Monday, May 31, 2010

Links In The Title Cause Titles That Change Colour

One commonly used convention, in website links, uses hyperlinks that change colour when followed.

Look at the title of this post, Links In The Title Cause Titles That Change Colour. What colour is the title? Now, click on the title, and observe the colour. Next, look at the bottom of this post, and the Topics - "Fonts and Colors, Links, Settings, Settings - Formatting".

What you're seeing, in this exercise, are unvisited (called generally "links") and visited ("visited links") links. In this blog, unvisited links are blue, and visited links are purple.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Custom Domains, And A Domain Cluster

More and more bloggers are publishing their blogs to non BlogSpot URLs, using custom domain publishing, thanks to improved setup and stability. And more bloggers are finding more questions to ask, about how to handle the details.

Before custom domain publishing, we had bloggers renaming BlogSpot published blogs. Then, we had them publishing to their custom domains. Now we have bloggers who wish to rename their custom domain published URLs, and even to publish blogs to multiple non BlogSpot URLs.
  • A single blog republished to a different domain.
  • A single blog published to one (primary) domain, with one or more secondary domains used as aliases.
  • Multiple blogs, each published to a different domain, in a domain cluster.

A single blog republished to a different domain is similar to republishing a custom domain published blog. Since the final custom domain URL (from step #3) won't be the same as the original custom domain URL, this will require planning similar to changing your BlogSpot URL. When complete, you will have one blog, addressable from a different domain URL.

A single blog published to one (primary) domain, with one or more secondary domains used as aliases, requires careful setup.When complete, you will have one blog, addressable from multiple domain URLs.

Multiple blogs, each published to a different domain, in a domain cluster, is a third possibility. This variation gives us the ability, for instance, to publish a blog in multiple languages. When complete, you will have multiple blogs, each addressable from a different - and mutually similar - domain URL.

Note that, in all 3 cases discussed above, we refer to different domains in the associated URLs. You can, just as easily, have different virtual hosts within the same domain.
  • "www.myfirstdomain.com" and "www.myseconddomain.com"
  • "virtualhost1.mydomain.com" and "virtualhost2.mydomain.com"
  • "www.mydomain.com" and "virtualhost.mydomain.com"
would all be valid primary / secondary pairs. Note that
  • "www.mydomain.com" and "mydomain.com"
would not be a valid primary / secondary pair, because "www.mydomain.com" and "mydomain.com" are two halves of a host pair, when published to a custom domain.

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Your Blog Content, And Your "Next Blog" Neighbourhood

In November 2009, Blogger changed the nature of the "Next Blog" link. Originally driven by randomly selected entries in the "Recently Updated Blogs" list, the list was later filtered to block inadvertent surfing to blogs with undesirable content (intentionally published to host hacking, porn, or spam content). When the filtering became relatively ineffective, the "Next Blog" code was redesigned, to select link targets dynamically, relevant to the content of the blog being currently displayed.

This causes occasional confusion among bloggers and blog owners alike.
  • Some blog owners don't understand why their blogs now get less "Next Blog" traffic, even as they post more content to their blogs.
  • Other blog owners don't understand why they click on "Next Blog", and are redirected to blogs that don't seem to relate to their blogs.
  • Some bloggers don't understand why they don't get sent to interesting blogs, any more.

There are details, which not everybody realises.
  • Your "Next Blog" neighbourhood - the blogs which link to your blog through "Next Blog" - as both inlinks and outlinks - are dynamically chosen, and are relevant to your blog.
  • The inlink and outlink relationships are symmetrical. A blog that's randomly likely to link to your blog should be equally randomly likely to be linked from your blog.
  • A large neighbourhood - collection of mututally relevant blogs - will probably have a large number of readers, in total, reading blogs. A small neighbourhood - conversely - will probably have a smaller number of readers, in total, reading blogs.
  • If the nature of your blog makes it individually more likely to be interesting to readers who use "Next Blog", your neighbours should be equally likely to benefit.
  • Over the entire blogosphere, in general, all blogs will be equally likely to benefit from "Next Blog" traffic.
  • Even if symmetrically relevant, your immediate neighbours may not be 100% relevant to your blog. If you click on "Next Blog" from a neighbour blog, the blog that you get may be less relevant to your blog.

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Managing Your Following Community

Blogger gives us our blogs, and our Blogger accounts, for eternity - should we wish to retain them.
Blogger accounts and Blog*Spot addresses do not expire.
Independently of what choices Blogger allows us, we do change.
This, too, shall pass.
We will want to occasionally remove ourselves as Followers, from some blogs.
  • Maybe we have reached the limit for blogs simultaneously Followed.
  • Maybe we have lost interest in a blog that we are Following.
  • Maybe a blog that we are Following becomes dormant, or even deleted.

Should we feel the need to stop Following any blog, there are two wizards, equally useful.
  • The dashboard "Manage Blogs I'm Following" wizard.
  • The Following "Sites I've joined" wizard.

At the bottom of your Blogger dashboard, you'll find a blue "Manage" button (Classic GUI) or the familiar "Gear" icon (New GUI). This lets you manage Following, for all blogs that you are Following using this Blogger / Google account.
  • Click on the button / icon, which takes you to your "Manage Blogs I'm Following" menu.
  • Click on the "Settings" link for any blog that interests you, which takes you to the Site Settings wizard for that site.

From any blog that you Follow, or that you manage, you have (after you sign in to Following, using the right Following account host) an "Options" link.
When you use the "Site Settings" wizard, take care that you are logged in using the appropriate Following profile. You'll have two separate choices, for every blog that you choose to Follow.
  1. You can choose to Follow anonymously or publicly. This controls whether you want a link from the blog in question, to your Blogger profile - if you are Following using your Blogger profile.
  2. You can choose to "Include this site on your profile". This controls whether you want a link from your Blogger profile, to the blog in question - if your profile is selected to "Show sites I follow", and if you are Following using your Blogger profile.

Here, I'll note that the "Sites you've joined" wizard displays blogs Followed by the Blogger account, under which you're currently logged in. If you're seeing a list of "Sites you've joined" that doesn't agree with your recollection, you need to consider both the reality of logging in to Following, and the confusion from multiple Blogger accounts. It's also possible that you may have blogs listed in your Reading List that are not immediately obvious, in the Manage menu. Either condition can cause you to see a Followed or Following community that you do not expect.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Make A Static Home Page For Your Blog

OK, everybody knows that, with a Blogger blog, you can't really make a static home page. That's one of the known limitations of Blogger blogs. The home page of a Blogger blog will contain the most recent posts - as specified by the Settings - Formatting "Show at most" value.

So, just don't show any posts on the main page. That's not a lot of work, really.
  1. In Settings - Formatting, set "Show at most" to 0 posts.
  2. Add a "Welcome" gadget, using an HTML / Text gadget. Or compose a "Welcome" gadget using Post Editor, if you want a really shiny static home page. You'll have a couple choices for positioning the new gadget.
    • If you want your Welcome gadget to look like a "Welcome" post, you can position it just above the Blog Posts gadget, and have the sidebar(s) visible.
    • If you want your Welcome gadget to look like a "welcome" header message,, you can position it just below the blog header, and have the sidebar(s) below it and not visible.
  3. Tweak the "Welcome" gadget, so it only displays on home page.
  4. Remove the Status Message code from the template, so your readers don't have to look at the "No posts were found which match your query" / "Showing posts with label" message (both messages are produced by the same code).
  5. Add a custom pages index, to index the pages and posts in this blog, and other blogs. You can have either true static pages - or you can have dynamic pages, using labels.
  6. You're done - check it out.

If you wish, look at my Static WebSite Test blog, and see how simple it is. Note that my example shows a linklist in the sidebar, with mostly links to other blogs. It's a separate task (no more complicated than this one) to create a menu bar for this blog, to index pages and posts in this blog.


(Update 2010/09): The "Show 0 posts" setting is still available, but may require a small amount of extra work.

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Custom Domain Publishing, And Forwarding Vs Referral - The Controversy Never Ends

I give advice, as well as problem solutions, several times / day, in BHF: How Do I?, and in BHF: Something Is Broken. Not all of my advice is graciously accepted.

Some of my advice is based on simple truths.
  • No, Auto Pagination is not going to be made optional.
  • No, you cannot have control of that blog, even though you state it's yours - unless you can prove ownership.
  • No, you cannot have control of that URL, even though it is inactive - even if it is the perfect URL for your blog.

None of those subjects frustrate me half as much as simple advice, also occasionally ignored, about properly setting up a custom domain. Too many blog owners insist that frame or URL forwarding is an acceptable solution, for connecting a domain to a Blogger blog.

Blog*Spot Connectivity In India

Various bloggers in India - the majority being customers of Reliance Telecomm - are reporting inability to access Blog*Spot, with no reported problems accessing Blogger or Google in general. The problem appears to be geographically uniform across all of India.

We have a Problem Rollup question in Blogger Help Forum, where the epidemiology of the problem is being explored.

Some bloggers appear to be able to regain access, by using different DNS servers from the ones supplied by their ISP. This is a possible workaround, though it may not be a good permanent solution for several reasons. Several bloggers have reported contact with Reliance Tech Support, though the depth of commitment by Reliance TS, to solving the problem, is unknown.

To help identify and verify the epidemiology of the problem, please state diagnostic details as clearly as possible.
  • Your location (City and State, please).
  • The name of your ISP.
  • Is your problem with accessing Blog*Spot, Blogger, Google, other domains?
  • When did you first see the problem?
  • When did you not last see the problem?
Though seemingly redundant, I assure you that your details will be appreciated.


(Update 2010/05/27): Though no authoritative update was seen from Blogger Support, feedback from bloggers affected makes it appear that the problem has been resolved.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Improving The Profile Gadget, And Similar Accessories

Many bloggers want something better than the standard Blogger provided gadgets, like "Profile" / "About Us", on their blogs. For some, even a custom HTML / Rich Text gadget still doesn't provide enough choices.
  • Rich text is too confusing.
  • The HTML Gadget toolbar lacks features.
  • There's no way to upload a picture.

FTP Publishing - The Migration Is Nearing The End

The migration from FTP Publishing started several months ago. Last week, the migration reached it's official end, with the closing of the dedicated Migration Issues Tracker database.
***Note: The Issue Tracker is closed for new submissions. If you are having trouble with FTP migrations, please submit a report in
our help forum: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/blogger/label?lid=027
1191b4249689a&hl=en

So now, all new issues related to FTP Publishing are being handled with other Blogger problems. The closed tracker database was also noted with
We will have all logged issues from this tracker resolved by Friday, May 21st 5:00PM PST.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Google Webmaster Tools And URL Removal

If you have a blog that you don't want indexed by Google Search, you block it from being indexed using the selections in Settings - Basic. Sometimes, you may have a blog that you do want indexed, but specific posts that you do not want indexed.

You can block individual posts from being indexed, using Google Webmaster Tools, and the URL removal request tool.

The URL removal request tool is accessed from the "Crawler access" wizard in "Site configuration". Note the advice provided, first.
If private or out-of-date content is appearing in Google search results, use the Removal URL tool to request its removal (but first, make sure to review our removal requirements).
Having fulfilled the requirements, hit the "New removal request" button, and enter the URL of the post in question.

Note that you will be required to verify that the specific URL is returning a "404" or "410" in the "Crawl errors" or similar diagnostic report, before continuing. You'll also be asked for the removal reason.
  • Remove page from search results and cache
  • Remove page from cache only
  • Remove directory

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Static Pages, And Duplication Prevention Suffixing

Sometimes, after we publish a static page or a post, we may need to start over. When starting over, the natural tendency is to delete the page or the post being edited, and make a clean start. With blogs, where we control only the page or post title, this is not always a good idea.

With static pages, as with posts, once you publish a page with a given title, the URL that's relevant to the title is locked to that page. If you delete a page that's been published with a given title, and simply start over with a new page with the same title, the new page will have a suffixed URL.

Right now, when you rename your blog - and change the blog URL - the Pages index won't be automatically updated. Clicking on a Pages link will give us an old friend
404 Not Found
or the Blogger equivalent
Page not found
Sorry, the page you were looking for in the blog The Real Blogger Status does not exist.
Some bloggers will panic, and delete the pages already published.

This is the wrong reaction, as the URLs for those pages were updated when the blog was renamed. The Pages gadget was not updated, and the pages URLs are locked to the published pages. If you delete then re publish your pages, the newly published pages will all have suffixed URLs.

The proper procedure is to delete then re add the Pages gadget, or to manually update any custom labels / pages / posts index.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What's The URL Of My FeedBurner Feed?

Along with knowing the URL of your blog, and of your blog site feed, knowing the URL(s) of your FeedBurner feed(s) is a good idea.

If you don't want to write them down somewhere, or memorise them, know how to find the URL(s).

With FeedBurner, the action starts from the feed dashboard.
  • Login to FeedBurner.
  • Select the feed, by name.
  • This gives you the feed dashboard.
  • Now, select "Edit Feed Details".
  • This gives you the "Feed Details" wizard.
  • Look at "Feed Address:".

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Different Browsers Giving Odd Results? Start With A Clean, Up To Date Blogger Template

There's a popular adage
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
I would amend this to read
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes, and browser differences.
I've written about this before, yet still we see the occasional confusion and naivete, reported in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken.
Why does my blog look so good under Firefox, yet so scrambled under Internet Explorer?

I can name three possible problems, which may be present in the template in any blog.
  • Custom code.
  • Old code.
  • Third party code.

Custom code. If you installed any template tweaks, did you test your changes in multiple browsers?

Old code. Blogger releases various changes, in the templates which they provide. If you got your template last year, there may be a fix that could help you, this year.

Third party code. I've published various warnings about third party code. This article continues that series.

In case you see a problem with your blog, I would advise you to start by getting rid of all three possibilities. This is simply one more responsible practice, which I will advise occasionally.

In case of doubt, start over with a clean, up to date, template from the current Blogger library.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Following - The Implications #2

The immensely popular Blogger social networking feature Following has been with us for over 18 months now, and we've seen quite a few improvements. We had privacy and security concerns about it, in the beginning. Even today, in Blogger Help Forum: How Do I?, we see more bloggers with concerns.
How do I Follow a blog, without cluttering up my Reading List?
and
Can I Follow a blog without showing what other blogs I Follow?
and
How do I include a link to my blog, from my Following picture?
and
How do I know when somebody new decides to Follow my blog?
In the beginning, none of those questions could be answered, with any encouraging details.

Following has gotten better, though, with various site specific options, that should satisfy your dual need for privacy and for publicity.

You start from the "Manage" button at the bottom of your Blogger dashboard, which gives you the "Manage Blogs I'm Following" menu. Similar to your Blogger dashboard, the menu contains a list of the various blogs that you are Following, with a Settings link for each blog. Alternately, after you sign in to Following from any blog that displays the Following gadget, you click on the "Settings" link.

Note that the Following gadget allows you to Follow using any of several different profiles. You have to sign into the right one!
  • Blogger
  • Google
  • Orkut
  • Netlog
  • Plaxo
  • Twitter
Conversely, the dashboard "Manage" button will let you access only your Blogger profile, and you will not have to sign on, specifically.

Depending upon your membership level in any blog, and how you are Following that blog, you'll have quite a few options available to you, from the Settings wizard.
  • Basics.
  • Messaging.
  • Sites you've joined.
  • Manage friends.

Basics gives you the ability to select what profile you wish to use, with various options for each profile. The basic Following profile lets you add or change your picture, and add links to your various sites. Your Blogger, Google, and other profiles, which you edit separately, will have still more options.

For each site, you'll have the option to use any profile that you have setup (which may be any one of the 7 listed above). If you wish to use the default Following profile for any site, you unlink the profile that you are currently using.

The Basics tab will have a link to "Stop following this site" - though you may have to look carefully, to find the link.

Messaging lets you change the email address associated with your photo. For a site which you manage, you'll have the option to receive email announcing a new Follower. For all sites, you'll have the options to receive communications from the site owner, and from the other site members.

Sites you've joined gives you a replica of your master list of Followed sites, with the option to "stop following", for each different site.

Manage friends gives you the ability to manage settings relative to the various Followers with which you setup a dual relationship.

All in all, there are numerous settings which should give you the ability to control your exposure as a Follower, and as a Followed person.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Security Vulnerability In Mail-to-Blogger Passwords

Two months ago, Blogger issued a typically terse warning of a security problem, with blogs that use Mail-to-Blogger for publishing posts.
To prevent abuse, a recent update to disabled easily guessable secret words. Please update your Mail2Blogger secret word.

I've referred to the importance of the "secret word" some time ago - and apparently this year, a few blogs are being hit by the vulnerability.

If you are using Mail-to-Blogger for publishing - and especially if you enabled "Publish emails immediately" - this is a change which you need to make. There is apparently an organised attack underway, where blogs, owned by accounts with weak "passwords", are being used as spam hosts. In some cases, this results in splog detection, with the well known and hated 4 step process being required, to get the blog unlocked - then cleaned.

If your blog uses Mail-to-Blogger, and you have selected "Publish emails immediately", please change your Mail-to-Blogger password, to something not easily guessable.
  • First, do not use details from your real life, like your social security number, street address, name of husband / wife, and so on. If you can remember it, the bad guys can - and will - guess it.
  • Second, avoid words found in the dictionary of your native language. Dictionary based password guessing is a very popular technique used by many hackers.
  • 12 to 24 character random strings, combining letters, numbers, and special characters, are best. It's your blog, just know the risks - and learn to live with the limitations. See WikiPedia: Password strength, for more details.

Just please - do this before you have to post, following organised brute force hacking, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken
Please, help me! My blog is locked!!

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Domain Purchased Using "Buy A Domain" Is A Fully Functional Domain

Many bloggers are not quite sure about the relationship between Blogger blogs, custom domain publishing, and the "Buy A Domain For Your Blog" wizard.
How do I use my domain with my WordPress blog?
and
Can I use my domain outside Blogger?
and
If I drop my Blogger blog, what happens to my domain?
These are all questions, asked occasionally in Blogger Help Forum: How Do I?

The answer here is quite simple. A domain purchased through Blogger, using the "Buy A Domain" wizard, is a fully functional registered domain. You can do anything with this domain, that you would do with any other domain.

Resetting The Widget Templates

The gadgets (previously known as widgets) are the template components that can be manipulated using the "dashboard Layout" wizard.

The post template is the most commonly used gadget (found in virtually every blog) - but it's not the only gadget.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blog Post Content Showing "undefined"

Recently, we've seen a few reports of apparently missing content in some blog posts.
At the top of all of my blog posts it says "undefined undefined".
Frequently this will be reported after having changed templates, possibly for a third party template.

The portion of the blog where the problem is reported will be typically part of the post or comments area. The most likely candidate for the problem, then, is the post template.

A good thing to check first would be post template corruption, so refresh or reset the post template. If that's not helpful, then look for a problem with the date setting.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Resetting The Post Template

The posts are the most important part of the blog as a whole - they contain the material which your visitors read, which is generally what attracts them to the blog. Most of the blog content, that's indexed by the search engines, comes from the posts. It follows, then, that the post template is the most important part of the blog template.

When there are problems with the posts or post accessories, and the problems can't be resolved by editing the posts using the Post Editor, or adjusting the various settings in the Blog Posts gadget, the post template is corrupt, or out of date. There are three possible techniques, to resolve problems with the post template.

Resetting the post template is a fairly simple task, when you get used to it. It's done using the "Edit HTML" wizard in the Classic GUI Template Editor - and it's done without Expanding Widget Templates.

Using the "Edit HTML" wizard, look for the "Blog Posts" gadget.
<b:widget id='Blog1' locked='true' title='Blog Posts' type='Blog'/>

"Blog Posts" will probably be in the "Main" section. To be safe, you can simply save the entire "Main" section by copying and pasting its contents into any text file. This will help you put the posts template back, exactly as it was previously.

Here is a sample of a vary simple "Main" section - one with only "Blog Posts". If your blog has gadgets above or below "Blog Posts", your template may or may not be similar.
<b:section class='main' id='main' showaddelement='no'>
  <b:widget id='Blog1' locked='true' title='Blog Posts' type='Blog'/>
</b:section>
This is a fairly quick process, all done from "Edit HTML".
  1. Start out by backing up the template.
  2. Find the "Blog Posts" gadget inside the "Main" section, and remove that one line of code, shown above in red. Be sure to remove the entire line of code - don't leave yourself vulnerable to XML error messages.
  3. A variation on Step #2 is to simply change "id='Blog1'" to "id='Blog2'" - without deleting anything. This may, similarly, force the refresh of the post template, without the need for Steps #6-7.
  4. Save the change.
  5. Confirm the deletion of "Blog Posts".
  6. Replace that one line of code, shown above in red.
  7. Save the change.
  8. Clear browser cache, then test the change. If the problem isn't resolved, try resetting the widget templates.
  9. And finish by backing up the template, again.
  10. And don't forget to clear browser cache, to ensure that the changes are immediately visible.
It looks a lot scarier than it really is. Once you get used to it, it's a 5 minute task - and can save you energy and time, in the long run.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Redirecting Traffic Between BlogSpot URLs

Occasionally in Blogger Help Forum: How Do I?, we see the innocent question
How do I redirect traffic, automatically, from one BlogSpot blog to another?
or
I just changed my blog name - how do I get my readers from the old URL to the new one?
And this is one feature that Blogger will probably not ever provide.

Problems Observed When Publishing Posts With Changed Dates

Recently, we've seen reports, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken about some oddities observed when publishing posts with changed dates.
I back dated a post, but it won't publish.
or
I published a post with a scheduled date, and it has already published.

What's going on here? If you're observing this problem, please try and help us diagnose its spread.
  • What date / time format is the blog set to?
  • What time zone is the blog set to?
  • What date / time format is the computer, where you setup the blog, set to?
  • What date / time format is the computer, where you published the post, set to?
  • What time zone is the computer, where you setup the blog, set to?
  • What time zone is the computer, where you published the post, set to?
  • What language is the blog published in?
  • What language is the computer, from where you published the scheduled post, set to?
  • Are the two computers - used for setting up the blog, and used for publishing the post, the same?
  • What browser did you use, when setting up the blog, and when publishing the posts?
Be as generous, and as precise as possible, and help us to see if there is an affinity to this problem. And subscribe to the comments feed for this post, to keep up with ongoing developments.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Getting In To The New Post Editor, And Designer Templates, Carefully

There are different ways to get into a properly designed swimming pool. Most pools have a shallow end, possibly with steps - and a hand rail. Cautious people like to walk down the steps, slowly, holding on to the rail. At the other end, where it is deep, some folks like to dive (head first), or jump (feet first), and go in quickly.

Summer is just around the corner - in the USA anyway. Some pools, that are not heated, you may not enjoy using for a couple more months. If you dive in to an unheated pool, you may not enjoy the feeling (you may not have any feeling in your body). Use the steps, or hop in to the shallow end, if you're experienced in early summer swimming.

If you've been reading about my experiences with the new post editor, and about the new designer templates, you may wonder about how to get into that swimming pool. The water isn't very clear, and you may not know how deep it is anywhere. And, it's a good idea to know where the steps are, so you can get out quickly if you find that it's too cold.

But, if you are daring, you are still welcome to dive right in - just only use the deep end for diving. This Blogger swimming pool has a number of options - so be aware of the options, and pick the right end. And always stay aware of the depth of the water, wherever you are in the pool.

If you want to get in to this pool slowly, you'll want to setup a second Blogger account - and use new post editor, and Draft (blue) Blogger, from the new account. As with all plans to use two different Blogger accounts, you'll probably enjoy this more if you use two different browsers, or two different computers.

There are several strategies for testing designer templates and / or new post editor.
  • Walk in slowly, using the steps. Setup a separate Blogger account for using the features, and setup separate blogs under the new account.
  • Hop in to the shallow end. Setup a separate Blogger account for using the new features, and make both your current and new accounts team members of your various blogs.
  • Dive right in. Convert your existing account to new post editor, and to Draft Blogger.

If you want to experiment carefully, you'll try Draft features, or the new post editor, alternately with current features. You'll want two accounts administering one blog, so create the blog under one account - then make the second account an author, then a second administrator.

When you have two or more blog members, you'll have a team blog. With a team blog, the default Profile gadget in the blogs will change to an "About Us" gadget - so you may want to make a custom Profile gadget, if you don't care to make the existence of your second Blogger account obvious.

Just don't forget about why you got into the pool, in the first place. Do some swimming.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

Ambiguity In Spam Detection

Occasionally, some bloggers report confusion over whether their blogs have been tagged as splogs, after receiving some odd email.
Your blog at http://myblog.blogspot.com/ has been reviewed and confirmed as in violation of our Terms of Service for: NONE. In accordance to these terms, we've removed the blog and the URL is no longer accessible.
The blog does not appear to be locked, nor does it's online status change. All that's seen is the ominous email notice.

The response from Blogger Support is slightly encouraging.
we have a bug in our system that has been sending those email inadvertently

So if you get this email, apparently you can ignore it. Your blog should remain online, and accessible as before. Check your dashboard - you should have administrative access, and no need to worry.

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The New Designer Templates Lack Text Overflow Protection

If your blog is similar to mine, you may, on occasion, include content that doesn't fit, horizontally, in a post. A long time ago, that would make the blog, when viewed in Internet Explorer, show either the post or sidebar at the bottom of the page. Blogger added a bit of code to the templates, to prevent this from being a problem.

#main-wrapper {
...

float: left;
display: inline;       /* fix for doubling margin in IE */
word-wrap: break-word; /* fix for long text breaking sidebar float in IE */
overflow: hidden;      /* fix for long non-text content breaking IE sidebar float */
}

The "overflow: hidden" rule had a second benefit. It also stopped long lines of text, when encased in "<pre> ... </pre>" blocks, from overflowing into the sidebar or margins of the blog display.

It appears that the new designer templates, written for newer versions of Internet Explorer, which automatically provide overflow protection, do not provide that feature. If your blog has posts which contain long, unbroken lines of text inside "<pre> ... </pre>" blocks, and you just migrated the blog to a designer template, you may have noted this change.


This is what I saw earlier, yesterday.



If you lament this change, fortunately, there is an easy fix, using the "Add CSS" window in the Template Designer.

#main {
word-wrap: break-word; /* fix for long text breaking sidebar float in IE */
overflow: hidden;      /* fix for long non-text content breaking IE sidebar float */
}

I added that code, yesterday, and now you can see how my blog displays long lines of unbroken text. Or, you can look immediately above.


This is what I have, now.



It's an easy fix, when you know how to make it.

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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Custom Domains Redirecting To Google Sites

Similar to a redirection to the Google Apps Start Page service, some custom domains will be found to be directed to Google Sites. Again, we'll see an apparently normal (asymmetrical) DNS address configuration.
mydomain.net.            3600    IN      A       216.239.32.21
mydomain.net.            3600    IN      A       216.239.34.21
mydomain.net.            3600    IN      A       216.239.36.21
mydomain.net.            3600    IN      A       216.239.38.21
www.mydomain.net.      3600    IN      CNAME   ghs.google.com.
---
ghs.google.com.         282206  IN      CNAME   ghs.l.google.com.
ghs.l.google.com.       300     IN      A       74.125.43.121 
The diagnosis, again, will be made using an (abbreviated) HTTP trace.


Sending request:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: mydomain.net
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:
1.9.0.5) Gecko/2008120122 Firefox/3.0.5
Connection: close

• Finding host IP address...
• Host IP address = 209.85.171.121
• Finding TCP protocol...
• Binding to local socket...
• Connecting to host...
• Sending request...
• Waiting for response...

Receiving Header:

HTTP/1.1·302·Moved·Temporarily(CR)(LF)
Location:·http://www.mydomain.net(CR)(LF)

Sending request:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: www.mydomain.net
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:
1.9.0.5) Gecko/2008120122 Firefox/3.0.5
Connection: close

• Finding host IP address...
• Host IP address = 209.85.171.121
• Finding TCP protocol...
• Binding to local socket...
• Connecting to host...
• Sending request...
• Waiting for response...

Receiving Header:

HTTP/1.1·302·Moved·Temporarily(CR)(LF)
Location:·http://sites.google.com/a/mydomain.com/sites/system/app/pages/meta/domainWelcome(CR)(LF)

Unlike the generically known "Server Not Found Error 404" symptom, this one won't be solved by merely publishing back to Blog*Spot, then re publishing to the custom domain.

What we see here is that Sites, similar to Start Page, is apparently enabled, and published to "www.mydomain.net". In this case, you're going to first have to disable Sites. If you don't, you're going to see another old friend
Another blog is already hosted at this address.
After doing that, then you can publish back to Blog*Spot, then re publish to the custom domain.

A second variation on this redirect may not start with an explicit "Server Not Found Error 404", and the HTTP trace will be slightly different. You will probably see "Another blog is already hosted at this address." in the usual places.
Sending request:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: mydomain.net
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:
1.9.0.6) Gecko/2009011913 Firefox/3.0.6
Connection: close

• Finding host IP address...
• Host IP address = 216.239.34.21
• Finding TCP protocol...
• Binding to local socket...
• Connecting to host...
• Sending request...
• Waiting for response...

Receiving Header:

HTTP/1.1·302·Moved·Temporarily(CR)(LF)
Location:·http://www.mydomain.net(CR)(LF)

Sending request:

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: www.mydomain.net
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:
1.9.0.6) Gecko/2009011913 Firefox/3.0.6
Connection: close

• Finding host IP address...
• Host IP address = 209.85.171.121
• Finding TCP protocol...
• Binding to local socket...
• Connecting to host...
• Sending request...
• Waiting for response...

Receiving Header:

HTTP/1.1·200·OK(CR)(LF)
(Here is a short excerpt of the rest of the trace -
you have to look carefully for these clues)

<body·xmlns="http://www.google.com/ns/jotspot"·id="body"·class="·en">(LF)
<div·id="sites-page-toolbar">(LF)
<div·id="sites-status"·class="sites-status"·style="display:none;">(LF)
<div·id="sites-notice"·class="sites-notice">·</div>(LF)
</div>(LF)
</div>(LF)
<div·id="sites-chrome-everything"·style="direction:·ltr">(LF)
<div·id="sites-chrome-page-wrapper">(LF)
<div·id="sites-chrome-page-wrapper-inside">(LF)
<div·xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"·id="sites-chrome-header-wrapper">(LF)

As shown immediately above, we have Google Sites involved, though less obviously. Resolution of this scenario, too, seems to involve disabling Sites. After doing that, you will likewise need to publish back to Blog*Spot, then re publish to the custom domain.

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The "Buy A Domain" Wizard Has Limited Selections For TLD

The ability to publish a Blogger blog to a non BlogSpot URL is becoming a known - and desired - option for many bloggers. And with the retiring of FTP Publishing, many bloggers are turning to Custom Domain Publishing. Not everybody is satisfied with the TLD choice of ""com", "net", "info", "org", or "biz"", though.
  • Some folks would like to publish to a "vanity" TLD, like ".me", ".tv", or ".us".
  • Others would like the country relevant TLD of their residence, like ".au", ".de", or ".in".
  • And I have seen one or two queries about using a ".gov" TLD.

Custom domains will support use of any properly registered domain that you can "buy". The limitation is with the "Buy a Domain" wizard, which lets you select only a ".biz", ".com", ".info", ".net", or "org" generic Top Level Domain. Additional TLDs are available from eNom or GoDaddy, or any third party registrar that you can use.

When you choose your registrar, please make sure that your prospective registrar will provide "4 x "A" / "CNAME"" referral - that choice is essential, for a reliable custom domain. That is the basic requirement.

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Identify The Gadgets In The Template, Reliably

When you tweak the code in a gadget, based upon my instructions, you'll be editing the template HTML, and generally with widget code expanded. You'll have a lot of code to sift through - and with many gadgets in your blog, there's always the chance that you'll see the code for one gadget, and confuse it for another.

If you tweak the wrong gadget, you may not like what you get. Before editing the template, take an extra minute, and find the gadget name - this could save you a lot of grief.

Here, I'll look at the Welcome message in my Buzz blog, as I tweaked it to make it show up only on the Home page.

So, welcome to The Buzz.

If I right click on the screwdriver / wrench ("dragonfly") under that gadget, and select "Copy Link Location" (or possibly "Copy link address"), I can paste the URL into Notepad for easy examination.
http://www.blogger.com/rearrange?blogID=6525860816441104874&widgetType=Text&widgetId=Text1&action=editWidget

The gadget in question is "Text1". To find the code to tweak, I use the Template "Edit HTML" wizard - and completely unfold the code for "Text1".
<b:widget id='Text1' locked='false' title='' 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':gt;<data:title/:gt;</h2>
  </b:if>
  <div class='widget-content'>
    <data:content/>
  </div>
</b:if>

  <b:include name='quickedit'/>
</b:includable>
</b:widget>
That beats an eyeball based search, any day. It's 100% reliable, and takes just a few seconds to find the code for "Text1". After you do this a few times, you'll be able to hover the mouse, and spot the widgetId=Text1 in the URL display in the browser status area - and go straight to
The gadget in question is "Text1".

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FeedBurner Feeds Not Being Updated

Recently in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, we've seen a few reports of blog feeds that aren't updating promptly.

After a brief feed diagnostic procedure, we do an HTTP trace of the feed.
Sending request:

GET /feeds/posts/default HTTP/1.1
Host: myblog.blogspot.com
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.9.2.3) Gecko/20100401 Firefox/3.6.3
Referer: http://www.rexswain.com/httpview.html
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/1.1·302·Moved·Temporarily(CR)(LF)
Content-Type:·text/html;·charset=UTF-8(CR)(LF)
X-Frame-Options:·ALLOWALL(CR)(LF)
Location:·http://feeds.feedburner.com/MyCustomFeed(CR)(LF)
OK, the feed is redirected to FeedBurner. So, you login to your FeedBurner account, select the feed by name, and find the "Troubleshootize" tab.
Oh Dear, What Kind of Trouble?
Troubleshootize contains general tips and a couple of quick-fixes to try with any malfunctioning feed. And yeah, we're sticking with this tab title. For now.
Right at the top of the list:
Fouled-Up Feeds, and Quick Ways to Fix 'Em
The most common problems that affect your FeedBurner feed are:
  • The trouble: Your FeedBurner feed isn't up-to-date with your Original Feed.
    The fix: Try pinging FeedBurner using our Ping page. This action tells FeedBurner to go check your feed for updates immediately.
Still further down the list:
The Nuclear Option: "Resyncing" your feed
As a last resort with a regular feed or a podcast, you can resync your feed. You should only resync if your feed is more than 1 hour out-of-date and pinging FeedBurner does not update it or your podcast files are not being turned into enclosures by our SmartCast service.
And just below that, the "Resync Now" button, with the advice:
Resync takes the following actions:
  • Clears our cached version and refreshes its content from your Original Feed
  • Creates podcast enclosures for items that did not previously have them and contain links to podcast content
  • Reports any feed formatting problems encountered during the resync

And we see further good news.
Frustrated? Need help solving your problem? Head to the Groups.
FeedBurner’s official Google Group is the best place to find other publishers and solve problems. Additionally, Google employees and community experts monitor discussions and participate from time to time to offer guidance. Head to the Group if none of the resources provided here on Troubleshootize give you the answers you're looking for.
So, you have a few options yet, if the problem involves a FeedBurner feed.

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