Sunday, January 30, 2011

Security Add-Ons On Our Computer, And Our Use Of Blogger

Our use of the many Blogger scripts and utilities, as we maintain and publish our blogs, is affected by layered security settings in our browsers, and on our computers and our networks. The native browser settings, and the browser add-ons, are the most obvious settings - but they are not the only ones.

Most computers will include various applications, running on the computer, that assist the operating system in preventing the browser - and other network applications - from allowing malicious activity on our computers. Long ago, these applications were best described in two classes.
  • Firewalls. Applications that protected our computers from malicious network activity, coming from outside the computer.
  • Anti-virus. Applications that protected our computers from ignorant user activity, inside the computer.
The two types of activity could be easily distinguished from each other, both by how the activity was spread, and how it was prevented.

As malicious Internet activity became a normal industry - Hacking / Porn / Spam - the distinctions between "firewalls" and "anti-virus" became blurred. Nowadays, Hacking / Porn / Spam is all one activity, much of it conducted by real life "brick and mortar" organised crime - and "anti-virus" / "anti-malware" / "firewall" applications are known by one generic term - "security suites".

Many "security suites" will contain filters that target both malicious network traffic, and ignorant / malicious user level activity. Some "security suites" will contain unknown filters that mimic, or that duplicate - known filters provided in our browsers, both natively and in browser add-ons. And here we have a challenge.

When we are asking each other
Why can't I ignore my own pageviews in Stats?
and
Why won't Blogger remember me?
and
Why can't I use Template Designer?
we frequently blame our browser settings - generally, the native ones, and occasionally the add-ons. A few blog owners carefully check their browser settings; having verified that cookies are enabled for both "Blogger.com" and "BlogSpot.com", and scripts are allowed from "Blogger.com", they spuriously conclude that there must be a problem with Blogger.

>> Top

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tweaking The Followers Gadget

With Following becoming increasingly important in many blogs, as part of creating an exciting and ongoing community, many blog owners are using improved versions of the Followers gadget. Repositioning the Followers gadget, outside the sidebar, will let you show more Followers - or you can show the same amount of icons, but larger ones, in a gadget with the same height. If you want to encourage more Followers, using larger icons wouldn't hurt.

All that you need to do is publish the Followers gadget as a static page, using the Pages Editor, in "Edit HTML" mode. You can display Followers in a separate page, without having to edit the template. Or, you can use an HTML / JavaScript gadget, instead of the default Followers gadget.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Including A Video In Your Blog

Video content, like music (audio content), can provide education and enjoyment to your readers, when properly included in your blog. Video, also like music, can be a problem, when improperly included. If played without warning, as part of your blog, video content can be a worse problem than music that plays automatically.

Just as it's not in your best interest, as a blog publisher, to include music that plays automatically, it's even less in your best interest to include a video that plays automatically.

Most video content includes audio content - music and / or non music. Music that automatically plays, when a blog loads, is annoying. Audio content from a video that automatically plays, and contains loud (non musical) sounds, will be more annoying than music. Videos, playing in a shared environment like a library, will be even less welcome than music.

Besides the annoyance issue, video content will use more bandwidth when playing. The "picture" in a video will require substantially more network resources than a simple music track.

If you load a typical YouTube page, you might expect to see the video as the page loads. YouTube serves video content.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q62dija6bsM

Anybody who clicks on a link with "youtube.com" should expect to find video content. Anybody who clicks on a link to your blog won't be expecting video content, to the same extent.

YouTube generally packages their content, to not play automatically. Older YouTube code included a video player, accessed as part of your blog or website.

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Q62dija6bsM?fs=1&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Q62dija6bsM?fs=1&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

Newer YouTube code includes a video player, accessed as part of their website, and embedded in your website as an iframe.

<iframe title="YouTube video player" class="youtube-player" type="text/html" width="480" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Q62dija6bsM" frameborder="0" allowFullScreen></iframe>

Neither version of code includes the setting to play the video automatically. But, check Embed code, before installing it in your blog, if you care about your readers.

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Q62dija6bsM?fs=1&hl=en_US&autoplay=true"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Q62dija6bsM?fs=1&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385" autoplay="true"></embed></object>
or
<iframe title="YouTube video player" class="youtube-player" type="text/html" width="480" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Q62dija6bsM" frameborder="0" allowFullScreen autoplay></iframe>

If you seeChange it to
autoplay=1autoplay=0
autoplay=trueautoplay=false
autoplay 

>> Top

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Managing Your Followed Blogs, With A Non Shared Blogger Profile

If you are going to use Following effectively, you have to manage the blogs that you Follow, as well as managing the people who Follow your blogs.

Managing the blogs that you Follow should be fairly simple - just click on the blue "Manage" button at the bottom of the dashboard. Some blog owners won't be able to do this, though - and for an apparently irrelevant reason. Following profiles that are associated with non shared Blogger profiles can't be managed using the "Manage" button.

What now? Why can't I Manage my Followed blogs?


Another problem that may result from a non shared Blogger profile would be a Follower icon with no profile link, or a link leading to the above display - if, of course, you are Following a given blog using your Blogger profile. You can show the contents of your Blogger profile, a list of your own blogs, and a list of your Followed blogs - and still not allow access to your Blogger profile - if you de select the option to "Share my profile", in the "Edit User Profile" wizard.

If you click on "Manage" and see an error message about an unavailable profile, you have two options.
  1. Edit your profile, and select "Share my profile" - at least temporarily.
  2. Access "Site settings" from the Followers gadget, in any blog that you own.

>> Top

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bloggers Seeing Their Icon Displayed As A Shadow, On Followed Blogs

A few bloggers this week are reporting Following some blogs, and seeing the icon representing them, in the Following gadget, displaying as a shadow, with no name popup. Clicking on the icon, they see no profile name, though they do see a list of Followed blogs.

Previously Followed blogs do not seem to be affected - icons and profiles display normally.

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

If you are observing this problem with your Following profile, please provide some details, as best as you are able - and help diagnose the problem.
  1. When you sign in to Following, which button / link do you use?
    • Google
    • Twitter
    • Yahoo
    • AIM
    • Netlog
    • OpenID
  2. If you are using a Blogger or Google account for Following, is the account based on a GMail address, or a non GMail address?
  3. Are you logged in to Blogger (separately from the Follower login!) using a GMail or non GMail based Google account, when you Follow and observe the problem?
  4. Do you publish a Blogger blog of your own? If so, do you Follow your own blog, and what is the BlogSpot URL?
  5. Are you sharing your Blogger profile?
  6. What is your geographical location (city, province / state, country), and what Internet Service Provider do you use?
  7. Please Follow my test blog, and observe - and report - the result. Continue to Follow, as Blogger Support diagnoses the problem.

>> Top

Setup A Team Blog

Occasionally, we have some blog owners who have never considered publishing a blog with multiple owners, or even with multiple authors. A team blog is so easy to setup, yet some blog owners have no idea how to do this.

A team blog with multiple authors is the simplest to setup - just go to Settings - Permissions, and invite a friend as an author. When your friend accepts membership, you have a team blog with multiple authors. Your friend should know to use the correct account, when accepting membership.

To make a team blog with multiple administrators, just make one of the team members an administrator. Here, as always, I'll advise caution - only add administrators that you can trust, and that will perform as administrators.

Note that with a team blog, the default "Profile" gadget will change to "About Us". If you don't care to make the team authorship (or ownership) of the blog so obvious, you'll probably want to setup a custom Profile gadget / static page.

Making a team blog is simply a portion of the process of transferring blog control. It's that simple.

>> Top

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Restoring A Deleted Blog, Or A Deleted Blogger Account, Is More Than A Mere Formality

Everybody makes mistakes, and Blogger knows that. Some time ago, Blogger gave us the ability to recover deleted blogs; and later, to recover deleted Blogger accounts. Neither recovery procedure is trivial - and both procedures require that some amount of proof of ownership be provided.

As blog owners, we are promised some degrees of protection, as long as we maintain proof of ownership.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Problems With Spam Classification - January 2011

In early December, 2010, a number of blog owners found themselves with deleted or locked blogs, and mysterious circumstances which appeared to involve bogus spam classification. This week, we are seeing similar, though not identical, reports in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken.

We now have a rollup discussion, for reporting the problem, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken.

Legitimate reports of this problem need to be carefully separated from other known scenarios.
  1. Blog(s) that are (righteously, or spuriously) deleted or locked - and can be reviewed, using the 4 step process.
  2. Blog owners who have (for one reason or another) logged in to Blogger with the wrong account, and who do not see their expected blogs in the dashboard.
  3. Blog owners who have deleted the Blogger account, or individual blogs, for one reason or another.
These scenarios still need to be diagnosed and treated, individually.

>> Top

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Communicating With Your Followers

Some blog owners enjoy the Blogger community building tool of Following a lot, and some decide that it would be good to email their Followers when they produce new posts - or maybe, just to chat.
How do I subscribe my Followers, so they get new post notices?
and
How can I email my Follower, if I can't use the "Send a message" link?
Some of these ideas may conflict with a basic feature of Following.

Following lets people read a blog using newsfeed subscriptions, and does not require email addresses, to subscribe. The latter detail is relevant because many blog readers may not want to provide their email address, casually.

Even if someone does provide an email address in their Following account profile, that doesn't guarantee that it's an active, or even a working, address. If you use "Send a message", your message may, or may not, be read.

If your blog content is likely to attract readers who don't use newsfeed readers, you can setup a FeedBurner email subscription service, for your blogs readers. But that will be an optional subscription, open to all readers.

For selected readers (if you know their email addresses), you may be able to invite them using the FeedBurner Email Subscription "Preview Subscription Link" option (do this with extreme discretion) - but they will have to accept the invitation. Your blog email feed won't simply start hitting their Inbox, without any action on their part.

>> Top

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blog Owners Seeing "502 Server Error" When Trying To Access Their Dashboard

Recently, we've been seeing a few reports from blog owners, who are unable to access their dashboards
I can view my blog, but I cannot see, or get to my dashboard. It loads forever and then tells me there is a 502 Server Error.
or
When logged in to Blogger, I cannot access www.blogger.com and my dashboard.

This is not a complete outage, and no affinity is known. We have a Rollup Discussion in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, where we are soliciting details from people affected.

If you are seeing this error, please help us to help Blogger Support, and provide some details.
  • URL of the blog.
  • Location (city, province / state, country).
  • ISP providing connectivity.
  • How severe is the problem? Is it a total, or intermittent, outage?
  • When was the problem first observed? When was the problem last not observed?
Your details about your experience with this problem may provide key diagnostic clues, so be as complete and precise as possible.


If you are trying to access a specific utility for a known blog, you can possibly bypass the dashboard, until this problem is fixed.

>> Top

Sunday, January 16, 2011

One More Step To Anonymity - Setup A Team Blog

One of the best ways to be anonymous is to never be seen. Even if you remove all personal details from your blog, you'll still leave an identifying mark, on the blog. All single owner blogs have a "me" link in the blog header. If your "anonymous" Blogger account has its profile number showing in the blogs that it owns, there's one mark against your anonymity.

The relevant detail here is "single owner" - if the blog is under team management, there's no "me" record, and no trace of your profile. If you truly want your anonymous blog to be more anonymous, setup a second anonymous Blogger account, and setup team ownership of the blog, using two anonymous owner accounts.

>> Top

The Detail Numbers In Stats Will Never Balance Against The Totals

The Blogger activity analysis tool Stats is becoming pretty popular among Blogger blog owners - but the growth in popularity is irregular.

There are misunderstandings about the depth and scope of the statistics provided, in the Stats displays. Some blog owners are keeping logs, or maybe spreadsheets, from the numbers - and are adding up the numbers displayed, by rows and columns. Having added up the numbers, they are finding discrepancies.
My 'All Time' Stats are inconsistent with 'Monthly' Stats!
and
Stats doesn't include all countries in "All Time" views!!

The World Wide Blogger Culture, And Date Formatting

The 21st Century is the beginning of new experiences for mankind. The Internet in general, and Blogger blogging in particular, are providing opportunities unparalleled in history - people of all nations and locations are coming together, casually and freely, to get acquainted. And with the opportunities come many challenges - some major, and others seemingly minor.

One seemingly minor issue, with a significance which may not be realised by everybody, is how we write the date. In the USA, we generally write it as "mm/dd/yy", which stands, in computer speak, for "Month / Day / Year". A variation here is "mm/dd/yyyy", which denotes the year entered, and includes the century - which is also an important detail.

Some Europeans use the "dd/mm/yy" format, and would write today's date as "16/01/2011" or "16 January 2011". Most blog owners in the USA would write "01/16/2011", or "January 16, 2011". As a techie, I am in the habit of writing "2011/01/16".

The Blogger Settings - Formatting - "Archive Index Date Format" and "Timestamp Format" setting together offer hints of the opportunities - and challenges - provided by Blogger. Look at the wide range of choices offered.
  • Date Header Format
    1. Jan 16, 2011
    2. January 16, 2011
    3. Sunday, January 16, 2011
    4. 1/16/11
    5. Sunday, January 16, 2011
    6. 1/16/2011
    7. 1.16.2011
    8. 20110116
    9. 2011/01/16
    10. 2011-01-16
    11. 16.1.11
    12. Sunday
    13. Sunday, January 16
    14. January 16, 2011
    15. 16 January 2011
    16. 16 January, 2011
  • Archive Index Date Format
    1. 1/1/11 - 2/1/11
    2. 01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011
    3. 01/2011 - 02/2011
    4. 2011/01 - 2011/02
    5. 1/1/11
    6. 01/2011
    7. 01.2011
    8. 201101
    9. 01.11
    10. 2011-01
    11. 2011.01
    12. January 2011
    13. 2011/01
    14. 01/11
    15. 11_01
    16. 01_11

Having provided the background details, I will give you an example of the ambiguity problem. If I enter "12/1/11" is that to be interpreted as
  1. January 12, 2011.
  2. December 1, 2011.
  3. January 11, 2012.

The need to state the century is significant too. "12/1/30" is similarly ambiguous.
  1. January 30, 1912.
  2. January 12, 1930.
  3. December 1, 1930.
  4. January 30, 2012.
  5. January 12, 2030.
  6. December 1, 2030.

One place where this ambiguity is relevant is when entering the date for "Scheduled Posts". Complaints of posts that were published immediately (though scheduled for later publication), and posts that did not publish (and were found with a status of "Scheduled", in "Edit Posts"), are occasionally seen in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken.

If you look in "Post Options", which is left and below the post content window in Post Editor, you'll find the "Post date and time" dialogue. The default selection there will vary
  • "Automatic" (for new posts).
  • The date and time when the post was published (for posts already published).
  • A future date and time (for a post scheduled to be published).
The first box beneath "Set date and time" contains the relevant date (published, or scheduled). Besides observing the current content of the date box, there is nothing to indicate the appropriate date format, that is expected by the dialogue.

It does not take a lot of imagination to see what would happen, if a European blog owner was to enter "7/1/11" (meaning 7 January, 2011), and wind up with a post scheduled for publication July 1, 2011.


(Update 2012/06/30): Blogger has redesigned the date setting wizard under The New Blogger GUI, and eliminated the ambiguity - but not without some criticism.
>> Top

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Static Pages And The "Jump Break" Feature

Blog owners are becoming increasingly interested in using the new Blogger offering, Static Pages (aka "Pages" in Blogger speak), in their blogs.

Recently, we've seen blog owners who like to publish blogs with large displays asking about another new Blogger feature, Jump Break. Some blog owners would like to use Jump Break to summarise their static pages.

Jump Break, the Blogger solution for auto summarising posts, displays an entire post, when the post is being displayed in individual post mode. When a post is being displayed in multi post mode - archive retrieval / label search / main page - the summarised portion of the post is displayed, with a "Read More" link leading to the individual post display. The code is very simple - the group mode, summarised post links to the individual mode, full display post.

Including Music In Your Blog

Many blog owners are experimenting with multimedia, as part of their blogs.

People who have 5 channel audio / 3D video systems, and various sources of content for each, look at their blogs and decide that the next frontier, for decorating their blog, has to be music. Any blog with a visual theme surely deserves an audible theme, also.

Unfortunately, many blog readers like to surf the net, while listening to their favourite tunes. People who are listening to new age music won't appreciate surfing to a blog that makes their computer suddenly start to play grunge rock. Nor will classical music fans appreciate the latest rhythm and blues, or urban beat, hit tune.

Unexpected music can create both a bandwidth annoyance, and an audible distraction. People surfing blogs in a shared environment - for instance a public library - won't appreciate any audio content, in any blog.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Correcting The GoDaddy Custom Domain Setup Advice

In Custom Domain Setup Advice From GoDaddy Is Wrong, I described the recently updated instructions provided by GoDaddy, to their customers, in Mapping Your Domain Name to Work with Blogger - and I described the observed results.
When investigated, an excerpted Dig log shows a common symptom.
mydomain.com. 3600 IN    A    64.202.189.170
www.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME    mydomain.com.
What we see there is a forwarded domain - and as I have explained a few times, domain forwarding does not produce an effective and reliable custom domain.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Custom Domain Setup Advice From GoDaddy Is Wrong

We have recently seen a few blog owners, in the process of setting up their blogs for custom domain publishing, reporting various symptoms.
I get a bX-rfwe0f error, when trying to use the Publishing tab on Blogger, after purchasing a new domain from GoDaddy.

When investigated, an excerpted Dig log shows a common symptom.
mydomain.com. 3600 IN    A    64.202.189.170
www.mydomain.com. 3600 IN CNAME    mydomain.com.
Server "64.202.189.170" is not a Google custom domain DNS server - it's owned by GoDaddy, and it's used for DNS forwarding.
pwfwd-v01.prod.mesa1.secureserver.net (64.202.189.170)
64.202.160.0 - 64.202.191.255
GoDaddy.com, Inc. GO-DADDY-SOFTWARE-INC (NET-64-202-160-0-1) 64.202.160.0 - 64.202.191.255

Make An Email Based Feed From Somebody Else's Blog

Not everybody who spends time reading other people's blogs understands the concept of newsfeeds, and feed readers. Some people still prefer to use their email client as their feed reader.
How do I get email notices, for new posts, from somebody else's blog?

The standard reply used to be to ask the blog owner to setup FeedBurner email distribution, for their blog. Of course, this required that you contact the blog owner - and this isn't always possibile.

If you think outside the box, though, you can setup email feed distribution, for any blog or website that publishes a feed.
  1. Setup a FeedBurner feed, for any blog or website that interests you.
  2. Setup email distribution, for the new feed.
  3. Normally, to subscribe, you would enter your email address into the subscription form, on the target blog. Since you're not the blog owner - but you are the feed owner - use the "Preview Subscription Link…" option in the "Email Subscriptions" wizard, and enter your email address. Respond to the verification message, and you're done.

Just make sure that your email client does not see FeedBurner email as spam, and you have your feed - for any blog or web site that publishes a feed - in your Inbox.

>> Top

Comment Filtering Hampers Commenting Activity In Busy Blogs

Now that comment filtering is in full force, some blog owners are finding that it requires an unfair amount of their time, to maintain.
My blog gets a lot of comments - and too many non spam comments go into the Spam queue, forcing me to moderate before they can be published. This is an unfair waste of my time. I would like to turn the filters off, for my blog.

Unfortunately for these owners, Blogger has stated that the comment filters are designed so everybody must participate. If the new filters were made optional, spammers could publish blogs with spam comments, and degrade the filter effectiveness.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Learn To Appreciate Your Visitors

Recently, we've been seeing some odd discussions in Blogger Help Forum: How Do I?, possibly from folks who spend too much time checking their visitor logs, without understanding what the log entries actually reflect.
How do I block access to my blog from "xxxxxxx.com"?
or
I am looking at a lot of traffic from "xxxxxxx.com". Am I being hacked?
as if everybody visiting the blog should be suspected of having nefarious intent.

When you see an entry in your visitor log, it (with a few exceptions) represents a person, who clicked on a link somewhere (possibly in a search hit list, or on another blog or website), and landed on your blog.

If you have a public blog, this is to your benefit. More clicks on links to your blog leads to more traffic to your blog, which leads to increased search engine reputation, and to still more traffic to your blog. The other website is not stealing anything from you. If you control or monitor your backlinks, your blog won't have any links to any unknown websites. If you control access to your visitor logs, your readers won't know or care that odd visitors are accessing your blog, after having previously accessed an unknown or "unsuitable" blog or website.

It is possible, within limits, to restrict access to your blog - but what do you gain, by doing that? Google does not limit traffic by volume, nor do they charge you extra. Enjoy the attention. Spend your time publishing to the blog, and working on the blog.

>> Top

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Technical Sophistication Of Your Blogs Readers May Limit Your Choice Of Comment Forms

Almost daily, we see a problem report in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, where someone publishes a blog that has readers with a problem
My readers can't leave me comments!
and when I diagnose the problem
The blog uses an inline ("Embedded below post") comment form, with CAPTCHA ("word puzzle") verification. Your readers need to check their cookie and script filters, starting with "third party cookies".
the response will frequently be
No way! My readers can't handle that!

Blogger offers three comment form options, each with their good points, and their bad points.
  • Full page
  • Pop-up window
  • Embedded below post
This setting is available under Settings - "Posts and comments" - "Comment Location".

If your blogs readers are limited in their potential to deal with layered security issues, you'll want to consider the security requirements of the three options, in choosing how to have your readers publish their comments.

Many years ago, Windows level security ("Allow everything by default, block only when necessary") was normal in our browsers, and on our computers. As Internet based security risks increased, security accessories and settings using Unix level security ("Block everything by default, allow only when necessary") became more normal.

Comment forms in a full page are the easiest to allow, in general. Full page forms use a script that runs, in the browser, as "Blogger.com" - which is the same domain as the scripts where settings are selected. This eliminates the need for "third party cookies", and for any security settings that would allow scripts, from BlogSpot or from your domain, to run in your readers browser. This is the best choice, all around.

Comment forms in a pop-up window may be blocked by various ad or script blockers. Pop-up windows use a script that runs, in the browser, as "Blogger.com" - making them a good alternate choice for blogs published to BlogSpot. If your readers either
  • do not use ad or script blockers
  • can handle modifying the pop-up filter setting, to allow "Blogger.com"
this will be a good choice, if you don't like the full page form.

Comment forms embedded below post use a script that runs, in the browser, as either "BlogSpot.com" (for blogs published to BlogSpot), or as your domain (for blogs published to a custom domain). Since the settings are, again, selected in "Blogger.com", this creates the need for "third party cookies" to be allowed - as well as scripts from "BlogSpot.com" or your domain.

I do not recommend allowing scripts from "BlogSpot.com". If your blog is published to BlogSpot, or if your readers have any problems with managing their layered security settings, I recommend that you avoid this choice.

Please note that third party cookies may still be necessary on many readers computers, for those readers that want to use the "Remember me" option when they login, for their preferred use of Stats, or for Template Designer.

>> Top

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Blog Owners Reporting "The requested URL / was not found on this server. " When Attempting To View Their Blogs

One frequently seen report, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, comes from blog owners whose blogs are published to non BlogSpot URLs (though the problem reports may not always mention that detail, explicitly).
Help! I can't see my blog - I just see
The requested URL / was not found on this server.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Followers, Following 300 Blogs, Have Reached Their Limit

Some people enjoy the Blogger pastime of Following so enthusiastically, that they try to Follow every interesting blog that they see. Some of these enthusiasts have not yet learned that there is a limit here - you may Follow no more than 300 blogs.

No doubt, they find out about the limit by direct experience.

For a while, having reached the limit of 300, they will Follow no more new blogs - just stop at 300. Eventually, though, they will see yet one more blog that really interests them - that they "just have to Follow". In order to do this, they will have to discontinue Following one of the 300 blogs that they are currently Following.

People who watch their Followed numbers avidly will occasionally see their Followers count go down. Many people who publish blogs, and have audiences who routinely Follow the maximum of 300 blogs, will see this happen more frequently. And the more Followers you have, if your blog is in this category, the greater the chance that your blog will lose one Follower who has to drop your blog in order to Follow another.

This is an effect similar to the churn in search engine hit list position. Just keep publishing, and the count will go up, again.

>> Top

Monday, January 03, 2011

Our Browsers, Add-Ons, And Our Use Of Blogger

As publishers and readers of Blogger blogs, our browsers are probably the most used feature on our computers.

We use our browsers both to access Blogger, to publish our blogs - and to access BlogSpot (or our non BlogSpot domains), to read our blogs.

Every one of us is different, and every one of us has different ideas what we want to see in our blogs. Just as no two blogs are alike, no two browsers, as used by two different bloggers, are alike.

Every browser, as it gains a user population, will have some users who want additional features and functions. Some users will contribute, and write software to provide those additional features and functions - aka "add-ons". Each different blogger is going to have a different idea about what combination of add-ons are necessary, for their personal enjoyment of their own browser.

The "Claim your blog" Wizard Is Out Of Action

We start the New Year 2011 off by noting that an important Blogger utility, for owners of old (pre 2006) Blogger blogs, the "Claim your blog" wizard, is out of action.
We're sorry, but we were unable to complete your request.

If you need to recover ownership of your pre 2006 Blogger blog, you may have to wait a while.


(Update 01/03 13:00): Blogger expects to have this fixed in 1 - 2 weeks.

>> Top

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Inviting Members To Your Blog

Some blog owners are confused about how to setup a team blog. Occasionally, in Blogger Help Forum: How Do I?, we see the query
How do I setup a second account, that I can give to my blog authors? I don't want them knowing my personal login and password!
as if there is only one account possible, for a blog.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Know Your Newsfeed Subscribers

Some people who publish blogs spend as much time tracking who is viewing their blogs, as actually maintaining and publishing their blogs. Recognising that newsfeeds (accessed directly from a feed reader, or from Following your blog) are a key tool in satisfying existing readers and hopefully getting new readers, many blog owners eventually ask
How do I track who has subscribed to my RSS feed?

Here, we have to provide some bad news. The different viewers of your blog - Followers, readers, and subscribers - have differing access to your blog, and you have differing ability to track your different viewers.

One of the advantages of using a newsfeed to read a blog, for those readers who wish to be anonymous, is anonymity. Access to the Atom or RSS feeds, in your blog, is not tracked as browser access is tracked. And that's good news for the reader who values anonymity - but it's bad news for the blog owners.

There is no tracking of the native Blogger blog feed, such that you, the blog owner, can track your subscribers. If you redirect your blog feed through FeedBurner, people who subscribe to the FeedBurner feed can be counted - but only in a tally of posts read. You cannot see a visitor log, such as what you would examine in SiteMeter or StatCounter - or even aggregated demographic statistics that you can get from FlagCounter or Blogger Stats.

If you seek anonymity in reading a blog, a newsfeed subscription is what you are looking for. And if you're a blog owner, you can publish a blog feed, which will make your readers happy - and possibly get you more readers - but you're not going to have a visitor log or statistics display to watch.

>> Top

The Paradoxical Spam Classification Process

Many blog owners, and would be blog owners, have no idea how the Blogger spam classification and review process works. We see frequent complaints in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken
Blogger is deleting many blogs, and refusing to restore them!
and
Once your blog is classified, you'll probably not get it back. The process is broken, and thousands of innocent blog owners are being abused!
These complaints totally ignore the fuzzy nature of spam classification, the unfortunate reality that not all spam blogs will ever be classified during the same day (or probably, even the same week), and the irritation that not all spam blogs will be immediately, or consistently, obvious.

The spam classification and review process returns paradoxical feelings, to those of us who participate in it. Please remember that the folks who deliver the news are human.
  • During some weeks, we must return the sad news
    Sorry, your blog will not be restored. It was confirmed as spam. Blogger suggests that you read the TOS.
    to many hopeful blog owners, and feel the disappointment when they reply. We go to bed feeling like jerks (yes, we do).
  • During other weeks, we have a few messages of hope for some lucky blog owners
    Thanks for your patience. Your blog was restored.
    And we later go to bed, feeling like heroes, having had a part in the restoration of a genuine blog.

Do you sense a paradox there?
  • In the first case, we feel bad because many blogs involved in the spam classification process will not be returned to their rightful owners.
    They killed Kenny! You bastards!
    Yet these blogs classified and confirmed as spam hosts are built from our efforts as genuine bloggers - and were in effect stealing from our efforts, as they built their reader populations.
  • In the second case, we feel good because some blogs were returned to their owners.
    Job well done!
    Looking closer, we discover that this is not necessarily the case. While those blogs were unrighteously classified as spam, they were losing out on owner publishing, and on reader access. That translates to lost reputation, and lost revenue, for the owners of those blogs.
Unfortunately, to catch a few thousand spam blog publishers, there will always be a few dozen innocent victims.

If we give up in despair, the bad guys win. So, we push forward, even as we are periodically being pushed backwards. Maybe, we can reduce the paradoxical dilemma, by encouraging more blog owners to properly request and appeal a review.

>> Top