Friday, April 30, 2010

Static Pages, And A Custom Pages Index - Part 2

There are always details to deal with, and the "Linklist as Pages Index" solution, to provide a "Pages" gadget that indexes non pages, is no exception. As pointed out to me this morning, a "LinkList" gadget, when simply substituted for the "PageList" gadget, doesn't have the right stuff to make the selected tab light up, when the requested page is being displayed. The lit up tab makes the Tabs gadget seem so user friendly, and some folks like that little detail.

Fortunately, this is not difficult to correct.
  1. First (yes, he's telling us again), backup your template.
  2. Next, "Edit HTML" and select "Expand Widget Templates".
  3. Look for
    <b:section class='tabs' id='crosscol' maxwidgets='1' showaddelement='yes'>
  4. Look a few lines below that for
            <li><a expr:href='data:link.target'><data:link.name/></a></li>
    
    and replace it with
            <b:if cond="data:blog.url == data:link.target">
              <li class='selected'><a expr:href='data:link.target'><data:link.name/></a></li>
            <b:else/>
              <li><a expr:href='data:link.target'><data:link.name/></a></li>
            </b:if>
    
  5. Save Template.
  6. Test.
  7. And finally, backup your template,again.
Not terribly complicated. Just another detail.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Static Pages, And A Custom Pages Index

Ever since static pages were released by Blogger, bloggers have been asking how to index non static pages in a static pages (aka "tabs") index. Questions like
How do I publish a label page with my static pages?
and
How do I link to another blog, in my Pages gadget?
and
How do I publish posts in pages?
are asked, fairly regularly.

Blogger Provides Blog Access Using Two Factor Authentication

Many bloggers are confused about how to protect their blogs, both from unauthorised administrative access, and unauthorised viewing. An example of the confusion is the occasional question
How do I set a password in my blog, to prevent unwanted viewers?
and the correct answer here is simple.
You can't set a password. Blogger uses two factor authentication, to protect your blog.

If you own a house or a car, you may occasionally wish to provide guest access to your house or car. Maybe you have an extra key, which you lend to your guests, so they may use your house or car at their convenience. If you've done this, you may observe inconveniences caused by availability of a shared key.
  • A key may be lost, necessitating re keying of the locks, and distribution of a new key to all who have access.
  • You may not wish for your guests to have access to the entire house or car, at all times.
  • You may not wish for your guests to have access to the entire house or car, permanently.
  • Your guests may decide that carrying another key, on a separate key ring, may be too much trouble. They may wish to put your key on their key ring. This can cause more complications.
  • Distributing, and maintaining, a key library to everybody may simply be a lot of work.
In higher priced houses or cars, people have discovered the advantages of using electronic locks, which can provide more choices than simply providing a single key, available identically to everybody.

Blogger uses two factor authentication, which is equivalent in sophistication to the electronic lock which you use (or may wish to use) on your house or car. This allows you, and your guests, convenient and protected access to your blog. Two factor authentication provides more convenience, and protection, to both of you.
  • You identify your guest by their public email address, and send them an invitation to your blog.
  • Your guest accepts the invitation, using the Blogger account of their choice, and using their own personal password.
  • You are safe from your guest, and your guest is safe from you, from either of you knowing too much about each other.

If you wish to provide additional access to your blog - either another administrator, another author, or a designated reader, use the Settings - Permissions wizard, and add a member of the appropriate type. That's how you manage blog access.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Retaining Page Rank, And Traffic, During the FTP Migration

As May 1 fast approaches, there are still a few FTP bloggers waiting to make the plunge, who ask
What happens to my page rank, when I migrate?
and
How do I retain my traffic, if I move to a new URL?
and these are not very simple questions to answer.

The best result will be achieved by migrating to the same URL structure, under the custom domain.
  • If you can migrate from your external, FTP published server, to an absolutely identical URL - for all posts - in a Google custom domain, then you can retain page rank, and traffic.
  • If your URL changes, even slightly, then your page rank starts over at 0, because the content has to be re indexed under the new URL. Now, you ask whether the traffic can be automatically redirected, from the old URL to the new URL.
    • If the URL changes, but the traffic can be redirected properly, then you can retain your traffic, and your page rank - though starting at 0 - will build up faster than it did when the blog was started. You'll see moderate total drop of search engine originated traffic.
    • If the URL changes, and the traffic cannot be redirected, then your page rank, and traffic, will start out very slowly. You'll have established readers, so you won't start as low as the blog was when new, but it will be pretty low.
      • Each reader will follow a series of links, from a bookmark (on their computer), to the actual post (under a new URL).
      • The search engines may, or may not, be able to find each post under the new URL.
    • You'll see significant total drop of search engine originated traffic.

Remember that you'll have 3 options, if you use the Blogger FTP Migration Tool.
  • To Blog*Spot.
  • To a Google custom domain URL, different from the current domain.
  • To a Google custom domain URL, the same domain host as the current domain.

One major question here is whether the blog contains pictures that are hosted by the domain. If pictures are involved, then you will have to retain the domain, and host the pictures, until you can re host the pictures elsewhere, and update all blog posts to point to the new picture URLs. If you migrate to the same domain host, you'll have to setup a missing files host.

A migration to BlogSpot is the simplest process overall, but will have the worst effect on both page rank and traffic. If you simply cut your losses, and re publish to a BlogSpot URL - and if you have no pictures hosted on the external server - you can drop the external server completely, and concentrate on rebuilding page rank and traffic from 0, using a new BlogSpot URL. If you have pictures hosted on the external server, you will need to retain the current server to host the domain, and the pictures. Your new blog will use pictures hosted on the external server, under the current URLs. The domain will continue to be served, the blog itself will simply have a new URL.

A migration to a custom domain, using a new domain host, will be more complex than migrating to BlogSpot, but it will produce the same results upon page rank and traffic. If you have pictures hosted on the external server, you will still have to retain the current server to host the domain, and the pictures. Your new blog, in its new custom domain published URL, will start off with a page rank of 0, again as the content has to be re indexed. If you can retain the traffic, and current readership, page rank will pick up again. For a custom domain migration using a new domain host, you will want the new domain host defined in DNS before the migration starts. This is an essential task, which you must perform. If the domain host DNS is not properly setup, any reference to the blog, under its new hosting, will produce problems. Custom domain hosting problems, caused by bogus DNS settings, are well known.

A migration to a custom domain, using the same domain host, and using the exact same blog URL structure, will be more complex than either of the two above options. It will have the best results upon page rank and traffic - if you can do it. With the content hosted in the custom domain - but under the exact same URL, the content will not be re indexed by the search engines as new content. The search engines will simply continue indexing it, as before, with no change.

The migration to a same domain host will involve some work by you, since the migration tool won't do everything for you. It will involve 4 steps.
  1. You start out with the domain host DNS pointing to the external server.
  2. You execute the first half of the migration.
  3. You update the domain host DNS to point to the Google server. This is an essential task, which you must perform. If the domain host DNS is not properly setup, any reference to the blog, under its new hosting, will produce problems. Custom domain hosting problems, caused by bogus DNS settings, are well known.
  4. You execute the second half of the migration.
When the migration to the same host, with identical URL, is complete, you'll have the same blog, hosted on a Google custom domain, and at the same URL. If the blog, currently published to the distant server, contains photos, or posts linked internally, you can retain the currently published contents on the distant server, and use a Missing Files Host.

Finally, with the blog re hosted, you can explore the possibility of upgrading the template to Layout, or even to a Designer Template.

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Our Ability To Blog Anonymously Is Confirmed

In a recent statement in Blogger Help Forum: How Do I?, Blogger has confirmed our right to publish our blogs anonymously.
Our policies aren't pro-stalker, they are pro-respecting the privacy of user information. We simply can not release information without due process.

Since this is a legal issue, you'll have to follow appropriate legal channels. Sorry we don't have an easier answer at this point, but I hope you can understand where we are coming from in terms of the importance of respecting privacy.

There is an important reassurance for those who wish to publish blogs, without fear of being identified. Only properly issued governmental court orders will result in blogger identification.

We also note a previous advice.
we do not give out contact information for the owner of a blog

If you require the identity of any blog owner, get a lawyer, and / or an order from a judge. Or, do some detective work, on your own.

Blogger Support cannot unilaterally take your word as justification of your need to contact the other party. In addition, they cannot consistently contact all blog owners, when necessary.

And if you, as a blog owner, desire complete anonymity, there are more ways to protect your identity. However, please recognise that anonymous blogging requires that we accept responsibility.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Adding A Gadget Above Or Below The Posts Gadget

Almost every blogger is used to adding gadgets of various types, using the "Page Elements" wizard, to the header, the sidebar, and / or the footer of their blog. If you can't do that, you just aren't enjoying Layout Templates, to their fullest.

Some folks haven't yet realised that you can also add a gadget just above, or just below, the posts. This is not the same as adding a gadget to the bottom of the header (which is, admittedly, just above the posts); nor is it the same as adding a gadget to the top of the footer (again, just below the posts).

A gadget just above, or just below, the Blog Posts gadget stops next to the sidebar - as opposed to continuing above or below the sidebar, should you add a gadget to the header or the footer. It's just as easy to add a gadget to one place, as to the other, though.


Just drag and drop any gadget of your choice, to the right spot. See what this looks like, in my demonstration blog, Nitecruzr New Template Laboratory.

For a variation on this, you can setup such a gadget to appear only on the first page.




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Where Is The Template Designer Wizard?

The new Designer Templates were released over a month ago, and still not everybody knows how to access them. Almost daily, we see the plaintive query
Where in my Blogger settings can I access the new Blogger template designer?
and to be sure, it seemed, at one time, a bit tricky.


(Update 2010/06/10): The Template Designer is now a production Blogger feature.

The Template Designer is now part of Production (Orange) Blogger, and is accessible from the dashboard or navbar "Design" link.



If you click on "Design" from the dashboard or navbar, you get the "Page Elements" wizard, where you find the "Template Designer" link.

There it is - "Template Designer".



Just login to Blogger, click on "Design", and select "Template Designer" from the bottom tab row.

You can't miss it.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Blog Ownership - Possession Is The Law

Long ago, Blogger blogs had a very simple membership permissions policy.

Each blog had an owner, and members. The owner was the administrator of the blog, and ownership could not be transferred.

This simple policy was a problem, because some blog owners would eventually lose interest in a blog, and want to cede ownership to someone else. In other cases, people were known to die suddenly, leaving blogs with no live owners. In both cases, Blogger Support would become involved, and would manually transfer ownership.

Later, Blogger developed the Permissions wizard, and added a class of member called "Administrator". The original publisher of a blog becomes the first administrator, who may, at his / her discretion, designate additional administrators. That solved the problem of nontransferable ownership, but introduced a second problem. Any administrator could, at her / his discretion again, remove him / herself (or any other administrator) from the administrators list.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Blogger Commenting, And Social Networking Relationships

Every week, we see the anguish
How do I get user xxxxx blocked from commenting on my blog?
because many people enjoy FaceBook and Twitter, where there is no spam, and no unwanted comments. They think that Blogger comments should be controlled, as social networking like FaceBook and Twitter are controlled.

With FaceBook, each person controls their own Wall, and their own neighbourhood. With Twitter, each person decides exactly who they wish to Follow, and sees tweets from only those folks that they follow. Neither FaceBook or Twitter encourages you to open up your neighbourhood to the world; both allow you to establish each contact, one by one, at your discretion.

With Blogger commenting, you are encouraged to allow anybody - or anybody with a required level of authentication - to comment on your blog. This encourages freedom of speech, and extends your neighbourhood far beyond the walls that you setup with FaceBook and Twitter. Some commenters, and other readers of your blogs, may later become part of your FaceBook and Twitter neighbourhoods - but at their discretion, as well as yours.

With both FaceBook and Twitter, any established account has some implied value, which is a function of the size of its neighbourhood. Nobody can use a FaceBook or Twitter account for persistent spam, because people control their own neighbourhoods. If offended, they can easily discontinue a FaceBook or Twitter contact. There is no real anonymity in either FaceBook or Twitter - each contact there is identified and validated, by its neighbourhood of contacts.

With Blogger, anybody can setup one or more Blogger accounts, for posting comments on any blog that permits comments. A Blogger account has no value, equivalent to a FaceBook or Twitter account. A Blogger account won't be identified, or validated, by its neighbourhood of contacts.

The owner of any blog has a few options, as to what level of anonymity may post comments.
Who Can Comment?
  • Anyone - includes Anonymous Users
  • Registered Users - includes OpenID
  • Users with Google Accounts
  • Only members of this blog
  • (For private blogs) Only members and readers of the blog.

Beyond those 5 choices, there is only the Blogger heuristic comment filter, which has to be persistently trained, by each blog owner. You, as the blog owner, moderate either actively or passively. You allow / disallow / tag as "spam" before publishing comments, or you delete / don't delete / tag as "spam" after comments are published. That's the choices that you have, as a blog owner.

You cannot negatively filter comments, by blocking specific individuals. If you were to add a filter for one individual, the owner of the filtered Blogger account could setup another account, and pester you from that account, with impunity. They could even use multiple different accounts, using botted computers, if they wished.

When you publish a Blogger blog and allow commenting on your Blogger blog, you open yourself to the world. For good, or for bad.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Template Designer Uses Cascaded Code

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets - and the new Designer Templates use CSS to full advantage.

The new Layout templates, with the GUI "Fonts and Colors" and "Page Elements" wizards eliminated the need to edit template HTML to change fonts or colors of many template objects, or to add or move objects around the screen. The Template Designer goes even further, in GUI wizardry.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blogger Blogs, And "Make Money Fast And Easy" Techniques

Blogger One Button Publishing is a platform for publishing personal web sites, using an intuitive GUI process.

You publish content that's personal to you, and your readers (possibly using alternative techniques like Following and subscribing) read your personal web site because of the content that's personal to you.

If you have advertising on your web site, and you are paid to host the advertising, the ads are financed by the companies that sell the merchandise featured in the ads. And your readers are the targets of the ads, so they hopefully will buy the merchandise.

The money flows from your readers, to the sellers of the merchandise, to the advertisers who publish the ads, to you who host the ads on your blog. Your readers learn about the merchandise through your efforts, and you are paid because of that.

That's organic advertising and merchandising. You make money from publishing content, that draws readers, who read your content, and click on the ads. The advertisers pay you for the readers, and for the ad clicks.

Some people are not happy with organic advertising, because they want more money. They get more money from publishing more sites, from more traffic to their sites, and from more activity on their sites.
  • To publish more sites, they can't spend time writing content, so they pay people to write for them (Syndicated Content, aka Pay To Write, aka "PTW"). Or, they copy content with permission ("syndicate") or without permisssion ("scrape" or "steal") from other websites.
  • To get more traffic to their sites, they pay people to surf their sites (Pay To Surf, aka "PTS").
  • To get more activity on their sites, they pay people to click on the ads in their sites (Pay To Click, aka "PTC").
More sites x more traffic x more activity = lots more money.

That's great. More money, some of which they pass to the people who write, who surf, and who click. More money into the economy, more people who can buy stuff, and everybody makes out better.

Why is this a problem?

It is a problem because the advertisers are paid by the companies who sell the merchandise.
  • They are paid to attract eyes to the ads, and to attract people who buy the merchandise featured in the ads.
  • They are not paid for people who click on the ads, simply because they are paid for clicking on the ads.
  • They are not paid for people who surf your sites, simply because they are paid to surf your sites.
  • They are paid for people who are interested in the content on your sites, who click on the ads because the merchandise featured in the ads interests them, and who buy the merchandise.

The people who are paid for surfing and clicking are not the proper targets for the advertisers or for the merchandisers.
  • They are not looking at the ads, because they are busy surfing the next web site.
  • They are not thinking about purchasing any merchandise, because they are busy clicking on another ad.
More clicking and more surfing = more money for them - and they, too, want more money.

PTC and PTS (together known as "GPT", aka "Get Paid To (click and surf)") are fraudulent schemes to extract money from the advertisers, while delivering very little to encourage the merchandisers to pay the advertisers.

AdSense, owned by Google, is one of the advertisers who is unwillingly paying for GPT / PTC / PTS activity. Blogger, owned by Google, considers blogs which contain GPT / PTC / PTS advice, or derive activity / content / traffic from such techniques, as spam hosts.

GPT / PTC / PTS uses paid participants to artificially increase traffic to participant blogs. A similar arrangement, but one which involves affiliate marketing networks or link farms, uses unpaid casual visitors.

IfThat is why your blog is now classified as spam, or will be eventually classified as spam - and that is why you are here.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

FTP Publishing - The Full Story

I've been writing about Custom Domain Publishing, and about FTP Publishing, and the relative advantages and differences, for several years now.

In August 2007, I went out on a limb (for me, anyway) and I suggested that
From an economic and support viewpoint, it makes more sense for Blogger to concentrate its attention on Custom Domain publishing, where they control everything but the domain directory process, and can eliminate the uncertainty of supporting communications with hundreds of third party servers, complicated by geographical and network distance issues.

Blogger, in FTP vs. Custom Domains, last year, provided their view of why custom domain publishing has more future.
As I've dug in over the last few weeks on issues relating to FTP, as often as not the problems were not Blogger-related but were a byproduct of a webhost implementing stricter security on FTP logins (only whitelisting certain IP addresses, for instance, or throttling access for certain users). These are notoriously hard to isolate, particularly when they involve coordinating support with a third party. No one - including us! - enjoys the terrible back and forth of "it's the webhost's issue" "no, it's Blogger's issue" "no, we're pretty sure it's the webhost's issue" when all you want is to be able to post to your blog.

Making Jump Break Work For Blogs With Older Templates

The new Blogger solution for auto summarised posts, also known as "Read More" or "Jump Break", is becoming increasingly popular in Blogger blogs, for several reasons.
  • Auto Pagination resulted in display segmentation, caused by the perceived need to publish hundreds of posts on the main page.
  • Desire to display a dynamic index of posts as the main page.
  • Desire to simply make the main page and / or archive retrieval displays smaller.

The "Jump Break" feature itself is reasonably easy to use, when you are using the New Post Editor, and with blogs that use a template released after Jump Break was released - apparently in September 2009. If your blog was created before then, you may need to add a critical bit of code to the post template.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Putting A Post At The Top (A "Welcome" Post) - Part 2

Many people have asked how they can have a Welcome or Index message in their blog. I have a Welcome message, at the top of Nitecruzr Buzz, or on this blog, for instance.

This blog uses a text gadget, positioned above the post gadget, which leaves a gadget that shows up on every page. On Nitecruzr Buzz, I used a future dated post, so my "Welcome" showed up only on the "Home" page. Neither solution was optimal.
  • A true "Welcome" message should show up only on the "Home" (first) page. A text gadget shows up on every page.
  • A future dated post shows up only on the "Home" page, but it shows up in the Archive index with a future date.


Today, I fixed my Buzz Welcome message, so it only shows up on the "Home" page, and it does not show up as a post, in an archive index. What I now have is a Text gadget, that only displays on the "Home" page. Here's how you do that.

First, (you should have to ask?) backup the template. Then add a Text gadget to the page, and position the gadget just above the post gadget. Give it a snappy title, "Welcome To My Blog!".

Then tweak the new gadget.
  1. Identify the gadget to be tweaked.
  2. Edit the template.
  3. Locate and unfold the code for that gadget.

<b:widget id='Text1' locked='false' title='WelcomeMessage' type='Text'>
<b:includable id='main'>
  <!-- only display title if it's non-empty -->
  <b:if cond='data:title != ""'>
    <h2 class='title'><data:title/></h2>
  </b:if>
  <div class='widget-content'>
    <data:content/>
  </div>

  <b:include name='quickedit'/>
</b:includable>
</b:widget>

Add two simple lines of code, shown below in bold red face.

<b:widget id='Text1' locked='false' title='WelcomeMessage' type='Text'>
<b:includable id='main'>
<b:if cond='data:blog.url == data:blog.homepageUrl'>
  <!-- only display title if it's non-empty -->
  <b:if cond='data:title != ""'>
    <h2 class='title'><data:title/></h2>
  </b:if>
  <div class='widget-content'>
    <data:content/>
  </div>
</b:if>

  <b:include name='quickedit'/>
</b:includable>
</b:widget>

Save the change. Edit the text gadget as displayed on the blog, and remove the "WelcomeMessage" title. And of course, backup the template, again. And, it's done.

Now, if you want a dynamic "Welcome" page - maybe one based on posts published to a given label, you can do that too, with just a bit more work. And there are several variations on the "if" statement, that will let you selectively display (or not display) your gadget on other specific pages.
An easy alternative solution for this need, more recently offered, would be to use a static page, and a redirected Home page.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Private Blogs And Your Visitor Log

There are known limitations, to the effectiveness of making a blog private.

The problem of access latency, where a blog made private won't block everybody immediately, is one. Another is the possibility of co workers of a legitimately designated reader being able to read a private blog, on an office network that uses a caching proxy server. But there are other perceived problems with private blogs, that don't actually exist.

One perceived problem is seen when examining the visitor log for a private blog. Some one without access permission, loading a private blog, will load the "Private Blog" interstitial warning on top of the requested page. The visitor log will show the page in question being loaded. But look closer - do you see any other pages being loaded?

A log from StatCounter is perfect for this task. For any visitor to your blog, you can see a record of each link clicked during the visit. For an uninvited visitor to a private blog, you'll likely see one click - the "Entry Page" - and that's it. And even if the "Entry Page" is listed in the visitor log, chances are that all that was actually seen was the interstitial page.

So if you're examining the visitor log for your private blog, relax. Your private content is, most likely, safe.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Blog Feeds Hijacked By "Net-Temps Job Search Feed"

A few bloggers, recently, are trying to add a Feed gadget to one of their blogs, and as they do so, the "Configure Feed" wizard shows a mythical "Net-Temps Job Search Feed". This typically happens when the feed in question has not been activated.

If you're seeing the "Net-Temps Job Search Feed" when trying to "Configure Feed", you'll find
  1. The Save button will be non responsive. You can't publish a Feed gadget configured for a non existent feed.
  2. As soon as you correct the problem
    1. Activate the feed for your blog (when the feed is for your blog).
    2. Hit "Change Feed URL" from the "Configure Feed" display with "Net-Temps Job Search Feed" displayed.
    3. Hit "Continue".
    you'll see the feed for your blog in the "Configure Feed" gadget window. And, you'll be able to publish the new Feed gadget.


Before you can do step #2, though, you may experience a small amount of panic
OMG, my blog has been hijacked!
But take a deep breath, count to 10, and activate the feed for your blog. You'll get nowhere, until you do step #2.

Really.


So, let's add a feed gadget for my new (mythical, right now) blog "nitecruzrs-non-existent-blog.blogspot.com".



And there is the mythical "Net-Temps Job Search Feed". But try hitting "Save", and see what happens.



So, I'll activate the feed on my "non existent" blog. And "Change Feed URL".



And hit "Continue" again. And now, I'm in business, with my (previously) "non existent" blog feed good to go.



If you see any other results, this post is open for comments.


(Update 2012/03/30): We're now seeing a similar oddity in our Reading List / Google Reader displays.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Classic (HTML) Templates Get A New Lease On Life

As a result from a few (justified) complaints about Auto Pagination and its effects on blogs with classic (HTML) templates, Blogger has released an enhancement which will make classic templates, in general, more usable.

In Creating pagination links on Classic Templates, we see two new options for classic templates.
If you are using Classic Templates and would like to add pagination links to your blog, there are currently two options for setting this up. Both involve adding a snippet of code to your blog's template, which can be done from the Template | Edit HTML tab.

You even have the ability to customise the link caption, with the phrase of your choice, or even a graphic - as you can see on some of my blogs.
  • "<$BlogPaginationLinks$>" (for language automatic, "Older / Newer" captioned links).
  • "<$NewerPosts$>" / "<$OlderPosts$>" (for manually labeled custom captions).


Anybody with a blog with a classic template will enjoy using these options, and especially those with blogs subject to unwanted display segmentation. You may see my initial test, in my Classic Template Laboratory. Here's my implementation, with copious amount of detail removed.
<!-- Begin #main -->
<div id="main"><div id="main2">

<Blogger>

<BlogDateHeader>
<h2 class="date-header"><$BlogDateHeaderDate$></h2>
</BlogDateHeader>

<!-- Begin .post -->

...

<!-- End .post -->

<!-- Begin #comments -->
<ItemPage>

...

</ItemPage>

<!-- End #comments -->
</Blogger>
</div>
<$BlogPaginationLinks$>
</div>
<!-- End #main -->

You need to insert the extra code at the very end of the "main" section. Note that precise placement, after the right "</div>", is essential.

You'll note that neither "<$BlogPaginationLinks$>" nor "<$NewerPosts$>" / "<$OlderPosts$>" provides the exact functionality of the links that are built in to designer / layout templates. If you want full functionality, you have to upgrade. Fortunately, since FTP Publishing was terminated, there is no real need to remain with classic templates.

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The New Designer Templates Have A Downside

The new designer templates have been out, now, for slightly more than a month. And we're seeing some occasional reports about performance issues.
The new template downloads slowly!
or
The new template scrolls irregularly.
or even
It froze my browser!


Well, these are all real observations, and explainable ones at that.


Here's the "wallpaper" from my Nitecruzr Buzz. This is a full size (1800 x 1200) x 24 bit color photo. As rendered, my photo management program tells me that it uses 6.5M of RAM.


Traditional "wallpaper" would be maybe a 20 x 20 px snippet, at 256 colors (carefully muted), and tiled. Now we have color photos, 1800 x 1200 x 224, that fill the browser window. That will take a few seconds to download, and some power to display.

But, there's more.

The new templates feature the blog content housed in a transparent layer, so you can see the background beneath the content. As you scroll through the blog content, the background is displayed, in its glory. Your computer has to redraw the background, and the blog content, constantly, as you scroll. That takes computing power.

Watch the CPU trace in your system monitor, sometime, while you scroll your new blog. I just did. It's not pretty.

So consider the demographics of your blog readership, a bit. If your readers tend to use older computers, and slow Internet service (dialup even!), you might do well to look for a background that's lighter in resource use.

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Make The Blog Header Non Clickable

Everybody has their own idea how they want their blog.

Not everybody wants the blog title to link back to the main page at all, while some folks would like to have the title link back to the main page even when the main page is displayed.

The default Blogger code enables a link in the blog header, when anything but the first segment of the main page (aka "home" page) is displayed. Some people would like the link completely disabled, on all segments. Others would like the link enabled, on all segments.

Some folks don't like the way the title changes colour - in many blogs, the "links" (unvisited links) and "visited links" have colours that stand out from the text. Look below - see the purple and blue text? Those are links. If you don't like the title to colour itself, you remove the links - or replace the title with a picture - as I have done above.

In most of my blogs, I could do without the clickable title, completely, as I have my Menu Bar, which includes a "Home" link.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

FTP Publishing - The Migration Is In Progress

If you're currently publishing a blog externally, using FTP, you've probably seen the handwriting on the wall - or maybe, on your dashboard.
FTP publishing will no longer be available after May 1, 2010
You currently have blogs that are published using FTP. You must migrate your blogs to a new custom domain URL or a blogspot URL. To learn more, see our dedicated blog and help documentation.

Start migration now


So, get started. Read the Blogger FTP Info. If you have any problems before, during, or after the migration, add them to the FTP Migration Issues Tracker database, so your problems can be properly diagnosed and resolved.

Remember, as I've said before, if you have a problem, and you don't report the problem, then you become part of the problem. So, report the problem, if you have a problem.

When you migrate, you have several possibilities for the new URL which will be progressively more complex, yet be offset by a varying effect upon page rank, search engine reputation, and traffic.
  • BlogSpot. The simplest of all.
  • Custom Domain - New virtual host. Here, you have to create new virtual Host DNS records, which you can do before you start the migration. The migration will not complete successfully, without DNS for the new virtual host properly setup.
  • Custom Domain - Same virtual host. This one is tricky. Here, you have to update the existing Virtual Host DNS records, but you cannot do this until the migration from the current host is complete. As with the latter choice though, the migration will not complete successfully, without DNS for the new virtual host properly setup. You will need to be prepared to change the Virtual Host DNS records at the precisely correct time in the migration - after the migration from the existing host is complete, but before the migration to the Custom Domain starts.


In all 3 of the above choices, the migration process will create a redirection from the current URL to the new URL, as you choose. See Migration tool overview, for more information about the migration process in general.

If your blog has any photos hosted on the external server, that content will continue to be hosted there - to save you having to change blog code which references the photos (or any similarly hosted content). Using the Missing Files host in a custom domain will be essential to a successful migration. See Advanced setup: moving from www to www, for instructions on using the Missing Files host.

If you elect to go with the 3rd choice above, see Advanced setup: moving from www to www for additional details which you need to consider.

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Dissecting The Great Firewall Of China

China has always been a subject of legend and mystery, in "Western" (non Asian) culture. Recently, one unique Chinese artifact - the Great Firewall Of China - has become a subject of legend and mystery too. For both bloggers (publishers of both Blogger and other blogs - and of various web sites) and bloggees (readers of both Blogger and other blogs - and of various web sites), and for people inside China and outside, the GFWC is the subject of discussion in both techie and non techie blogs, forums, and web sites.

People inside China wonder
Why can't I see my Blogger blog?
and people outside China wonder
Why can't my readers, inside China, see my blog?
And those are the simple questions.

People inside China, more realistically (and echoing some of the questions seen occasionally in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken) ask
Why can't I see all of my Blogger blogs?
or
Why can I see my Blogger blogs, but not my neighbours Blogger blogs (my FaceBook page, my Tweets, ...)?
and people outside China wonder
Why can't some people inside China see (not see) some of my blogs (my web sites, my FaceBook, my Tweets, ...)?


And these questions are asked, differently, by native Chinese citizens, non Chinese citizens, and visitors to China. And everybody will have different observations, and different questions.

The fact is
  1. The GFWC is not one single filter. It, like other Internet components is complex, and is redundant.
  2. The GFWC is not absolute. It, like other Internet components is lossy. It is subject to both false positives (It blocks some content, some of the time, which it should not block.), and to false negatives (It fails to block some content, some of the time, which it should block.).


Compounding the confusion, we have read that Chinese authorities
  1. Know that the GFWC is not absolute. Some Chinese citizens, some of the time, can access content which the GFWC should filter - were it absolute and 100% reliable.
  2. Don't care that it's not absolute. The Chinese are a pragmatic people, and the authorities depend upon lots of Government approved content available to all Chinese people, to overwhelm the non approved (foreign and internal) content that's sometimes available to some citizens. And there are other censorship techniques which are used, too.


Wikipedia: Golden Shield Project identifies 5 different types of GFWC techniques. Each of the 5 different types will have different characteristics. Capriciousness, False Negative / False Positive Count, Latency - are all consequences of any firewall, and will vary depending upon techniques used.

Remember China is one of the largest countries in the world - both demographically, geographically, and politically. Internet structure will reflect each of those characteristics.

Capitalism in China has been known to cause variations in the GFWC.
During the 2008 Olympic Games, Chinese officials told Internet providers to prepare to unblock access from certain Internet cafés, access jacks in hotel rooms and conference centers where foreigners were expected to work or stay.[7]


The Chinese government knows that its country depends upon tourism dollars. Different areas of the country, which will be more or less visited by foreigners, will have better Internet service, and probably more costly and effective filtering. The effects from the Olympic Games unblocking didn't go away immediately, in every hotel and conference center.

The bottom line here is that anybody who visits China, and anybody who produces a blog or web site and targets Chinese readership, should expect some unavailability varying both place to place, and time to time. Anybody who expects consistent availability, or consistent unavailability, is in for a surprise.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Moles, Spies, Spammers, And Turkeys

In 1977, the late Charles Bronson - better known for his vigilante justice "Death Wish" movies - starred in a movie that capitalised on US paranoia about American - Soviet Russia relations. Set at the height of the Cold War era, the plot of Telefon featured 51 human time bombs - all ordinary Americans. Each had been hypnotised to perform as Soviet spies, when a specially coded telephone call was received, with each tasked to sabotage some specific portion of the American infrastructure.

None of the 51 human time bombs had any conscious awareness of their intended roles. Each thought of her or him self as an ordinary American, and lived that way - until a phone call from an evil renegade Soviet agent triggered their personal hypnotic suggestion.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep. Remember. Miles to go before I sleep.

In the action adventure genre of fiction (aka "spy movie"), these spies are also called moles.

This year, we have noted many ordinary bloggers, who have no conscious awareness of their roles, tasked to sabotage the Blogger infrastructure.
My Blog mentioned above got deleted and called SPAM. But I honestly didn't do any SPAM. I went through TOS but I really don't understand my blog was deleted. Please, I have put so much of my time & effort for this blog & now its a PR2. (This blog is gone).
and
I received this msg after restore the blog, how long I must wait to get reinstated. This is totally joke, the blog is about 3 years and have hundreds of post. (This blog is gone).
and
I have been writing almost daily for more than two years and am very surprised as to why my blog would all of a sudden be classified as spam. I really can't think of any reason except that there must be a flaw in the algorithm used for automatically detecting such. (This blog is gone).

Many bloggers, just out there trying to make a buck, have been hypnotised by Affiliate partnerships, Pay To Click and Pay To Surf schemes, Syndicated Content (pay to write), and similar "make money fast and easy" techniques. And now, they are out there, begging for Blogger to just unblock their blogs, so they can get back to work. Back to work - abusing the Blogger infrastructure, and damaging the efforts of genuine bloggers.

They are not spammers (in their own minds), just as the 51 human time bombs were not Soviet agents. But just as the human time bombs (some of them) successfully destroyed key portions of America, these spammers are destroying key portions of Blogger Spam Interdiction, and of the effectiveness of Internet based advertising.

By their volume, they make it hard for us to get genuine, personal blogs, unjustly accused of being spam, back online. And they are requesting individual attention from Blogger
Please, tell me why I am considered a spammer.
This requires further resources from Blogger Support, and Google Legal, who together must decide how much - and how little - to tell these bloggers about spam interdiction, and why they were confirmed as spammers.

These are the real life moles. Moles, recruited by the genuine big time spammers. I also call them turkeys, elsewhere in my discussions.

In the meantime, the genuine spammers are out there, continually republishing their splog farms, and damaging our efforts as genuine bloggers.

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Private Blogs And Designated Readers

Last year, in Private Blogs And Commenting Policy, I documented the conundrum of the private blog, and the apparent oddity that designated readers to a private blog are unable to publish comments, when commenting is authenticated as "Only members of this blog".

At the time, I merely suspected a design oversight on the part of Blogger engineers, in deciding that designated readers to a private blog were not afforded the courtesy of being allowed to comment.

The choices (for the blog owner to select) appear to include
  1. Require no additional authentication ("Anyone - includes Anonymous Users"), presumably because ability to access the comments wizard requires authenticated access to the blog.
  2. Accept "OpenID" authentication ("Registered Users - includes OpenID").
  3. Accept Blogger account ("Users with Google Accounts") for designated readers.
  4. Accept author members only ("Only members of this blog").
  5. Eliminate the "designated readers" distinction altogether, and make all members "authors".


In further retrospect, I see that this "oddity" allows blog owners an additional level of control - whether or not to have a blog that allows some people to only view the blog, and to not publish comments.

It would be possibly more obvious, if private blogs were to have an additional selection, in Settings - Comments, for "Who Can Comment?". This would, preferably, include a setting "Designated readers may post comments". This would save blog owners from the uncertainty, that allowing anything less than "Only members of this blog" to publish comments, may bring.

It's also possible that understanding of the choices which exist now may be sufficient. Your comments are welcome.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Republishing A Custom Domain Blog

Sometimes, when you are publishing a blog to a custom domain, you'll have a problem with the settings. Some settings problems can only be solved by repeating the publishing process. But you can't repeat the process - once a blog is published to a URL, you can't just publish again, to the domain URL.

In some cases, you have to publish the blog back to BlogSpot, then re publish to the domain. In other cases, you have to return the blog to a BlogSpot publishing, so you can solve some problems now - and return to the domain publishing, at some unknown time in the future.

This is all done from the Settings - Publishing wizard, which you access from the Blogger dashboard - and it's as easy as 1 - 2 - 3 - 4.
  1. Always start by getting a new ownership verification token, and adding it to the domain DNS address list. Pay careful attention to DNS address entry conventions! If you are instructed to add a "CNAME", you do have to add a "CNAME" - regardless of older instructions!
  2. If the blog is currently published to the non BlogSpot domain, you'll simply have to click on the "X", to re publish to the previous BlogSpot URL.
  3. Click on
    Add a custom domain
  4. Now, you have several possibilities.
    1. In many cases, you will be republishing to an otherwise properly purchased domain. Click on
      Switch to advanced settings
      The previously used custom domain should be already displayed, in the Advanced settings window. Click on the Save button, and your domain should be online.
    2. Occasionally, the domain was not successfully purchased, even though the BlogSpot URL redirects. Alternately, you may have let the domain expire - and you now have to buy a new domain. In either case, you have to purchase a domain, again.
  5. OK, it couldn't be quite that simple, could it? Don't forget to select
    Redirect mydomain.com to www.mydomain.com
    if desired - and if you are not publishing to the domain root.
Solve the CAPTCHAs handily enough, and you can be done in 5 minutes. It's 5 minutes well spent, too.
For more details on the re publishing process, see Roberto's Report: Re-Publishing to blogspot.com, and back to a Custom Domain.
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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Blog Membership Changes Won't Have Immediate Effect

We see these horror tales, occasionally.
I made my blog private, and only invited a few friends. The next day, I checked my visitor logs, and saw evidence of people that I did not invite, still viewing the blog.
or
My friend was a second administrator of my blog. I decided that I did not want him administering the blog, so I removed him from Permissions. To my dismay, the following day, he was still able to make changes.


With Blogger, membership / permission for any blog is checked only when someone initially accesses a blog. Ability to access a private blog, or to administer or post to any blog, is provided in a cookie based token. If someone does not clear cookies, or close the browser after clearing cache, access to the blog will continue, until the cookie expires. If someone tries to access the blog, and he has a cookie permitting him to do so, he will continue to get access - even if the access is revoked.

So once again, I urge you to grant access to your blog with care and discretion, and note that when you change your mind, your change may not be immediate.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Blog Hangs "loading from google-analytics.com" / Redirects To "google-analytics.com"

A few bloggers are reporting that their blog hangs with the message "loading from google-analytics.com" or redirects to "google-analytics.com". This is a low volume problem (maybe 1 or 2 reported / day, during the past week or so), but it seems to be consistent. We simply don't have a lot of details.

We've setup a rollup question in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, and ask that you provide what you can, here or there.
  • What is the URL of the blog, that's loading / redirecting?
  • What are you doing when you see the message - logging in to your Blogger account, or loading your blog?
  • Is your Blogger account based on GMail, or non GMail?
  • Does your blog have any third party gadgets, loaded using "Add a gadget" in "Page Elements"?
  • Can you please provide the complete and exact error message, and describe precisely where, in the display, you see the error message?
Provide what details that you can, so we can try to get an affinity.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Recovering Your Account Information

Blogger promises us that our blogs will be ours, forever, and that we are free to publish our blogs in privacy, if we so desire.

They do this by protecting our Blogger accounts behind Two Factor Authentication. Both the name of our Blogger account, and the password used, are our secret to keep.

Since both the account name and the password are secrets, you can't just write to Blogger Support one day and say
I forgot my account name - can you tell me what it is?
When you setup a Blogger account, you provide an email address, which will be used for recovering forgotten account names and passwords.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Use The Post Feed Redirect URL When Renaming Your BlogSpot Blog

When we setup a custom feed for a blog, maybe using FeedBurner, we use the Post Feed Redirect URL to redirect all feed references, from the blog, to the FeedBurner feed. That lets us use a FeedBurner feed without having to change all of the feed links in the blog. Besides using the Post Feed Redirect URL to setup a FeedBurner feed, you can use the Post Feed Redirect URL when you re publish the blog to a new BlogSpot URL.

Friday, April 02, 2010

The DMCA Violation Form May Have A Just Use, After All

The MPAA / RIAA stranglehold, in the USA, on the electronic consumer, may have reached a peak with their ability to coerce the US Congress to pass the DMCA. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, thought by some to be the most noxious bit of legislation since the British Tea Act of 1773, may have a valid use, though.

It's possible that the DMCA Violation Form, which Blogger / Google provides, may be useful in reporting content that's been pirated, personally, from you. If you believe that your pictures, and / or articles, are being unjustly copied within Blogger / Google hosting space, you may get some relief from reporting this as a DMCA Violation.

Note, however, that a DMCA Violation report is a serious complaint, and can have repercussions both upon the source and target of the complaint.
Please note that you will be liable for damages (including costs and attorneys' fees) if you materially misrepresent that a product or activity is infringing your copyrights. Indeed, in a recent case (please see http://www.onlinepolicy.org/action/legpolicy/opg_v_diebold/ for more information), a company that sent an infringement notification seeking removal of online materials that were protected by the fair use doctrine was ordered to pay such costs and attorneys fees. The company agreed to pay over $100,000. Accordingly, if you are not sure whether material available online infringes your copyright, we suggest that you first contact an attorney.


Don't use the DMCA Violation Complaint as a casual harassment technique - only use it where you are extremely certain that your legal rights are being violated. If the Fair Use Doctrine might transcend your personal rights, or if you are unsure here what your rights provide to you, protect yourself and contact a lawyer.

If you receive a DMCA Notice, and you believe yourself to be innocent of any wrongdoing, file a Counter Claim.
The administrator of an affected site or the provider of affected content may make a counter notification pursuant to sections 512(g)(2) and (3) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. When we receive a counter notification, we may reinstate the material in question.


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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Spam Review Escalation Depends Upon Action By The Blog Owner

During the past couple of weeks, we have noted a significant increase in the volume of
Unlock my blog, it is not spam!
problem reports, with a large proportion being judged false positives after review. Unfortunately, the false positives can only be identified after the blog owners report
I submitted the review request, and the appeal, and I waited the required 2 business days. Now what?
and we have seen a few of those this week. We have also seen a few more odd reports
The 2 business days ended several days ago! I am tired of waiting for you to do something about this! Why haven't you done something about this?
and here, we have to point out that you (or the blog owner) are the key player in the next step - that is, requesting the escalation to Blogger.

If we reply to you
Since Blogger gets 2 business days to process restores requested and appealed, we'll give them until Friday to act directly from your requests. If they have not acted by then (which seems to be the case in maybe 50% of the time), please reply here, and we'll take the next step.
that means that you have to take action, to continue this process, when necessary.

We have no way to watch your blog, and see that it was or was not restored during the 2 business days. You are the one who watches the clock for 2 business days, and reports that the time is up. If we don't hear back from you, we can only consider 3 possibilities.
  1. The Asker was a spammer, and has now gone elsewhere.
  2. The Asker's blog was restored, and he is now busy working on his blog.
  3. The Asker's blog was not restored, and he awaits further action.
We can only action the first 2 possibilities. The third is on your dime.

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