Thursday, December 30, 2010

Recent Problem With The Spam Classification Process #2

Earlier this month, we watched in horror, as thousands of Blogger blogs were classified, en masse, as possible spam hosts.
My blog has been missing for more then 2 weeks now. I was hoping that it would be restored automatically after you had some issues with "disabled blogs" a couple of weeks ago. However, the things are unchanged.

Blogger later declared the issue officially closed.
This specific issue affected users whose accounts were temporarily suspended due to suspicious login or hijackings. Accounts in this state can be easily restored via SMS or other verification methods, but after verification, a bug on our end prevented the blog from being restored along with the account.

We've corrected the underlying issue though, and have made sure that all blogs who were taken down as a result of suspicious account activity are now back online. If your blog is still inaccessible, then you were not experiencing this specific issue and you should start a new thread to follow-up.

The bottom line here is that anybody seeing the (by now) well known symptom
The blog you were looking for was not found. If you are the owner of this blog, please sign in.
will need to start a new discussion in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, and prepare to endure the hated 4 step spam review process.

Death, taxes, and Blogger spam reviews.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mail-To-Blogger - December 2010

A few blog owners are reporting problems, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, with posting to their blogs, using Mail-To-Blogger.
Several days after sending my post, I get an error text stating that Blogger is not responding.

I personally have tested Mail-To-Blogger using my email client, and there is no problem, in general. From the reports received, the problem appears to be related to use of MMS / SMS from cell phones and smart phones.

We have a rollup discussion, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, where the problem is being explored.

If you are experiencing any problem with posting photos and / or text using email, MMS, or SMS, please provide your details in the rollup discussion. Help Blogger Support focus on the problem.


(Update 1/8): A suggestion from one blog owner suggests that the problem appears to be related to use of an address book entry to address the messages. The workaround, in this case, may involve using the native Settings - "Email & Mobile" - "Email Posting Address", when sending from your mobile / smart phone.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Finally, An End To The Boring Fonts Selection

Many blog owners have been asking for a selection of less boring fonts for their blogs.
It would be so nice to have more default font styles. I know that you can edit them in your HTML, but that is a tedious template editing process.

Blogger has been listening, and recently, Blogger responded.
The Web has traditionally been pretty limited when it comes to font selection, especially for non-Latin alphabets such as Cyrillic and Greek. But great strides have been made in this arena by our friends on the Google Web Fonts team, and finally there are more choices out there than just Arial and Times New Roman.

If you use Draft Blogger, you'll find an improvement to the typical Font list in the Template Designer Advanced wizard.

Boring!



Better!



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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Know Your Commenters

Many blog owners see commenting as a major community building technique in the life of their blogs. Some blog owners want to know more about their commenters, like their names, where they live, what they do for a living, what they like to do in their spare time, and so forth. They see commenting like a big party, where everybody should introduce themselves.

Unfortunately, Blogger native commenting requires no commenter information, beyond the basic authentication used - when we require authentication. And what authentication that we might require isn't going to provide any definitive identity information.

Blogger commenting provides 4 possible levels of authentication.
  • Anyone - includes Anonymous Users
  • Registered Users - includes OpenID
  • Users with Google Accounts
  • Only members of this blog

The top level of authentication - "Only members of this blog" - is applicable to private blogs, where hopefully we knew the blog members in some way, before we invited them to be blog members.

The top level of authentication applicable to public blogs - "Users with Google Accounts" - provides us a Google account name, and no more. The Google account name may be based upon an email address, but that is not a 100% reliable possibility.

The next levels - "Registered Users" and "Anyone" - provide still less reliable information. "Anyone" may include "Name / URL", at the option of the commenter - and only as accurate and useful as the commenter wishes.

If you want any demographic details about the commenters to your blog, you'll need a visitor log, such as SiteMeter or StatCounter. Even with SiteMeter or StatCounter, the accuracy will be limited, and details won't provide you with any personal identification, such as name and address.

The bottom line here is that Blogger Commenting is not going to provide any reliable, and uniquely interesting, identification details about anybody. Anybody commenting on a Blogger blog can rest assured - Blogger supports your ability to comment anonymously, just as they support our ability to publish blogs anonymously.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

You Cannot Transfer Doman Registration To Blogger

Occasionally, blog owners, confused and weary from uncertainty after trying to get their custom domain working, when not purchased from a suitable registrar, ask for a solution that they are just not going to get
How do I transfer domain hosting to Blogger?
This frequently comes even after we have stated, repeatedly, that Blogger does not register domains, and Blogger / Google does not provide DNS services.

What Blogger does is provide a domain setup with eNom or GoDaddy, when the "Buy a domain" wizard is used for the purchase of that domain. Part of the domain setup includes adding standard DNS addresses - the well known 4 x "A" + "CNAME" address configuration.

Blogger Increasingly Supporting Mobile Blogging

For some time now, Blogger has supported use of mobile devices, for posting to our blogs. Picture blogs, containing photos taken with your camera phone, are a popular activity for many bloggers.

Mail-To-Blogger, which used an email client instead of the browser based Post Editor, sent in many different formats and protocols, was the beginning. Now, we have the ability to post directly from our smart phones. You can enable Mobile Posting, for your blog, from Settings - Email & Mobile - Posting Options. Blogger provides detailed instruction, in Blogger Help: How does Blogger Mobile work?.

Recently, Blogger added mobile client support, so your readers can enjoy your blog from their mobile devices.

Now, new templates will include special formats designed to work better with small mobile screens. In Draft Blogger, under Settings - Email & Mobile, we have Mobile Template, where you can now enable use of a new mobile template for your blog. To make you comfortable before enabling the mobile template, you can Preview your blog, to see what it may look like when displayed.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Replying To Comments, In Blogger

Some blog owners see commenting as a community building tool, as important as Following, or maybe Stats. They see various forums, and other blogging platforms, and wonder why Blogger doesn't provide formatted, quoted, and threaded commenting, like Google Forums, or maybe WordPress. There, to reply you hit a button "Reply", compose your reply, and "Publish".

Blogger doesn't track individual comments. You have to publish a comment for a given post - and there's no threading, to indicate the comment to which you're replying. When you moderate comments, and you see one that deserves a reply, you
  1. Publish the comment in question.
  2. Find the comment in question, in the "Published" folder.
  3. Click on the post title presented with the published comment.
  4. Click on "Post a Comment".
  5. Post your reply to the comment, as a comment.

This is a complex procedure - though before the new comment moderation system, it was even more complex. If you believe as I do that the Blogger community deserves better, let Blogger know.

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Your Domain, And A Cast Of DNS Servers

Not all blog owners, who publish blogs outside the BlogSpot address space, have any feeling for the complexity of the DNS infrastructure.

We see the questions periodically in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken.
My readers are still reporting seeing the well known problem
404 Server not found
or
I added the "CNAME" for my domain, and I'm still seeing another old friend (not)
Another blog is already hosted at this address.
when I try to publish the blog to the domain.
or
I added "blog.mydomain.com" to my domain, and published to it with no problem, but some readers are seeing
404 Server not found
Help me!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Custom Domain Connectivity In India

Various bloggers in India are reporting inability to access blogs published to custom domains.

We have a problem rollup in Blogger Help Forum, where the problem is being explored. You may find it useful to use a proxy server, to get the most useful advice, if you are experiencing this problem.

If you are located in India - or you are getting reports from blog readers in India - and you (or your readers) are experiencing any difficulty accessing any Blogger or Google services, please provide details, in the rollup discussion.
  • Geographic location - City and Country, please, where the problem is being observed.
  • The name of the ISP providing connectivity, to the computers with the problem.
  • Please verify the scope of the outage, using my standard 5 link connectivity test.
If you're able to provide details about the outage, you can help Blogger Engineers to focus on the problem - and not on speculations.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Label Searches Cannot Use Expressions

One of the most useful accessories that you can provide in your blog, to make it visitor friendly, is a search gadget.

A search gadget lets a new visitor, just arrived at your blog from a search engine hit list, find more articles that may interest them. Besides a search gadget, which lets people search your blog on their terms, you may include one or more label searches, which lets people search your blog on your terms.

Since you have written the articles in your blog, you know what information you have in your blog - and letting people search your blog on your terms is more logical. A properly structured label array lets your potential repeat visitors find related articles in your blog. You can see my label array on my Topics page.

Make A Labels Index Page In Your Blog

When it comes to encouraging repeated visits to your blog, by people who are interested in its content, a properly constructed labels array is a very useful feature.

Unfortunately, a blog of any substantial size, and fully using the potential of labels, is going to have a rather large labels array - and this blog is no exception to that rule.

Long ago, I realised that indexing the label searches in this blog was making my sidebar unacceptably long. Repeat visitors to this blog have complained occasionally, because I removed the labels index from the sidebar, to try and speed up the display load time.

This week, I remedied that situation, by making my labels index gadget display as part of a static page, and moved the gadget from the sidebar to the main part of the blog.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Problems With Stats Being Reported By Firefox Users

This week, we've seen a number of reports in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, possibly involving use of Firefox.
Hey Blogger, can someone fix the stats?
or
I keep getting the well known message.
An error occurred while fetching stats.
It tells me to reload the page. Well, reload after reload, I still get nothing.

As we know from the acknowledgment from Blogger, they are aware of one or more problems within the Stats code base, and they are fixing those problems. Unfortunately, they won't be fixing all of the problems that are being reported - and the problems that they fix, they won't fix immediately.

Some problems with Stats may be related to the browser version. Along with the browser name, this is a useful detail to provide - when you report your problem, in the forum. Firefox was recently updated to V3.6.13. Browser updates cause problems, periodically, for a few blog owners - though not consistently for all blog owners.

Some problems with Stats we contribute to, as we protect or use our browsers and computers. These problems can't be fixed by Blogger.

Sometimes, reinstalling or upgrading the browser will produce a temporary workaround. Finding and fixing the problem will be a better permanent solution, though.

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The "Show" Setting In Settings - Formatting Applies Only To Main Page Size

Every few days, we see confusion in Blogger Help Forum: How Do I?, about the archive / label retrieval display limit, vs the main page size setting.
How do I get my label retrieval to show more than 20 posts?

The "Show" setting, in Settings - Formatting, applies to the main page display size, only. Archive and Label retrievals are limited to 20 posts / page, as a fixed maximum setting. Archive and label retrievals are also subject to auto pagination limits.

Since main page in dynamic view is not paginated - it displays continuously, as you scroll down the page - the "Show" setting will not apply there, either.

Fortunately, Jump Break appears to shorten both the "archive" (date organised archive display) and "label" (label organised archive display) page lengths - just as it does the "main page" length. If you need to bring your archive or label page display size under control, using Jump Break is the only choice provided.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Some Blogging Problems Are Best Reported To Your Local Police

Occasionally in Blogger Help Forum: How Do I?, we'll see a panicked query
I'm getting really creepy comments on my blog from someone who claims to know me or my family. How do I ask Blogger to tell me who is posting those comments?
Some of these questions are from people who watch too much television.

When somebody publishes an anonymous comment on your blog (if you allow anonymous comments), that person is entitled to his privacy, and Blogger isn't going to casually disclose his identity, to you. If someone leaves you an anonymous comment on your blog, you are disturbed by the content of the comment, and seriously believe the comment to represent a true threat to you (aka "assault"), this is a matter for your local police department to resolve.

If the threat to you involves content hosted on a Blogger / Google server, you can report such content, using the "Report Abuse" process. If you report the abusive content, you have to leave the matter in the hands of Google, and wait for them to act on the abuse complaint. Google Legal has to determine if your complaint is actionable, or if an innocent third party is unwittingly involved.

Only your local police can protect you, physically - Blogger / Google cannot do that. Contact your local police department, and request protection. Let the police conduct an inquiry, get a court order requiring assistance from Blogger / Google, and prosecute the offender. It's not your job to identify, or confront, the offender. Let the police do their job - and you do yours.

If you don't believe the threat is sufficiently real to require police protection, hire a lawyer, and take the case to the courts.

Short of involving either the police, or the courts, remain calm and use common sense. People who comment on your blog, just as people who publish blogs, are entitled to anonymity - if they choose, and if you permit.

Blogger supports our rights to publish our blogs, or publish our comments, anonymously. Unless someone's use of anonymity constitutes a threat to you - as determined by the local police or a judge - you have no right to violate that anonymity.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Blog*Spot Connectivity In South Korea

A few bloggers in South Korea are reporting inability to access blogs published to Blog*Spot.

We have a problem rollup in Blogger Help Forum, where the problem is being explored.

If you are located in South Korea, and you are experiencing any difficulty accessing any Blogger or Google services, please provide details, in the rollup discussion.If you're able to provide details about your outage, you can help Blogger Engineers to focus on the problem - and not on speculations.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Comments That We Simply Disagree With Are Not Spam

Occasionally we see observations in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, from slightly confused blog owners, about comment moderation.
I keep having to mark comments from this one user, over and over, as spam. The filters just don't learn this one user.

The purpose of the spam moderation filters is to identify and to filter spam comments that are posted to hundreds of blogs, simultaneously, by automated processes. Comments from individuals, that we disagree with, are simply comments that we disagree with.

If the filters were designed to designate comments from individuals as spam, you'd start to see less comments in general, from people who feared that their comments could be marked as spam by blog owners who disagreed with them. The filters were designed to prevent blog owners from using the spam designation this way.

The filters take "votes" from hundreds of blog owners, identifying comments posted to hundreds of different blogs. Those comments are designated as spam; and when sufficiently voted, those comments are automatically moved into the "Spam" comment folder for every blog being moderated.

With the bulk spam comments being blocked from our blogs, we the blog owners have more time to spend examining non bulk comments, and simply deleting those comments that we don't appreciate. If examining and deleting non appreciated comments becomes an unacceptable burden, then the blog owner has reached a new milestone - a blog that has exceeded the resources of the owner. It's not the responsibility of Blogger spam filtering, though, to lessen this burden.

If you feel that some comments are unacceptably harsh or threatening, you should contact a lawyer, or the police. Blogger can do nothing, unless you take legal action.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Recent Problem With The Spam Classification Process

Recently, a number of blog owners have found themselves with deleted or locked blogs, and mysterious messages mentioning "Unusual activity on your account". When they try to surf their blogs, they see
The blog you were looking for was not found. If you are the owner of this blog, please sign in.
Upon signing in, they see their dashboard, and no mention of the missing blogs. Possibly they see the advice
You are not an author on any blogs yet, create one now to start posting!

In other cases, a blog owner may sign in, and see another previously experienced frustration
Blog is not locked

Your blog is not locked and does not need a review. If you are having problems accessing your blog or if you received an email saying that it was locked, please leave a message in the Help Group and we will investigate the issue.

After a brief diagnostic session, Blogger has issued a terse advice
We've identified a bug this morning which may temporarily delay the spam restoration process. If your blog or account was marked as spam recently, you may experience this delay.

The expectation is that your problem may be automatically resolved by them, though this may take a few hours.

If you are seeing this display in place of your blog, and clicking on "sign in" leaves you with no opportunity to request review of your blog - or if "sign in" cannot be clicked - first check security settings on your computer. Proper function of this display may require, as with Comments, Stats, and Template Designer, attention to cookie and script filtering.

If you are certain that cookie and script filtering, on your computer, is not an issue, post in the rollup discussion, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken. Please read instructions, before posting there.


(Update 2010/12/15): Blogger Support states that the problem which caused the locking of the blogs was corrected, all blogs affected were restored, and all side effects were corrected. The rollup discussion was closed also.

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Browser Updates, And Blogger

The programmers at Blogger surely feel like Sisyphus - they have a never ending job.

Even if they were to stop updating Blogger with new and improved features, they would still be constantly busy. That's because the hackers and spammers keep busy, which in turn drives the programmers who produce the browsers to keep busy. And browser updates require constant attention from the programmers who produce Blogger.

With each new browser release, Blogger needs to ensure that each Blogger feature and utility works with the new browser. When Blogger don't keep up with the new browser releases, we see the symptoms
I just updated to the latest version of Firefox, and now I can't post!
and
All of a sudden, I can't update my template, using Internet Explorer. I just switched to Firefox, and I'm fine.
These are typical reports occasionally seen in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken. Both of these reports can be related to security settings problems - but there are other possibilities too.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Blog Owners Unable To Block Unwanted Followers

We are currently seeing various reports, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, from blog owners who are finding the "Block" button inoperative. The button will change color ("light up") when the cursor is moved over it, but it will do nothing when clicked.

Everyone reporting the problem, reports that using a different browser does nothing to solve the problem. Neither the Block button reached from the dashboard, nor the Followers gadget on the blog, is operational.

We have a Rollup Discussion, where this issue is being explored.

It's possible that many people who are not reporting this problem will suffer from it, even though they do not realise this. If you do not need to Block any Followers right now, it may still be in your advantage to check your button, and verify its operational status.
  • From your Followers list on the dashboard, or from the blog display (when you are signed in to Following), click on any individual Follower.
  • Click on "Block this user".
  • Click on the "Block" button.
  • If your button proves operational, and a user is Blocked, you can restore access, using the "Show blocked Followers" link in the Followers community display.
  • Please report, in the Rollup Discussion, of your results. Your input is badly needed for this issue.
Whatever you report, your feedback will be appreciated!


(Update 2010/12/08): Blogger informs us that this problem should now be resolved.

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Blogger, Layered Security, And Your Newly Installed / Upgraded Browser

The concept of layered security, as causing various problems with Blogger logins, with commenting, with Stats, and with Template Designer, will make some blog owners so desperate, that they are willing to try mysterious incantations and maybe even sacrificing an elephant, to get any of those applications working on their computers. Some blogger "experts" are so helpful, that they have come with an almost equally mysterious hint
Install the latest version of Firefox (Use Internet Explorer, Chrome, what have you, instead). I did that, and it worked for me!

Access To Custom Domain Published Blogs In Turkey Blocked By Mandate Of Turkish Government

This week, we have multiple reports, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, from blog owners of custom domain published blogs, of inability to access their blogs inside Turkey.
I can't enter my blog from Turkey. But my friends who outside Turkey, they can visit my blog. What's the problem?
and similar reports are being seen.

This problem is claimed, by some Turkish residents, to be mandated by the Turkish government, and to involve an IP ban of the specific Google custom domain hosting servers.

We now have a rollup discussion, where this issue is being explored.

One Turkish resident in the rollup discussion provides two interesting sources. First, a direct quote from a Turkish journal
Turkey’s laws on Internet censorship has been debated may times as an entire website can be banned by the content on a single page.

Many Internet users had tackled the ban of YouTube by changing their DNS numbers or by using software that cracks the inaccessibility, but journalists and freedom of speech supporters are urging people to protest the ban’s rather than finding alternative ways to access banned sites.
and second, a reference to a cited TechCrunch article
which in my opinion has something to do with all this fuss between Google and Turkish government.


(Update 2010/12/07): We are now seeing claims that the problem is related to Blogger blogs that contain material said to infringe upon the rights of Turkish media giant Digiturk, a subscription based digital TV platform that owns the rights to the live broadcasting of Turkish football league games. Some Turkish citizens are in disagreement with this action.

If you are located in or near Turkey, and you are experiencing any difficulty accessing any Blogger or Google services, please provide details, in the rollup discussion.
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