Thursday, July 23, 2009

Missing Followers

This week, we're seeing a large number of reports of missing Followers, and / or the Followers gadget not showing up on various blogs. The reports don't include a lot of detail, though. Very few reports include even the blog URL.


(Update 2011/05/28): Right now, we're all seeing the latest intermittent Followers gadget outage.

Blogger Support is aware of this problem, so be patient.

If you are one of the folks observing this problem, please provide some diagnostic details to the Blogger Missing Followers Reports form.

You may, alternatively, provide diagnostic details here.
  • What is the URL of the blog with the observed problem?
  • Is the blog missing the Followers gadget altogether, or does the gadget show there, with no Followers? If the latter, is the Followers count zero, or non zero?
  • Is the blog in question your blog?
  • If this is your blog, can you look on your dashboard, follow the Followers link for the blog, and see if the dashboard Followers gadget has missing Followers too?
  • Can you check your Reading List - do you have Followed blogs there, and if so, are the feeds up to date?
  • Try setting up, and using, a different Blogger account from this computer. Try using a different computer, with this account. Does the problem continue?
  • What browser (name and version please), and what operating system, do you use?
  • Please look at my blog - do you see my Followers?
  • Where are you located, and what ISP provides your service?
  • Any other problems with the template, such as the comment form not working?
  • Have you also installed "Recent Comments" or "Recent Posts" gadgets? If so, when?


(Update 7/26): From examining the comments below, and the details provided in the forum posts, several trends are seen.
  • The problem seems to be evenly spread across locations, ISPs, and Internet service type.
  • The problem seems to be more common with Internet Explorer. For IE V8, use of "Compatibility mode" (Firefox) appears to be a useful workaround.
  • The problem seems to be concentrated around clients, not blogs. People reporting the problem report observing it in multiple blogs, and other people do not see the problem in the blogs reported.



While answering the above questions, you might also want to consider what security programs and settings you have on your computer, and how you are logged in to Following / Friend Connect, when you observe these problems.


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Help! I Can't Find My Blog!

Ever since people began blogging, they have been crying that they cannot find their blog. Sometimes, they have a network problem, or a deleted blog. Other times, and as a relatively recent development, it's because of the way that they use their browser.

Look at the top of your browser window. Besides the toolbar (where you have your buttons to go forward / backward, go home, reload, etc), and the bookmarks / favorites, you probably have one or two boxes where you type stuff. Depending upon your browser, the boxes may or may not be labeled. And depending upon which box you use to find your blog - or other blogs or web sites - you may or may not find what you are looking for.

When browsers were first developed, every browser had one, and only one, such type in box, called the "address" or "URL" entry box. That's where you type the address (URL) of the blog or web site which you wish to access.

Some time after the development of browsers came the search engines. Search engines are dynamic catalogues, of all web sites, indexed by content. If you wanted a list of all web sites about a given subject, you'd go to the web site of the search engine of your choice, for instance the Google search engine, and type what you wanted to find.

Since many people would use search engines to find web sites, some browsers were later changed, and a search type in box was added. Look at your browser - you may see two type in boxes. One is for addresses, and the other is for searches. The Firefox browser offers multiple search engines that you can use, directly from the browser window.


See the two type in boxes? Yours, if your browser has them, may be in different locations, and may be labeled differently.



Having the search engines directly accessible, from the browser, is a convenience - and it's a challenge. If you type the URL of your blog into the browser address box, and your blog is online, you'll get your blog displayed by the browser. If you type the URL of your blog into the search box, you may or may not get your blog displayed by the browser. If you confuse the address and the search type in boxes, you'll get different results.

If you type the URL of your target web site into the search box, you'll get a list of web sites, also known as a Search Engine Result Page (aka SERP). If your target web site is indexed by the search engine - and has reputation, your target web site, such as your blog, may be in the list.


This blog is indexed by Google. Your blog may be, or it may not be, indexed.



If your blog is not indexed by the search engine that's used by the search box, you'll get a list of other web sites, without your blog. And then, you will be exclaiming
Help! I Can't Find My Blog!


If you have a new blog, and you haven't spent a lot of time getting your new blog indexed, you - and your readers - need to use the address box, when accessing your blog. If you try to use the search box to access your blog, you may be wasting your time.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Distorted / Unusable Post Editor Toolbar

As a possible repeat of an episode a couple years ago, numerous bloggers who appear to be customers of Singnet, or possibly of other ISPs in the Singapore region, report that the toolbar area in the post editor is distorted or out of shape, and the buttons don't work.

Yesterday, Blogger acknowledged the problem.

Occasionally, what is being observed is the toolbar in "Edit HTML" mode, and the problem is resolved by enabling Compose mode. In other cases, the problem may be resolved by bypassing or refreshing browser cache.

A few victims of this problem, who are direct customers of Singnet / Singtel, may be able to use the regional Singnet proxy "proxy.singnet.com.sg", as was done 2 years ago. This seems to be a more stable solution than the typical free Internet proxy server, which many use for anonymous or secure access, or to bypass local network controls.

  • For Firefox:

    • From the menu, select Tools, then Options.

    • Click on the "Advanced" tab.

    • Click on the "Network" tab.

    • Under "Connection", hit "Settings".

    • Select "Manual proxy configuration".

    • For HTTP proxy, enter "proxy.singnet.com.sg".

    • For "Port", enter "8080".

    • Click on the "OK" button 2 times.


  • For Internet Explorer:

    • From the menu, select Tools, then Internet Options.

    • Click on the "Connections" tab.

    • If your computer is on a LAN, hit the "LAN Settings" button.

      • Under Proxy Server, select "Use a proxy server ...".

      • Click on the "Advanced" button.

      • For HTTP, enter "proxy.singnet.com.sg" for Proxy address, and "8080" for Port.

      • Click on the "OK" button 3 times.


    • If your computer uses dialup, select your setting name in the "Dial-up and Virtual Private Network settings" box, and hit "Settings".

      • Under Proxy Server, select "Use a proxy server ...".

      • Click on the "Advanced" button.

      • For HTTP, enter "proxy.singnet.com.sg" for Proxy address, and "8080" for Port.

      • Click on the "OK" button 3 times.




If you are one of the folks affected by this problem, please provide some diagnostic details:
  • What is the URL of the blog with the observed problem?
  • Where are you located, and what ISP provides your service?
  • What browser (name and version please), and what operating system, do you use?


If you like proceeding on your own, learn to diagnose your problems.

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Custom Domains - What Are The Benefits?

In every game of poker, there comes the time to call ("show the cards"). So today, we see a question, which I've seen a few times, reechoed recently
I am planning to switch my Blogger blog to a custom domain. But before doing that I would like to know all the benefits and drawbacks of switching to a custom domain name.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

FTP Publishing and the Blog Feed

This blog is The Real Blogger Status, and it's published as "blogging.nitecruzr.net". You are looking at the blog itself. What you see is a lot easier for you to digest, than for computers to do so. There's another copy of your blog, though, that's designed for computers to digest, so the information can be passed to other places, maybe as part of another web site or blog, or to a reader who is subscribed to your blog, using a newsreader. The other copy is called the blog feed.

Before we got Layouts Blogger, in 2006, we had pre 2006 Blogger. The first blog feeds, provided as part of pre 2006 Blogger, were served as part of the published blog. The pre 2006 Blogger blog feeds were continued into Layouts Blogger.

For "blogging.nitecruzr.net", we have an pre 2006 Atom feed "blogging.nitecruzr.net/feeds/posts/default", also addressed as "blogging.nitecruzr.net/feeds/posts/default?alt=atom". We similarly have an RSS feed, addressed as "blogging.nitecruzr.net/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss".

With Layouts (2006) Blogger, besides having a blog posts feed, we have a blog comments feed - and we have per post Comments, and blog Labels, feeds. The "blog feed" and "blog comments" feeds each are singular - but the "comments" and "labels" feeds are plural, with one separate comment feed for each post, and one separate feed for each label, respectively. All of these feeds are served as part of the published blog.

We also have mirrors of the blog comments and posts feeds, served as part of "www.blogger.com". This blog has a Blogger served comments feed of "www.blogger.com/feeds/24069595/comments/default" and posts feed of "www.blogger.com/feeds/24069595/posts/default". In most cases, the published blog feeds and the Blogger served aliases are identical.

This blog has 4 Atom posts feeds.

This blog has 2 RSS posts feeds.

In general, all 6 aliases will produce the same output. In all cases, all 6 aliases will at least show the same posts; any differences between any of the 6 aliases will be a natural consequence of the (increasingly minor) differences between the Atom and RSS formats, which are two separate and competing newsfeed standards.

With nearly all blogs published to BlogSpot, or to a Google server as part of a custom domain, this will be a consistent fact. All 6 aliases will, by nature, contain the same posts.

With FTP publishing, this won't always be the case. And that's a point of confusion to some bloggers who publish their blogs externally. The Blogger hosted blog comments and posts feed files will be produced instantly, when updates are published to the blog, because they will be hosted from a Blogger server. The blog hosted blog comments and posts feed files, which by design are served from the remote server, will be subject to any problems with publishing to the remote server.

If there is a problem with FTP publishing, the Blogger hosted feeds will still contain the most recent updates. The blog hosted feeds, as well as the blog itself, may or may not contain the recent updates. When there is a problem with FTP publishing, which causes changes to not be published to the blog, or to the blog feeds remotely hosted, there will be a loss of synchronisation between the Blogger hosted feeds, the blog hosted feeds, and / or the published blog.

In this case, a problem with FTP publishing will also be perceived as a problem with a blog feed.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Indexing A Team Blog By Author

Many bloggers who setup team blogs, and anticipate having significant numbers of authors providing significant numbers of posts, eventually start wondering
How can I list all of the posts, by author?


This is the sort of feature that one would hope to find in any well designed content management system, which is yet one more thing that Blogger is not. I'm sure that this question came up in the AppsSpot Blogger Enhancements forum, I don't recall that it was discussed terribly vigorously.

There is a solution for this need, though it's manual, and may have to be enforced by the blog owner. Simply have each author assign a label to each post, using his / her name. You, the blog owner, can verify consistent and proper labels, by checking against the Edit Posts menu, which lists both author name and label membership of each blog post.

With each post properly labeled, simply add a labels index - either a Blogger standard one, or a third party one like the Cumulus Multi-Style label index. You could even make your own as part of a custom "Blog Members" gadget.

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The Girl In Short Shorts

Recently, the political blog "The Girl In Short Shorts" was judged by a number of bloggers to contain objectionable visual content, and was flagged by a substantial number of would be readers. Its readers are now greeted by an interstitial warning, and are forced to click once on a button before being able to view the blog.

Many readers of the blog are now protesting in Blogger Help Forum, in ignorance of the reasons for the interstitial warning. Their actions are similar to those of the readers of The Daily Coyote, last year.

To the owners of the blog:
You need to contact your readers, and advise them to knock it off. You aren't bothering Blogger (this is a weekend) - but you are interfering with other bloggers being helped, because of your Denial Of Service technique (intentional or not). If you don't want your readers to have to click on the interstitial button (once per reader, only), remove the problem pictures.


(Update 7/21): Rick Klau, Blogger Product Manager, has provided an authoritative comment.
We simply responded to the fact that a number of posts there do, in fact, contain nudity. Visitors to the site flagged the blog as containing objectionable content, and as set out in our TOS, blogs that contain nudity may contain an interstitial to let readers know what they will find when they click through.


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Internet Explorer and "Operation Aborted" - July 2009

The ongoing problem with Internet Explorer issuing "Operation Aborted", when loading various blogs, diminished in intensity recently. It has not, however, completely vanished.

You may see the latest reports of this problem, in a consolidated feed.

If you are experiencing this symptom - either in a blog which you control, or a blog which someone else controls - help us to help you. Provide your observations, for everybody.
  • What browser version (the complete version number of format "n.n.nnnn.nn" may be significant here) are you using?
  • What operating system (again, name and version, please) are you using?
  • In what blogs(s) have you observed the problem?
  • Is that your blog(s), and if so, did you see an improvement by removing the Follower / Friend Connect gadgets? By changing the comment form option? By removing any other gadgets?
  • Have you made any separate effort to diagnose your problem?

Your report here, of what you are seeing or have seen, may be invaluable.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Custom Domain Publishing, And Google Apps - July, 2009

This week, we have various problem reports, from folks with blogs published to various mature custom domains - custom domains that have been online for some time, not ones just setup. All of these reports involve blogs using server "72.14.207.121" in their DNS addresses.

Here's an example - "onfiction.ca".

onfiction.ca. 10800 IN A 72.14.207.121
www.onfiction.ca. 10800 IN CNAME onfiction.ca.

eh-in-f121.google.com (72.14.207.121)
72.14.192.0 - 72.14.255.255
Google Inc.

"72.14.207.121" is the third of the original Google Apps servers, replaced by the current 4 servers in November 2008. The other 2 servers in the original set of 3 have been offline for many months; and now this server joins the other 2, and is itself permanently offline.

If your custom domain uses "72.14.207.121" in its DNS addresses, your blog is probably offline too. And, that's why. You originally had 3 DNS servers providing addresses for your domain, then you had but 2, and later, only 1. This week, you have 0.

Update your DNS addresses to a righteous configuration. Or, tell your readers that you're offline.

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Removing Surplus Administrators Is Not A Formality

In the Blogger distant past, there was always the possibility that some blog owner would, in the process of cleaning up the complement of blog administrators in Permissions, manage to remove herself (himself) from the list.

If the blog owner was, as in many cases, the only administrator, you'd soon see his (her) post
Help!
in Blogger Help Forum: Get Help with an Issue.

Sometime later, Blogger fixed that design flaw, and made the Permissions wizard check the list before removing any selected administrator. Now, any account that is the sole administrator cannot be removed from administrator status. There will always be at least one administrator, for any blog.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Precedence and Uniformity Justify The Blogger Policy About BlogSpot URL Availability

The goal of a legal system is not to be fair to everybody, it is to be consistently fair or unfair to everybody.

Any single law, fair in some instances, will be unfair in other instances. The principle of Precedence is used to make a legal decision consistently fair or unfair over time.

The Blogger Help "law": This blog has been abandoned and I want its address, which controls the reissuing of "abandoned" URLs, is not fair - to those who want a URL, that appears abandoned, issued to them. Yet, it is uniformly unfair to everybody.