Thursday, May 29, 2008

Blog*Spot Connectivity In The UK

A few bloggers in the UK, most using TalkTalk as their ISP, are reporting inability to access any Blog*Spot blogs.

For right now, please use a proxy server to access all Blog*Spot blogs.

>> (Update 5/29 13:30): It's possible that TalkTalk caused the problem, which was anticipated.
Over the course of the last 7 days, we have been upgrading our network across more than 100 exchanges nationwide in order to provide our customers with a better landline/broadband service. As a consequence, some of you may have experienced intermittent call quality & connectivity issues for which we apologise.


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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Custom Domain Publishing, And The 404 Error - Chronic Edition #2

A couple of weeks ago, I published Custom Domain Publishing, And The 404 Error - Chronic Edition. Since that time, I was able to contact Blogger Support more directly than through this blog, and I was able to pass on to them a few egregious cases which included the symptoms described in that post. Several of those cases, they were able to ultimately fix.

Many people were happy. Kudos, Blogger.

Until today that is; when 2 people, who were earlier using their blogs quite happily, reported to me, within the span of 1 hour, that their blogs were, now, displaying
Server Not Found
Error 404
Note, please, that the error, previously reported, was not identical.
Not Found
Error 404



Not Again!!



What does this mean? Only Blogger Support can say for sure.

If your custom domain published blog is now showing this new symptom, please let us know. Comments will be posted below.

Problem Log
DateDomainRemarks
5/14deliverancegothic.com-
mycup2yours.com
5/15fragrancediva.net
greateststorytold.com
5/19robjessica.com
5/23lloydclaycomb.com
yangor.com
5/29shriramamgroup.info
jetaaqld.org
gabrielcusac.com


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What Access Do You Have To Your Blog?

Occasionally, you see bloggers becoming confused about what access they have to their blog.
I can look at the Edit Posts menu, but there are no posts listed.
or
I can't access the Template Designer (edit the template, add users to the blog, ...).
These are bloggers who are confused over a blog where they are an Administrator, vs a blog where they are an Author.

Let's look at my dashboard, and at a pair of blogs which we see there.


Here's my dashboard. Among the many entries, you'll see one blog listed where I am an Author, and a second where I am an Administrator. Let's first look at a blog where I am an Author.


Let's look at "Edit Posts".

I'm an Author in this blog, and I haven't created any posts. There are plenty of posts in the blog, just none that I've created. I have no access to any posts that I haven't created.


Let's look at "Settings".

I'm an Author in this blog, so all of the Settings that I have are Email and Permissions.

The Email access gives you the ability to setup your own Mail-to-Blogger entry. The Permissions access lets people who have previously accepted Guest ("Author") membership in a blog to remove themselves, without having to contact the blog administrator.

Let's next look at a second blog, where I am an Administrator.


Let's look at "Edit Posts".

I'm an Administrator in this blog. Look at my Edit Posts menu.


Let's look at "Settings".

I'm an Administrator in this blog. Look at my Settings menu.


Let's look at "Design".

I'm an Administrator in this blog. I have a Design section (For a Classical blog, this would be "Template", but there would be lots less tabs under "Template".).



If you're not seeing either of the above, or you're seeing access as an Author, where you should be seeing Administrator, you lost access to your account or your blog.Unfortunately, these problems may be your responsibility to resolve, as you alone have the responsibility for retaining access to your blog, and for your own connectivity to the Internet.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Blogger Issuing Diagnostic Codes

In the not so distant past, and not nearly rarely enough, you might be updating, or possibly viewing, your blog, and you'd see a monolithic error message that frequently made many bloggers want to tear their hair out by the roots.
We apologize for the inconvenience, but we are unable to process your request at this time. Our engineers have been notified of this problem and will work to resolve it.
If you've been blogging for any past amount of time, I'm sure that you remember seeing that, more than once.

On January 17, 2007, all of that ended. Blogger replaced that single and incredibly annoying message with an almost infinitely large series of error codes. Very simple, that. Each possible failure point in the Blogger codebase was assigned a different bX- code, essentially replacing the old "We apologize for the inconvenience ..." message with individual failure point codes.

For all of their simplicity though, many bloggers don't seem to see the forest for the trees.
it's disheartening to see that the bx error code problems are still existing.
Many bloggers seem to associate some major significance to these codes. Some even compile a list of codes, as if listing enough codes will help them understand the secrets of the universe. Letting somebody "look at my code list" is of special social significance.

There is no special meaning to any code.

Long ago, people who worked with the major computer operating system in the universe (think "IBM" mainframe) would maintain a library of code manuals. A significant quantity of these manuals would be incredibly large glossaries of system termination codes. Each code would have a special significance, such as attempting to enter a date with an alphabetic character. Seeing a given code for a specific database entry, a database engineer would look up the code in the reference manual, then patch the record in error accordingly, and the problem would be solved.

The bX- codes have no similar significance. They are simply unique codes, which identify each individual point of abnormal termination. There's no secret glossary assigning the cause for any single code, just a pointer to the individual termination point in the Blogger codebase. When enough bloggers report a given code, a Blogger employee simply examines the termination point, and using the diagnostic information hopefully provided by the bloggers problem reports, makes a diagnosis of the problem cause.

In some cases, this will lead to solution of a given problem, and cessation of that bX- code from further observation. However, just as repairing an aged engine with a few new parts, this may fix an immediate symptom but other parts are sure to fail later. You will see one bX- code become popular for a while, then be replaced by others. This isn't a random scenario - it's natural.

Just because one bX- code stops being reported, and another (or a few more) different codes are now reported doesn't necessarily mean that Blogger fixed one problem, and caused another (or a few more). They may have just defined a few more termination points (with additional codes) in an effort to further isolate a problem. Updating your list with a few more codes doesn't mean you are doing anything to help.

Let Blogger maintain the bX- codes, and stop wasting everybody's time with claiming to know what some codes mean, and how to get a special key sequence that lets you bypass the error code screen.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

BlogSpot, And The 404 Error

For some time now, blogs published to a custom domain, and previously working, have been (apparently) randomly yielding a new monolithic error when being read.
Not Found
Error 404


Recently, owners of blogs supposedly not associated with custom domains have complained of this oddity also.



Why not at least
The blog you were looking for was not found.
or maybe even
Blog not found

Sorry, the blog you were looking for does not exist. However, the name xxxxxxx is available to register!



If your BlogSpot blog, not now and never previously part of a custom domain, is showing this symptom, please comment here with the blog name. If you're suffering from this idiosyncrasy, silence won't get the problem fixed.

>> (Update 5/28): Blogger Support has suggested a possible (distant) connection between template corruption and observation of this symptom.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00080

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00080

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Custom Domains - It's All About The Flexibility

Some bloggers tire of having a blog that's stuck with a BlogSpot URL, and decide to go with a Google Custom Domain. A few bloggers don't understand the concept - or maybe can't see the forest for the trees.
Will my blog be less secure, not on BlogSpot?
or
How will i edit my website? Can I still use blogger to edit my site or will i have to use DreamWeaver, Frontpage, or some other expensive tool?
or
Can I use labels, (have a private blog, a Layouts template, ...)?


A Google Custom Domain affects just one thing - how the blog is addressed - and this only in a positive manner, when you manage the new URL properly.
  • You setup a custom domain using the "Blogger dashboard Publishing" wizard. After you have a working custom domain, you maintain the blog using the same Blogger interface that you've been using all along - the Post Editor, and other Blogger wizards.
  • You gain a new address for the blog - one of your liking (as available), and not confined to "xxxxxxx.blogspot.com" - yet your old "xxxxxxx.blogspot.com" URL continues to work.
  • You can use a non-BlogSpot URL, yet the blog is published to a Google server, using dynamic HTML, and all of the shiny features of the Blogger Layouts template.


What a deal. A blog setup using the Blogger interface, and addressable as "xxxxxxx.blogspot.com" (to reach your current readers), yet also addressable as "mydomain.com" (to reach a wider section of the web). And all it has to cost is 10 USD / year, for domain registration and DNS hosting. It's the best of both worlds, really.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Blog Content Warning May Not Be Voluntary, In All Cases

The "Content Warning" advisory page, appearing ahead of blogs with questionable content, protects the casual blog surfer from viewing content which may be objectionable to some readers. It's presence on any given blog is supposedly the result of voluntary action by a blog owner, who can set "Adult Content?" to "Yes", at his / her discretion.

The presence of the advisory page, supposedly has slight effect upon prospective readers of the blog.
  • Prospective readers must read the notice, and decide whether they wish to view possibly gratuitous content, and that after they click through the notice.
  • The blog, when listed in a search hit list, will show the text of the content warning, in place of the blog description and post extract.


Recent claims by some readers make it appear that this setting may be, in some cases, not set voluntarily, and that it has additional consequences. The warning page also seems to interfere with the ownership verification process, in Google Webmaster Tools.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00079

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00079

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blogs And The Content Warning

For many years, using "Next Blog" for surfing through the Blogosphere has been a dodgy activity.

No matter when you surfed, you were sure to find something pretty nasty, and frequently hazardous to the health of your computer (and maybe to you).

In January 2008, that changed. Blogger started scanning blogs for undesirable content, and blocked many nasty blogs from being targeted by "Next Blog" surfing. Besides using automated blog scanning, they also provided a voluntary classification of our blogs.

FTP Publishing, With Attachments

Blogs published using FTP have always provided a challenge for Blogger Support, as well as for their owners. This week, the complaint level, in general, is a bit lower than immediately previous.

There is a current, new frustration many bloggers are dealing with, when publishing by FTP - publishing with attachments, such as photos and videos.
Your publishing is taking longer than expected.


One blogger has done some analysis of the symptoms, and has provided an (apparently necessarily) intricate workaround for the problem.
I have figured out that the current failure is *after* the images (& hopefully same for video) are uploaded. The files have been ftp-ed but the names of the files are never added to the blog entry for you.


Meanwhile, back at Google, I have word from the guys who make it all work
we're certain it's something on our end so we are working to fix it


So despite any authoritative forum updates by a Blogger Employee, the problem is known and is being diagnosed.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

403 Forbidden Woes Continue

During the weekend of May 10 - 11, 2008, many Blogger readers were having trouble viewing our blogs. Instead of seeing The Real Blogger Status (and various other blogs of greater and lesser importance), some unhappy folks were seeing a well known problem
403 Forbidden.
Pete Hopkins, the Google Man In The Know, described the cause of the problem - the side effect of a massive Denial Of Service attack against Google, as
Blogger is currently experiencing a high level of automated requests. In order to keep Blogger running smoothly for as many people as possible, we are blocking some IPs.
and continued with
Just because your IP is blocked does not mean that you or your network is making automated requests, you've just gotten caught up in the block.

We are working to remove the incorrect blocks as soon as possible.


Yet as of this evening, it appears that not everybody is back to normal.

It's possible that you, or your readers, who are affected by this problem will be able to get around it by using a proxy server. Though you won't be reading this, if you're affected by the problem. Sorry.

For additional insight into this problem, see Robertos Report: The 403 Block.

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00078

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00078

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Blogger Accounts, And Inadvertently Created Accounts

Occasionally, in Google Blogger Help, someone reports an odd problem.
I changed the email address on my account, and when I logged in again, it said that I had no blogs. Now, I can't manage my blogs. Help!
or
I have two blogs, but I can only see one in my dashboard! When I log onto the older one and click on the "dashboard" link, it takes me to my new blog.

More Granular Security For Your Blog

We see the occasional query
How do I have a single post, and only let my closest friends view it?
or
How do I keep people from commenting on some posts?
or even
How do I make a linklist / poll / whatever visible to a select few?
and the answer is - you can't.

If your blog is open to everybody, all portions of that blog are open to everybody. Unlike WordPress (which has a few limitations too, just not this one), you can't set permissions in just a portion of that blog.

But, you can make portions of another blog visible to a selected audience.

Blogs are free. Setup another, with the restrictions that you need. And another, and another.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Blogger, And Code On Your Computer

Frequently, when Blogger makes a change to their databases (and possibly to your blog), it will require changes to the code that gets run from your computer (or your readers computers). Some of the code run from your computer is in the cache on your computer (and likewise on your readers computers). And remember that the content of the cookies on your computer may affect how the code is used.

If a change that Blogger makes includes both a change to the Blogger database, and to the Blogger code run from your computer, the code cached on your computer will be out of date, and may cause problems.

Maybe the Blogger code on your computer (cached yesterday) is processing your Blogger blog, which includes a new option (added today). The code sees the new option, and not knowing what else to do, ends its progress with a bX- code. That's your computer (running the Blogger code) saying
Hey! What should I do now?


So when you have a problem, like maybe seeing a new bX- code, and Blogger has just made a database change, sometimes they will suggest that you clear both cache and cookies, and restart the browser. That's not Blogger making you jump through hoops, that's them asking you to help them to help you. And there's no "secret key sequence" that let's you "bypass the error code screen", as some trolls try to tell you.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Custom Domain Publishing, And The 404 Error - Chronic Edition

On the surface, the old "404 Not Found" would be one problem - simply your computer saying "Hey! I can't access the other computer!". Those of us who work in computer and network troubleshooting know that there are dozens of possible causes for that one symptom.

We know, for a certainty, that if we persist in believing that there is one problem causing all of the "404 Not Found" errors, that one problem will never be solved. This symptom will be solved only with detail and determination, and lots of diagnostic work.

>> (Update: 5/18): Blogger Support is now suspecting a link between use of Google Apps, and the 404. If you are having this problem, please help us diagnose the problem. Describe your use of the following Blogger / Google applications / wizards, with any possible details (relevant dates would be useful), in setting up or maintaining your domain:

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00077

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00077

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Blog Posts Star Ratings

A new feature just previously introduced to Draft Blogger, the Blog Posts Star Ratings, which lets your readers rate each post, appears to have been released into Normal Blogger.

Not everybody seems thrilled by the new feature, and interestingly, not everybody has it outside of a Blogger In Draft setup. It was apparently released to a portion of the Blogosphere today. If you have this new item on your blog, and wish to remove it, it's a post template item, and you can de select it from the Blog Posts widget in Page Elements.

Then, and need I say this for every template related issue, clear cache in your browser.

Presumably, Blogger will reverse the change tonight, and by tomorrow it will again be available only in Blogger In Draft.

>> (Update 5/8): This feature is now, as before, available only from Blogger In Draft.

>> (Update 18:00): Blogger has acknowledged the mistake, in Google Blogger Help: How Do I?: Star Ratings: Blogger Goofed!
So we goofed up a bit and accidentally enabled an experimental feature that was supposed to remain only on Blogger in Draft :P


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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Custom Domain Publishing, And The 404 Error - May 2008 Edition

The problem of blogs, published to a custom domain, suddenly returning a "404 Not Found" when access is attempted, has been chronic since November 2007. Almost daily, we'd see reports of 2 or 3 such problems.

This evening, we saw 4 reports in a space of 1/2 hour. And we continue to see more.

The good news is, so far the reported cases all respond favourably to having the blog published back to BlogSpot, then republished to the "www" alias, using "Advanced Settings". In some cases, the victims have reported success after repeating the republishing cycle.

>> (Update: 5/18): Blogger Support is now suspecting a link between use of Google Apps, and the 404. If you are having this problem, please help us diagnose the problem. Describe your use of the following Blogger / Google applications / wizards, with any possible details (relevant dates would be useful), in setting up or maintaining your domain:

>> Forum thread links: bX-*00076

>> Copy this tag: bX-*00076

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Google Webmaster Tools

As a Google customer, we have access to a very useful set of tools, which help us develop and maintain a healthy relationship between our blogs and the Google search engine spiders.

Google Webmaster Tools helps us develop a sitemap to initially make our blogs more visible to the Google search engines, it provides us with tools to measure our visibility, and it provides us with helpful hints on how to improve our visibility.

Vaguely similar to Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo provides Yahoo Site Explorer, which helps us optimise our relationship with the Yahoo search engine.

You can use Google Webmaster Tools for any active URL that you administer. If your blog is published to BlogSpot, you use the "xxxxxxx.blogspot.com" URL; if the blog is published to a custom domain, you use the primary URL for the domain.

Google Custom Domains - The Two Step Domain Referral

Google Custom Domains provide an elegantly simple, yet robust, ability for us to publish our blogs to a Google server, and still address them using a non-BlogSpot URL.

By publishing our blogs to a Google server, we can enjoy the versatility of the dynamic HTML used in a Layouts template. By addressing our blogs using a non-BlogSpot URL, we can enjoy the personal identity of having our own domain.

And with all of this, our BlogSpot addresses continue to work, letting people and processes like search engine spiders continue to find our blogs in BlogSpot. We enjoy having the group identity of BlogSpot, when convenient.

Friday, May 02, 2008

AOL vs BlogSpot

We have multiple reports in Google Blogger Help that AOL is now filtering incoming email on "*.blogspot.com". If someone tries to send the URL of your blog (or their blog), in an email to an AOL customer, that email will be rejected, and the sender gets a return similar to
PERM_FAILURE: Gmail tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. The error that the other server returned was:
554 554-: (HVU:B1)http://postmaster.info.aol.com/errors/554hvub1.html
554 TRANSACTION FAILED.

This is apparently a natural result of the perceived BlogSpot spam blog problem. My suspicion is that AOL will suffer more than Google, by doing this. Blogger blog owners may be caught in the middle, unfortunately.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Future Scheduled Posts Now a Thing Of The Present

Scheduling a post, to publish in the future, is not at all a difficult task. Before you hit the "Publish Post" button, simply select the "Post Options" link just above that button, and change the date and / or time to some time in the future. Then, hit the button.

If it takes effect, when you hit the button, instead of getting the
Your blog post published successfully!
screen, you'll see the "Edit Posts" menu, with your new post listed, but shown with the "scheduled" notation besides the date / time stamp.

After the indicated date / time, refresh the "Edit Posts" screen, and you'll see that the post is now published. Or refresh the front page of the blog, and the newest post, just published, should be at the top. With dynamic publishing of the blog, you (or another blog reader) will have to do something in the way of reading the blog, to trigger the publishing.

If you're like me, and like to publish posts with a far future date, to keep some posts at the top of the blog, just Publish the post once without changing the date. Then Edit the post, and change the date as you like. The future posting date only takes effect when you change the date on a new post; edit the post after publishing, and the future posting feature is bypassed.


Are you having a problem with scheduled posts? Which scenario applies in your case?
  1. Things that post immediately, when they shouldn't.
  2. Things that post later, when they should post immediately.
  3. Things that never post.
What time zones differences might apply, in your case?
  • Time zone where you live.
  • Time zone on your computer.
  • Time zone of the blog.
  • Is DST in effect?
And look very carefully, at how you typed the post date and time, and at several relevant settings on your blog and you computer. Did you type the date as "mm/dd/yy", or as "dd/mm/yy", for instance?

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