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Friday, August 09, 2013

Dynamic Template Instabilities Have Multiple Symptoms

Recently, we've been seeing a few reports, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, about blogs using dynamic templates, which display incompletely, and lack specific features.

Various blog owners have developed, and reported, a workaround to the problem, which involves using an unpublicised Blogger setting found in the template HTML code. This workaround sets a loading delay, known as Timeout.

The currently recommended Timeout setting will force a fixed delay on blogs using the workaround, which may not be 100% effective in all cases. The effectiveness may vary, according to the specific problems reported by the various blog owners.

Problems reported by blog owners, which involve dynamic templates, center around several distinct areas.
  • Absence of comments, displayed after the posts.
  • Absence of multiple gadgets, in the popout sidebar.
  • Absence of Pages entries in the display header bar.
  • Absence of Posts ("No Posts Found"), with blogs heavy on photos.
  • Absence of template tweaks, applied using "Add CSS".
  • Absence of template tweaks, applied using "Edit HTML".
Each of these different symptoms will be caused by different needs, in publishing a blog - and the different symptoms will be observed by owners with different technical skill level.

Absence of multiple gadgets, in the popout sidebar is probably common to most blogs, as most blogs have more than one accessory gadget. Blog owners reporting this problem may be of very low technical skill level - and will likely have problems applying the workaround.

This problem may be more common than problem reports would imply - as not everybody with a blog, with this problem, will observe the unusually short accessory tab when the accessory bar is docked.

Absence of comments, displayed after the posts will be observed by blog owners who focus on comments, as part of their networking strategy. This will generally involve the more popular blogs (with lots of comments, making their absence more noticeable). Blog owners reporting this problem may be of low technical skill level - and may have problems applying the workaround.

This problem may be more common than problem reports would imply - as not everybody with a blog, with this problem, will observe the absence of comments, displayed after the posts. Some owners, with blogs which receive less comments than others, may not even care.

Absence of Pages entries in the display header bar will be reported by blog owners who have setup a complex structure of dynamic and static pages, and a Pages index to index the pages. The blog owners reporting this will have medium skill level, with the ability to use the Pages wizard. These owners may not necessarily have the ability - or desire - to use the Template Editor effectively. Some of these owners may have problems applying the workaround.

Absence of Posts ("No Posts Found"), with blogs heavy on photos, will be visible in blogs using "Flipcard", "Snapshot", and similar views. Blog owners reporting this problem may be publishing photoblogs. These blog owners will be those who spend a lot of time providing photos - and who may not notice other symptoms, like missing header or sidebar features. These blog owners may be of low technical skill level - and may have problems applying the workaround.

Absence of template tweaks, applied using "Add CSS" will be reported by blog owners who carefully applied appearance and style tweaks, using the Template Designer. The blog owners who apply these tweaks will have medium technical skill level, and the ability to use the "Add CSS" feature in the Template Designer. Some of these owners may have problems applying the workaround.

Absence of template tweaks, applied using "Edit HTML" will be reported by blog owners who customised the blog appearance, using the Template Editor. These blog owners will be of the highest technical skill level. These owners should have no problem applying the workaround.

With the assortment of problems to be fixed by Blogger Engineering, we will likely see each problem worked on, separately. As each problem is solved, we'll likely see new problems become more visible - and existing problems become more urgent, in the eyes of the blog owners.

The number of different possible symptoms, in combination with the number of possible causes of the problems, will create an apparently infinite number of differing complaints - and inconsistent visibility of the problems. Blogger Engineering will be busy, for a while, resolving these problems.

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