Diagnose Problems Using Differential Testing

Sometimes, you may find yourself reporting a problem, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken - and observe that nobody else has the same problem.

If there's any normal problem activity in the forum, you might find yourself waiting - in vain - for an immediate answer to your problem report. While you wait for advice, why not do some basic analysis of your problem?

A differential test set of your problem, based on some reasonably basic details, can help you see where many problems may originate.

Sometimes, you can identify the basic source of your problem - or at least, offer some ideas to a forum helper.

Verify URLs involved, first.

If possible, start any diagnosis by verifying the URLs involved. More problems than you would believe start with typographical errors, that are identified using careful URL verification.

Continue, using affinity / differential testing.

Similar to affinity testing, differential testing can be a big help when you have a problem. Here are a few simple differentials, which you can perform, with a little determination and planning.

  1. Account. Use a different Blogger account, and try the same procedures against your blog.
  2. Blog. Setup a different blog, and try the same features and procedures on the other blog.
  3. Browser. Use a different browser, and try the same procedures on your blog.
  4. Computer. Use a different computer, and try the same procedures on your blog.
  5. Connection. Use this browser / computer from a different Internet connection - or use a different computer which uses a different Internet connection - and try the same procedures on your blog.
  6. Draft. If you are currently using normal ("Production") Blogger, try experimental ("Draft") Blogger - or vice versa.
  7. Logout. Logout from Blogger completely, when diagnosing a problem that involves viewing the published blog.
  8. Posts. Identify the last few posts, published before you first observed the problems. Edit those posts, and save them as Draft copies.
  9. SSL Encryption. Similar to the "Draft" / "Production" login dichotomy, change between "HTTP" and "HTTPS".
  10. Template. Change the blog, to use a different template.

Maybe, you can think of still more differential tests.

Make controlled changes - and observe the results.

By changing exactly one significant detail at a time, and carefully observing the result of the change, you can at least get an idea what actions which you may have made, to contribute to the problem.

Use a different Blogger account, to maintain / publish your blog. As an alternative, first clear cache, cookies, and sessions (yes, all 3, in this case!), then restart the browser. A second alternative would be to use an "incognito" / "private browsing" window, in this browser. Both alternatives may complement each other, when used simultaneously.

Set up a different blog, with similar features / content. As an alternative, ensure that your blog uses a standard Blogger template - then reset the post template, and remove any shiny third party accessories. Note that all problem third party code may not have been recently installed - but may still cause problems.

Use a different browser, to maintain / publish / view your blog. As an alternative, ensure that you have the latest browser update - then disable all add-ons and extensions, in this browser. The "incognito" / "private browsing" window - and various alternatives may be useful, in this case also.

Use a different computer, to maintain / publish your blog. As an alternative, check (and update) all cookie and script filters, on this browser / computer.

Use a different Internet connection, to maintain / publish your blog. As an alternative, try changing your Internet address - if your ISP will permit this.

Use a different Blogger draft version, to maintain / publish your blog. Note that moving back and forth, between "Draft" and "Production" Blogger libraries, may not be straightforward, as use of Draft Blogger use carries some risk. You should try this differential, with discretion.

For problems which involve viewing the published blog, logout completely from Blogger. As an alternative, first clear cache, cookies, and sessions (yes, all 3, in this case!), then restart the browser. A second alternative would be to use an "incognito" / "private browsing" window, in this browser. In this case, all three alternatives may complement each other, when used simultaneously.

Remove any recently published posts, from the blog. As an alternative to deleting your recent work, edit each questionable post and save it as draft.

Use a different SSL encryption level, to access / maintain the blog. Change between the "HTTP" and "HTTPS" URL prefixes, when accessing the blog, and when logging in to Blogger.

Use a different template, on this blog. After changing the blog template, remember to reset the post template. As an alternative, reset all gadgets and the post template. If you're using a custom, third party template, update to a Blogger standard.

If you have any experience with Blogger problem analysis and resolution, you'll note that none of the alternatives, suggested above, will create the full effect of the specific differential. However, each alternative will give you a partial differential - if the complete change is not convenient.

Many Blogger problems start with you - and can best be reproduced by you. That being the case, it's best that you try to reproduce the problems (or "bX codes"), through a differential analysis - and observe the results of your tests.

The best idea here is to try at least 2 differentials.

  • Make one change at a time.
  • Observe the results of each change, separately.

If you try a different browser - and magically the problem goes away, you're good - for right now. But what happens next week, if you experience a different problem? Do you want to try a third browser?

How many browsers can you use - and break - before running out of browsers, that you like? Using a second or third differential, now, may help you more precisely identify the cause of the problem - and that's when you are more likely to get the attention of Blogger Engineering.

It's a lot more useful to diagnose a problem, with you carefully making changes, and observing what happens, then it is for you to report

I can't see my blog!

and get the reply

Your blog is fine!

High level (differential) testing can go a long way, towards getting a problem identified - and possibly, resolved.

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