Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who, Me? I Don't Spam

In mid 20th century USA culture, one popular magazine had a mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, who was best known for the intellectually incurious
What, me worry?

As the comment spam filters are being trained, by blog owners such as you or me "voting" each individual comment as spam or not spam, we are starting to see modern day Alfreds asking in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken
What, me spam?
or given slightly longer and more descriptive quotes
Why are my comments treated as spam by Blogger?

Harsh though this may be, your comments are treated as spam, by Blogger, because either
  • Many blog owners have "voted" your comments, posted to their blogs, to be spam.
  • Many blog owners have "voted" similar comments, posted by spammers, to their blogs, to be spam.
The bottom line here is that your style of comments just are not welcome, on these blogs.

You have 3 possible courses of action.
  1. Continue to post these comments to these blogs.
  2. Post these comments to other blogs.
  3. Post other comments to these blogs.
I'll leave to you the decision of which choice to make - door number one, door number two, or door number three.

The individual blog owners have the right to "vote" your comments, as they see fit. The blog owners make the final decision.

Looking at an alternate (and more annoying) scenario, it's possible that a few blog owners started out from the beginning with
What, me moderate?
These owners refused to moderate comments, months ago. Instead of moderating, they have been trusting on blog obscurity, CAPTCHA verification, and / or Google authentication to restrict their commenters - and they let other blog owners, who actively moderated every comment, to set the standards.

Now that the filters are trained, these blog owners are looking in their Spam queues, and asking
Why are these comments from my faithful readers being marked as spam? I didn't do that!
The answer here is
You didn't do that, intentionally. You did it by not moderating.
These blog owners are learning that they have to get to work, and train the filters. And since the filters have already been trained, they probably have 2 or 3 times as much work to do, now, to correct the mistraining done to date.

Their mistake (then) is your problem (now).

If you wish to publish comments to these blogs, you will post comments that must be moderated, and explicitly designated as "Not Spam" by the owners - or you face having your blog classified as a spam host, because you are advertising your blog by posting spam comments. In extreme cases, this may leave you learning the Blogger Four Step Spam Review procedure. In other cases, you may, with our blessings, move your spammy operations to other blog hosts.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Of Monster Trucks, Blogger Blogs, And Spam Classification

Jerry (we will call him that, since we don't know his real life name) loves monster trucks. He drives a monster truck, he goes to monster truck shows, and he publishes a blog about monster trucks. One of Jerry's friends is Sam (no, we don't know Sam's real life name either). Sam publishes another blog about monster trucks.

Recently, Sam's blog about monster trucks was locked, for suspected spam hosting, by the Blogger anti-spam classification process. Jerry, who reads Sam's blog when he is not working on his own blog, became unhappy. Jerry added a second blog, containing a list mentioning Sam's blog, and a few dozen other blogs about monster trucks that have also been locked as suspected spam hosts, to his portfolio.

Jerry hangs out in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, watches for anybody reporting a problem with a blog about monster trucks, claims that Blogger is discriminating against monster truck blogs, and offers his new blog as proof of a conspiracy by Blogger / Google. Jerry's latest blog is, predictably, "blogger-hates-monster-trucks.blogspot.com".

Since Google is based in California, California contains at least half of all of the world's econazis, and econazis hate monster trucks, it stands to reason that Google is going to hate monster trucks - and they are going to discriminate against blogs, published in Blogger, about monster trucks. Right?

Wrong, Jerry.

Here's the current spam classification advisory note, which is subject to change:

Given the fact that automated spam detection is not yet a perfect science, Blogger Support is always willing to investigate any reports of false positive spam reviews, politely posted here in the forum.

That being said, before you request an appeal, it's worth describing a few examples of what Blogger regularly removes, as part of its zero tolerance policy to abusive / inappropriate content:
  • Affiliate marketing.
  • Content created with scripts and programs, rather than by hand.
  • Content or links referencing referral-based activities such as GPT ("Get Paid To"), MMH ("Make Money from Home"), MMF ("Make Money Fast"), MLM ("Multi-Level Marketing"), PTC ("Pay To Click"), or PTS ("Pay To Surf").
  • Content scraped from other blogs / websites.
  • Copyright Infringement.
  • Large blogs with multiple, unfocused / unrelated subjects.
  • Links to Illegal Downloads / Streaming / Torrents.
  • Links to Account Hacking / Password Distribution sites.

Please observe that the advisory note does not mention blog subjects, because - with the exception of "Affiliate marketing / referral based activity" - subject category is not part of spam classification. The fuzzy Blogger anti-spam classification process looks for blogs with abusive content, not for blogs about monster trucks - or even about trucks, or cars, at all.

The nature of fuzzy classification, unfortunately, means that there will always be some false negative classifications (some spam blogs will occasionally not be classified as spam) - and there will always be some false positive classifications (some non spam blogs will occasionally be classified as spam). Both false negatives, and false positives, are as inevitable as they are unfortunate.

The subjects of blogs produced by spammers are going to resemble the subjects of blogs produced by ordinary bloggers, because spammers want their blogs to look like ours. If ordinary bloggers publish blogs about monster trucks, normal trucks, or even cars, spammers will follow. Anti-spam classification false negatives, and false positives, will include blogs of those, and other, subjects.

If your favourite blog, about monster trucks, normal trucks, or even cars, is falsely classified as a spam host, that's unfortunate. If you see other blogs, of that subject, similarly falsely classified, that's also unfortunate. But seeing either should not mislead you to the conclusion that Blogger is actively persecuting you - and publishers of other blogs - as you publish your blogs about monster trucks, normal trucks, or even cars.

Having your blog classified as a spam host should not cause you to complain about unfair practices by Blogger. Blogger is trying to keep the level of spam content down, and help ensure that our blogs will be listed in search results by search engines other than Google - and not falsely classified as spam hosts simply because BlogSpot is known as a spam haven. The problem starts with spammers, not with Blogger / Google policies.

Get real, Jerry. Help keep the noise level down, in the forums, so we can help more people with actual problems.

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What's New Is Old Again

Recently, Blogger announced exciting new changes coming, in Blogger. This week, we are seeing signs of the confusion.
What's the "New Blogger", that everyone is talking about?

We see these questions, periodically. Every year, there is some type of "New Blogger". When Blogger releases another "New Blogger", everybody talks about "New Blogger" as if it was something completely rewritten, and obviously different from "Old Blogger". Remember that, at any time "Old Blogger" was "New Blogger" just the previous year, and was being fixed - as "Blogger" - just the previous week.

Does anybody remember "New Coke", in 1985? People who liked "Coke" (aka "Old" Coke) and hated "Pepsi" (aka "New" Coke) kept and shared notes of where they could find stores still selling "Coke", and would drive miles to find "Coke". This was, obviously, long before the "Internet" was even a dream - and when you could fill up your gas tank without getting a bank loan.

To add to the confusion, Blogger has several ways of releasing each "New" Blogger feature / version.
  • New Blogger (2006), where dynamic XML templates were introduced, was for a while addressed as "www2.blogger.com".
  • New Post Editor (2010) is selected from Settings - Basic.
  • Various new features are "temporarily" accessible from "draft.blogger.com". Note that "Draft" (blue "B" icon) Blogger - as opposed to "Production" (orange "B" icon) Blogger - will have ever changing features.
  • The "Designer Template" GUI wizard has a link "Template Designer" in "Page Elements" - and links back to "Page Elements" as "Back to Blogger".
  • The "Insert image" wizard in "Post Editor" will vary for you, depending upon whether you are using "Draft" Post Editor, and / or "New" Post Editor.

From time to time, I've written various temporary guides, to try to help distinguish between alternately available Blogger selections.
Who knows what "New" we'll see, in 2011? Watch this space.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Following / Friend Connect, Stats, And "opensocial.googleusercontent.com"

Some blog owners spend hours pouring over the activity records, Blogger Stats display, and / or visitor logs for their blogs. Sometimes, they see unexplained details which cause needless worry.
I clicked on a link in Stats, that referenced activity from "opensocial.googleusercontent.com", and got "Page not found". Is somebody hacking my blog?
and
What is "opensocial.googleusercontent.com"? I see that URL a lot, in my visitor logs!
Fortunately, this is a slightly less mysterious and sinister story.

Take a look at the Following community on your blog, or any other blog that interests you. See the icons, of the Followers? Click on one, and watch the contents of the browser status display (generally, the lower left border of the browser window), closely. As the large white popup window opens up, in the middle of your browser, you'll see "opensocial.googleusercontent.com" mentioned in the status display, briefly.

The popup window, with the Followers profile - including a list of blogs owned and / or Followed - is hosted from "opensocial.googleusercontent.com". That's the purpose of Following - giving people a chance to surf from blog to blog, using personal recommendations (lists of Followed and owned blogs) from the Followers and blog owners.

When you surf blogs using Following, you're opening these temporary popup windows, and you're generating temporary pages displaying the profiles of the Followers. When you click on a URL that looks interesting, to check out somebody's blog, you're generating an inclick ("referer entry"), from "opensocial.googleusercontent.com", in the Stats / visitor log for that blog.

When you close the popup window, that temporary URL goes away. Separately, and later, when you examine your visitor log, you see these "opensocial.googleusercontent.com" referer URLs, you click on one, and you get "Page not found", it's because that was a temporary page, hosting the popup window. That page existed in cache, on the computer owned by someone who just visited your blog - and it's long gone by the time you view your Stats display.

The bottom line is that these mysterious log entries mentioning "opensocial.googleusercontent.com" are the result of activity from Followers, visiting your blog. It's good to worry about hacking - just don't worry needlessly, from seeing "opensocial.googleusercontent.com" in your visitor logs. Get back to work, on your blog.

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Blogger Stats And The Interstitial Warning

Recently, we're seeing quite a few owners of "adult content" and private blogs reporting problems with their Stats displays.
Blogger Stats are no longer counting!
and
On my Stats display, the pageview counts have not changed since this morning!!
and
Stats aren't loading, for my blog!
These reports are coming from owners of various blogs which have an Interstitial Warning display in front of their blogs - either because the blog is subject to an "Adult Content" warning, or because the blog is published privately. The Interstitial Warning has been known for other instances of interference with visitor information.

We have a rollup discussion in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, where this problem is being explored, in detail. From what we can tell, this problem started sometime late 3/26 Pacific time.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Photos Recently Uploaded In Blog Posts Don't Display Properly, As Thumbnails

Several blog owners, today, have reported that recently published posts containing photos show a blank space, or a tiny box, where some photo thumbnails should be displayed, when the blog posts are displayed in the browser. When using various browser analytical tools, such as the Firefox "Page Info" wizard, the thumbnails in question appear to be downloaded properly to the browser cache - they simply are not showing up, in the blog display.

Examination of HTML code, for the problem photos, in Post Editor "Edit HTML" mode, reveals odd snippets of code. Here's code from one reported problem.

<a href="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-QD2r5DgzQWI/TYx6OGeaORI/AAAAAAAAAbg/1RBV-M9NVoY/s1600/IMG_2598.JPG" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="0" r6="true" src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-QD2r5DgzQWI/TYx6OGeaORI/AAAAAAAAAbg/1RBV-M9NVoY/s320/IMG_2598.JPG" width="0" /></a>

The solution to this problem isn't hard to identify.

Remove:

height="0" / width="0"

Leaving

<a href="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-QD2r5DgzQWI/TYx6OGeaORI/AAAAAAAAAbg/1RBV-M9NVoY/s1600/IMG_2598.JPG" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" r6="true" src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-QD2r5DgzQWI/TYx6OGeaORI/AAAAAAAAAbg/1RBV-M9NVoY/s320/IMG_2598.JPG" /></a>


(Update 2011/03/27 23:00): Blogger Support is aware of the problem, and has fixed the cause of the problem.

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There Is No Immediate Solution For The Turkish "Great Firewall" Blockade

The problem with DigiTurk, Turkish ISPs, and the Turkish courts has dragged on for several months now - and many Turkish blog owners are impatient. We see evidence of the impatience, weekly.
People advised me to change my IP to 74.125.93.121 but how do we do that?
This is a technical "solution" that won't work, consistently and reliably - and that will only degrade access to other blogs, worldwide (not only in Turkey), when used.

Custom domain DNS setups need to use righteous addresses. Use of half ass "solutions" will only degrade service for owners and readers of blogs published to other domains, and will not provide a permanent solution for Turkish blog owners.

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Connectivity Problem With Some GoDaddy Hosted Custom Domain Published Blogs

This weekend, a few owners of blogs published to custom domains are reporting problems viewing their blogs.

We are seeing various reports, such as unhappily reporting
I can't view my blog!
If we view the blog ourselves, or maybe if the blog owner uses one or more proxy servers to view the blog, the blog will be seen with no problem. Apparently the blog is actually online, regardless of the original observation.
Now what?

In many cases, the blog in question uses GoDaddy hosted DNS, and a specific set of GoDaddy servers, to provide domain addresses to the blog readers.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

How You Login To Following Affects Your Ability To Block Followers

Following, now using Google Friend Connect, gives its members several options - and some options may cause confusion. You can login to Following using any account, hosted on any of six different Internet services, and Follow using any of seven different Following profiles. And the account used for logging in to Following can differ, at your discretion, from the Blogger account that you are using, at any time, to maintain your Blogger blog.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Get To The Root Of The Problem - Blame DigiTurk And The Blog Owners Who Offended DigiTurk

Recently, we've seen a few demands, from Turkish nationals and various residents and visitors in Turkey, who appear to believe that Google intentionally compelled the Turkish ISPs to block access to Google hosted content.
Google needs to give us another set of IP addresses. The last set lasted for about 3 months, and has stopped working!
This overlooks the detail that Turkish officials specifically warned Google that they must not attempt to bypass the Turkish blockade, by using different IP addresses.

These demands that Google should use different IP addresses are also ignoring the actual reason for the use of multiple, dynamic IP addresses in the first place - the need for all Blogger and Google customers, worldwide, to access Blogger and Google services, consistently and reliably. Maximum availability of Blogger and Google services is possible only if all people needing access to Google servers be prepared to use whatever servers Google may make available, at any time.

Our access to Blogger and Google services does not entitle us to pick and choose, from whatever servers we wish to use, if our local access is restricted to a subset of the Google address space. Google provides us the redundant servers, and it's our responsibility to use the server that is provided to us, when we need to use their services.

The Turkish TV content network, DigiTurk, convinced the Turkish courts to issue an order forbidding various Turkish ISPs from providing access, to Google hosted content, to their customers. The validity of the demands from DigiTurk not withstanding, the Turkish ISPs have blocked access to Google hosted content, using techniques similar to the long known Great Firewall Of China.

If DigiTurk, the Turkish courts, and the Turkish ISPs cannot be convinced to clean up their act, Google has no choice in the matter. Google wants to provide consistent and reliable service to all citizens of the world - not special service to a few customers who are subject to locally restricted access. Google did not cause this problem - unless you consider the cause of the problem to include their providing us the ability to publish our blogs, without unduly invasive content restriction.

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Post Editor, Stats, Template Designer, And Internet Explorer V9

Some time ago, Microsoft deployed the latest version of their browser, Internet Explorer Version 9. Blogger blog owners and readers alike are starting to use IE V9 on their computers - and recently, we've started to see hints in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, indicating that Blogger may not be up to date in allowing for its unique requirements.
Since I loaded Internet Explorer 9 on my computer, my Stats sits loading ... forever.
and
I can't publish any more. It just sits there spinning!

In retrospect, and were I not professional in my advice, I would simply say
I told you so!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"I Can't Manage My Blog" - Three Sides To Every Story

One of the more intriguing Blogger problems, seen daily in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, involves control or ownership of our blogs.
I can't manage my blog!
or
My blog isn't on my dashboard! Can Blogger give me my blog back?
Besides the constant possibility that this is yet another locked or deleted blog, caused by spam classification (righteous or spurious), there are several possible scenarios here.

The most commonly seen scenario, besides the already mentioned spam classification, involves past inadvertent creation of a second Blogger account (worse, a third, or fourth ...), by the blog owner - with the blog owner currently having access to the wrong account. The person reporting the problem needs to recover access to the other Blogger account - preferably after clearing cache, cookies, and active sessions, and restarting the browser.

A second scenario, seen occasionally (but not publicised, for several reasons) may involve a blog, stolen by an unknown second party, and now under control of the other. This may involve malicious or innocent motive - and may require considerable effort by Blogger Support to verify, if control is to be righteously restored to the original owner.

A third, and more devious scenario, can involve an attempt to steal a blog, by posting in the forum and claiming that the blog in question was previously stolen. In some cases, this can involve an attempt to take over a desired "dormant" URL, which the hijacker considers essential to his ability to publish a blog. Here the would be hijacker may not be aware that these claims cannot be simply taken at face value - and that any claim must be verified with great seriousness, to prevent the righteous owner of the blog from having to post later and state the second scenario.

Blogger lets us publish our blogs in anonymity - so they do not tie our blogs to our real life identities. With that ability (ours) comes the responsibility, which is also ours, that we must retain control of our blogs, on our own. That concern - and these three scenarios - is always in mind when we read a forum report
My blog is not on my dashboard!

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Monday, March 21, 2011

In Custom Domain Publishing, The Naked Domain Redirect Is Optional

We see several problems weekly, which relate to custom domain redirects.
My domain root isn't working!
or
How do I get my naked domain to redirect to my blog??
Generally, we'll investigate, discover an apparent Google server problem in the original publishing sequence, and recommend recycling of the domain.

Sometimes, the solution is simpler - but we may not get to the simple solution, immediately.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mail-To-Blogger, Private Blogs, And Clueless Owners

Occasionally, we see signs of some blog owners acting like ostriches, as they publish their private blogs using Mail-to-Blogger, and ignore yet another Blogger security initiative.
I like my Mail-To-Blogger email address! Why does Google tell me to change my "secret word"?

Some owners of private blogs believe that their blog is invisible to hackers and spammers, as an ostrich sticking his head into a hole in the ground becomes invisible to predators. If you combine a private blog with an activated Mail-to-Blogger address, using an easily guessed "secret word", you have yet another future spam host.

Hackers don't care about the name of the blog, or the fact that the blog is private. Their script starts with a working email address, from which they derive the public portion of the Mail-to-Blogger email address. Given an easily guessed "secret word" - the private portion of the Mail-to-Blogger email address - they have yet another blog on which they can publish their ads, or their spam links.

One day, we have yet another plaintive cry in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken about unknown parties publishing to their blog, at will.
Where are these ads coming from? I don't want spam on my blog!

Since some blog owners don't check their blogs daily, it's even possible that the Blogger anti-spam classification process will, righteously, detect the blog as a spam host, and lock or delete it. Then, we see yet another cry of anguish.
My blog isn't spam! It's just my blog!! Why does Blogger persecute me??!!

If you get a notice or warning from Google, requiring that you change your Mail-to-Blogger "secret word", please take it seriously. Google really does have your best interests in mind.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lack Of Referer Spam Leaves Blog Owners Worrying About A Sudden Drop In Traffic

In early February 2011, many Blogger blog owners, who tracked blog reader traffic by using Blogger Stats and Google Analytics, were wondering about blog traffic from mysterious sources, like "bit.ly" and "goo.gl". When informed that it was fraudulent activity, and a type of spam, they thought no more of the problem, and moved on.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Some Blog Owners Report A Scrolling Stats Display

For most blog owners, the formatting of the Stats display is a model of efficiency. For each display (Overview, Posts, Traffic Sources, Audience), when looking left to right, we see a display that's pretty tightly limited to 75% screen width, when the display size is adjusted to 100% screen height. That's maybe 10% wider than the post editor display, with both post editor and Stats leaving the well known white space on the right.

Legendarily - and I can't think specifically where I could quote this trivia, the Blogger wizard displays, such as Post Editor, Settings, and Stats, are limited this way so blog owners won't be forced to size their browser windows to 100% of screen width.

See how neatly the horizontal width of the Post Editor display is sized?


And here's the Stats display, with similar "white space".


Oddly, a few blog owners have been reporting, recently, that they are being forced to scroll left to right, to see the entire Stats display. One blog owner explicitly states
The Stats section looks normal except for the part in the upper right hand corner, the "pageviews" stats. That little section that says pageviews today, yesterday, week etc. . . is "gone". There is a scroll bar at the bottom of the window and if I move it all the way to the right, the pageviews are there.
So, what element in the display requires more than 100% of the screen width? Or are some blog owners simply sizing the display text, and making the entire display extremely large?

Let's compare the "Traffic Sources" displays, as seen in Firefox and in Internet Explorer V8.

See how neatly tabbed the display is, in Firefox?


Look at the display, in Internet Explorer. See the differences in the display, of the 6th and 7th links?


What will my Overview display look like, in Internet Explorer, if the 7th link pops up in the Traffic Sources display in Overview?

Try the "Month" view, to see!


What was last Tuesday? Coincidence?

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Friday, March 11, 2011

The World Wide Blogger Culture, And Comment Filter Training

The new comment filtering system has been in place now for almost 6 months, and we are slowly starting to see improvements, with signs that spam (aka "bulk") content is becoming more individualised. Recently, we've seen suggestions, from discussions in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, that the filters are being put in place in Asia. Reports of unfair filtering, similar to the complaints seen 6 months ago about English language filtering, are being seen now about Chinese, Japanese, and Thai language filtering.

When the English language filtering was put into place, the filters had to be trained from the bottom up. The issue is slightly different, for Asian language filtering.

New Blogger features generally start out provided in English, and best supported in English. Next comes non English languages that use Roman character sets (West European countries), and finally languages that use non Roman character sets. Asian languages are going to be the hardest to support.

The spam filtering, in Asian languages, is going to present a challenge, based on the filters having already being trained, in English language blogs. Some spammers have been using Asian (Chinese, Japanese, and Thai) characters, to disguise their content, for some time. Many English / European blog owners, working together, have trained the spam filters, already, to see any comments containing non Roman characters as spam.

English language blog owners, (unwillingly, in some cases) helped train the spam filters from the beginning, and had to deal with many false negatives (spam content not detected). Asian blog owners, on the contrary, will have to deal with many false positives (non spam content detected as spam), as the spam filters will falsely see many legitimate comments, written in Asian languages, as spam.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Blog Owners Losing Blogs When GMail / Google Accounts Are Disabled

This week, we've gotten a number of reports from unhappy blog owners, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, who find their blogs deleted, and their Blogger / Google accounts disabled.

Upon trying to login to GMail (for GMail based Google accounts), or to Blogger (for both GMail and non GMail based Google accounts), they are redirected to Google Accounts: I'm getting a message that says 'Sorry, your account has been disabled.'.


At the top of the latter display, you see in yellow
Please visit the Apps Status Dashboard for more information.
The Apps Status Dashboard for 3/8/11 shows a note of "Service disruption" for "Google Mail". This leads to a PDF document Gmail Outage - February 27, 2011.
At 6:00 PM, February 27, Google Engineering temporarily disabled access to Gmail and other Google Apps services for all potentially affected users. This was a precautionary measure to prevent issues with data integrity during the mailbox restoration process. When users attempted to log in to their Gmail or Google Apps account, they received the message, “Sorry, your account has been disabled.” At 1:30 PM, February 28, following further analysis, Google Engineering identified those users not affected by the software bug, and restored their account access. For the affected users, Google Engineering restored access to all of their Google Apps services other than Gmail.
Apparently, and not unusually, Google was a bit optimistic.
Google Engineering and Google Support worked directly with the remaining users as needed, and by 11:30 AM, March 3, all Google Apps for Business user accounts had been restored.

The latest word was provided this afternoon, in Google Mail: Today's Status
The problem with Google Mail should be resolved.


The above advice applies to the mass disabled Google accounts, that were being handled directly with GMail Support personnel, 3/8 - 3/11/2011. If your account has not been re enabled, or if the above details don't seem to apply to your account, you're probably going to have to request review / restore on your own.

Looking carefully at the bottom of Google Accounts: I'm getting a message that says 'Sorry, your account has been disabled.', you will see
If you believe your account was disabled in error, contact us.
The link to "contact us" leads to Google Accounts: My account is disabled, and a chance to solve another CAPTCHA.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Blogger Post Editor, And Photos Hosted Under Picasa

Many blog owners are unsure about the hosting of photos, as published to our Blogger blogs, under Google. We see innocent questions like
What happens if I delete my Google account?
and slightly frustrated questions
The photos on my blog disappeared!
and agony
I had my Google account, and my blog, restored - but my photos are still missing!!
These are examples of real life questions, posted in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken. These questions identify issues that need to be explored.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Missing Followers Gadget Content - March 2011

This evening, we are seeing a small flood of reports about missing Followers, in various Followers gadgets. The reports posted so far, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, have been inconsistent and incomplete, and identifying a pattern isn't possible.

We have a rollup discussion, where we are collecting details about your personal observations.
  1. Are all Followers icons missing? Is the Followers count also missing? Is a blank space visible, where the icons should be seen?
  2. Are the icons missing when you are logged in to Following, with your icon visible at the top of the Followers gadget?
  3. Are the icons missing when you are not logged in to Following, with the "Follow" button visible, at the top of the Followers gadget?
  4. Are the icons missing on blog(s) which you own, or blogs which you do not own? Can you see the Followers, in my sidebar, to the right?
  5. Are Followers missing also, from your dashboard list for your blog(s)?
  6. Please identify blog(s) where you do not see Followers, by URL.
  7. Where are you located (city, province / state, country)?
  8. What Service Provider connects your computer to the Internet?
  9. In what browser (name, and version) do you observe the problem?
  10. In any browser (name) do you not observe the problem?
If you are observing this problem, a complete description of the problem which you can provide may help identify a pattern.


Blogger Support states that the problem has been fixed.
We believe we've fixed this problem. Please try viewing your blog again- simply reloading the page should do it! If you have any problems please don't hesitate to update the forum.


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There Is No Reader Limit, For A Public Blog

Occasionally, we see evidence of subtle confusion about blog member and reader limits, expressed by some blog owners in Blogger Help Forum: How Do I?.
How can I let more than 100 people read my blog?

To cut through the confusion here, we need to start with one basic question.
Is the blog intended to be private, or public?

For a public blog, the reader population is limitless. The legendary limit of 100 is against the blog member list, as you would see in the Settings - Permissions wizard. The member limit of 100 is for the total of Administrators, Authors, and (for a private blog) Designated Readers.

If you have a single owner private blog, the single owner is one member - so the designated reader population is limited to a maximum of 99. With a team owner private blog, you'll have at least 2 administrators / authors - so the designated reader population is limited to a maximum of 98 (and may be lower, depending upon the total number of administrators / authors). The relevant detail here is private blogs - team blogs, in general, have no reader limit. Only private team blogs have a limit in designated readers.

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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Content Displayed In Blogger Dashboard "Reading List" Is Incomplete

Recently, we started seeing various reports from Followers and subscribers of various blogs and websites, about content displayed in the Blogger "Reading List" newsfeed reader.
The "All blog updates" list in the Reading List is incomplete!
and
My Blogger Dashboard display only goes back a few hours!!

The complaints involve only the aggregated content of the blogs displayed individually, under the Blogs column in the Reading List, as "All blog updates". The individual blog content, as displayed separately, do not appear to be affected.

We have a rollup discussion, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, where the details of this issue are being discussed. This problem was originally reported on or before 2/25/2011, and the discussion itself was opened on that date. On 3/2/2011, Blogger acknowledged the problem, and implied that a resolution would be coming.
We're working through this right now and will report back as soon as we have more information to share. I believe this is related to a recent code change we made.


(Update 3/9): Blogger Support provides a terse update.
We've identified the source of this problem and will have a fix out shortly which will restore all of the Reading List content.


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Conflict Issues Won't Always Be Resolved In Your Favour, Nor Immediately

Recently, we're noting a few angry complaints from people who may or may not be "bloggers" (owners or readers of Blogger blogs).
I reported blog "xxxxxxx.blogspot.com" for impersonating me repeatedly, but Google is ignoring me!
and multiple complaints about the same blog
Why is blog "xxxxxxx.blogspot.com" not being removed by Blogger? We demand its immediate removal!
These bloggers show no understanding about the need for jurisprudence, nor for the concept of two sides to every story.

If you report a problem blog to Blogger, using either the "DMCA Violation" complaint form, or the "Report Abuse" wizard, you are creating one half of a legal conflict. The other half of the conflict is the target of the complaint, or the publisher of the offending blog. In a legal description, you (and others agreeing with you) become the "prosecution", and the target of your complaint becomes the "defendant".

Blogger / Google becomes the equivalent of the "court" or "judge". Blogger / Google, as a USA Corporation, is bound by several legal principles, in deciding a dispute which you originate.
  • Due process of law.
  • Freedom of speech.
  • Innocence until proven guilty.

Blogger and Google are concerned with your well being, and they are equally concerned with the other guys well being. They can't take immediate action, without examining both sides of the issue. They may start from your complaint, but require more than your word, before attacking a possibly innocent blogger. If you were being Joe Jobbed by another blogger, you would appreciate the same attention to your rights.

With a DMCA Violation Complaint, for instance, there is the "DMCA Counter Claim" procedure, where the owner of any blog faced with a DMCA complaint is guaranteed the right to respond, and / or to make things right. If Google Legal decides that your complaint has no standing, they will probably ignore you. If Google Legal decides that your complaint has standing, they will inform the defendant, and give the defendant an amount of time to respond / resolve the problem. In the latter case, you will have to wait, patiently, for a response / resolution.

A Blogger in house Abuse Report will be handled similar to a DMCA Violation Complaint, except that it's scope is more versatile - there are several categories of Abuse, none equivalent to DMCA Violation - and its processing is less formal. In house Abuse Reports apply only to Blogger blogs / Google hosted content, and the resolution procedure probably does not involve the formal procedure which governs DMCA Violation Complaint resolution.

In both cases, though, Blogger / Google / external organisations will impartially decide the merits of your complaint, and give the defendant an equal say in the matter. You will not see any change immediately (if the ruling is in your favour), or at all (if the ruling is not in your favour). And accumulating mass volumes of complaints, from other people who agree with you, won't necessarily influence the decision.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Team Ownership, And Blog Security

A well known adage describes multi-personal issues, in general
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
In terms of blogs with multiple owners, each individual owner becomes one link, in the chain of blog security.

Any blog with multiple administrators ("owners") is subject to its abuse by any one of the owners. Whatever the abuse involves
  • Installation of dodgy code.
  • Dodgy installation practices.
  • Addition of untrustworthy members or administrators.
  • Theft of the blog by removing all other administrators.
You (the original creator of your blog) absolutely must exercise discretion, in inviting other people to jointly administer a blog with you.

Any one administrator can install malicious code, can use an EZ Install procedure to invite a hijacked Blogger account, can add another administrator who can do any of these things, or can even remove all other administrators. Just one person (the "weakest link") can cause chain breakage (a damaged, hijacked, spam locked, or stolen blog).

Blog authors can also cause problems - either with dodgy links or posts.

You simply must choose your administrators - and team members, with great care. Blogger cannot intervene in internal issues which involve team membership.

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