Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blogger Magic - Recovering A Deleted Draft Post

Occasionally we see the anguish.
I was just about finished with a long post, and just before I Published my post, I managed to clear the content. And just after I cleared the content, Auto Save went and saved the empty post. All of my work, gone in a second. Now what?
And the "what", unfortunately, is "nothing".

If you compose a long post, and depend upon Auto Save and Draft copies - and you lose the Draft content, or delete the post - you're out of luck.

You can recover a deleted Published post, under specific conditions. You cannot recover a Draft or Imported post, under any conditions.

Sorry, there is no magic here. This is another reason why I do not use Auto Save.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stats And Third Party Cookies

The controversy about "third party cookies" in general, and about Google Stats and their use of "third party cookies" in particular, never ends. Some Bloggers do not yet understand the issue.
I do not allow third party cookies. I do not believe that third party cookies should be involved, at all. Blogger needs a simple setting in Stats that say "Do not track my visits."
And here is another case where people look at a forest, and ignore the trees.

Blogger created a simple setting saying "Do not track my visits.". Since the vast majority of your readers have Internet service that provides a dynamic IP address, the setting is stored on your computer, so your computer can be identified. The setting, stored on your computer, has 2 advantages.
  1. Even with your computers IP address constantly changing, your computer will be consistently identified as your computer.
  2. Since you, reading your blog, contribute but a small amount of traffic against your blog, your readers computers don't waste time loading a script that would do nothing but ask if this computer is the owners computer (and which again, because of dynamic IP addressing, would be inaccurate).

So, the setting "Do not track my visits.", and "This is my computer." are hosted in cookies, stored on your computer. But wait, there's more.

The cookies that say "Do not track my visits.", and "This is my computer.", are created in a script running under "blogger.com". We use "blogger.com" to run scripts that let us setup and maintain our blogs, and control our settings about how we maintain our blogs. We need to trust "blogger.com", and to allow "blogger.com" scripts, that store cookies, to run on our computers.

We (and other bloggers) publish blogs to "blogspot.com" (or whatever non BlogSpot domain we may publish to). Since our blogs contain code which we (and other bloggers) may create and modify, we should not trust "blogspot.com" (or whatever) to the same extent as we trust "blogger.com". We do not allow "blogspot.com" scripts to run, on our computers.

So, we trust "blogger.com", but we do not trust "blogspot.com" (or whatever). Blogger uses multiple domains, to keep our computers safe.

The cookies that say "Do not track my visits.", and "This is my computer.", are created in a script running under "blogger.com", and are read in a second script running under "blogspot.com" (or whatever). These are third party cookies.

If you block third party cookies on your computer, your computer cannot read these cookies. When you view your blog, from your computer, Stats will be unable to read these cookies, and your visits will be counted. Similarly, if you occasionally - or regularly - clear cookies, you'll also have this problem.

This is simply not a problem which Blogger caused, nor is it one which Blogger can fix. This is a problem which you caused - and which only you can fix, when you enable third party cookies, and review your practices for clearing cookies.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Comment Moderation Is A Team Effort

High class universities, such as Eton, Harvard, and Yale, have a unique and intriguing sport that's enjoyed by both participants and spectators - team rowing.

The participants work together, and propel their oar driven boats through the water at astounding speeds, by synchronising their oar movements.

In team rowing, the team manager, or coxswain, is an essential participant. The coxswain does no rowing, but still contributes to the success of the team, by keeping the rowing synchronised. Without synchronisation, a team is useless. Team members not rowing - or worse, rowing out of step - slow the boat.

The new comment moderation system is designed around the principles of team rowing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blog*Spot DNS Related Outage In Indonesia

Various blogger customers in or near Indonesia are reporting inability to access Blogger blogs. Preliminary analysis appears that the problem is seen only with Blog*Spot blog addresses - custom domain URLs appear to be accessed with no problem, with the corresponding BlogSpot URL being inaccessible.

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

If you are experiencing this problem, please state your country and city, and name of ISP.

Next, please help verify nature of your outage. Here are 5 replicas of the same article. Please click on each link, one after the other, and observe which links provide content to read. Please be specific - which ones can you, and which can't you, read?
  • http://blogger-status-for-real.blogspot.com/2006/07/help-my-blog-is-gone.html
  • http://bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/2006/07/help-my-blog-is-gone.html
  • http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2006/07/help-my-blog-is-gone.html
  • http://groups.google.com/group/blogger-help/web/my-blog-is-gone
  • http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/blogger/thread?tid=506f2f953e1f4db3&hl=en

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Challenges Presented By The New Commenting System - Part 2

As many of us are discovering the benefits of the new comment filtering system, and the collaborative heuristic filters, some bloggers are finding an unfortunate corollary. If "n" number of people, reporting together that a given comment style constitutes spam, manage to get the new filter entry created in "x" number of days, "n / 2" number of people will require "x * 2" number of days to accomplish the same thing.

Taken to the extreme, 1 person reporting a given comment style as spam will require "n * x" days to get the new filter entry created.

As the more blatant spam, shared by more bloggers, is detected and added to the filters, the less blatant spam will become progressively more individual, and will require longer to create new filter entries. And an increasing number of individual bloggers, observing the spam taking longer and longer to be added to the filters, will start to question the validity of the new system.

Besides the individual bloggers questioning the new system, there will be more spammers protesting the new system.

As the new system becomes mature, we should expect more complaints about it. That is in spite of the filters eliminating progressively more spam. We will have to expect progressively more questions about the new system, even as the new system becomes more effective.

So as we see more complaints about inability to disable the new system, we have to realise that this does not indicate that there actually is a problem. And we must persevere, in spite of the complaints, and continue to flag the spam.

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Putting A Post At The Top (A "Welcome" Post) - Part 3

Blogger blog owners, like dogs, always want more.

Cue the super annoying commercial currently running on some USA TV channels.
More, please!
And when I suggest using an HTML / Text gadget, tweaked to show only when the "home" page is displayed, I hear cries for "more".
But how can I show my latest posts for a given label, on my home page? Surely, I can do that too?
The answer here is that yes, you can do this - and fortunately, it's not difficult. It simply require a little more thinking.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pictures, Hosted In A Blog That's Transferred From One Blogger / Google Account To Another Account

Any time that we give advice about transferring control of a blog to another Blogger / Google account, or using another email address with your blog, we try to include additional advice
If the blog contains pictures that were uploaded using post editor, do not ever delete the Blogger / Google account.
This detail, in some cases, seems to be seen as a myth or superstition.

Some superstitions have basis in reality - and this is one such superstition. When you upload pictures using the post editor photo upload wizard, they are hosted in a Picasa account that's tied to the Blogger / Google account. You can transfer control of the blog itself, using Settings - Publishing. Unfortunately, this transfers only the blog.

The Picasa account, where the pictures are hosted, remains with the current Blogger / Google account. If you "clean house", and delete the unused Google account, your pictures go away.

Here, you may wish to review the connections between Blogger accounts, email addresses, and Google accounts, as well as the original procedure for transferring control of a blog.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Viewing Your Blog Content, In Text Only

One of the most useful skills to have, when diagnosing a problem with your blog, is looking at the page source code.

Every browser has this alternative, called "Page Source" or "Source", and generally accessed from the "View" menu. I'll instruct you to View - Page Source for such basic tasks as
Sometimes, even this basic task is impossible. If the blog is hijacked, maybe because of broken / malicious third party code, you're going to need to examine the source code too - but you may not be able to see anything useful, because the blog content is immediately redirected, outside your blog. Fortunately, that's not an insurmountable problem.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blogger Blogs Redirecting To "hijriah.jentayu.com/hijriah.php"

In a new volume of the series "Tales Of The Hijacked Blogger Blogs", today we have multiple reports of blogs redirecting to "hijriah.jentayu.com/hijriah.php".

This tale is somewhat less exciting than the previous episodes in this long saga, however. The problem code, which is causing the hijacks, typically appears in various HTML gadgets, and is not difficult to find. The code appears to consist of simple HTML gadgets, intentionally installed by the blog owners.

You'll probably not find this hack by editing the template HTML code - it will be an HTML gadget, located in your sidebar or maybe the blog footer / attribution section.

If you use a text only proxy, like the Rex Swain HTTP Viewer or the Web-Sniffer View HTTP, you can retrieve the blog in safety. Then, do a simple text search on "hijriah.jentayu.com". You'll find something like

</div><div class='widget HTML' id='HTML7'>
<h2 class='title'>.:: Today ::.</h2>
<div class='widget-content'>
<script src="http://hijriah.jentayu.com/hijriah.php"> </script>
</div>

See the Title of the gadget above? If you title your gadgets, it's easy enough to find.
<h2 class='title'>.:: Today ::.</h2>

Having identified the offending code, use "Page Elements" and delete the HTML gadget. And be more selective, when choosing third party code.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Blogger Commenting, CAPTCHA Screening, And Third Party Cookies

Many blog owners - or prospective blog readers - do not understand the significance of "third party cookies", in Blogger. Recent changes in Blogger commenting, and setting changes by blog owners, possibly related to the new comment filters, have created a variety of problem reports which involve "third party cookies".

Blogger authentication cookies, which are created under "Blogger.com" and read under "BlogSpot.com" - or whatever non BlogSpot address the blog in question is published to - are affected by the "third party cookie" option. "Third party cookies", as with all cookies, are affected by filters which may be found in any section of a layered security policy.

This option is most commonly found in a browser filter setting. It may also appear as a cookie or script filter, in some browser security add-ons, in any anti-virus, firewall, or "security suite" that runs on the computer, and in a network appliance which may be labeled as a "modem" or "router".

CAPTCHA ("word verification") screening does not, by its basic nature, require access to "third party cookies". Blogger commenting options, however, make access to the Blogger authentication cookies necessary.

The nature of the comment posting form is an additional issue. Only blogs which use an inline comment form ("Embedded below post") are affected by "third party cookie" filters. Both "Full page" and "Pop-up window" forms run under "Blogger.com", and are not affected. If you don't believe me, examine the URL in the browser address window, with any comment form displayed.

A blog that uses an inline comment form is affected by two comment settings.
  • "Who Can Comment?" allows blog readers, other than members, to post comments.
  • "Show word verification for comments?", when selected by the blog owner, requires only non blog members to solve a CAPTCHA when posting a comment.
Both options require that a Blogger authentication cookie be accessed, in the scripts that build a blog page that includes an inline comment form. Taken in combination, there may be up to 8 different scenarios created by these settings.

If you can't comment on other people's blogs, or if various readers of your blog can't comment on your blog, and if the blogs involved use an inline comment form, chances are very good that "third party cookie" filters are part of the problem. This isn't an attempt by Blogger to hijack your browser, it's just the way authentication, and comment posting, work. And it's not a problem that Blogger can correct, by themselves.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Confusion Caused By Use Of The Post Editor "Preview" Button

The new "Preview" mode in Blogger Post Editor is a considerable improvement over what we used to have - but it still can cause confusion, if the details are not understood. Lately, we see occasional glimpses of confusion, about it's use.
I changed my blog, and the changes were visible when I hit Preview - but the blog was unchanged when I Published, and then viewed my changes.

When you view your blog in Preview mode, you're viewing a private copy of the blog, that nobody else gets to see. This copy is dynamically generated, as you edit. Use Preview, and observe the URL shown in the browser address window. Here's what I see, as an example.


This is a nice view of the blog - as it was a few minutes ago, anyway.



The picture is nice, and it's reassuring when I see it. Can anybody tell me what's wrong with the picture, though?

You might get a clue from looking at the URL, in the address window.
http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/b/post-preview?token=-gItGCsBAAA.ySUB0XKSvMXVATQkgsbJpQ.L6EH7oqCazo3giFxW7Y6vg&postId=1001987166631748251&type=POST
That's a mouthful, isn't it?

The important part of the URL is the "?".
http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/b/post-preview?token=
That makes this a dynamically generated page, which is not subject to caching. Any browser, retrieving that URL, will go straight to the Blogger server, and retrieve the page, as specified.

After you decide that you like what you see, you hit "Publish Post", and your post is published. And now, the confusion starts. If you just published a new post, when you retrieve the home page of the blog, you'll see the blog, as cached in your browser (or in any caching proxy that is upstream from the browser). Depending upon what's in cache right now, you may or may not see the new post in the blog main page display.

The confusion compounds itself when you edit the published post. If you edit, then Preview the edited post, you'll see the post immediately updated. After you publish the edited changes, and view the blog, you may or may not see the changes. If you're viewing the main page display, you may or may not see the post at all. If you do see the post, you may see the initial copy of the post, or the post with any of the changes applied, since the post was originally published.

This confusion can be so easily avoided, if you clear or refresh cache, after you make changes. Here again, I'll advise you to be aware of the options for clearing or refreshing cache, and the different possible results from employing either choice.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blogger Use Of Mobile / Smart Phones As A Token, Augmenting / Replacing CAPTCHA Verification

Blogger has been using CAPTCHA ("word verification") screening, to verify human presence in various Blogger processes, for several years. This is necessary, to prevent spammers from automating the processes of creating new blogs, and submitting "unlock" requests for spam locked blogs. CAPTCHA verification has its weaknesses though; and as spammers have been exploiting those weaknesses for some time, Blogger recently added additional tokens in some Blogger processes.

You may be required to provide the number of your mobile / smart phone, as a token.
  • When you setup a new blog.
  • When you submit a request to have your blog unlocked after being (falsely) classified as spam.
  • When you attempt to publish too many posts in one day.

This requires that your phone receive / send SMS messages from / to Blogger, to verify your identity as a person, and not an automated process.
  1. You provide the phone number of an SMS capable mobile phone.
  2. Blogger sends a verification request message to that number.
  3. You reply to the message, and back to Blogger.
  4. Your existence as a human is now verified, and your blog can be setup (spam review can be started, post can be published).

SMS, unfortunately, is not a universally available service, on all mobile / smart phones. This creates a challenge for a few bloggers, when otherwise stressed by the situation at hand. SMS is a protocol that works best when used between phones using a common phone service. All phone services do not exchange SMS messages with all other phone services, as reliably as they interchange Internet and voice service.

This shortcoming is most common, but not uniquely so, between Blogger / Google (in North America) and various services in Asia, Africa, and other third world regions. Some phone services in North America do not have universally available SMS networks, either. People without access to a mobile / smart phone with SMS service are being left unable to make new blogs, unlock their blogs, and / or publish more than 50 posts / day.

One odd omission in CAPTCHA / SMS token use is the process of resetting forgotten passwords to Blogger and Google accounts. Blogger password resets are so easily executed that some bloggers are apparently using password resets routinely - simply remembering their email account names and passwords, and not bothering to remember Blogger accounts / passwords. This technique becomes a problem only when the email account used goes down, or is discontinued.

Using mobile / smart phone tokens seems like an excellent application for password resets, if for anything.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Extracting The URL Behind A Link

Many times when diagnosing a problem, we may need to examine the URL that is attached to a link. This post has a title "Extracting The URL Behind A Link", and the title (as with every post in this blog) is the caption to a link. The URL that is attached to the link is http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2010/09/extracting-url-behind-link.html.

Sometimes, we may need to know the URL that is attached to a link that only you (the blog owner) can see.
  • Maybe, we need the URL that is attached to the "View Blog" link on the Blogger dashboard.
  • The URL that is attached to the "Edit" link in the "Edit Posts" menu may be useful.
  • Sometimes, the URL that is attached to the "Edit" link for a given gadget in "Page Elements" is needed.

Maybe, You Need To Find Something Else To Do

Let's be honest. Blogging is an activity. Like every activity in the world, not everybody can do it. And like every activity in the world, not everybody, who can do it, can do it equally as well. There are billions of people in the world, and everybody is different.

Some people build things. I don't do that. Some people race cars - or motorcycles. A nice cop, that I met once, asked me to not do that. I've tried scuba diving - and I'm not good at that, either. So, I found other things to do.

Some people want to publish a blog and make money - and this is just not what everybody can do, equally as well. You have to recognise your limitations - not pay other people to write your blog for you, or pay other people to read your blog, and click on the ads. That is called cheating, by the people who pay for the ads - and it's wrong.

Linking your blog to other blogs and websites, that have nothing better to do than link back to your blog, generates lots of traffic - but doesn't give your readers any benefit. This, too, is wrong.

Publishing a blog, and getting readers, takes hard work and imagination.

Maybe, this is the fault of the people who developed Blogger, and similar Internet activities. They want everybody to believe that everybody can publish a blog, and make money from their blog. That's their job, and they did it. Maybe, they did it, too well.

Sorry. Blogging just is not for everybody. Making money from a blog may be for less folks, still.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

The Perfect Solution For The Spam Problem

Our newest buddy, Davidson, is proposing the perfect solution for the spam problem - Spoogle.
we will have to develop another Google you need a competitor in this field if not nobody can make any income from the point you are driving at and soon if your opinion goes through you will have lesser people patronizing Google and blogger and Google affiliates mark my word for that.

This is the best news of the week. The spammers can have their own
  • Advertising platform.
  • Blogging platform.
  • Browser.
  • Email system.
  • Search engine.
They can PTC, PTS, and PTW all they want. And yes, there would be lesser (sic) people in Google. Count the number of spammers in Google right now, subtract them, and add them all to Sploogle. Good riddance. Don't block the door, on the way out.

Oh, if life was so simple.

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Custom Domains And Email Delivery, #2

There are a lot of details involved, in setting up a custom domain. Some details are not so apparent to every blog owner, when choosing a DNS model. From time to time, I get confused queries about whether there is a practical difference between the "asymmetrical" and "symmetrical" DNS models.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Make A Static Home Page For Your Blog, #2

The ability to have a static home page for our blogs has been on the wishlist for many blog owners, for a long time.

The wish, for a static home page, became even stronger when Blogger released the static pages option, and the Pages editor. With the tweak to index label searches and other dynamic pages, some folks really wanted a static home page, to accompany their indexed label searches and other dynamic pages.

After Blogger continued to ignore our pleas for a static home page, we found a 2 step workaround for this omission.This gives us a home page with nothing but a static text gadget displayed - and links (where provided) to other dynamic and static pages.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Paying For A Custom Domain

Almost all features of Blogger One Button Publishing are free - though not entirely from an altruistic decision by Google.

One of the few Blogger features that is not free is the ability to publish a blog to a non BlogSpot URL, also known as "custom domain" publishing.

Even though custom domain publishing is not free, it's not a feature from which Blogger / Google directly receives income. The cost for a custom domain registration goes directly to the registrar - and for very real services. The need for payment creates the need for some decision by the blog owner, when purchasing the domain.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The New Comment Moderation System Is Not Optional

The new comment moderation system, which was initially not available on all blogs, has been in place for just over 2 weeks.

As it becomes available on more blogs, some blog owners have decided that it's actions are not to their liking, and would like to return to the old, manual moderation process.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Stats And The "Don't track your own pageviews" Option

The recently released Stats feature, which competes with well known third party products like SiteMeter and StatCounter, has the option to block your own visits from being counted.

This option is required by any serious blog publisher, as anybody who wants to rely upon the accuracy of the visitor meter of choice is certainly going to want to see information about their readers - without the distraction of their own activity.

Decorating Your Blog With Special Fonts

One of the neatest ways to theme decorate a website is by adding a relevant font.

There are music fonts, which look good on musical websites. And classical fonts which look good on classical and literary websites. And everybody knows "technological / computer style" fonts, which can decorate computer / Internet relevant websites.

You can change the font for your blog, using the Template Designer "Advanced" submenu, which will let you choose from a dozen or so commonly installed fonts.

Special fonts work best for specialised websites, where the majority of the readers are expected to have installed the fonts in question on their computers. Fonts are essentially code, which transforms numbers and letters coded in ASCII, in your blog, into pixels on the computer screens used by your readers. There are thousands of different fonts, available all over the Internet - and not one computer will have all fonts installed.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Check The "Adult Content?" Setting For Your Blog, When Necessary

Occasionally, a blog owner may find his blog prefaced by one of two possible content warnings.

The two warnings may look the same (to some folks), but they are set - and removed - in completely different ways. Blog owners need to understand the differences.