Thursday, February 24, 2011

Control How You Present Yourself, As A Follower

Many bloggers, who Follow a large variety of blogs, notice discrepancies in their Following icons and / or profile names, displayed on the different Followed blogs. We see questions like
I updated my Following picture last week, but several blogs still show the old picture.
and
How do I show myself, using a different name, on different blogs?
in various discussions in Blogger Help Forum: How Do I?.

Following offers many options, as you Follow various blogs. Besides choosing what account host you wish to use, you can select what profile to use, to provide your Follower persona. The profile selections do not correspond, on a one to one basis, with the account host choices. You can have a profile, hosted by
  • Following (Default)
  • Blogger
  • Google
  • Orkut
  • Netlog
  • Plaxo
  • Twitter

Each different profile can show a different combination of picture, name, "About me", "Links", and / or "Sites I've joined" features. You can change your profile selection for each site from the "Site Settings" wizard. Once you select a profile, you'll see the current contents of that profile - and you'll have a link to the profile editor, as provided by the profile host, so you can make the appropriate changes.

>> Top

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Comment Filtering, And Spam Content, Is Becoming Progressively More Personal

The neverending process of training the comment spam filters, continues. Every month, we see reports from unhappy blog owners, who claim that the filters are not stopping the spam - and they are still having to moderate it. But, if we look at the reports more closely, we see good news.

The good news, here, is two fold:
  1. Every month, we see progressively less reports of spam.
  2. We occasionally see evidence that the spam, that does get through the filters, is becoming more unique to each blog.

With progressively less spam being reported, we see that the spammers are becoming less successful overall, in getting spam through the filters. With more personalised spam being reported, we see that the spammers are having to work harder, to get any spam even moderated. And hopefully, any spam that does get into the "Awaiting Moderation" queue is being quickly dispatched to the "Spam" queue, to be fed back into the filters and provide more training.

The filters will continually learn progressively more personal spam, as the more personal spam is reported by fewer blog owners. Over time, the more personal spam content, though varying from blog to blog, can be more easily recognised in patterns. And the spammers, who are thoughtful enough to include links to their blogs, will find themselves in the forums, doing the Blogger 4 Step "Please, unlock my blog!" dance.

It's working, folks!

>> Top

Hope Springs Eternal

Some confirmed spammers aren't giving up, willingly. Even after I deliver the (so it seems, to us) final verdict
Sorry, your blog will not be restored. It was recently confirmed as spam.
we get the reply
I am getting a message on my dashboard saying
If you are a real human being please enter the CAPTCHA, and we will take a look at your blog. Since you are a real human reading this blog, your blog is probably not spam.
So I have submitted my review and appeal, again.
Unfortunately, this is false hope.

Apparently, there is no dashboard code to accept the final verdict from the third strike review, such that the dashboard will cease displaying a blog that has been manually examined, by real humans - and for the last time, determined to contain spam.

This is yet another case of the left hand (the Blogger Support spam confirmation process) not letting the right hand (the Blogger dashboard display wizard) know what it's doing.

Regardless, the blog, once confirmed as spam, is gone. If it was spam yesterday, and it's spam today, it will be spam tomorrow. The Blogger spam confirmation team isn't going to reverse their opinion. Their review, once delivered, is final.

It's gone. Start over, if you wish. Alternately, find another way to occupy your time.

>> Top

Monday, February 21, 2011

Blog Owners Report Disabled GMail / Google Accounts, With A Variety Of Other Symptoms

Right now, we are seeing a small but steady stream of blog owners who are reporting disabled Google accounts, which are causing widely varied secondary symptoms. Some blog owners report disabled Blogger accounts, with either locked or deleted blogs. Other Google services, such as Orkut, Picasa, and YouTube, may or may not be affected.

This scenario is similar to - and possibly confused with - the earlier reported Problems With Spam Classification - February 2011, but with one notable difference - the earlier problem involved instructions to authenticate ownership of blogs affected. In this case, it's not possible to do that, as the Google accounts are then described as disabled.

There is no forum rollup discussion, as the symptoms are too varied, and too easily confused with normal spam deletions / locked blogs. If your Google or GMail account is disabled, I'll ask that you start a new discussion or post into an existing discussion started by you (please, no piggybacking on discussions started by other people!) in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, and indicate "Disabled Blogger / GMail / Google (as appropriate) account" in the Question summary. Please state other disabled services - such as Blogger, BlogSpot, Orkut, Picasa, and YouTube - in the body of the problem report. Please also quote the body of any advice received, so we can diagnose the problem, to some extent.


(Update 2011/02/21 16:00): Blogger Support has acknowledged ownership of the problem, but states that diagnosis will start 2/22 because 2/21 is a national holiday.

>> Top

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Mysterious Vanishing Blogs

Occasionally we see a "Deleted Blog" report in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, that mentions a blog that's not deleted. Somebody reports
Help me! My blog is missing!!

Standard ownership analysis of the blog reveals that it is online, and it is owned by the blog owner, under the expected profile. Yet, the blog owner swears that it's not accessible, from the dashboard.

What Is My Blogger ProfileID?

When we read our blog, or somebody else's blog, we use a BlogSpot or domain URL, to identify the blog.

Anytime we report a problem with our blogs, the most important question to answer, when we ask for help in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, is
What's the BlogSpot and / or domain URL?
When we login to Blogger, and look at our dashboard, there's an equally essential detail involved here. That unique detail is called the "ProfileID".

Sunday, February 13, 2011

You Have To Swing The Bat, To Put The Ball Into Play

In the American game of baseball, some folks just see a bunch of guys (or maybe some gals) taking turns at hitting at a ball, and running from place to place.

But there is strategy in the game - watch it some day, with a good commentator. For the active team (the team batting), for instance,
  • You get more results from putting the ball into play.
  • You have to swing the bat, to put the ball into play.
  • It is therefore in your best interests to swing the bat, when you have a chance to connect with the ball, and put the ball into play.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Problems With Spam Classification - February 2011

In January 2011, 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.


If you are seeing advice about a disabled GMail or Google account, please start a new discussion in the forum, and provide details there.

>> Top

BlogSpot Connectivity In India

This week, numerous bloggers in India are reporting inability to access blogs published to BlogSpot.

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.

The problem has apparently been active for several days. This time yesterday, it appeared that the problem was centered around customers of AirTel India; today, we see customers of AirTel and other services reporting 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.

>> Top

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Deleted Blogs Can Be Restored - But There Are Limits To This Ability

As a Blogger blog owner, and being human, we occasionally make mistakes. If this were not so, the "Delete" key would be unused - instead of being the most worn down key on my keyboard. One commonly seen mistake, reported in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, involves deletion of our blogs.
Help me! I just deleted my blog!!!
This is a cry, seen almost daily.

All Shortened URLs Are Not Malicious Content

In the discussion of the Referer Spam problem, we are starting to see the obvious questionWhy does Google just not block all traffic from "bit.ly"?and this does seem logical, at first glance.

Unfortunately, shortened URLs are used for legitimate purposes. "bit.ly", for instance, is used by Twitter, to shorten all URLs used in their tweets. I, personally, have several tweets which lead to various articles in this blog.
Bloggers - Enjoy the community experience - add a Followers gadget! http://bit.ly/4tplWe
This is a tweet which I wrote to point out that Followers is a far more versatile tool when you provide a Followers gadget, rather than requiring your readers to use the "Follow" link in the navbar.

So "bit.ly" inlinks may reflect legitimate traffic from actual readers, and from potential Followers.

The jury is still out on "goo.gl" though.

>> Top

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Only The Blog Owner Can Request Spam Review

Occasionally, we see a well intentioned, yet anxious blog reader asking about spam review for his favourite blog
How do I help get my favourite blog Xxxxxx back online?
as if blog review requests can be submitted by the blog readers.

Unfortunately, this can't happen this way. Allowing blog readers to request spam review of their favourite blog would just encourage the owners of marginally spammy blogs to convince their readers to "vote", in hopes that lots of votes would influence the Blogger judges.

Since Blogger justice is applied equally, to large (more popular), as well as small (less popular), blogs, only the blog owner or administrator can request spam review. We need to keep Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken usable by everybody - and that means discouraging coyote attacks.

Please, if you're not the blog owner, contact the owner and advise him (her) to request review in a new forum discussion - and to request review politely.

>> Top

Saturday, February 05, 2011

FTP Publishing Is Long Over

Some Blogger blog owners have been confused about the role of FTP, in the Blogger world, for some time.

Here's yet another instance where Blogger is different from many other website hosting services, on the Internet.

With many website hosting services, you develop (and even debug / test) a website offline, then upload it to the hosting service, using File Transfer Protocol. That's what FTP is - a network protocol for moving files from computer to computer. And a website is a bunch of files.

Blogger provides an online development and test environment. With Blogger, you create your entire website using Post Editor and accompanying utilities ("Settings", "Template Editor", etc). When you're done, your website is there, hosted in Google. No need for using FTP, to upload a website, after you created it.

When You Login To Blogger, Always Use The Right Blogger Account

Blog owners use the Blogger / Google login wizard in several different tasks - and sometimes cause problems, when they login using the wrong Blogger account. Besides intentionally logging in to Blogger to access the dashboard or publish a new post, the Blogger / Google login wizard is involved in several support tasks.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Maintaining Auto-Renew Settings For Your Domain

Some owners of blogs purchased through Blogger, using "Buy a domain", get nervous when the yearly anniversary of their domain purchase approaches.
My bank changed my credit card number - will I be able to pay for my domain's registration?
and
Will my domain be renewed?
and
I don't want my domain any more. Can I get a refund on the rest of the year?
The Blogger / Google Apps domain setup process is so well integrated, that many domain owners never have to worry.

Referer Spam Is Needlessly Alarming Blog Owners

Many blog owners, who spend time perusing the Stats "Traffic Sources" display, are finding odd entries there, and are becoming needlessly alarmed. We are seeing several discussions this week, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken about mysterious traffic sources.
What is "goo.gl", and why are they surfing my blog?
and
When I clicked on a log entry for "bit.ly", I got linked to a porn site. I don't want my blog associated with porn!

This misuse of our blogs is not new - spammers have been doing this for years, to trick us into surfing to their websites.