Saturday, March 28, 2009

Diagnosing Problems With Your Blog

In Information Technology ("computer" / "Internet") organisations with any size or complexity, one of the fastest growing groups in the organisation will be Change Management.

The job of Change Management is to coordinate all changes in the product that involve more than one component of the product. This is because any change that involves multiple components generally involves changes made by more than one person or group in the organisation.

Your blog is a complex structure, and frequently can be as complex as any moderate sized IT product (yes, really). You have an edge over many IT organisations, though - you own and control your blog (though you don't control the changes made by Blogger, which can contribute to your observed problems). You, personally, don't (probably don't) need a Change Management staff, but you could do well to use Change Management principles, when making changes to your blog. Having well documented changes can help you triage problems, and reliably state which problems are caused by you, or by Blogger.

Besides using change management before making changes, you can do structured analysis, when problems are detected.

Many different Blogger problems can be solved with this approach.
It's not a complicated approach, and can help you to avoid a lot of frustration.
  1. Does the blog have a third party accessory, or a tweaked Blogger template? If so, roll back to a standard Blogger template, before continuing.
  2. What change did I just make? Maybe just publish a post?
  3. Remove that change. If a post was just published, edit that post and save it as a draft.
  4. Did the problem go away? If so, figure out where you went wrong with that change.
  5. If the problem did not just go away, look at the previous change, then go back to Step 3.
  6. And so on.


That's a simple technique. With blogs, it can be approached based upon blog structure. Since blogs contain two separate but equally important sections of code - the blog template and the post template, you can frequently isolate a problem by separating the two in your diagnosis. Compare a view of the main page, with views of the individual posts.
  • If you see the problem in all views, the problem is likely in the sidebar, or the blog template.
  • If the problem is NOT visible in even one individual post view, the problem is, most likely, in the multiple individual posts where the problem is seen.
  • Note: In one extremely odd situation, the problem was in a post title, and became active when the post title appeared in the sidebar, in the Previous Posts list.


In a third alternative, you could setup a new blog (blogs are free), with a clean copy of the same template.

There are other, equally as obvious, and as useful, approaches too. Understanding blog structure is important. Here's one place where having the sidebar at the left, or at the right, side of the blog will make a difference. With the sidebar at the left of the blog, a problem in a single post will generally not affect sidebar display. Conversely, a problem in a single post can affect sidebar display, with the sidebar to the right side.

There are also general principles that should be noted. When you ask for advice, and are given some basic settings which you can start from, try those settings with an open mind. And unless otherwise instructed, leave those settings in place until you're told to change them again. Don't make the changes, see that they don't work, immediately change them on to something else, then post back in the forum
That didn't work. Does anybody else have any suggestions?
Some problems require multiple diagnostic steps, including more testing with the first set of changes in place.

For a more ordered approach to problems, you can even try a combination of affinity testing and differential testing.

You don't have to have a degree in Information Technology, or be a senior manager in a major software company, to produce a blog. Most blogs are produced by people of neither persuasion. But you can use principles and techniques known and respected by both, and be free to customise, and to write more content, because you spend less time in Blogger Help Forum Something Is Broken, yelling
Help me!


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5 comments:

Gwen said...

I removed all gadgets and sure enough, the problem disappeared. I will begin adding gadgets back in one at a time tomorrow. I'll post my results.

BTW: remember to warn others that the problem does not have to be triggered by recently added gadgets.

It has been several months since I added a new gadget.

This malicious code may have been lurking or wattaman figured out how to attack a gadget that has already been added to an iGoogle page.

Baby Laundry Boutique said...

Ok I may be blogger stupid, but I did the migration thing to the new blog.spot and posted my first blog. Which worked amazingly fast, but
it does not redirect from my blog. It says it will in 30 seconds, but does not. I have no third party or gadgets, just a blog on my website. Help please in simple terms would be great...

Chuck said...

I did the migration thing to the new blog.spot and posted my first blog. Which worked amazingly fast, but it does not redirect from my blog.

And here, I beg you to ask this in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, where we can diagnose the problem in a dialogue, and I can point you to the right details.

Ariel said...

Thanks for the info. Once I switched to a basic template the problem disappeared.

Lauren S. said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I had the "dropped sidebar" problem.

Turns out it was because of a post I'd recently published (from the Blogger mobile app). I saved it as a draft and then republished it and now my sidebar is back. Thank you!