Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Static Pages, With Multiple Posts, Using Labels

If you want to publish multiple "posts" on a static page, using a standard Pages Index gadget, you just edit the static page as required. That gives you multiple "posts" that never appear in archives or label retrievals, or on the main page, on one true static page.

If your need for a "static" page is simply to have a collection of "posts", linked from a tabs index, make a custom pages / posts index gadget, and index label retrievals. This gives you multiple posts that will initially appear on the main page, and on any number of dynamic indexed (archives / label retrievals) pages.

Continuing my "Contact" example from Static Pages, With Multiple Posts, I can publish any number of individual posts using the label "Contact". Then, my "Contact" tab uses a label search for "Contact" as the target, replacing the URL for a static "Contact" page.

Any time that I need an additional post published on the "Contact" page, I just add the "Contact" label to the post, publish the post, and there it is.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blogger Does Not Moderate Comments For You

Almost daily, some optimistic blogger asks in BHF: How Do I? the question
How do I report unwanted comments?
as if Blogger has a classification in the Report Abuse form for spam comments. Unfortunately, they do not.

There are 4 levels of authentication, permitted at the option of the blog owner.
  1. Anyone / Anonymous.
  2. Registered Users / OpenID.
  3. Users with Google accounts.
  4. Blog members.
With options #1 and #2, Google has no control at all. If the blog owner chooses to allow comments to be published by anybody, or by anybody externally authenticated, Blogger commenting has no choice but to accept the comment being published.

With option #3, and since a Blogger account has no intrinsic value comparable to a FaceBook or Twitter account, were Blogger to block or delete any Blogger account for attempted spam comment publication, it would be a trivial effort for a spammer to switch to another Blogger account.

The more active and persistent spammers use many different identities, and many different IP addresses (generally through a botnet). Neither Account nor IP Address filters have any real chance of making a difference.

With comment filtering, Blogger takes the only practical strategy, and allows the blog owners to select which comments to allow, in their blogs. As to which comments are to be moderated, and when the moderation is to be conducted, that is the decision of the blog owner. The blog owner can choose to train the spam filters, which will use collaborative heuristics to detect and remove mass submitted commercial comments. Simply unwanted comments, though, are the personal business of each blog owner.

It's that simple.


(Update 2010/07/01): It's possible that Blogger is doing something about the problem of spam comments, by removing the motivation behind spam comments.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Static Pages, With Multiple Posts

Let me very clear here. Static pages, and posts, are simply two different things. You cannot publish posts on a static page. You can, however, have posts on a page.
(Update 2012/05): This post is now obsolete, with Blogger now offering the combination of Pages (dynamic and static), and the ability to redirect any URL in the blog to any other URL in that same blog.
The default Pages gadget is simply a linklist that only indexes static pages, as maintained by the Pages gadget in Post Elements. If you replace the Pages gadget with a linklist that you maintain as a linklist, you can index archive retrievals, label searches, single posts, and URLs of other blogs and websites in your linklist.

Label searches are a popular way to publish multiple posts on a page.
  • Publish your posts using various labels.
  • Index various label searches, in your linklist.

Alternatively, a true static page, with multiple sections, is easy enough to setup - if you like static pages.

Click on a tab labeled "Contact", and you get a page with a title of "Contact".

Contact

<h3 class="post-title entry-title"><a href="#">Contact</a></h3>
Maybe you would like to have two more posts - "Contact Me At Home" and "Contact Me At Work". All that you need to do is edit the page, and add two more titles in the body of the page.
<h3 class="post-title entry-title"><a href="#">Contact Me At Home</a></h3>
and
<h3 class="post-title entry-title"><a href="#">Contact Me At Work</a></h3>
Having added the titles, just add the necessary text below each title.

The page will still have a tab labeled, simply, "Contact". But it will have a total of 3 titles, visible when you click on the "Contact" tab.

Contact

Contact Me At Home

Contact Me At Work


You won't have real posts in a multiple section static page - none of the sections will be indexed in an archive, or a label, search. But short of what they won't be, they can still look like, posts.

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The "Layout" / "Page Elements" Wizard

With New Blogger 2006, Blogger added another layer of simplicity in web site development. They redesigned their templates, using Dynamic HTML, and XML, for more flexibility and options. And they added two key improvements:
  1. Template objects (aka "Page Elements", which are now called "gadgets").
  2. A GUI Page Elements editor, to setup, position, and maintain the template objects.

The Page Elements wizard lets you add and re locate objects on the blog page, and maintains the blog template.

This is Page Elements, in the Classic GUI.


The Page Elements wizard is reached from the Design link in the dashboard or navbar (when you use the Classic GUI) - or from the Layout menu entry (when you use the New GUI (2011)). If the blog is setup to use a dynamic template, "Page Elements" won't apply - and "Layout" won't even be part of the New GUI menu.

The Blog Posts widget, which is the largest individual object in the "Layout" / "Page Elements" display, lets you re arrange objects in the posts, and maintains the post template.


Blogger provides various commonly used blog accessories, that you can add as a simple page element, using the GUI page element editor. No more editing the template HTML code, to add popular page accessories.

  • AdSense. Add an AdSense ad to your blog.
  • Archive. Display an index of the posts in the blog.
  • BlogList. Combining a linklist with a blog feed gadget, a bloglist shows the most recent post from any set of blogs that interest you.
  • Contributors / Profile. Display information about yourself, or about the authors of your blog.
  • Feed. Add content from an RSS or Atom feed to your blog.
    • A feed from your blog.
    • A similar feed from any other blog.
    • Any feed from any other web site.
  • Followers. The Blogger merging of Blogger profiles, feeds, and focused "Next Blog" type surfing.
  • HTML/JavaScript. Add HTML / JavaScript code to your blog.
  • Labels. List the labels in the posts in your blog.
  • List. Make a list of your favourites.
  • Link List. Make a list of your favourites, linked to other posts, blogs, or web sites.
  • Logo. Add a Blogger logo to your blog.
  • Newsreel. Add current headlines from Google News to your blog.
  • Page Header. Display your blog's title and description.
  • Picture. Add a picture from your computer or from somewhere else on the web.
  • Poll. Survey your visitors.
  • Text (aka "Welcome Post"). Add some words to your blog - using Rich Text.
  • Video Bar. Display video clips, from YouTube and Google Video, in your blog.

Adding any of the above accessories is simple.
  • Starting from the dashboard, select "Design" / "Layout". Or, select "Design" on the navbar.
  • This puts you on "Page Elements" / "Layout".
  • Select "Add a Gadget".
  • You'll get a pop-up window "Add a Gadget", with all of the above choices presented to you.
  • Pick any one, for the appropriate wizard.


Compared to Old Blogger and the monolithic choice of the Classic template, probably 90% of the needs to customise the template code will be taken care of by the Page Elements GUI, and its peer the Fonts and Colors GUI. For another 9%, there's the HTML / JavaScript gadget.

Note that you may not always be able to add a new page element, or position it into a given section of the template, without occasionally making some changes to various settings in the template.

For the most part, though, you can now forget about editing the blog template to add a popular accessory. Just use the Page Elements GUI.
  • Select "Add a Gadget".
  • Select the gadget of your choice from the list.
  • Add some content, or select details, as necessary.
  • Hit "OK".
  • Re position your new gadget on the page, as necessary.
  • Hit "Save".
  • You're done.
Now, admire your new improvement.

Removing gadgets is simpler, still.
  • Identify the gadget to be removed.
  • Hit the "Edit" link, for the gadget in question.
  • Hit the "Remove" button.
  • Hit "Yes".
  • You're done.


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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Custom Domain Published Blogs, Migrated From FTP Publishing, May Not Have An Alternate BlogSpot URL

Many problems with custom domain publishing are transient, and can be fixed by republishing to the domain URL. When encountered by a possibly transient problem, my advice is very basic.
Publish the blog back to BlogSpot, then re publish it to the domain URL. And recheck the redirect option.
This is good advice, and generally easy enough to execute.

One case, when this advice is not easy to execute, is with blogs that were previously hosted externally, and never published to a BlogSpot URL. A blog that was never published to BlogSpot can't be published back to BlogSpot. The FTP Migration effort, completed just recently, retained that option for many blogs. Blogs migrated from an externally hosted non BlogSpot URL, to a Google hosted non BlogSpot URL, won't necessarily have a BlogSpot URL.

When this happens, pick any available BlogSpot URL, and change the blog temporarily from custom domain publishing to BlogSpot publishing. You won't necessarily use a BlogSpot name even remotely similar to the domain, nor should you expect to do so. The way the republishing process works, you'll just use your BlogSpot name for a few seconds.
  • Publish to BlogSpot.
  • Re publish to the domain.
  • Done.
Pick a long and random name, that should be available, and the whole process will take just a few seconds. Just allow enough time to solve the 2 CAPTCHAs.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gadgets Can't Be Saved With Blank Title

Bloggers everywhere are reporting that when they try to "Add a Gadget", or edit an existing gadget, and save without providing a Title for the gadget, they get sad news.
Required field must not be blank
No title, no new / updated gadget.

Blogger has accepted responsibility for this, and has promised a resolution, at an unspecified time. In the mean time, if you wish to publish your blog, with a gadget with no visible title, simply save the gadget with the title of
&nbsp;
This will give you a gadget with a non visible, non blank Title.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Network Problem In Pakistan Affects Blogger Access As Well As Non Google Services

We are seeing reports that some bloggers in Pakistan, who are customers of PTCL Broadband, are logging in to Blogger and are being presented with the dashboard for somebody else's account. Specific details, about ability to actually use the other dashboard, are not clear.

One blogger has reported that other Internet services, such as Facebook, are also affected. Facebook has blocked access from the PTCL address blocks involved in the problem.

More detail is available in Further PTCL Broadband Blues.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cookies Disabled / The "Remember Me" Option Is Not Working

Starting in early June 2010, we have been getting a few reports from bloggers about disabled cookies
When I login to Blogger, I am getting a message that I have cookies disabled.

Blogger Sign In We found the following errors:

Your browser's cookie functionality is disabled. Please enable JavaScript and cookies in order to use Blogger.
Alternately, some bloggers report that "Remember Me" does not work, or that they have to sign in, each time they wish to post a comment to somebody else's blog.

The ongoing problem with blocked third party cookies is not unknown, and is most likely the basis for this symptom. The question right now is what has caused the blocked cookies.

One possible cause for the problem is changes to computers running in Microsoft Windows, since Tuesday of last week was Microsoft Patch Tuesday. It's possible that other companies are releasing significant updates on or before Patch Tuesday.

If you are seeing any of these symptoms, please help us to help you. Post diagnostic details, here or in the Rollup discussion.
  • When did the problem start?
  • What operating system does your computer run?
  • What browser(s) do you use, where you observe this problem?
  • What browser(s) do you use, where you do not observe this problem?
  • What add-ons / browser helper objects / extensions are installed in your browser(s)?
  • What personal firewall / anti-malware / anti-virus packages are installed in your computer?

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Making A New Blog With A Layout Template

The new Designer templates are now a part of Production Blogger - and new blogs, created by "Create a blog", will have a Designer template. Unfortunately, the Designer templates are not 100% usable, on all blogs. Some extra effort will be required to publish a new blog, using a Layout template.


Here's the new reality - right after I solve the CAPTCHA, on the first page of "Create a blog".




So, I select "Simple", and now I have a new blog.




I bet I can use "Simple", as I used to use "Minima".



Here's where I have a choice. Move forward, and use "Simple" as a Designer equivalent of "Minima". The choices of backgrounds, layouts, and styles certainly makes Designer look pretty good.

Or, revert my new blog to Layout, and to the original Minima.


Our old friend - Minima - back again.



This gives me some breathing room. I can upgrade to a Designer template later, when it's more convenient. I'll still be using the Template Designer wizard with my layout template, for some changes.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Fonts and Colors" Is Now The "Advanced" Menu In The Template Designer

During the months when the Template Designer was a Draft Blogger feature, we saw a few reports from bloggers who tried to use the "Fonts and Colors" wizard to make changes to a blog with a Designer template - or tried to use the Template Designer to make changes to a blog with a Layouts template. Since the CSS rules used in Designer templates are significantly different from those in Layout templates, this was a source of a few problems.

As part of adding the Template Designer to Production Blogger, Blogger has removed "Fonts and Colors", and has made the Advanced menu in Template Designer sensitive to Designer vs Layout CSS differences. Now, you use Template Designer for all Fonts and Colors changes to blogs with a Layout template, as well as to blogs with a Designer template.


There's no No Fonts and Colors wizard, so how do I make changes to my Layout template?



Apparently, using the Template Designer!



Looks like it works!



Now, if you are using the Advanced menu, and find that you don't care for the way the various settings are grouped, or would like additional controls, you can add settings, or shuffle settings around - on a blog by blog basis.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Inconsistencies In Template Designer Layout Are Disturbing

As I noted in an earlier article, the Template Designer is now a part of Production (Orange) Blogger - and now, merely a day after having noted the fact, inconsistencies in the design of the displays are becoming visible.

A very lamentable omission from the Template Designer screen itself is the lack of the Blogger "B" logo, which should link to the dashboard. Such a basic feature, and now it's gone.

The schizophrenic nature of the "Design" link is also disturbing.
  • From the dashboard, the "Design" link leads to the "Page Elements" display. You click on "Template Designer" to get to the Template Designer.
  • From the navbar, the "Design" link leads to the Template Designer. You click on "Back to Blogger" to get to "Page Elements".

The "Page Elements" GUI appears to be where we will add and rearrange the gadgets on the screen. A former "Layout" component is thus necessary for a Designer template function.

Conversely, the Template Designer "Advanced" feature appears to replace the (former) Layout "Fonts and Colors" wizard. A "Designer" component is thus necessary for a Layout template function.

One can only hope that these are merely oversights on the part of Blogger, and they have plans to remedy them shortly. I just wonder how long it will take, for them to do so.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Getting Out Of the Designer Templates

The new Template Designer, previously a Draft Blogger feature, was added to Production Blogger this week. And just as some bloggers are discovering how exciting they are, others are discovering that the Designer templates have downsides.

Fortunately, even though the Template Designer wizard is part of Production (Orange) Blogger, you can revert your blog and recover the Layout template, if you decide that the Designer template isn't to your taste.

Just go to the "Edit Template" wizard, and look at the bottom section "Old Templates". If your blog has a Designer template, you should have a link to "Select Layout Template".

Under "Old Templates", find "Select Layout Template".




Next, pick a new Layout template. Hopefully, you remember how to do this.



Now that the blog has a Layout template again, and hoping that you backed up the Layout template before you setup the Designer template earlier, just restore your backed up Layout template, if you find any remembered details missing.

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The Template Designer Wizard Is Now In Production Blogger

The "Template Designer" wizard is now part of Production (Orange) Blogger. Where you used to see "Layout", you'll now see "Design" or "Designer".

From your Blogger dashboard for a blog with a Designer or Layout template, click on "Design". You'll get the "Page Elements" wizard, with a link to the "Template Designer".

If the blog has a Designer or Layout template, and you're logged in to the blog with administrative authority, you'll have a "Design" link in the navbar. Click there, and you'll get the "Page Elements" wizard, with a link to the "Template Designer".

From "Page Elements", you'll be able to add or re arrange gadgets - or access "Edit HTML". There, you can
The "Fonts and Colors" wizard, conversely, is now part of the "Advanced" menu in "Template Designer".

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Click On The "B"

The Blogger navbar always bothered me, because of its lack of one key link. When you're logged in, it has "New Post" and "Design" (previously "Customize") links - and that's OK. When you're not logged in, it has a "Dashboard" link - and that's OK. But when you're logged in, there is no "Dashboard" link - and that's not OK.

Even though there is no "Dashboard" link, there is a link to the dashboard. Try it, and see. Click on the Orange / White (or Blue / White for Draft Blogger) "B" at the far left of most Blogger displays, and there you'll see - your dashboard. The "B" is simply a logo, that links to "Blogger.Com".
  • If you're not logged in, you get to login.
  • If you are logged in, and your default dashboard is Draft (Blue) Blogger, you see a White on Blue "B" logo. Click on the logo, and you get the Draft dashboard.
  • If you are logged in, and your default dashboard is Production Blogger, you see a White on Orange "B" logo. Click on the logo, and you get the Production dashboard.

It's that simple - though I'm not sure that everybody knows it yet. Yet as simple as it should be, it is not available for one new product - the Template Designer.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The "Undelete this blog" Option May Not Be 100% Available, For All Blogs

The option to un delete a blog previously deleted was added to Blogger in March 2009. It was a popular feature when added, as it's been long requested by many bloggers, and was badly needed. It may not be 100% available, however.

When it was initially added to Blogger, the ability to un delete blogs was available only for blogs deleted after March 2009. That's one obvious limitation. Recent discussions make it apparent that there may be at least two other interesting limitations, to the option that provides both a blog that can be undeleted, and a publicly available deleted URL.
  • Blogs created before March 2009 may not provide this option.
  • Blogs deleted, when the owning Blogger account is deleted, may not offer this option.

When a blog is "deleted" by the owner, its content is taken offline, the URL remains unavailable to the "Create a blog" and "Rename a blog" wizards, and the 90 days countdown starts. Depending upon how the 90 days clock is maintained within Blogger, that's at least one more value that has to be present in the database entry for the blog being deleted. Blogs created before March 2009 may have this value added on the fly - or Blogger may have pushed a database upgrade, in March 2009, for all existing blogs. Either way, that's required code that is not used for blogs created after March 2009 - and possibilities for variations.

Blogs deleted when the owning Blogger account is deleted have always exhibited variations, from blogs individually and intentionally deleted. The 90 day countdown is yet one more feature that may or may not be correctly maintained in this case. Blogger code is designed and written by people, and people make mistakes. It's that simple.

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Spam Review Requests Now Using Mobile Phone SMS For Verification

In the never ending battle against spam, and the unending attempts to make it easier for innocent bloggers to get their blogs restored, when falsely accused of hosting spam, Blogger is now using SMS and mobile phone service in the spam review verification process.

As with every feature that Blogger adds, problems are reported. SMS based verification is a process that should maybe be thought out a bit more. Some bloggers report the SMS verification is not 100% reliable.
Sorry, there seems to be a problem. The service you're looking for is temporarily unavailable.

If you're trying to verify blog ownership, with your blog falsely accused, and you're seeing this message, or something similar, please provide some details.
  • What's the blog URL?
  • What phone service do you use?
  • What's the area code of the phone?
  • What location is the phone registered in?
  • What's the message, if different from the sample above?

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Blogger Outage In North America

Over the past weekend, numerous bloggers in various areas of North America (Canada / USA) have reported an problem
Blogger is currently unavailable
when trying to login to Blogger / access the dashboard, and to publish posts. The problem is most frequently reported by bloggers in the MidWestern regions of Canada / USA, but has been reported in Canada as far west as British Columbia.

In the rollup discussion, Blogger Support provides a status
Thanks for your patience and help everyone. This is now fixed.

Some idea of the scope of the problem might help Blogger focus on the problem a bit. If you are observing this problem, some details would be good.
  • What ISP do you use?
  • Where are you located (City, State, Country)?
  • A PathPing or TraceRt log might be useful.

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Blogger Magic - Search Engine Indexing

A lot of blog owners are confused about how their blogs get indexed by the search engines.
Why do many SERP hits lead to my main page, where there is no content?
is a normal question. Many blog owners think that the search engines, as they index a blog, are executing one big magic trick.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Blogs With Designer Templates Require Use Of The Template Designer Wizard

Now that the designer templates have been available for a couple months, and they are becoming "just another option" that's used by some (maybe not all) bloggers, we are starting to see some confusion expressed. The CSS code in designer templates, used in defining colors, fonts, and template objects, is considerably more complex. One of the first discoveries made was that "Fonts and Colors" can't be used to adjust font and color settings, for Designer template blogs.

Not all functionality is available, in any one wizard, however.
  • Fonts and Colors have to be changed, using the Template Designer - Advanced wizard.
  • New Gadgets have to be added using "Page Elements", because the Template Designer - Layout wizard lacks the "Add a Gadget" link found in "Page Elements".
  • Gadgets can be re positioned on the screen, using either the "Page Elements" or "Template Designer" - Layout wizards.

Right now, it looks like both "Page Elements" and "Template Designer" are going to be used, for maintaining Designer template blogs, for a while. If you want to add gadgets to your blog, you'll need "Page Elements". For tweaking settings, you'll have to use "Template Designer", which will require that you start from the Draft Blogger dashboard. The GUI gadget re positioning process seems to work for both "Page Elements" and "Template Designer" - Layout, though I would not be surprised to see problems resulting from use of "Page Elements" reported sometime soon.

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