Saturday, April 30, 2011

There Is No Rainbow, And No Pot Of Gold

Too many blog owners have been lured into Internet publishing by the promise of easy riches. We see various optimistic promises, in the many blogs reported in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, under hopeful topics like "Please restore my blog - I don't spam!".
If you don't even have a website, there are so many ways to earn money online. You can Get paid to take online surveys, Get paid by reading email, Get paid by surfing the Web etc. You can work from home, without any knowledge about building websites at all.

Here, we've put together a list of the best, and the most popular money making methods seen today. We try to cover all methods and companies, which give various kinds of offers for making money online. Making money online is a dream for many people in this world - but it's not hard as you might think.
The person who wrote this blog introduction is probably not the first to believe this, nor will he be the last. He's just one more.

The recently issued Spam Appeal Guidelines specifically forbid everything suggested in the first paragraph.

Content or links referencing GPT, PTC, PTS
Get paid to take online surveys, Get paid by reading email, Get paid by surfing the Web

'Make money from home' / 'Make money fast'
work from home, without any knowledge about building websites

There's no pot of gold in the Blogger Blogosphere, folks. Sorry.

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Is A Blog That Uses Affiliate Networking A Spam Host?

The World Wide Web - the most popular service that runs on the Internet - contains millions of websites, all interconnected. Why do they call it a "web", anyway? This blog, and my blog cluster, are a microcosm of that concept. Many blogs, and static websites, participate similarly.

Affiliate networks are, likewise, a part of the web. This blog has several casual affiliate links, with other blogs providing similar content. Affiliate networks let the publishers of one website say to their readers
Hey, here's another website with similar information!
and the readers of one blog can read another blog / website for different / more insight.

Some blog owners confuse the concept of affiliate networking with a similar (but not extremely so) concept - affiliate marketing. Both concepts involve affiliate relationships. In effect, "affiliate marketing" is one purpose of an "affiliate network".

In my article Blogger Blogs, And The Hall Of Mirrors, I wrote about affiliate marketing networks, and why they are not preferred in the Blogger Blogosphere. In my complementary article Blogger Blogs, And "Affiliate" Networks, I wrote about spam classification, and analysis of affiliate networking relationships to identify other members of an affiliate marketing network, when one spam host is identified, using fuzzy classification.

You'll want to look carefully, at the "affiliate" link URL, too. If the link includes a "referer ID", which is used to reward you, the blog owner, for providing traffic into a link farm, then you better ask where the funding for the traffic fees come from. If you look deeply enough, you'll find another system of hijacked ads, fraudulently stealing money or traffic from the ad hosting companies.

To the question
Is "affiliate networking" forbidden, in Blogger blogs?
I would answer
No, Blogger has no problem with affiliate networking, between blogs that are entertaining or useful to your readers.

In a slightly longer explanation, I would offer a contrast.
  • No Problem: If your blog contains information that's relevant and useful to your readers, your "affiliate networking" links are between blogs of similar content and / or structure, and all blogs are designed to entertain or instruct, or to sell a legal product to your readers.
  • Problem: If your blog contains information that's random and useless to your readers, your "affiliate networking" links are between blogs filled with random and useless information, and all blogs are mainly designed to serve ads, to randomly redirect traffic to other websites and reward you for the traffic, or to sell fraudulent products or services to your readers.

As an authoritative reference, I will provide the Spam Appeal Guidelines - January 2013, which cites "Affiliate marketing" as a known spam ("abusive / inappropriate content") category.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Improvements, And New Challenges, In the Spam Review / Appeal Process

This week, Blogger developed new spam review / appeal procedures, designed to make everybody's life (except, maybe, confirmed or self aware spammers) a bit simpler. Unfortunately, as we implement the new procedures in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, we are starting to see other problems, which may affect the success of the new procedures.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Improvements To the Spam Review / Appeal Process

I've been referring to the old Blogger 4 Step spam classification / review process for some time. This week, Blogger released a new review process, designed to make everybody's life simpler (except maybe for the confirmed and / or self aware spammers). The process starts with a new notice, posted in any "My blog is not spam!" report in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Custom Domain Purchases Not Being Made, Successfully

We get an occasional odd report about a blog, recently setup with a custom domain using "Buy a domain", which cannot be accessed using either the BlogSpot or domain URL. Upon investigation using a Whois log, we see an odd detail.
MYNONXDOMAIN.COM IS AVAILABLE
 
mynonxdomain.com appears to be available
An HTTP trace will appear identical to an improperly published domain.

Upon further discussion with the blog owner, we also learn that the blog owner has seen no charge against the bank account provided for the purchase process. The only sign of the purchase is the BlogSpot URL, redirected to the domain URL.

In this case, the only choice is to publish the blog back to the BlogSpot URL, then repeat the purchase, again using "Buy a domain" - but after diagnosing and possibly correcting your credit card information.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Blogger Does Not Care About Your Telephone Number

Blogger has been using CAPTCHA verification for some time, to identify you as a person, and to make sure that you are not running a computer based script.
  • When you setup a new blog.
  • When you submit a request to have your blog unlocked after being (falsely) classified as spam.
  • When you attempt to publish too many posts in one day.
Unfortunately, spammers eventually figured out how to automate CAPTCHA processing. Besides that, there's the unfortunate detail that solving a CAPTCHA isn't always the best use of one's time, in stressful situations.

Recently, Blogger improved their authentication technique. Besides / instead of using CAPTCHA verification, they now offer us the option of SMS Verification - and for some services, Voice Service based verification. As a first choice, they will send a short text message to a mobile computer, using SMS - and we can reply from the mobile device, or type a reply code into our online display. Alternately, they will call our voice service - and an automated voice will read us a short text message, which we can then type into our online display.

In both cases, they require that we provide a "phone number", so they can contact us. Some blog owners are suspicious of this request - that they should provide a phone number to Blogger, just so they can setup a blog (unlock their blog, publish too actively, ...). Certain that Blogger has a nefarious need to collect their phone numbers, they protest yet another invasion of privacy.

Ignoring the unfortunate reality of the limited reliability of SMS / voice service based verification, the privacy invasion accusations are unfounded. Google only wants to use your SMS or voice based "terminal" as a temporary token, to ensure that you are a person - and not yet another hijacked computer, helping another spammer setup a new splog (unlock a locked splog, over publish another splog, ...).

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Blogger, Internet Explorer, And The Zone Based Defense

This week in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, we're seeing another round of frustration coming from blog owners who use Internet Explorer
I can't see my Followers.
and
I keep getting logged out, when I try to access my blog!
and
I can't publish to my blog - it just keeps spinning!!
and
The Template Designer never loads - all that I see if the big "B" in the middle of the screen!!!
All of these reports, combined with understanding of what last Tuesday was, to users of Microsoft products, hints of yet another problem with layered security on our computers, and another set of Microsoft Security Updates.

Some blog owners, oblivious of the details involved, will require immediate, and detailed attention to their problem.
Just tell me, in nice simple terms, what settings I should check or change!
Here is where the security analysts, and the Geek Computer Repair experts, need to step up to the plate, and educate the computer owners - so they do not keep painting their computers into a corner of security "wet paint" based problems.

The problem here is that, if you use Internet Explorer, the problems that you may be seeing will be unique to your computer - because of how you use your computer. There are no nice, simple settings that will be both
  • Effective.
  • Immediate.
  • Universally applicable.
to everybody. If you use Firefox, or any other non Microsoft browser - but on a computer that runs Microsoft Windows - some Microsoft Security Updates may apply to you too.

From your Microsoft Windows Control Panel, look at "Internet Options". Alternately, within Internet Explorer, Tools - "Internet Options" will get you the same thing - the "Internet Properties" wizard. Look at the Security tab, in the wizard.

In Security, you'll see 4 defense zones.
  1. Internet.
  2. Local intranet.
  3. Trusted sites.
  4. Restricted sites.
You should consider these 4 zones, in terms of how much you can trust content from domains in each zone.
  1. Local intranet. These are computers, and domains, that you / somebody near you owns and maintains. If you trust any computers, these are the ones that you will trust, the most, as you should trust yourself / your employer, your brother, friend, sister....
  2. Trusted sites. These are domains on the Internet, maintained and provided by companies that you, inherently, trust. All corporations, though, will frequently make decisions what is best for themselves. You can somewhat trust Google or Microsoft - but not as completely, as you should trust yourself / your employer, your brother, friend, sister...
  3. Internet. 99% of the domains that you access will remain in this zone. By default, you will trust them - but only as far as you must, to see the specific content that you require.
  4. Restricted sites. If you must access untrusted domains (my advice is to avoid even surfing their websites), you should trust them very little.
Within the choice of these 4 defense zones, you should consider the various domains which provide you access to, and use of, Blogger and Google. Each different Blogger / Google domain will be, appropriately, maintained within 1 of the 4 zones. And which zone each domain is maintained within (and the various zone settings), on your personal computer, will affect how well you are able to
  • Login to Blogger.
  • Publish to Blogger.
  • Use the Template Designer.
  • Use Following.
  • Many other abilities.

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Clearing Cache, Cookies, And Active Login Sessions, Combined With Deleted / Locked Blogs

Many blog owners are familiar with the confusion or despair felt when logging in to Blogger, and not seeing a dashboard with the expected owned or Followed blogs.
Help! I can't manage my blog!
or
Why can't I see my Reading List?
These are problems that we deal with, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, daily.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Want Your Old Blog Deleted? Recover Access To The Owning Blogger Account, First

Recently, we've seen a few requests in Blogger Help Forum: How Do I? about removing old, unused blogs.
How can I remove my old blog, if I can't remember the password to the Blogger account?
In some cases, we can see the blog owners had previously participated in another popular discussion topic
How do I get control of this dormant blog, so I can use the URL?
Oddly enough, the two requests are not coincidentally related.

Some would be blog owners, wishing to publish their new blog to the URL that would be just perfect, given the content or subject of the blog, find that the desired URL is in use, but not currently active. They'll get no support from Blogger here, because Blogger has explicitly stated
Blogger accounts and Blog*Spot addresses do not expire.
The next idea becomes
If the blog isn't in use, I'll get Blogger to delete the old blog. When the URL becomes available, I'll get it!

The problem here is that Blogger is simply going to require any blog owners to recover access to the owning Blogger account, and delete the blog themselves. There's no short cut here folks - Blogger isn't going to help you hijack somebody else's blog - or the URL - even if the blog is dormant.

If you're able to recover access, remember how to transfer control to your currently used Blogger account. Otherwise, pick an available URL - and get to work, publishing your new blog.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Stats Enumerates PageViews For Individual Posts - Not For Main Page Views

Not all blog owners realise the difference between the main page, and the individual posts pages, in their blog. Some blog owners would like to display all posts in the main page, so their readers don't have to spend time clicking links to the archive pages, or to the individual post pages.

The differences between the main page, and the individual post pages, doesn't become an issue, for some blog owners, until they try to reconcile the individual numbers in Stats.
My Stats doesn't count my pageviews correctly!
We have seen a few problem reports about Stats - and some of the reports seem to come from people who don't realise that the Posts section of Stats provides pageview counts for the 10 most popular individual posts - and not for the main (home) page, or the date archive or label archive, retrievals.

Some blogs, even with post page URLs enabled, will get the majority of their traffic from people accessing the main page. Both the search engines, and the readers, will spend at least some time on the main page, before following a link to an individual post page. Some readers will only read individual posts when search links lead them, spuriously, to the main page - as in when they are looking for a specific post that was on the main page yesterday, and was archived today because a new post was just recently published.

Thanks to this post, my earlier post Who, Me? I Don't Spam was just archived, from main page view in this blog. Until today, people could read that post, and the search engines could index its contents, from main page view. Now, all activity against that post will be from date archive retrievals, label archive retrievals, and the individual URL. Pageview activity for that individual post URL will slowly increase, relative to pageview activity for the post when it was part of the main page, because the latter is now ended.

The pageview counts enumerated by Audience (the 10 most popular browsers, countries, and operating systems), and by Traffic Sources (the 10 most popular referring sites, and the 10 most popular referring URLs) will each list counts for the main page, all individual posts pages, and for archive and label search retrievals, combined. The counts enumerated by Posts will include only the top 10 most popular individual posts (with pageviews for all browsers, countries, operating systems, and traffic sources combined) - and will never include counts for archive page retrievals, label searches, or main page views.

If you need statistics for more than 10 posts, or different statistics, you'll need a third party visitor log / meter.

Since a major amount of pageviews, for many blogs, will be against the main page, adding the counts for the 10 most popular individual posts, and trying to balance that total against the totals for browsers, countries, operating systems, or traffic sources, is an activity guaranteed to produce confusion. If this is a real problem for you - and if you don't think that your readers will mind viewing each post in the individual post view - try using Jump Break consistently.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Auto Pagination Being Triggered By Post Images Encoded In Base64

Auto Pagination has been an accepted part of Blogger life now for just over a year. Almost all blog owners are used to it, and complaints about its interference are rare. Recently, we've seen a new scenario where it is involved.

The best way to look for a problem with auto pagination is from looking at the source code, for the blog page being displayed. Recently, we see very odd code, using the browser View - Source menu option. Note the " ... " snippet, in the example below, represents several hundred lines of similar content, intentionally removed just so this post can be displayed, without triggering auto pagination.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Not All Followers Will Provide A Link To Their Blogger Or Google Profile

I've described several oddities about how you can Follow a blog - the different account hosts that you can use, the different profiles that you can use, and (in some cases) whether to display an individual blog in the list of Followed blogs for the profile used, or even to allow access to the profile used.

There's a lot of choices there, and not everybody understands all of the implications for the combinations of choices. Take a look at the Following community for any blog with any interesting number of Followers. Let's use my Following Test blog, in this case.

Look at the first named icon, in the gadget for my blog - see my icon? Watch the popup when you hover the mouse over my icon, and you'll see my name, "Chuck". Click on my icon, and look at the profile displayed. The profile name "Chuck" is blue, because "Chuck" is a link caption. The target of the link is my Blogger profile, because I am Following that blog, using my Blogger profile. If I was Following the blog using my Google profile, the target of the link would be my Google profile.

Not all Followers profiles, displayed in the Followers gadget, provide a link to a profile. Go back to the Followers icons, for my blog, and go two rows up from my profile "Chuck". Look for the giraffe, with a popup of "nitecruzr". Click on that icon, and look at the profile displayed. The profile name is, of course, "nitecruzr" - but the profile name here is black, because "nitecruzr" is not a link caption. I Followed my blog as "nitecruzr" using my default Following profile.

When you Follow a blog without linking an external profile, you use a default Following profile. You can edit your Following profile using the Settings wizard. If you see "Already have a profile on the web? Use it instead", you are Following using the default Following profile. If you use your default Following profile to Follow a blog, your Followers display will not link to your Blogger or Google profile, and the profile name won't be clickable. You'll have a few basic settings to make there, in the Settings wizard, and that's it.

So, when you look at a Follower, and the profile name isn't clickable, that's probably because the person Following is using the default profile, for that blog. That's his or her right.

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Friday, April 08, 2011

Photos Recently Uploaded In Blog Posts Don't Display Properly, As Thumbnails - Part 2

Last week, we explored a problem with photos not displaying properly in the blog. A few blog owners have noted the published fix
Edit the post HTML and remove all "height = 0" and "width = 0" attributes.
Recently, we're seeing suggestions that the above suggestion helps - but not always.
I looked at another post that said to manually remove the height and width = 0 tag from Edit HTML tab of the new post editor, but that has not solved the problem.

Looking at the HTML in some blogs, we can see another, similarly interesting detail. Here's an example.

<a href="https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-g86kitum7rQ/TY0phqSKT3I/AAAAAAAAG5A/VLf1YQNHbew/s1600/DSC_3337.JPG" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img r6="true" src="https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-g86kitum7rQ/TY0phqSKT3I/AAAAAAAAG5A/VLf1YQNHbew/s1600/DSC_3337.JPG" border="0"></a>

Look at the URL of this post, in your browser address window.
http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2011/04/photos-recently-uploaded-in-blog-posts.html

Almost all blog content is accessed using "http", not "https".

If you have a post with missing photos, edit the post in HTML mode. Look at the above example.
<a href="http://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-g86kitum7rQ/TY0phqSKT3I/AAAAAAAAG5A/VLf1YQNHbew/s1600/DSC_3337.JPG" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img r6="true" src="http://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-g86kitum7rQ/TY0phqSKT3I/AAAAAAAAG5A/VLf1YQNHbew/s1600/DSC_3337.JPG" border="0"></a>
The "https" protocol is used in very specific Internet dialogues - generally when you are logging in to a Blogger or Google service. There are known bandwidth and performance issues associated with use of "https", and some relevant details may be causing the symptom here.

The solution, in this case, is to check for use of "https" in all photo HTML, and change any such use to "http".

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Monday, April 04, 2011

We Are Permitted To Publish Our Blogs Anonymously - But Not Guaranteed To Do So

Two questions we see, seemingly unrelated, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, relate to anonymity, and to search engine indexing.
Why is my blog not listed by Google? You'd think that Blogger and Google would work together! Every non Blogger blog that I have is automatically indexed - why not Blogger blogs??!!
and
Why is my private blog indexed in Google? I don't want strangers reading my blog, certainly not from finding it listed in Google!!
Both are valid concerns - and nether will ever be answered, unilaterally.

We are permitted to publish our blogs, anonymously. Major world events - such as the Iranian revolution in the first decade of 2000 - legendarily were enabled by use of anonymous Internet resources, such as Blogger blogs. However, true anonymity is extremely difficult to guarantee - and simply won't happen without a lot of planning, starting before we "Create a blog".

On the other hand, most people who publish a Blogger blog want the blog indexed by the search engines. But this won't happen, either, without a lot of work. If anonymity is to be an option, automatic search engine indexing cannot be possible.

All that aside, note that the terms anonymity, obscurity, and privacy are three different goals. None of the three are guaranteed - and none of the three, even if achieved, will guarantee either of the other two.

It's a dual edged sword here, folks. We all have to compromise. Neither true anonymity, nor true visibility, can ever be had, without hard work, planning, and persistent maintenance of any identities used, as blog owners.

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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Blogger Stats, The Interstitial Warning, And Post Page Access - Let's Get Real, Here

Just last month, we observed a problem with Blogger Stats displays, which was diagnosed to involve the "Content Warning" Interstitial display. The problem was escalated to Blogger Support - who fixed the underlying problem, and who is now working on a second problem, possibly a problem which resulted from the fixing of the first problem.

Many blog owners who suffered from the first problem are also suffering from the second problem - and some blog owners are confusing the two problems. Some of the latter are not being objective, and are angrily accusing Blogger of ignoring them, in their hour of need.

Very few of the people reporting the second problem have spent a great deal of time objectively evaluating the urgency of that problem.
  • Stats is not a major functionality in Blogger blogs. It's a feature that helps the blog owner evaluate blog traffic.
  • Lack of a Stats display (let alone one portion of a Stats display) does not affect blog functionality. The readers of the blog never know that Stats does not work, for the blog affected.
  • There are many alternate solutions available. Google Analytics is an alternate Google product (which some of you already use). There are also many excellent free third party products, which provide more comprehensive statistics.
  • Blogs with "Adult" Content are not a major part of the Blogger / Google name and server space.

All of these factors combine, and don't exactly ensure that this problem is at the top of the Blogger "Fix This!" list. Here, we need to exercise patience.

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Friday, April 01, 2011

Blogger Stats, The Interstitial Warning, And Post Page Access

Last week, we observed a problem with Blogger Stats displays, which was traced to the involvement of the "Content Warning" Interstitial display. The problem was escalated to Blogger Support - who fixed the underlying problem, to some degree.

Now, we have reports which show that Stats is now displaying figures for "Traffic Sources" and for "Audiences" - but not for Posts. The details of the displays for the different time ranges - "Now", "Day", "Week", "Month", and "All time" are interesting - and noting the varying reports, from the different blog owners affected by the problem, is also interesting.

One of the more obvious observations comes from the nature of what has been fixed, to date.
I see counts for Audience, and for Traffic Sources - but my Posts display still shows
No stats yet, check back later.
This is because the Content Warning interstitial display has apparently been corrected to allow main page access to generate statistics, but the individual posts pages are yet to be corrected.

Since the main page and the posts pages are different portions of our blogs, we still still see some blog owners report
Posts
No stats yet, check back later.

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