URL.

Having modified my feed URL, I can create a Google sitemap that the spider can work from.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mail-to-Blogger Author Settings

Recently, we noted the ability of blog Authors to setup their own Mail-to-Blogger access code to a given blog. As a blog Author (aka "Guest" member), you will note a new Setting tab - "Email", where you now have the ability to setup your own Mail-to-Blogger address, with the public portion of the address set as your normal MTB public address.

Presumably, you set the private portion of the address to a unique value, which then routes any MTB posts using the "public.private@blogger.com" (aka "account.password@blogger.com") email address to this blog. We can now post to our blogs, and use MTB with Author identified, instead of anonymous (or name of the blog owner only). Remember, you can change only the "password" (private) portion of the address. The "account" (public) portion is set as a function of your Blogger account, and can't be changed.

Remember, blog administrators have always had this setting, now blog authors have it too. It's right there, in Settings - "Mobile and email", under "Email" - "Posting using email". You can only change the "private" portion of the MTB email address ("secretWords"), then you simply email your posts using "public.private@blogger.com", where the combination of "public.private" is unique for every blog that uses MTB for posting.


This should give us a nice way around the Blogger limit of 100 blog members. Multiple Authors can share a single MTB address (maintained by the administrator), if the blog Member list exceeds 100 entries. Or, with all blog members having their own unique MTB address, everybody can post and be identified.



How you maintain an array of different MTB private addresses, given that you might use MTB for multiple blogs, will be another subject to be addressed.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Setting Up A Custom Domain? Check Your External References!

When you setup a Custom Domain, the migration process for Blogger access to the blog is transparent. The setup wizard provides encouraging advice
We won't leave your readers behind!
http://myblog.blogspot.com will redirect to your custom domain.


When you publish your blog to a custom domain, two things happen instantaneously.
  • All dynamic links within the blog are changed, from "myblog.blogspot.com" to "mydomain.com".
  • Blogger sets up a server based "301 Moved Permanently" for your blog.
Your readers, and the search engine spiders, see the change the next time that they visit. Any automated processes that support a "301 Redirect" know to replace the old address, "myblog.blogspot.com", with the new address "mydomain.com".

All that said, you shouldn't expect for every search engine on the web to immediately acknowledge the new blog address. Just as establishing a search engine presence, updating one to a new address could take weeks.

With the initial setup out of the way, you may have a major amount of work yet to do, and a small but significant part needs to be done at your earliest convenience. Various third party elements that reference the blog by its URL may have to be updated. Some, if not updated immediately, may present a problem to your online reputation.

If your blog has a Google Sitemap, you'll have to use Google Webmaster Tools to re verify site ownership, and to setup a new sitemap. If you've added a Google Sitemap to your blog before, you sort of know what to expect. Also, the sitemap setup wizard was improved in early 2008, so you'll find the sitemap addition process somewhat simplified and more intuitive.

You can probably update (re add) one blog in 5 minutes, if you read the instructions. You do need to do this part fairly promptly (though after the transition period if you used the "Buy A Domain" wizard), as the sitemap is an important component in access by the Google spider, and secondarily affects your blog in Google searches.

With the sitemap updated, you can change all of the internal links in the blog, if you wish, and as time permits. Thanks to the "301 Moved Permanently", any internal references to the BlogSpot URL are simply replaced when any given link in the blog is followed. This dual personality effect will last for eternity.

Your friends web sites, that may have static references to yours (blogroll entries, generally), will likewise produce referrals to your blog, and to its new address. The static references can be updated at the convenience of the owners of the other web sites.

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FTP Publishing - If You're Having Problems, Check Your Settings While You Wait For Support

Many different reports are seen in the forums, this month, about problems with FTP publishing. The old "Your publish is taking longer than expected ..." error is reported a lot. Alternatively, some folks report seeing no error, yet their posts simply don't end up on the blog.

Blogger Support will try to help you - really. As long as you report the problem objectively, and wait patiently. And they can help you best, when it's a problem that they can solve.

Some problems they can't help you solve, or at least can't help you as easily as you can help yourself. Problems with FTP Settings are problems that you can solve, on your own, a lot quicker than Blogger can solve for you.

If you have a problem with FTP Publishing, report the problem. And while you're waiting for their attention, spend some time diagnosing the problem on your own.
I fished around and discovered that my host, pair.com, using the special additional login username and password that I added for Blogger, was automatically routing posts to my blog directory. So what happened is that instead of files being uploaded to
pair.com/users/me/public_html/blog/
they went to
pair.com/users/me/public_html/blog/users/me/public_html/blog/


This is an example of good diagnostic work. Maybe Blogger would have eventually figured out the problem, by looking at the settings for the blog. Maybe not. Maybe Blogger changed the way they process the settings. If so, this report will hopefully help them identify their problem. It certainly won't hurt.

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UK Broadband Bloggers Report Computer Freezing, When Using Blogger

Bloggers in the UK, using BT as an ISP, report their computer freezing when accessing Blogger wizards.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00075

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00075

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Configuring The Page Header

When someone starts decorating their blog, one of the first things done is to replace the plain text page header with something more stylish. That task has become gradually easier, starting with the rollout of New Blogger (2006).

With a Classical template, this was done by editing the template HTML. When New Blogger (2006) started out, this was originally done by creating an HTML page element, and putting it in place of the Page Header page element. Recently, Blogger added options in the Header GUI, which lets you create a passable custom element, in just a few minutes.

From the Page Elements GUI, click the Edit link in the page header. This gives you the "Configure Header" wizard, which has several key abilities.
  • Upload a graphic file (from your computer or elsewhere or in the web).
  • Select whether the uploaded graphic is to replace the text Title and Description, or simply be placed behind it, as a background element.
  • Select whether the uploaded graphic is to be shrunk to 660 pixels wide.

This is not an extensive set of options, and a few bloggers will still opt to replace the header with a hand created HTML page element. For most blogs, though, this will make an excellent first step in making our blogs more attractive. Certainly, it's a start, and may motivate other decorations.

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FTP Publishing - An Example Of The Complexity

Publishing a blog to an external server, using FTP, has always presented interesting challenges. I've been writing about those challenges for some time, and occasionally describing their seemingly random nature. This week, we see one example of the randomness, which is being experienced by those publishing to Yahoo Small Business.
I got on the phone with Yahoo Small Business, and went through the trouble shooting process. ... One of the things about the Yahoo Small Business accounts is Yahoo teamed up with ATT SBC. With that team up, it created a weird log on user name, with two @@ in the user name to use FTP publishing. For example: you need both the [email address]@user-[email address]


The solution, in this case, and recommended by Yahoo Small Business is to
create another FTP User ID independent of the main User ID.


In other words, Yahoo Small Business made a change, it wasn't successfully communicated to their customers, and it took a joint session between one customer and one company representative to realise the oddity
a weird log on user name, with two @@ in the user name


Looking further, we see additional details. Having created a Yahoo FTP User ID, we have to make that User ID usable.
once you've added the new FTP user/password in Small Business, be sure to click the link that says "Enable FTP access" in the "FTP Access Point" column. This gives that new username access to publish on your whole site.


I suspect this is simply one example why Google Custom Domains should be the solution of choice for publishing a blog to a non-BlogSpot URL.

Yahoo Small Business is simply one FTP host. How many others might there be, with similar peccadillo's?

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

The GoDaddy Domain Manager

Making any custom settings to your custom domain, beyond what is done by the "Buy A Domain" wizard, involves the eNom / GoDaddy Domain Manager. If you bought your domain on your own, you might have chosen eNom, GoDaddy, or any of dozens other DNS hosts / registrars. Each domain manager will be different.

Once you're in the domain manager, what do you do? GoDaddy provides a lot of settings for managing your domain. eNom, the alternate Google partner in custom domain registration, has a Domain Manager that's similar only in result. Any other DNS host will have something still more different.

You may get to the Domain Manager directly (using a bookmark). If you bought the domain using "Buy A Domain" or Google Apps, you can alternately use the Google Apps "Advanced DNS settings" wizard. My domain is hosted by GoDaddy, and I bought it using "Buy A Domain".

Having entered your userid and password, successfully, you are presented with the "Domains" menu. Here you will see a list of your domains. Select one, by clicking on the link in the name.

This takes you to the "Domain Manager - Domain Details" screen, for your chosen domain. As of 2010/11/01, you'll see a menu bar, right in the middle of the screen. One of the buttons in the menu bar will be Forwarding. Click here, to setup a "301 Redirect". You may have a submenu, offering a choice to "Forward Domain" or "Forward Subdomain".

At the bottom of the screen, in the middle, will be a section labeled "Total DNS", with a "Launch" link. Click on "Launch", to setup "A" / "CNAME" referrals and other DNS control records.

If you're setting up a new domain, you'll use "Total DNS", and one or more "A" / "CNAME" records. If you're adding aliases to an existing domain, you can use either "Total DNS" or "Forwarding". While "Forwarding" has its place occasionally, 99% of the time you'll be using "Total DNS" for adding aliases.

Here, you may wish to peruse my other tutorials. Also, see (corrected) GoDaddy instructions, for setting up a custom domain.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Diagnosing Problems With Custom Domains - Case Study #6

In my previous custom domain case study, I presented a poorly working custom domain, where the "www" alias was properly setup, but the primary domain was using URL forwarding. Maybe it's a setup recommended by the DNS host technical support staff, who don't support "CNAME" referral for the primary domain.

Some DNS hosts just don't understand "CNAME" referrals, and the previous case doesn't show how badly domains can be setup.

Let's look at one case, again a fictional example "mydomain.com", setup using the "Advanced Settings" wizard.

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 64.202.189.170


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

;; ANSWER SECTION:
www.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME mydomain.com.
mydomain.com. 3600 IN A 64.202.189.170


And examine "64.202.189.170".
pwfwd-v01.prod.mesa1.secureserver.net (64.202.189.170)
64.202.160.0 - 64.202.191.255
GoDaddy.com, Inc.


The latter is using URL forwarding, to redirect "mydomain.com" to "myblog.blogspot.com", plus using a "CNAME" referral to direct "www.mydomain.com" to "mydomain.com" (and the URL forwarding). URL forwarding is preferred by some DNS hosts, who prefer to not to provide "CNAME" referral, but it's wrong when used in a custom domain setup. For Google Custom Domains, it will probably work, for a while, but unreliably so. Even if it works for a while, it will potentially cause problems, for everybody.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What's Broken In FTP Publishing, This Week?

Blogs published using FTP have always offered interesting challenges for their owners, and for Blogger. The many selling points for Custom Domain publishing, as I recall, included the ability to
  • Publish to a Google server.
  • Have a blog with dynamic HTML and a Layouts template.
  • Have a non-BlogSpot URL.
  • Avoid the chronic instabilities of FTP publishing.


This week, we see a plethora of complaints about FTP publishing, in the forums.

What are the possibilities?
  1. It's your imagination that your FTP publishing is having problems.
  2. A lot of FTP server hosts are having problems.
  3. Blogger really broke something - big time.
  4. Blogger fixed a lot of non-FTP problems. What you see in the forums is a sudden lack of other complaints ("noise"), making the normal level of FTP publishing problems ("signal") more audible.
  5. FTP published blogs are typically produced by bloggers who spend more time at their computers. The climate improving in many parts of the USA has taken other bloggers away from their computers, causing a drop in "noise" in the forums.
  6. FTP published blogs are typically produced by bloggers who publish more. Larger blogs, published remotely, will eventually lead to more problems.
  7. Increasing popularity of custom domain publishing has drawn many smaller and more casual bloggers away from FTP publishing. Blogger, recognising this trend, is reallocating resources to custom domains, leading to decreased FTP publishing resources.
My personal opinion? I don't see Numbers 1, 2, and / or 3 as the sole causative factors. Numbers 5, 6, and 7 make more sense to me. I will go on record now
Anybody who believes that Blogger broke something, causing one single large problem, is part of the problem. As long as bloggers continue to complain about one large problem, the problem will never go away.


>> (Update 4/18): For an example of the seemingly random nature of FTP Publishing problems, look at this recently discovered detail about publishing to Yahoo Small Business.

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The Google Custom Domain Photo Hosting Problem Hits Harder

The Google Custom Domain photo hosting problem has been with us for a while. I first reported this problem in August, 2007 - and again, last week. Last year, it was simply a chronic problem that I had noted. Last week, it affected my blogs, but only on one important photo.

This week, the problem became more obnoxious. It now affects multiple photos, which are used in multiple blogs (possibly a lot of blogs). The Cumulus Blogs Hidden LinkLists, the Cumulus Blogs MultiStyle Labels, and the Language Translator Bar, are used by a few bloggers who I've never met. Maybe you're one of them (you've read this far, so maybe you are).

Look in the sidebars of my blogs - like this blog "The Real Blogger Status" or my networking blog "PChuck's Network", at the "Topics" section, or even "Topics" in Roberto's Report (Roberto, a bud of mine, uses the same graphics in his blogs). On most days, you'll see one or more missing buttons / icons / photos, in one or more blogs.

Houston, we have a problem.

A Problem That's Ugly


This is what I see, at 18:00 PDT, 11/05/2008.



This is what I saw just earlier this afternoon, at 13:00 PDT, 11/05/2008.


This is merely ugly. You can use the "en|el" as a button - try it and see (when you see that). You can still see this blog translated into Greek, even if you can't see the flag in the translator bar.

A Problem That's Worse Than Ugly


This is what you'd see on good days, like April 14, 2008.



This is what you'd see on April 15, 2008, the day this article was written, in this blog - though the problem is currently not active, here. Today, May 10, 2008, you'll see something like this, in my recipes blog. Also my bud Roberto reports the same problem in his blogs.


Most cases of missing photos are merely annoying. Unless your blog revolves around the missing photos, your readers simply see a minor bit of ugly blog.

There's bad news, and there's good news.

The bad news is - this case is more than annoying. The 4 missing photos, as you know if they are part of your blog, are actually buttons. Those buttons allow your readers to show a hidden linklist, or to select a style for displaying hidden labels. Without the use of those buttons, your readers can't see a linklist or label list. This might be a major issue in blog organisation or blog visibility, for you.

A Workaround

The good news is - there is a workaround for you, if your blog uses Hidden Linklists or MultiStyle Labels, with the buttons that I provided originally. Until Blogger fixes this, simply tweak your template. Switch the Hidden Linklist feature to "Show", and / or switch the MultiStyle Labels to "Menu" style. It's not difficult, though if your blog uses multiple, hidden linklists, it will be a bit tedious, and your blog will lose a bit of functionality.
  1. First (and always) backup your template.
  2. Edit the template.
  3. Select "Expand Widget Templates".
  4. For each hidden linklist, carefully find
    // set default to hide blogroll
    hideBlogroll1();
    and (noting and retaining the linklist number) (they won't all be "1"), change to
    // set default to (hide) show blogroll
    showBlogroll1();
    Remember that linklists are numbered. Do not mess up the linklist numbers.
  5. For multistyle labels, find
    // set default to null style
    nullStyle();
    and change to
    // set default to (null) menu style
    menuStyle();
  6. Save Template.
  7. Last (and always) backup your template, again.
  8. And also last (and also always) test your changes.


Not all problems can be worked around this easily. This is a functionality problem, and not too ugly. If you really want to display a photo (not a button or icon) in your blog, and it doesn't display, you're just out of luck. Sorry. No easy answers here - Blogger needs to fix the problem.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Google Weblogs

On April 1, 2008, Google announced the next revolution in personal publishing: Google Weblogs.

Every April 1, Blogger and Google announce something exciting. In 2007, they announced a sewer based Internet service (free, of course), to replace DSL. Not everybody gets the joke, every time.

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Diagnosing Problems With Custom Domains - Case Study #5

In my first 4 custom domain case studies, I presented working, or semi-working domains, each being a case where the domain owner appeared to have tried to setup the domain properly. By action of the DNS host, or maybe of the Blogger wizard, some of the cases didn't exemplify proper setup, but the owner at least tried to do properly.

In some cases, maybe through ignorance, or stubborness, the owner will simply ignore instruction, and do his own thing. Sometimes, the setup will work, but it will still be wrong. Maybe it's a setup recommended by the DNS host technical support staff.

Let's look at one case, again a fictional example "mydomain.com", setup using the "Advanced Settings" wizard.

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 64.202.189.170


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. 364681 IN CNAME ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com. 300 IN A 72.14.207.121


And examine "64.202.189.170".
pwfwd-v01.prod.mesa1.secureserver.net (64.202.189.170)
64.202.160.0 - 64.202.191.255
GoDaddy.com, Inc.


The latter is using URL forwarding, to redirect "mydomain.com" to "myblog.blogspot.com". URL forwarding is preferred by some DNS hosts, who prefer to not to provide "CNAME" referral for the primary domain, but it's wrong when used in a custom domain setup. For Google Custom Domains, it will partially work, for a while, but unreliably at best. Even if it works for a while, it will potentially cause problems, for everybody.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Photos Missing From Blogs Published To Custom Domains

This problem has been reported for many months, and comes and goes. Right now, it seems to have come again.

Look at the Language Translator bar, in this blog. See the place where there should be a Greek flag (between the "German" and "Italian" flags)? What you see there is "en|el" - no flag. THAT showed up the moment I published this blog as part of Nitecruzr.Net.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00063

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00063

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Blogging

Setting up a web site is a lot of work. Once you get past the process of actually setting up a web site (and I have done that only once, over 10 years ago, and remember not a lot except that it was a pain in the rear), you have to write something. If you want very many readers, you have to write a lot, frequently, and regularly. If you want your readers to return, they have to be able to find what you write. And need I say this - if you want readers to return over and over, what you publish has to be attractive and organised.

In other words, your web site has to have Content, Structure, and Attractiveness.

That's a lot of work, and you have to do it over and over. Can you say "Sisyphus"? As you add content, you have to make the content accessible. As you make it accessible, you have to keep it organised and attractive. Add more content, and you have to make the relevant content accessible from content with a similar subject. And more content constantly requires you to make it pretty.

And hopefully, you have a private life. Or, what do you find to write about? How do you make enough time, to do everything? If your job / life doesn't revolve around web publishing, you simply can't.

The Internet is full of dead web sites, or web sites that should be dead. Web sites which are huge, and badly organised or ugly. Or very pretty web sites, that contain nothing useful. Many web sites started by folks who ran out of time, energy, or content.

Enter Blogging. The initial blog setup is simple enough. You can find more advice in Blogger Help, or in dozens of other web sites. Here, I'll just say - Start from the dashboard, select "Create a Blog", and follow instructions. That's a 5 minute, linear process. Then, learn how to get the URL of the blog, so you can pass it to your friends. Been there, done that.

What you do after the blog has been created - that's the fun part. Still, it's way less complicated, using Blogger One Button Publishing, than it was working with my one web site 10 years ago.

Blogging, using a Blogger blog with a Layouts template, lets you separate Content, Structure, and Attractiveness, and make them independent tasks. You can work on each issue as you like, and when it suits your schedule. If multiple people work together on a blog, each person can be responsible for a different aspect of the blog.

The Content part, which is what you probably should spend the most time on initially, is the easiest to define. Write articles that contain information that's relevant to your reader's needs. Post each article, as written.

The blog Structure should be as important to you as Content. Structure lets your readers, having found your blog and read one or two posts, find other posts related to what they've just read. You need to group related posts, and separate unrelated posts. The blog structure starts with an Archives Index (an includable part of any Layouts template), which lists each post in the blog. The Archives Index is dynamic - as soon as you add a post, it's indexed. That's your base structure, and requires none of your time. Just write, and post.

As you continue, though, you can add more structure, both within the blog and outside it.

Note that, unless you setup a blog that's externally hosted, using FTP Publishing, you'll only have control over the data. With a blog hosted by Blogger / Google, you give up control over ease of setup. You pick a template, and you make posts. That's all that you do - you don't setup folders, or files - that's all up to the Blogger wizards.

If you have an external blog utility, like a Google Webmaster Tools, that requires blog ownership verification, you will need to install meta tags into the template, not named files into the blog root. You'll have no ability to install named files, or to make named folders in the blog structure.

The Attractiveness is one of the most fun aspects of Blogging. Every blogger has his / her own favourite templates, which are built using Cascading Style Sheets. If your blog uses a Layouts template, you can republish the blog in seconds, giving it a new look, using the "Pick New Template" wizard. You can add, configure, or reposition accessories (aka "gadgets") within the template, using the "Page Elements" wizard. You can change the colors and text using the "Fonts and Colors" wizard. And each change is separate from the others - you can change to a new template, and a totally different look, without affecting the widgets. Or, you can change the colors in the blog, without affecting the posts content or the template.

I'm not going to tell you which of these aspects are the most important - they all have equal importance. Just setup a blog, and work on the blog, as you like. Use enough balance in each aspect, and some work publicising the blog, and you'll have readers. Then, watch what readers you get, and adjust as necessary. And when you make changes, test the changes, immediately after you make them.

You may benefit from reading the Blogger Getting Started Guide, and the Official Blogger FAQ. And when you need help, read how to ask for advice intelligently, and how to learn from advice provided.

And from time to time, look at other blogs and see what they are doing - maybe you'll see a new feature occasionally. If you see a new feature that interests you, ask yourself how this new feature works. And when you see other blogs that interest you, you can peruse them from time to time, at your convenience.

And that's Blogging, in a nutshell. Now, follow the links, and read the other articles.

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Separate Your Blogs, Yet Keep Them Together

If you're like me, and have a blog, maybe what you write about in your blog isn't all of what you are. Most of us are more than one person. I'm a blogger, I work with Windows Networking, plus I have a private life. Really. I enjoy cooking, some miscellaneous humour and philosophy, and various other pursuits too.

So, if you're going to blog about your non-technical abilities too, would you put the non-technical stuff in the same blog as your technical stuff? Do you park your car in your kitchen, or sleep in your garage? Hopefully not - you have separate areas of your house, each one for a different purpose. Maybe you should with your blog, too.

If you have one blog, with multiple topics, you can separate and index the various posts by using labels. But maybe you would like something different for each topic - maybe a topic relevant blogroll for each.

I have many friends with their own web sites. Some, I met through blogging. Others are experts in Windows Networking. And I know some folks with cooking blogs. It would be stupid to put a cooking blogroll on a web site about Windows Networking, though.

Some folks will tell you to use conditionally displayed widgets, so you can display one blogroll when a certain label search is active. If you want to hack the HTML Template code, you can learn how to do this. But, there's an easier solution.

Blogs are free - you can have as many as you can setup. I have a BlogSpot based cluster. Here's 3 of the blogs, in the cluster.
Had I planned my blogging activity when I started, I could have made a more organised cluster.
For a small fee - just $10 USD / year, for domain registration / DNS hosting, you can even have a non BlogSpot based cluster, published as a Google Custom Domain. You can host as many blogs as you wish in the domain, for that single $10 USD. If you already have a (non Blogger) web site, you don't even pay that - there's your domain, already setup.

Once you have a domain, just add one or more virtual hosts to your domain. Publish your blogs to the virtual hosts in your domain, one blog / virtual host pair.
If you already have a domain, with a web site, there's the start of your blog cluster. If you just setup your domain, you may wish to setup a home blog, similar to my Nitecruzr Dot Net. A home blog is an option, not a necessity. I could alternately use my Buzz blog as a home blog.

Either way - with a BlogSpot or non BlogSpot based cluster - what you setup will be yours forever (at least, as long as you pay the yearly fee).

So, I setup Nitecruzr Dot Net, my collection of Blogger blogs all in one domain - my own domain - not a part of "BlogSpot.Com". Each blog will be part of the whole, yet as unique as I like to make it. Setting the domain up took 30 minutes, and writing about doing it, another hour or so (not that I'm done writing).

Once you've setup a collection of blogs, there are a variety of possible ways to dynamically merge them, in relevant ways that your readers should appreciate. And there are variations of this setup - some righteous, others spurious - that you need to consider, carefully.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

FTP Published Blogs Redirect BlogSpot URL Automatically?

Ever since Custom Domain publishing was provided by Blogger, one noticeable feature that differentiated custom domain from FTP publishing was the status of the original BlogSpot URL. With a blog published to a custom domain, the original BlogSpot URL was automatically redirected to the new custom domain; but this was not done for blogs published by FTP.

This was a major deficiency too.
  • With the original BlogSpot URL unused, blog readers had to be informed in advance of the pending change.
  • As soon as the blog was published and the BlogSpot URL became available, it was frequently snapped up by splog publishers.
This necessitated publishing of a stub blog, by the former owner, after the blog was published by FTP, informing all that the blog had been moved to another URL.

This deficiency appears to be ended. I was in the process of diagnosing a problem with an FTP published blog, where the owner reported
I can no longer reclaim the original subdomain, as was recommended.


I went to verify the condition of the BlogSpot URL, and observed a very interesting display.


This advice was rather annoying, with custom domain published blogs, but I think it's rather comforting right now.


This is a major improvement for FTP publishing, and it would appear that FTP publishing is intended to be a peer solution to custom domain publishing. From a business standpoint, and considering the problems inherent in publishing by FTP, I still wonder what's the long term plan.

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The Blog Feed Redirect Option Needs To Be Used Properly

When you setup a Blogger blog, and use a properly configured feed, the combinations of comments, labels, and posts feeds can do wonders for making your blog more accessible and maintainable. You have a number of feeds, with URLs based upon the URL of the blog, to work with.

For more possibilities, you can use a custom feed, provided by an aggregation service like FeedBurner or FeedDigest. When you use a custom feed, you can even redirect references, within the blog, to the custom feed, so you don't have to manually reconfigure things like post footer feed links.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Edit Posts Menu

When you create a blog, do you just post, endlessly? I don't.

For every new post I make, I update, revise, and relink each post to other posts. And the dashboard "Posts" menu (formerly "Edit Posts") is an essential part of that activity.

From the Blogger dashboard menu, click on "Posts" - and you're there.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Daily Coyote

Apparently the blog "The Daily Coyote" was locked as a spam blog, pending investigation. The owner then convinced its readers to conduct a DOS attack against Google Blogger Help, until it was restored to operational status, in the impression that such action would hasten Bloggers reaction.

It was restored 7th of April 2008, and the owner admitted the same, in a post on the blog. Obviously unlocked.

Yet the useless posts continue in Blogger Help Group. This prevents other people, needing help, from being helped promptly.

To the owners of the blog:
You need to again email your readers, and instruct them to knock it off. You aren't bothering Blogger, but you are interfering with other bloggers being helped.


Blogger has a very real problem with spam blogs. If your blog is blocked, or if it's removed, it's not done so trivially, nor are you the only one being so oppressed.

Right now, Daily Coyote whinings are approaching classification as a Denial Of Service Attack.

Go away.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Making Of Nitecruzr Dot Net

Many people set up a Google Custom Domain simply so they can have a single Blogger, published to a non-BlogSpot URL.

A custom domain can include more than just one blog, though. You can setup multiple blogs in one domain, limited only to your imagination, and the virtual hosts limitation of your domain registrar.

Here, for instance, is how I setup my custom domain, "Nitecruzr Dot Net".

You can do likewise with your blogs. The only limit here, IMHO, is your imagination.

Classic or Layouts Template? Your Choice (Maybe)

Does anybody remember Old Blogger (pre 2006), and the process of adding or relocating an accessory - maybe a picture or linklist - to the blog? For many of us, that memory is fast fading. New Blogger 2006, and the Layouts templates with their GUI linklist setup, is so much more user friendly. You can use a Layouts template with any blog published to a BlogSpot URL - or to a non-BlogSpot URL on a Google server, using Custom Domain publishing.

Even with New Blogger 2006 being the reality (and Old Blogger a distant memory), some bloggers are still stuck with a Classic template. Maybe by choice
I hate new Blogger, and the widgets. I like having a template that I can understand.
or maybe forced upon them
I want to publish my blog to my own server.
some bloggers are sticking with a Classic template. Publishing your blog to a non-BlogSpot URL on an external server, using FTP, requires static HTML and a Classical template.

Occasionally, you hear the puzzled question
What does this mean?
Your template could not be parsed as it is not well-formed. Please make sure all XML elements are closed properly.
That's awfully mysterious, to the new blogger who just got a (Classic) template at Templates-R-Us, and tried to install it to his (Designer / Layout) blog. To those of us who have seen that message a few hundred times, it's a 5 second diagnosis. You cannot install a Classic template into a Designer / Layouts blog.

If you're lucky and you're simply trying to install a widget that uses HTML, all that you have to do is create a new HTML page element. If it's a full blown template, you're going to have to revert the blog to use a Classic template, before installing the new code.

Not everybody knows if they have a Classic or Designer / Layout template. To the folks who understand the differences, though, it's as clear as night and day.


My Classic Template Laboratory is where I test blog changes against a Classical template. See the "Template" link?



The Real Blogger Status (this blog) uses a Designer template, with its many widgets, to bring you the information that you need. See the "Layout" link (which will now say "Design")?



Another example can be seen if you click the "Customize" or "Design" link in the Navbar. What do you see then?

To edit a Classic template, you have 1 choice - "Edit HTML".





To edit a Designer / Layout template, you have several choices.

  1. Edit HTML.
  2. Page Elements.
  3. Template Designer.



For some changes, you may have alternate solutions. And many changes are far easier to make, by using "Page Elements" or "Template Designer", than by using "Edit HTML".

You can generally access each of the above wizards using the (obvious) menu structure. In some cases, if the template is damaged, the wizards won't work correctly, so you may need manual procedures to access the right wizard.

Having said all of the above, I will note that you can use HTML in a layouts template, and that is easier to do than you would think. That's still a layout template, though - there is no way to add XML code into a classic HTML based template.

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Diagnosing Problems With Custom Domains - Case Study #2b

Encouraged by my ability to setup my own personal custom domain, I persuaded my bud Bob to do likewise. Now, Bob isn't a techie (so he would tell you), but he does know how to follow procedure. And I encouraged him to try it.
its easier than it looks
So, just last night, Bob tells me in his usual taciturn way
OK - It's http://robertosblogs.net
then later
EXACTLY the way you described in your post


But - and it seems like there's always a "but" with Blogger - the results were not quite the same.


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

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


I started by examining his DNS setup. First, the primary domain "robertosblogs.net".
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;robertosblogs.net. IN A

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



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

;; ANSWER SECTION:
www.robertosblogs.net. 3600 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
ghs.google.com. 520167 IN CNAME ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com. 300 IN A 72.14.207.121

DNS looks just like my results. Spot on, Bob.

Look at the browser connect logs. Start with the "www" alias.
4/5/2008 23:26:56 Trying http://www.robertosblogs.net
Header:
HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8


OK, here.

4/5/2008 23:26:28 Trying http://robertosblogs.net
Redirect!
Header:
HTTP/1.0 302 Moved Temporarily
Location: http://www.robertosblogs.net
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8


This looks good too. The key item here being
HTTP/1.0 302 Moved Temporarily
Location: http://www.robertosblogs.net


The BlogSpot results though, not so good. At least, not consistent with mine.

4/5/2008 23:31:12 Trying http://roberto-dot-net.blogspot.com
Header:
HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8


look at my BlogSpot
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 his "www" BlogSpot is the same.

4/5/2008 23:44:46 Trying http://www.roberto-dot-net.blogspot.com
Header:
HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8


contrasted with mine
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


And what is very interesting is the link to the blog, from the dashboard!
Roberto Dot Net        View Blog

which leads to a rather intriguing advice
Your blog is in transition

Your blog's new address is http://www.robertosblogs.net/. Since it takes time for this new address to be available all over the Internet, you can still get to it at http://roberto-dot-net.blogspot.com.

Your new address should work for everyone after at most 3 days. At that time we will redirect your readers from your old address to the new one.


Stay tuned, or use the above link ("Roberto Dot Net") from time to time. This will be interesting to watch. I made the above observations, initially, at 23:00 PST, 5/4/2008. It's now 08:00 PDT, 7/4/2008, and the results are the same.
Your blog is in transition


>> (Update 4/26): After much thought, and several interesting discussions in Google Blogger Help, I conclude that the "In Transition" period is simply Blogger allowing the "Buy A Domain" wizard to compensate for DNS latency.

>> (Update 4/9): We see now that Blogger has mentioned this possibility, in How do I buy a custom domain through Blogger?

>> (Update 22:00 4/8): The Roberto Dot Net dashboard link now links directly to Roberto Dot Net.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00074

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00074

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Blogger In Draft - The Blog List

Taking the concept of the BlogRoll to the new level, we now have the BlogList. The Blog List, one of the shiny gadgets in Blogger In Draft, combines the BlogRoll with a blog feed to give an ever changing list of blogs with their most recently added posts (title and / or post snippet are selectable in the display).

Unfortunately, the Blog List doesn't work, consistently. You can see an example in my Nitecruzr Dot Net home page, in the sidebar section "Nitecruzr Dot Net". In my test, we see "PChuck's Network" with a recent post, but shows no hint of the recent posts in this blog "The Real Blogger Status".

We must remember that Blogger In Draft is a Beta testing platform, and we shouldn't be surprised when it doesn't always work. Blogger Support is aware of this recently discovered shortcoming.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Managing Your Custom Domain

As I stated in The Choice Is Yours, given the choice in the future, I would personally recommend and use the "Buy A Domain" wizard for setting up any new domain. Not all bloggers will agree with me on this, as some have additional needs, and prefer to setup their domains with more detail.

If you already own a domain, and maybe have additional components like mail or other servers defined, you'll use the "Advanced Settings" wizard in Blogger - after using the wizard provided by your DNS host to setup the DNS for your domain. If you bought your domain from GoDaddy, you'll use the GoDaddy DNS Manager; if you bought your domain from another registrar, you'll use their DNS Manager.

Note that some basic functions, like payment / domain registration renewal, may be available in the Apps desktop, for Google Apps accounts setup for domains purchased through Blogger. These functions may not be available for domains purchased directly from a registrar, with the Google Apps account setup after purchase.

If you intend to setup additional components for a new domain, you might choose the same procedure, though you'll have more work to do. And the additional work is not unavoidable, because you can setup any new domain using the "Buy A Domain" wizard, then use the wizard provided by your DNS host (the GoDaddy DNS Manager, or any other) to setup any additional components, at your convenience. You can even do this to setup any blog or web site not hosted by Google.

  • Setup your new domain, using the "Buy A Domain" wizard.
  • Find and open the domain registration confirmation email from Google Apps. Look for email from "google-apps-do-not-reply". If you paid for the domain, but didn't get email from Google Apps, you have to go to Google Apps Help, and Google Apps Frequently Reported Issues, and have the domain reset. Be imaginative, and persistent, in searching for the email message.
  • Find, and click on, the link accompanying
    If you haven't already created an administrator account for your domain, click the following link:
  • Setup an administrator account, for Google Apps, for your domain.
  • Login to Google Apps with your administrator account.
  • You are now in Google Apps, and looking at the Google Apps dashboard. This is where you start, when recycling domain settings in Google Apps.
  • Find, and click on, the "domain names" link at the top of the dashboard, above "Service settings".
  • Find, and click on, "Advanced DNS settings".
    Sign in to godaddy to change your MX records, CNAME and other advanced DNS settings.
  • "Advanced DNS settings" has 4 key identity elements, and a URL.
    1. Sign-in name.
    2. Password.
    3. Customer service PIN.
    4. Customer service email.
    5. The URL to login to the GoDaddy (or eNom) DNS Settings wizard.
  • Once in the GoDaddy (eNom) wizard, it's the same as if you had purchased the domain on your own, except that you are a Google customer, and enjoy the Google GoDaddy (eNom) Custom Service relationship. Now, you can
  • Bookmark the Google Apps signon, for future use.



The "Advanced DNS settings" link is where you start. If that link isn't on your screen, you have a problem, and it's time to look for help from Google Apps.




"Advanced DNS settings" has 4 key identity elements, and a URL, to let you use the resources provided by the registrar.


  1. Sign-in name.
  2. Password.
  3. Customer service PIN.
  4. Customer service email.
  5. A URL to login to the GoDaddy DNS Settings wizard (if the domain is registered by GoDaddy), or the eNom DNS Settings wizard (if the domain is registered by eNom).

So, use "Advanced Settings" if you already have a working domain. If you don't already have a working domain, start with "Buy A Domain" and concentrate on making the domain easy for your readers to use. Don't waste time setting up the domain on your own.

If you can't find the email from Google Apps, or if you just bought the domain directly from a registrar and Google Apps wasn't involved, you're now here trying to setup your domain in Google Apps. If the domain was never setup in Google Apps, use the Google Apps Sign Up wizard.

If you just bought a popular domain, and that domain has been used by someone else previously, maybe it's already registered in Google Apps. When you go to setup your Google Apps account, you get
This domain has already been registered with Google Apps. Please contact your domain administrator for instructions on using Google Apps with this domain.

In the latter case, you have to go to Google Apps Help, and Google Apps Frequently Reported Issues, and have the domain reset. You'll need to use this procedure also, if you don't have email from Google Apps.

And, if you bought your domain using "Buy a domain" or Google Apps, and you have not yet setup your Google Apps account, please consider this as your wakeup call.

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Duplicate Blog? Delete The Duplicate, Carefully!

As Blogger makes it easier for us to use the Blogger wizards, occasionally we will do things that we don't need to do, simply by hitting one or two buttons that "didn't used to be there". Sometimes, we may even setup a new blog, without intentionally doing so.

So once you realise that you made a mistake, do you just go into Settings - Basic, and select "Delete This Blog"? Have you ever done that, and as you finger pushed down on the mouse button, looked at the settings and said to yourself
NO! Not that blog - the other one!
Too late. You just deleted your good blog.

Been there, done that.

And deleted blogs don't have a Recycle Bin (Trashcan for you Maccies).

Bet the second time, you'll do this with more care.
  1. Go to Settings - Basic, and change the blog description.
    This blog is being deleted.
  2. Look at the extra blog, and make sure that the description, in the header, says
    This blog is being deleted.
  3. Go back to Settings - Basic, and look at the description again.
    This blog is being deleted.
  4. Go to the bottom of that page, and hit "Delete This Blog".
That's a lot of work for nothing, isn't it? How much work might it eliminate? How quickly can you recover a mistakenly deleted blog?

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Diagnosing Problems With Custom Domains - Case Study #4

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 3rd post in this series, Diagnosing Problems With Custom Domains - Case Study #3, I showed a custom domain setup that was not only asymmetrical but incomplete. Here's a variation on that, where the primary domain isn't even defined in DNS.

Let's take a look at a fictional example "mydomain.com", setup using the "Advanced Settings" wizard.

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. 86400 IN SOA ns53.domaincontrol.com. dns.jomax.net. 2008032400 28800 7200 604800 86400


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 defined at all - using a "CNAME". You should be able to publish to the "www" alias, but the primary domain just won't exist.

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
Invalid Host
No DNS entry = "Invalid Host.

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 too is an incomplete result.

It's possible that proper DNS server configuration may transform an asymmetrical and incomplete scenario into an asymmetrical and complete one - that is - access to the blog through the primary domain URL.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Custom Domain Setups Terminating With bX- Codes

During this week, we've seen a number of reports that bloggers, when attempting to setup a custom domain, are observing a variety of bX- codes. Generally in the past, most problems with custom domain setups would report the well known monolithic error
Another blog is already hosted at this address.
or possibly an equally frustrating problem
404 Not Found
recently attractively repackaged as
Blog not found

Sorry, the blog you were looking for does not exist.
However, the name (your supposedly non existent blog) is available to register!


My suspicion is that, in an effort to diagnose the causes of the monolithic error messages, Blogger has added additional bX- codes into the custom domain code libraries. Maybe that's the actual reason for the addition of the request for details, with the bX- codes.

Maybe we'll eventually see a reduction in the number of custom domain setup problems in general, as Blogger identifies and resolves various weaknesses in the custom domain product. Or at least, a reduction in the number of problems that can't be solved by proper DNS setup.

In the meantime, if you're seeing a bX- code instead of your blog, and a custom domain is part of your life, you're welcome to report the code with details, and wait for a (silent) resolution. Or, you can try either or both of the workarounds - "Another blog ..." or possibly "404 Not Found". If you try either of the latter solutions, and you see any change, your comments here would be appreciated by a lot of bloggers and Bloggers.

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Details About bX- Code Circumstances Now Requested By Blogger Support

In an effort to reap benefits from the chronic bX- codes, Blogger Support now asks for the details, related to the circumstances. Just fill in the form, and enjoy the feeling that your pain is not being ignored.

This request for diagnostic details, plus the bX- Codes Glossary blog, should reduce the frustration level ever so slightly, when a bX- code is experienced. Maybe this effort is part of a increased focus on solving some of the ongoing problems, like the pervasive "Another blog ..." error, encountered periodically during custom domain setup.

In order for the form to be useful, we have to use it. As I've stated before, every report about a given problem, no matter how many times experienced, is significant. If you don't report your experience, it may not be resolved as quickly as it could be.

When you get a bX- code, take the time and add an entry to the form, with complete and precise detail about the problem. Like the False Positive Locked Blog, following procedure is the best choice, all around.

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