Thursday, April 30, 2009

Email Forum Thread Updates To Me

As we work on various issues in Blogger Help Group, we discuss various issues with many different bloggers, with many bloggers operating on different schedules than we do.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Firefox and NoScript, and Clickjack Alerts

Surfing the web, with all of the potential dangers in surfing to any web site known and unknown, is an adventure. Some of us use Firefox with NoScript, which improves the odds in our favour ever so slightly, and helps us to enjoy the adventure. NoScript epitomises the Unix security principle "Deny by default, Permit by exception", and explicitly requires you to designate each newly surfed web site as trusted. If you're a Firefox / NoScript user, you may have recently noted a new feature in NoScript - "Clickjack Alerts" - which accentuates the adventure occasionally.

Some folks may have even seen a Clickjack Alert pop up when logging in to Blogger. Obviously, this doesn't provide us with a feeling of ease as we login. So, the question
Should I keep the "lock item" box checked, as NoScript recommends?
is to be expected.

I think the decision to leave locked, or to unlock, any script that we use often should be made on two bases.
  • Convenience.
  • Security.


Obviously, unlocking any frequently used script, such as the Blogger login, is better convenience. If you trust any often used script, you'll want to unlock it, or end up verifying each time you use it. As long as there's no chance that you're being lured to an imposter web site (which leaves very little chance that you'll be logging in to Blogger), unlock the scripts that you run repeatedly, such as the Blogger login.

Unlocking any frequently used script is better security too. If you leave any frequently used script locked, you'll get used to clicking "Accept" over and over, routinely. One day, when you surf to a dodgy web site and are given the clickjack alert, you'll click "Accept" there too. If you intentionally enable trusted scripts, when you surf to a dodgy web site and get a clickjack alert, it will stand out in your mind and you'll be less likely to Accept a genuine clickjack exploit.

So unlocking frequently used scripts, even though NoScript may consider them potential clickjack exploits, is good for both convenience and security. If you trust the script, unlock it. And when you get a clickjack alert, don't accept it unless you explicitly know that the web site is trustable.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Blogger Is Not A Content Management System

Blogger is a one button blog / web site publishing system. It has no sophisticated Content Management capabilities.
  • It's limited to 100 blog members / readers, and the member list is maintained using the Permissions wizard.
  • It provides no activity log, showing maintenance or updates. This may present a challenge, in a team blog with multiple administrators.
  • It provides no archiving of multiple historical versions of a given post.
  • It provides no backup and restore capabilities, beyond the known manual processes.
  • It provides no ability to transfer ownership of multiple blogs between one account and another, besides one blog at a time.
  • It has no ability to allow multiple authors to work, simultaneously, on one post without the possibility of the work done by one overlaying another.
  • It provides no index or statistics of posts by author.
  • It has no capabilities for moving a post (and attached comments) from one blog member to another.
  • It has no granularity to restrict access to specific posts in a blog.
  • It provides no built in demographic analysis of blog readers.
  • It provides no forms entry, natively, though you can add a data collection form, using a third party web site, if you wish.
  • It includes a spell checker in the post editor, but it's light weight and not very configurable. The spell checker in Firefox and other browsers is more robust.
There are workaround for some of the weaknesses, but they are complicated, and may not work consistently.

It's possible that you can suggest some of the above improvements, if Blogger is currently accepting suggestions. But don't design your blog based upon the hope that any of these will be provided soon, unless you enjoy being disappointed.

If you want a content management system, you purchase a content management system. Blogger is a good place to start, to develop a web site, but if you need additional capabilities, such as the examples provided above, it may be time for you to move on.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

With Following, Bloggers Follow Blogs, Not People

I publish several blogs, each blog covering a different subject. Each blog has Followers, and the different Followers are interested in the different subjects of those blogs.

With Following, a blogger selects any given blog, Follows that blog, and gets a subscription to that blog, using the news feed reader of his / her choice. Besides choosing a news feed reader, the blogger has a choice of which blog to Follow. People interested in my blogging advice choose to Follow The Real Blogger Status (you are here). People interested in my recipes choose to Follow Chuck's Kitchen.

Some folks who find my blogs find them through blogging issues, others through recipes, and still others have found me through networking issues. Some folks interested in blogging later become interested in my recipes blog too. That's their business, because that's their interest.

Bloggers Follow what interests them. That's the bottom line. Provide material that interests them, and they will Follow.

And with that in mind, be careful when planning to rename a blog that has Followers.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Internet Explorer Version 8 Is Out

Blogger, being a web based platform, is very sensitive to changes and problems which originate in the browser - both your browser (as you produce your blog), and your readers browser (as he / she reads your blog). With any major change in any popular browser, comes yet another need for Blogger to recertify and update their code base.

This month, Microsoft released Internet Explorer Version 8. Like each newly released version of Internet Explorer, it's going to create new needs for the Blogger crew to update their code.

And it will create additional need for us to test more thoroughly - both a general test of our blog right now, and additional testing of any future changes - with IE V8, as well as with previous versions. And when you find a problem, diagnose it properly.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Blogger Is Not A Social Networking Platform

We've been discussing the status of the Profile View counter for several weeks now. Recently, we've been seeing queries in Blogger Help Group about the counter, that make it look like the blogs have equal or lesser status than the profile, to some bloggers.
My profile views are not updating. Can I add a SiteMeter counter to my blogger profile even if I don't own a blog?
and here we have to note that you can't add a SiteMeter, or any other visitor counter, to your profile, period. You add a counter to your blog. If you don't have a blog, you set one up.

With Social Networking platforms, like FaceBook, MySpace, and Orkut, you start with a profile, and add accessories like blogs to the profile. Your profile is what people view first, when they follow the link on your friends page. Your blog, if you have one, is an accessory to your profile.

Blogger isn't a social networking platform - it's a blogging platform. With Blogger, if you have a single Blogger blog, it links to your profile; if you have multiple Blogger blogs, they are connected through your profile. Your blog is what attracts your readers.

Why are you in Blogger blogs, if you don't have a blog? Blogs are free. Make one, using your choice of any available name. Add a counter, copying counter code into a new HTML / JavaScript gadget, to your new blog. And, welcome to Blogger blogging.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Making Your Blog's URL Available For Reuse

By now, everybody should be well aware that a BlogSpot URL that currently has a Blogger blog published to it will never be available for re issue, even with no publishing activity to that blog for the next century. Blogger has stated repeatedly that your blog is yours, forever. We also know that when a blog is deleted, the URL that it's published to is locked to that blog, for eternity, to prevent a hijack of the URL by sploggers.

So what if you have a URL, and you want to make it available to someone else? If there's a specific person that you want to have the URL, you turn the blog into a stub, then you transfer the blog. If you want to make the blog available to the blogosphere in general, you simply recycle the name and make it available to the public.
  1. Edit each post, and replace contents of each with the caption "Post Deleted".
  2. Republish the blog.
  3. A month after completing Step #2, delete all posts. Publish one post, "Blog Deleted".
  4. Six months after completing Step #3, republish the blog under a 16 to 24 character garbage name, making this name available for some lucky blogger.
    • Make up a blog name that is unlikely to be in use now, or ever in the future. In this example, I'll use "zmxncbvalskdjfhgqpwoeiru".
    • Go to Settings - Publishing, and re publish the blog as "zmxncbvalskdjfhgqpwoeiru.blogspot.com".
    • Your having re published the blog as "zmxncbvalskdjfhgqpwoeiru.blogspot.com", the current name (presumably, of some value) is now available to the Blogosphere, in general. You are done with this exercise. The inhabitants of the Blogosphere thank you (should thank you) for your altruistic attitude.
    If the blog has no search engine reputation, and no content, just start with this step.
  5. Then, delete the made up name, such as "zmxncbvalskdjfhgqpwoeiru". That blog will stay on your dashboard for 90 days, to give you a chance to change your mind.


If you want to make the URL available for re issue to the public in general, you have only to re publish your blog to another URL. If you intentionally re publish your blog to a different URL, the first URL becomes available to the public. So, if you have a popular URL allocated to your blog, you tire of the noteriety attached to the URL, and you wish to let others take the responsibility, just re publish your blog to a new URL. And the responsibility is removed from your shoulders.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Complexity Of A Custom Domain DNS Setup

I read this frequently in the Blogger Help Group forums
All that I read about redirecting the custom domain seems backwards - from my BlogSpot address to a personal URL. That's too complicated, I can't do that!

Is it possible to just redirect traffic from my personal URL to Blogspot?
and some helpers come back with
Yeah, it's so much simpler. Why should you do it any differently?
and they are right, it is far simpler to just redirect the custom domain URL to the BlogSpot URL. But it won't get you the same results.

A standard custom domain is comparatively complex.
  • Setup an "A" / "CNAME" referral, from the domain to Google.
  • Publish the blog to the domain URL.
    • Setup a "301 Moved Permanently" redirect, from the BlogSpot URL to the domain URL.
    • Re publish the blog to the domain URL.
    • Setup a Google redirect, from the Google server to the blog, published to the domain.


Look how simple it is to just redirect the domain URL to the BlogSpot URL.
  • Setup forwarding, from the domain to BlogSpot.
  • You're done.
  • Get to work publicising your new non BlogSpot URL! And look at all of the time that you saved, compared to the needless formalities described above!


But wait, there's more (more frustration, really). Look at what happens when you forward the domain to the BlogSpot URL.
  • If you redirect the domain URL to the BlogSpot URL using a "301 Moved Permanently", your readers and the search engines see the domain URL replaced by the BlogSpot URL. Where's your shiny new non BlogSpot URL? The domain URL will work, but after the blog is loaded, all that anybody sees is the BlogSpot URL. All that work, and the BlogSpot URL is still the primary address for the blog. And the search engines continue to index the BlogSpot URL.
  • If you redirect the domain URL to the BlogSpot URL using a "302 Moved Temporarily", your readers and the search engines see the domain URL (when the domain URL is used to address the blog), and the BlogSpot URL (when the BlogSpot URL is used to address the blog).
    • The search engines see two addresses for the same content, and levy a penalty for duplicated content against both the BlogSpot and domain URLs.
    • Your blog and domain search reputations go into the toilet.
    • Your readers (those that you get) see different URLs, and become schizophrenic.
    • The only ones gaining here are your competition.
  • If you redirect the domain URL to the BlogSpot URL using frame based forwarding, your readers see the content of the BlogSpot blog when accessing an (externally hosted) web site using the domain URL. The search engines indexing the domain URL see a frame, and that's it. Search engines can't index the contents of a frame. Your blog gets no juice from the domain content, it continues to be seen and indexed by the BlogSpot URL, and again it's as if you never had a domain. And your readers will likely soon see an "off site redirect" interstitial warning.


So yes, redirecting the domain to the BlogSpot URL is very simple, but you accomplish less. Redirect the BlogSpot URL to the domain URL, and you accomplish more.
  • A blog with the domain URL as the primary address.
  • A blog with the BlogSpot URL as a secondary address, and the juice from the BlogSpot URL to boost the domain search reputation.
  • A blog with the BlogSpot address permanently redirected to the domain URL, so your readers and the search engines see one URL - the domain URL.
Complicated setup, simple results.
  • You can use either the BlogSpot, or the domain, URL, to access your blog.
  • Your readers see the blog using the domain URL.
  • The search engines see the blog using the domain URL.
  • The search engines pick up the reputation of the BlogSpot URL, when they index the domain URL.
Guessing that you intend to keep your custom domain for months - if not years - why not do it right the first time? Spend a few extra hours reading, a couple extra hours setting up the domain - then get back to work publishing your blog.

Compared to the hours that you spend publishing and updating your blog, maybe the extra hours setting the domain up properly are not really so huge. Especially if you consider the difference in results.

>> Top

The Profile Views Counter Is Frozen

A couple weeks ago, I reported an increasingly common complaint among bloggers
My profile view counter is stuck. It's been stuck for some time now. When is Blogger going to fix this?
and recently, my standard reply, which I copy and paste into my post, became
It's not broken, it's frozen. Blogger made a performance related compromise, and now provides "estimated" hit counts. Get a real visitor counter (free) and install it on your blog(s). You'll get more accurate and detailed information.


Unfortunately, that reply fails to satisfy all bloggers complaining about the frozen counter. Maybe, that's because they don't understand the issues.

One blogger even gave a business case for using the actual profile view counter
I have Statcounter, and I DO understand that the profile counter is just how often someone looks at my profile. That's precisely what interests me: whether someone cares a bit more for the blog that they'll spend another second looking up my profile.
So, let's see how SiteMeter and / or StatCounter can be used to meter profile views.


SiteMeter has its "recent visitors" - "By Out Clicks" page. It didn't take too much looking, to find a profile view.


View my complete profile
http://www.blogger.com/profile/08069634565746003311


ISP Comcast Cable
State : Illinois
City : Markham



There's the Techo-Nerd. LOL.


One profile view, right there. Using the Profile View Counter, we would have simply seen a counter increment of "1'. No more.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

FTP Publishing - April 2009 #3

This morning, we note that Blogger has added 2 new servers in their FTP Publishing array.
If you are using Blogger to publish to your own website and your host blocks by IP, you will need to allow through the IPs of the new Blogger publishers. The IPs are:

74.125.66.132
74.125.112.132


Whether these 2 servers completely replace the previously documented array is unclear right now.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Indent Your Paragraphs

Personally, I don't care for indented paragraphs. I think that justifying all lines in my posts straight to the left margin makes for a cleaner look, in my posts. And, I separate each paragraph with hard line breaks, not "<p> ... </p>", which makes typing my posts faster - though that does complicate things a bit, by requiring that I use the "Convert line breaks" setting.

Not everybody agrees with my viewpoint, which is normal for the blogosphere. Some folks like indented paragraphs. And from them, we see the occasional query
I put blank spaces at the front of my paragraphs, and that looks fine in Preview mode. But the published blog shows no indents. Why?
And the immediate answer is
Preview mode, and the published blog, will always differ.


To properly indent your paragraphs, you first have to setup a CSS attribute for paragraph indentation, in the proper rule set. Look in the HTML for your blog.
.post p {
margin:0 0 .75em;
line-height:1.6em;
}

and add a "text-indent" attribute.
.post p {
margin:0 0 .75em;
line-height:1.6em;
text-indent:4em;
}

Next, if you are using "Edit HTML" mode, each paragraph has to be explicitly defined. If you don't explicitly define a paragraph, the paragraph rule set has no effect. Of course, if you explicitly define paragraphs, and you do not add the CSS attribute, your paragraphs won't be indented either.

<p>Next, if you are using "Edit HTML" mode, each paragraph has to be explicitly defined. If you don't explicitly define a paragraph, the rule setup above has no effect.. Of course, if you explicitly define paragraphs, and you do not add the CSS rule, your paragraphs won't be indented either.</p>


Note that if you are examining the code behind the above example, you'll note that I had to cheat a bit, since I do not normally indent my paragraphs.

Another way to create indented paragraphs is to enclose each logical paragraph in "<div style="text-indent:4em;"> ... "</div>" tags. This lets you type paragraphs using hard line breaks, as I mentioned above. Of course, explicitly defining paragraphs that way will get monotonous after a while.

<div style="text-indent:4em;">Another way to create indented paragraphs is to enclose each logical paragraph in "<div style="text-indent:12px;">" ... "</div>" tags. This lets you type paragraphs using hard line breaks, as I mentioned above. Of course, explicitly defining paragraphs that way will get monotonous after a while.</div>


If you like, you can indent a negative amount. This will create a hanging indent effect. To see this effectively, we will have to insert a bit of "Lorem Ipsum" content, courtesy of WikiPedia. Sed ut perspiciatis, unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam eaque ipsa, quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt, explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem, quia voluptas sit, aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos, qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt, neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum, quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci[ng] velit, sed quia non numquam [do] eius modi tempora inci[di]dunt, ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit, qui in ea voluptate velit esse, quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum, qui dolorem eum fugiat, quo voluptas nulla pariatur? Do you see the extra attribute "padding-left:4em;"? You need that, to keep the first line from simply being chopped off at the left.


<div style="text-indent:-4em; padding-left:4em;">If you like, you can indent a negative amount. This will create a hanging indent effect. To see this effectively, we will have to insert a bit of "Lorem Ipsum" content, courtesy of WikiPedia. Sed ut perspiciatis, unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam eaque ipsa, quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt, explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem, quia voluptas sit, aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos, qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt, neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum, quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci[ng] velit, sed quia non numquam [do] eius modi tempora inci[di]dunt, ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit, qui in ea voluptate velit esse, quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum, qui dolorem eum fugiat, quo voluptas nulla pariatur? Do you see the extra attribute "padding-left:4em;"? You need that, to keep the first line from simply being chopped off at the left.</div>


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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Blogger Blogs and the Widgeo Counter

We're seeing a few reports this weekend about blogs freezing when loading, with the mysterious address "http://0.0.0.0/" (and the precise text in this address varies from report to report), showing in the browser status bar.

Some bloggers have discovered that this is caused by the presence of the Widgeo counter being installed. Remove Widgeo, and the problem goes away. Find another visitor counter, that's more reliable.

If you're seeing this mysterious symptom in your blog, and Widgeo is not involved, diagnose your recent changes. Then, let us know what you diagnosed as the cause, in your case. Practice peer support.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

The Blogger WishList Is No More

Blogger, for all of their imagination and wisdom (and collectively, they have a lot of both) can never hope to keep up with the collective and individual desire and imagination of all of their customers (aka "bloggers"). Nor should they hope to do so. The strength of Blogger / Google lies in their vast customer base, which is practically infinite in diversity.

One of the key screens in the Blogger Help database has always (in my mind) been the Blogger WishList form. Until this week, anyway. Yesterday, I was somewhat dismayed to learn that the Blogger Wishlist form is no more. In its place, a list of tips, with one suggestion
Have a great idea or suggestion? Let us know! We enthusiastically read and tally all your suggestions.
and the link "Let us know!" leads straight to the Blogger Help Group.





So now, we are to hope that Blogger Support regularly reads through the Blogger Help Group, looking for suggestions. Some bloggers are using the Blogger Help Survey form, as a substitute wishlist form.

(Update 5/5): The WishList is now temporarily alive as a new AppSpot forum.

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Problems With Blogger Commenting, With Formatted Text

Several bloggers have reported problems with Blogger blogs, and comments with formatted text, like bold type, or italic type, and / or embedded links. It's not easy to describe, maybe seeing the problem will be easier.

And voila, there we see the problem. Here's what I typed, and formatted.
Here is a line of italicised text, followed by 2 hard line breaks.

Here is normal text, and an embedded link, followed by 2 hard line breaks.

Here is a line of bold text, followed by 2 hard line breaks.

Here is more normal text.


You can see, below, what actually displays.

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FTP Publishing - April 2009 #2

Yesterday, we noted the return of the well known FTP Publishing symptom
Publishing your blog is taking longer than expected. To continue waiting for it to finish, click here.


Today, and based upon observed threads in Blogger Help Group, and comments to the earlier post, it appears that the problem was not fixed, for all bloggers.

If you're experiencing a problem with publishing your blog, please provide details about your problem. And please, especially, when you report your problem, state whether you observed this problem yesterday also, and specifically state whether the symptoms of your problem are the same as reported yesterday. Nobody will be served by us reporting that yesterdays problem was not fixed, if your symptoms do not reflect the same problem as was fixed yesterday. If we have a new problem, that has to be diagnosed and treated as a new problem.

When making your problem report, as always, please provide details.
  • The blog BlogSpot URL (if applicable).
  • The blog domain URL.
  • The name of the server hosting company.
  • The Blogger FTP server setting value.
  • Important: Is this the same problem that you had, yesterday? Did you have any problem, yesterday?
  • Important: are you attempting to FTP posts with photos?


(Update 2009/5/1): Yet another occurrence of this symptom is being reported, heavily, in BHG.

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Private Blogs Have A Downside

The helpers in Blogger Help Group advise bloggers about a variety of problems
My archives are only visible below my posts. Help!
or
Internet Explorer won't load my blog - it aborts before the blog finishes.
or
I can't see all of the posts in my blog. Where did my posts go?


In a few cases, a helper may be able to view the blog, and offer a diagnosis, like
Remove this picture from your sidebar.
or
Remove this script that you just added.
or maybe
Your posts are in the published blog - is your problem maybe with the "Edit Posts" list?
and sometimes, can provide instant relief from unnecessary anxiety.

But these diagnoses generally come about after the blog is examined by the helpers. And you can't provide such assistance, when the blog can't be viewed.

With a private blog, we can only offer descriptions of the possible problems, and the blogger with access to the blog has to examine it and provide the diagnosis. This can make a one day task take a week, or longer, to be resolved.

This represents one, of several, disadvantages of private blogs.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

FTP Publishing - April 2009

This week, we are seeing the return of the well known FTP Publishing symptom
Publishing your blog is taking longer than expected. To continue waiting for it to finish, click here.


There are numerous threads in Blogger Help Group, including one rather long and multiposted thread in Publishing Trouble, "FTP Publishing not working.".

If you are suffering from this problem, please provide diagnostic information
  • The blog BlogSpot URL (if applicable).
  • The blog domain URL.
  • The name of the server hosting company.
  • The Blogger FTP server setting value.
as part of your problem report, in BHG: Publishing Trouble.


(Update 11:30): Blogger Support has fixed the problem
This has been fixed.


(Update 10:30): Blogger Support has acknowleged the problem
We're looking into this now and will post an update once we have more info.


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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Profile Improvement - "Show astrological signs" Checkbox

For months, we notice one odd forum topic, coming up, seemingly, every week.
I know that I can turn off the astrological references (by not including my date of birth) but I find it very irritating that it is the default for everyone here.
or
For those of us born between November 30 and December 17, the sun actually passes through Ophiuchus, and while much astrology doesn't acknowledge this fact, those of us born under the sign are acutely aware of the differences.
or
I was born on Nov. 22 1972, i.e. on the cusp - between two sun signs, so I would like for the astrological sign in my profile to show two sun signs.


For the latter two complaints, there's still no solution. You can't pick your astrological sign, it's a function of the birthday information. But now, you can at least disable yours from showing, even if you enter your birthday information.

And, if you're accustomed to seeing yours, and you're distraught that it's missing, now you know why.

That's a start, anyway.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Your Blogs And Your Blogger Accounts

Some bloggers are confused about the relationship between blogs and Blogger accounts, and think that you need a separate account for each blog. This leads to questions like
I have 2 blogs, and whenever I am logged in to one, I can't edit the other.
or
I can only see one blog at a time, in my dashboard.


In other scenarios, some bloggers accidentally create a new Blogger account, when they setup a new blog.

Fortunately, in both cases, it's no great task to simply transfer one of the blogs to the account that owns the other blog. Subject to the Blogger limit of 100 blogs / account, you may keep all of your blogs under one account, or under a dozen accounts, at your pleasure.

If having multiple blogs under one account makes you worry about mixing blogs that shouldn't be seen together, by their all having a common "About Us" / "Profile" gadget on the blogs, make a custom Profile gadget for the blogs that are sensitive to you.

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The Many Faces Of Google

Many bloggers are totally unaware of how many different domains make up the Blogger and Google address space.

Daily, we see passionate yet vague problem reports
  • My Followers gadget doesn't show any pictures.
  • The links in my Navbar don't do anything when you click on them.
  • I can't publish a post - the buttons don't work (aren't there in the toolbar).
  • The feed gadgets on my blog don't update.
Each of these complaints, phrased as they are, result in part from bloggers who don't understand how many addresses (domains) Blogger and Google use, in providing us the ability to publish and maintain our blogs, and in providing our readers with the ability to view and to enjoy our blogs.

Most of us are aware of the dual nature of Blogger / BlogSpot, hopefully when we setup and maintain security settings in our browser.
  • Blogger contains the code ("scripts") that lets us setup and maintain our blogs. We will have to trust Blogger, since it contains the code that lets us setup and maintain our blogs.
  • Blog*Spot contains the published versions of our blogs - when we don't publish to external URLs. We should not trust BlogSpot, to the same level as we trust Blogger, since it contains blogger modifiable code. There are similar Google domains, which we should trust only conditionally.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Custom Domain Published Blogs, And A Righteous Offsite Redirect Interstitial Warning

In January of this year, I noted that a number of externally published blogs, some externally hosted, others not, were subjected to an "Offsite Redirect" interstitial warning. For blogs published using FTP, to an external server, this is a righteous condition.

Even if blog content is produced from Blogger and published to an external server, and the content is monitored by Google and scrutinised for undesirable content (hacking, porn and / or spam), that does not guarantee that the content of an FTP published blog will all come from the Blogger server. Any server that you FTP content to, from Blogger, you can as easily FTP to from a non Blogger source, and can add non Blogger content. Some non Blogger content could possibly contain hacking, porn, and / or spam.

Spammers have used Blogger this way, in the past. Start with a BlogSpot URL, redirect it using external hosting, add spam directly to the external host. In that case, an "Offsite Content" interstitial warning is righteous.


This is righteous, for FTP published content. Not for custom domain published content.



Content produced by Blogger and published to a Google server, as a custom domain, should not be subject to the same mistrust, though. Custom domain content, on Google servers, can only be published using Blogger. No spam content can be added directly. And the Google content is scrutinised by Google, just as is BlogSpot content.

So, the above display should never apply to a custom domain published blog. Right?

Wrong.

Here's an (excerpted) HTTP trace.

Sending request:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: myblog.blogspot.com
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.9.0.8) Gecko/2009032609 Firefox/3.0.8
Connection: close

• Finding host IP address...
• Host IP address = 74.125.19.191
• Finding TCP protocol...
• Binding to local socket...
• Connecting to host...
• Sending request...
• Waiting for response...
Receiving Header:
HTTP/1.1·301·Moved·Permanently(CR)(LF)

<div·id="body"><div·id="main"><div·id="m2"><div·id="m3"><div·class="mainClm"><h1>You're·about·to·be·redirected</h1>(LF)
<p>The·blog·that·used·to·be·here·is·now·at··http://blog.mydomain.net/.(LF)
<br>(LF)
Do·you·wish·to·be·redirected?(LF)
<br><br>(LF)
<span·class="info">This·blog·is·not·hosted·by·Blogger·and·has·not·been·checked·for·spam,·viruses·and·other·forms·of·malware.


That's bogus. It's a custom domain published blog. We think.

So, we look at the DNS addresses.

blog.mydomain.net. 10800 IN A 74.208.62.112
www.blog.mydomain.net. 10800 IN A 74.208.62.112

perfora.net (74.208.62.112)
74.208.0.0 - 74.208.191.255
1&1 Internet Inc.

in some cases, a modified version of the above

blog.mydomain.net. 10800 IN A 74.208.62.112
www.blog.mydomain.net. 10800 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.


That is probably a custom domain published blog - the second example is one, anyway. My gut feel, based upon the questions asked in the BHG Something Is Broken forum, is that's a custom domain published blog. But Google doesn't go on gut feel - they look at the DNS destination. The Google script detects it as an offsite redirect attempt, and in this case, that's a righteous call.

The above case shows yet another spurious DNS address configuration.

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Setting Up A Gateway Blog

For various reasons, some bloggers want to have a BlogSpot URL that points directly to a web site not hosted by Google, with content not produced by Blogger. This is generically called a "gateway" blog. They explicitly want a BlogSpot URL, pointing to offsite content.

Many bloggers wanting to do this don't know how to do this, nor are they aware of the consequences of doing this.

To forward a BlogSpot URL properly, you need a server based DNS redirect - which you can't do in BlogSpot, since you don't have server based access. You could put a meta refresh into the blog header, and that might work, but depending upon how you do that, either the search engines will penalise your blogs for duplicate content, or the domain won't be visible to your readers. And some security minded folks have browsers explicitly configured to ignore meta refreshes.

If you do get a "301 Moved Permanently" working, your readers will be seeing an "Offsite Content" interstitial warning. Redirecting traffic offsite is what hackers and spammers try to do, in using a BlogSpot blog as a gateway to their splog farms. An interstitial warning will confuse your readers, and muck up the SERPs for the blog. Your readership, and your search engine reputation, will suffer.

So yes, it's possible to redirect a BlogSpot URL to a non Blogger / Google web site - but it may be a lot of work, and it won't give you good results. The only effective way to redirect BlogSpot traffic is with a custom domain, to Google hosted content. You can combine a Blogger blog with a non Blogger website, in a number of varying ways, using a Google custom domain.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

So Why Are Custom Domains Setup So Complicated?

Every week, at least one BHG forum thread, in which I provide advice about a custom domain setup, includes the question
Why are custom domains so complicated?
And the short answer is
They are not at all complicated; they are elegantly simple - when you understand their simplicity, and follow the instructions.

The long answer, which justifies the simplicity, is not so simple.

The Object Of The Custom Domain

The object of a custom domain is to have the blog content, produced and hosted by Blogger / Google, be accessible from 2 addresses.
  • The BlogSpot URL (old address).
  • The domain URL (new address).
For a good search engine reputation, and to help your readers, you want the domain URL to be the primary address for the blog. You want to publish the blog to the domain URL, and say to your readers
Hey, check out my blog, now at "www.mydomain.com".
Some readers can continue to access the blog at "myblog.blogspot.com", until they too learn to use "www.mydomain.com".

The Setup Process

The setup process is not too complicated, when you understand the simplicity.
  1. You start with a righteous DNS configuration.
  2. You publish the blog to the primary address.
  3. You redirect the secondary address to the primary address.
  4. You are done with the setup. Go tell your friends about your blog, now at "www.mydomain.com".


The Domain URL

When you publish the blog to a custom domain, the domain URL becomes the primary address for the blog.
  • The internal links in the blog mention the domain URL.
  • If you use Google Webmaster Tools, the domain URL is specified in the GWT entry for the blog.
  • You tell your readers to use the domain URL, when they browse or link to your blog.
  • The search engines index the blog, using the domain URL. The internal blog links, the GWT entries, your readers activities, and the current Blog*Spot URL value, aggregated, all contribute to the search engine reputation for the domain.
  • The domain URL, using a "CNAME" referral, points to "ghs.google.com", and to the hosted blog.


The BlogSpot URL

When you publish to a custom domain, the BlogSpot URL becomes a secondary address for the blog.
  • The BlogSpot URL is setup with a "301 Moved Permanently", redirecting to the domain URL.
  • The search engines know that the blog at "myblog.blogspot.com" has now moved to "www.mydomain.com".
  • The search engine reputation for "myblog.blogspot.com" provides the initial juice for "www.mydomain.com".


"ghs.google.com"

The domain URL is redirected to the Google server "ghs.google.com", which provides the IP address of the Blogger published blog, in the custom domain DNS server array. The server "ghs.google.com" is a large load balancing proxy, which uses DNS to distribute the load, from serving millions of blogs, over the thousands of servers in Google. You publish the blog to "www.mydomain.com", which sets up an entry in "ghs.google.com", pointing to the server that will serve the blog.

The Referral Process

You use a "CNAME" referral to point the "www" alias of the domain to Google. If your registrar permits, and your needs allow, you may do the same for the domain root, aka "naked domain". This gives you a "symmetrical DNS configuration", and allows you to publish to the domain root or to the "www" alias, as you wish.

If your registrar, or your personal needs, won't permit a "CNAME" referral for the domain root, you redirect the domain root through the 4 Google Apps servers, giving your domain the flexibility provided by Google Apps. This gives you an "asymmetrical DNS configuration". The 4 servers are not part of the "ghs.google.com" array, and they are addressed by IP address. Blogger will prevent you from publishing to the domain root, in this case, giving
Blogs may not be hosted at naked domains.

With an asymmetrical configuration, you can only publish the blog to the "www" alias.

Either a Symmetrical, or ASymmetrical, DNS referral is the righteous way to publish your custom domain blog.

DNS

The public DNS infrastructure is used for custom domains, because custom domains are designed to be integrated with other Google, and non Google, domain services. You can make a custom domain published blog part of a domain that includes a WordPress blog, a TypePad blog, and any non blog web sites of your choice. Just choose the right registrar for your domain.

Complications

All of this is reasonably simple to do, if you follow the instructions. What complicates matters is people who don't follow instructions, and try to do it their own way. Or, they are told by their DNS host
We don't support that redirect method, but this alternative will work just as well.


Another complication is the latency involved in setting up a new domain, which has to be replicated to every DNS server all over the world. If your custom domain becomes active before the DNS server used by your reader is updated with the domain information, he sees the well known
Server Not Found

Error 404
In other cases, the Google domain database may become corrupt, giving the well known
Another blog is already hosted at this address.


This is why we have a "Transition Period" for every newly setup custom domain, purchased through the "Buy A Domain For Your Blog" wizard. If you purchased your domain directly from a registrar, and the domain is mature, it's already replicated through the DNS infrastructure, so this isn't a concern. If you just purchased your domain directly from a registrar, you are expected to heed the advice provided to you
Please wait 24 to 48 hours before using the domain.
Ignoring the latter advice, and trying to publish your blog too soon, may be another cause for the well known
Another blog is already hosted at this address.


Follow the above guidelines, and generally (though unfortunately, not always) you'll have a blog with a non BlogSpot URL, with content hosted by Google. And eventually, the search engines will index the blog under the domain URL, and your domain will have the reputation previously enjoyed by the BlogSpot URL, but with the additional reputation that is legendarily part of a non BlogSpot URL.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

What Are The Fantom Followers In Your Followers Gadget?

When you Follow a blog, you add the feed from that blog to your Google Reader account, which is linked to your dashboard and Blogger account, and you add a link and an icon, from your account to the Followers gadget on the blog. That's simple enough, if you are logged in.

Since Following doesn't require you to actually login now, it has no way of retrieving a name or picture. If you are not logged in to Blogger, you can just hit the "Follow" button now, and it will setup the Following for you. You login later, or never, as you wish.

You end up with a shadow icon, plus a fantom Followers name, a couple dozen random letters and numbers. When you do login, it would pull up the fantom names / blogs that you have setup, and let you associate any that you wish with that account. You can change the name to anything that you like, after you connect the fantom name to an actual Google account.

Some people may never bother to login and connect their Followed blogs with their accounts. This causes the blog owners to become confused, or concerned.
The other day I acquired a new Follower. It had a shadow picture and had listed that it had joined my blog, but did not list a blog of its own. It had a long random string of letters and numbers as an ID. I blocked it, as it looked like spam to me.
Apparently, it's not a hacker, or a spammer, just a Follower who hasn't bothered to login just yet. Just Manage Followers, select "Show blocked Followers", and unblock the fantoms. You'll still have the occasional spammers, just not the fantom Followers, to block.

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The Profile Views Counter Is Not Updating

Not all bloggers, who monitor blog activity, want the trouble of installing a visitor counter. Some folks rely upon the "Profile Views" counter in the Blogger account profile.

This week, many anxious bloggers report that their counters are not operating.
My blog Profile View counter is BROKEN and has been stuck for at least 5 days if not more - I have Statcounter and I know that it is way off!


(Update 4/10 14:00): Blogger has provided an update
Basically, having completely accurate counts caused a lot of problems for profile pages that experienced high traffic - at several times in the past few months this has led to difficulties and slowness for the entire service. These problems were amplified even more by a number of users who abused the count by running automated scripts trying to bump up their counts.

Because of this, we've switched to using an estimated count of profile views; while it's less accurate we believe that keeping the service running and responsive has to be our first priority.


You may do better by using an actual visitor counter in your blogs. You can view outclicks from each blog in the counter logs, which will include clicks to your profile, if this information is important to you.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

What is "javascript:void(0)"?

Do you see the Followers gadget in the sidebar here?

See the "Sign in" link at the top of the gadget (if you're not signed in to Following), or the "Invite your friends" link at the bottom of the gadget (if you are signed in to Following)? Move your mouse over either link, and watch the browser status bar (generally, the lower left of the browser window border).

When you move the mouse pointer over a normal link, you should see the URL of the link. In this case, you see
javascript:void(0);

A lot of blog owners don't understand the reason for this, and think that the blog is broken, or maybe hacked.
I can't publish any posts on my blog, or moderate any comments. At the bottom of the page I get an "Errors on page" message, and if I hover over certain areas of my dashboard, I get the "javascript:void(0);" message.