Archive for March, 2006

Either The Post, Or The Sidebar, Ends Up At The Bottom Of The Page

March 31, 2006

My Blog Is Missing! Oh no! Generally, this refers to a deleted or hijacked blog. Other times, part of the blog is there, and the other part is not. WTF?

In the latter case, neither the content nor the sidebar is actually missing. One or the other has simply slipped to the bottom of the page. Of course, it never occurs to somebody to scroll to the bottom in search of the missing content or sidebar. Why should it? It’s called a sidebar because it’s a BAR (column) that sits at the top of the page, beSIDE the column with the content (Posts). DOHH.

This is a well known problem, and most frequently afflicts Internet Explorer V6.x. When this is observed in IE V6.x, but not in other versions of IE, and / or not in Firefox or Opera, there are several known causes.

  • Check float alignment. Look in your settings, under Formatting, at “Enable float alignment”. Is it set to “Yes”? Change to “No”, Save Settings, and Republish.
  • Look in the template, at the sidebar code, for graphics, like the Blogger Power Button. Move any graphics to the bottom of the page, save the template, and republish.
  • Look more carefully in the template, at other entries in the sidebar. Look for entries with long links, or long titles. Shorten or delete any found, save the template, and republish.
  • Compare a view of the main page, with views of the individual posts. If you see the problem in all views, the problem is likely in the template. If the problem is NOT visible in even one individual post view, the problem is, most likely, in the individual posts where the problem is seen.
  • If no solution is found yet, isolate the problem. Is it in the template, or is it in one (or more) posts?
    1. Backup your template (if you haven’t done so already).
    2. Reload your template, from the standard version in the template ediitor – Pick new. Republish. If the problem goes away, skip the rest of what’s below, and work on the template.
    3. Go into the main page view of your blog, with the problem showing. This verifies that the problem is active.
    4. Select each individual post, one at a time, from the Previous Posts list. When the problem is seen in single post view, that post is a problem. Go to post edit for the post now visible, and Save as Draft.
    5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the problem is not active.
    6. Work on the posts that you Saved as Draft. Once all of the posts can be viewed properly, restore the template.

This list is probably not all-inclusive, but it may get you started. And if you come up with another cause for this problem, let me know, and I will be glad to add it to this list. And I’ll back link to your blog, if you like. This blog is for help. I’ll help if you will. BS probably won’t.

See Peter’s blog for more advice on post / sidebar alignment issues.

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Drop Back And Kick

March 31, 2006

Sometimes, you have to drop back and kick.

If you’re reading this, please look in the sidebar for additional articles. If you can’t find the bloody sidebar, which is why I’m doing this in the first place, please look at the very end of the page. Scroll all the way down. It’s there, really!

If you’d get Firefox, you wouldn’t have problems like the sidebar issue. I’ll still have to struggle with them, but you won’t have to see them.

I’ll fix this real soon – I hope! Wish me luck!!

Update, 3/31 12:30: This is now fixed.

Twas an interesting bit of code causing the problem, and I have no idea how long it’s been a problem.

Let’s see what happens if we put the code in here:

Powered By Blogger

Get Firefox!

So all it was, was 2 little buttons. The first, Powered By Blogger, has been in there for a while, I have no idea how long. The second, I just added today, right after I added the Firefox link above. I think I will leave all of this, as a reminder to everybody to periodically check your blog, no matter what minor changes you may have made recently.

Who knows when I changed something that just upset the balance a little bit? Anybody out there can tell me how long my sidebar been appearing at the bottom of the page (and just in IE V6.x too)? And removing the buttons from the sidebar (moved to the bottom of the page) was the required solution.

Asking For Help

March 30, 2006

There are several ways to ask for help, in Google Blogger Help, or in Blogger Forum, that though instinctive, don’t allow the helpers to help you as easily. Let’s see if I can identify some problem areas.

  1. Identify your blog.
  2. Republish previously posted information.
  3. Start a new thread for each problem.
  4. List the ticket number.
  5. List the details of the error message.
  6. Describe the problem, as you see it.
  7. Update the discussion groups, when results are seen.

Always identify your blog
Here’s a common complaint in Google Blogger Help:

My blog doesn’t work

Here’s another:

My blog is missing! Help!

What’s the common item in both of the above examples (aside from the pain the Blogger must be feeling!)?

No mention of the blog name.

Please, folks, if you’re going to ask for help, start your report with something like:

My blog is http://bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/.

And please, put the name in a clickable link, in the body of your problem report. Don’t put the name in the title – make the title brief and descriptive. Having the clickable link, in the body, makes it possible to more easily see (or not see) your blog, without having to copy and paste the URL, and wonder if we got it right. Everybody makes mistakes. Don’t encourage the helpers to make mistakes, when they could be helping you.

If you’re really thinking about what you’re doing, you could increase the possibility of being helped, with something like:

My blog is http://bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/. It looks fine in Firefox, but in Internet Explorer, The posts are missing.

In other words, diagnose the problem, if ever so slightly.

But start with the blog name, in the body of your problem report, in a clickable link. Help us to help you.

>>Top

Republish useful information
Please note that, in Google Blogger Help, we can’t see any of your previous posts. So if you’ve provided information in the past, you’ll still have to provide it again. We can’t see your previous posts, unless you provide a link to one.

>>Top

Start a new thread for a new problem
It’s normal to read thru a forum, looking for others with your problem. It’s a good idea, even.

But having found a thread where your problem (what looks like yours anyway) is being discussed, please don’t go the the end of the thread and post

I’m having the problem too. Help!

When you do that, the discussion now contains 2 threads. How can anybody keep up with 2 threads in 1 discussion?

Start a new thread. Please. For everybody’s sake!

>>Top

List the ticket number

NOTE: Blogger is currently not including the ticket number in email, consistently. Time will only tell if they improve.

Occasionally, when you post your report in Blogger Help or in Blogger Forum, you’ll get a visit. Pete, who does not speak for Blogger, will nonetheless, occasionally drop by to remind you to report your problem.

Though Pete does not speak for Blogger (when he drops by, it’s purely as another Blogger, like you), if your problem ticket number is there in your report, indicating that you DID already report the problem, this CANNOT hurt your chances of being helped. Just that little extra effort by you could boost your chances, and a miracle may occur.

Think about it.

And oh yes, you DID respond to the botmail when you got your ticket number? Yes?

>>Top

List the details of the error message

Here’s a start for one problem report.

My blog is http://bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/. I get an error when publishing.

OK, that tells us two things:

  • The name of the blog involved.
  • What you were doing when you ran into a problem.

But there is some more useful detail.

  • What is the problem?

We see problem reports here a lot. If there’s an ongoing problem, and it’s getting bigger, it’s helpful to be able to relate the problems. If there’s a serious problem, it’s possible that some detail about the problem would be of use here.

Maybe:

My blog is http://bloggerstatusforreal.blogspot.com/. I get an “450 Write error: No space left on device” error when publishing.

Now that’s details which we don’t like seeing, because it identifies a problem that Blogger Support has to resolve. You won’t get around THAT error by changing to another Blogger server.

Maybe other error messages (both the error number and the description are useful, so be generous) will have better news for us, and for you in turn.

But without the error details, what can we do?

>>Top

Describe the problem, as you see it

You may not notice this little detail, I didn’t see its significance until recently. When you have a problem accessing a server, what are you doing?

When I access the server, I get a blank page.

Are you aware that there are two domains here?

  • Blogger – This is where you setup your blog, and publish your posts.
  • Blogspot – This is where you view your blog.

Many times, Blogger will be up, and Blogspot will be down. If you can create, edit, and publish your posts, but nobody can read them, you have a big problem. No readers, which = no immediate revenue. And less future readers, which = less future revenue.

Other times, Blogger will be down, and Blogspot will be up. Everybody will be able to read your blog, so no problems with current revenue. But you won’t be able to make any changes to your blog. If your blog (as most do) depends upon updated information, you’ll soon suffer from less readers, which again = less future revenue.

But you need to know the differences. And when you discuss your problems in Blogger Forum or in Google Blogger Help, it’s good to know the differences. And to state the details, relevant to the differences.

Help us to help you. Provide details about the problem.

>>Top

Update the discussion groups, when results are seen

When you get results, whether from suggestions given in the group where you’re posting, from other groups, or from your own, separate efforts, go back to the threads where you asked for help, and let everybody know.

Even a final link, to the article or thread where you were helped the most, is not a waste of time. The next guy looking for help will surely appreciate it, and that’s the reason for peer assistance in the first place. The helpers will appreciate feedback, too.

Here’s a good example of problem post mortem analysis. A lot of Bloggers can benefit from this post.

Musings About Blogger – And Retail Department Stores

March 29, 2006

When I was young – back in the middle of the past century – I lived with my parents in rural Virginia. There were no real suburban areas then – just little towns with a an A&P or Piggly Wiggly for foods, Ben Franklin for toys and miscellaneous stuff, and Western Auto for auto parts and hardware. Sam Walton was just a kid then too, I guess.

Anyway, the nearest town was the nascent metropolis of Richmond. It had a real urban downtown – with a Miller & Rhoads, and a Thalheimers (both chains now owned, I think, by Macys or Saks). And in the suburbs, a K-Mart.

Now getting to Richmond was a couple hours of boredom on the country roads, and 2 hours in the car with my parents was like 6 hours nowadays – the car didn’t have a radio, or air conditioning. But 1/2 hour outside the Richmond city limits was the K-Mart, and we would stop there first.

After 2 hours in the car, K-Mart was always our favourite stop. But, we were always picky about actually buying anything there. For quality clothes, and for toys when we could afford them, Mom preferred M&R. Why? Because in those days, the generally accepted truth was

K-Mart sells second quality merchandise – generally defective or surplus stock, bought cheap from M&R etc.

K-Mart was cheap, and convenient, but try returning something that didn’t fit – or didn’t work. For quality, we always went to M&R. Even though downtown was another 1/2 hour, parking was a pain, and the stores were dark and cavernous, and stank of perfume. So K-Mart was my favourite.

So what’s all this to do with Blogger? Just this.

Blogger is the K-Mart of web services. Before Martha Stewart.

Blogger is big – I think at least 4,500 servers (my guess). One button publishing is convenient, you have to admit. And they are free. But try getting service, when you have a problem.

And one day, you too will have a problem. Bet on it.

  1. There is no contact for Blogger – just a Help Database, and a Help Form.
  2. You fill in the form, and dispatch it. Shortly thereafter, you get an email from Blogger, saying how sorry they don’t have time to respond to you personally, and bidding you check:
    1. Blogger Knowledge database.
    2. Blogger Help database.
    3. Google Blogger Help forum.
  3. You then have the option (not always offered) of replying to the email, stating that no solution was found from any of the above references.
  4. And now you wait. If you like, you can join the crowd at Google Blogger Help forum, and ask, as they do:

    What can I do now? My blog is broken (I can’t publish) (My friends can’t view anything)…

And there you wait. Maybe one day, Pete will show up, respond to a few folks there, telling them to send in a problem report, and reminding them that he doesn’t speak for Blogger – he’s just a user like us.. And you wait some more.

One day, folks will start reporting that things are working. And eventually, your blog will work too. And one day, you MAY see an entry in Blogger Status.

NOTE: Both Blogger and K-Mart continue to grow, in spite of their (lack of) customer service.

Why Do I Do This?

March 29, 2006

I had a friend ask me that question, recently. Wanting to know why I try to help other Bloggers deal with the vagaries of Blogger.

Why do you do this?

The implied second question (neither spoken nor written, and it didn’t need to be so either) was

This isn’t your problem.

I had not a clue what to say. At the time, anyway. But as I reflected upon the question, many replies occurred to me.

  • I wasn’t affected by the “403 Forbidden” errors Monday, March 06, 2006.
  • I wasn’t affected by the “403 Forbidden” errors Wednesday, March 08, 2006.
  • But I WAS affected two days later. My blog was unviewable for 4 DAYS.
    • Friday, 3/10, I started my day. I had some spare time mid morning, and I added a couple paragraphs to one of my posts.
    • I Published my updated post. And immediately discovered that I was now one of the lost. My updated post was not to be found. Just what I had been reading about for several days, but spared until that moment.

      403 Forbidden

    • I found my way to Blogger Help (not with ease, which is why I started this blog), and filled in the form.
    • I got my botmail, and replied.
    • And I made my way to Blogger Help, and Blogger Forum, and joined the masses there.
    • I got back nothing from repeated problem reports to Blogger Support, but botmail, until 3/13.
    • My first post in this blog, 403 Forbidden – Day 4, is from 3/14.
    • That problem wasn’t really fixed til 3/15.

So, why do I do this? Because this IS my problem. If not today, maybe tomorrow. My blog is still hurting.

So, I will continue to ask questions of Blogger. Like, when will they communicate with the folks who provide their salary?

And, I’ll offer obvious advice to fellow Bloggers.

Image Uploading #4

March 28, 2006

Pete says it’s fixed. Let us pray.

Image uploading #3.

Blog Not Found

March 27, 2006

Looks like this is the problem of the week. Pete acknowledged this last weekend. Now we have other examples, in varying flavours.

These are the exact and precise titles of each thread in question (with ellipses used where necessary). With apologies to those who, in frustration or under stress, typed thread titles that are less than perfect, and cannot be changed.

  1. Where is my blog??? CLOSED – Caused by Coding Problems *
  2. My blos URL does not work OPEN 3/27 (4)
  3. Help! My blog is missed! OPEN 3/27 *** CLOSED 3/30
  4. Page Cannot Be Found CLOSED per Recommended Resolution.
  5. Server not found OPEN 3/27 ** (3)
  6. Blogger shuts down public library blog… OPEN 3/26 **
  7. my blog is gone OPEN 3/27 *** (1)
  8. Blogger down? CLOSED – Resolution Unknown
  9. another missing blog [#437545] OPEN 3/28 *** (1)
  10. Disappeared Blog – Please Help OPEN 3/28 (1) CLOSED 3/31
  11. Missing BLOG OPEN 3/29 (4)
  12. Added Adsense To An Old Blog… OPEN 3/29 (1)
  13. My Blog Disappeared OPEN 3/29 (3)
  14. Blog Not opening OPEN 3/29 ** (3) CLOSED 3/30
  15. I can’t view my blog OPEN 3/29 (2)
  16. Blog not found OPEN 3/30 (1)
  17. agenda_x.blogspot.com has disappeared! OPEN 3/30 (3)
  18. Blog disappeared! OPEN 3/30 (1)

NOTE: For “(n)” values, see Triage below.

* NOTE: Apparent coding problems – blog is visible, with contents, though not properly.

** NOTE: These cases do NOT appear to respond to clearing of cache and cookies.

*** NOTE: Recommended by Pete for attention by Blogger Support.

Recommended Resolution (see NOTE above):

  • Diagnose the problem. Is anybody else able to see the blog? Most of the above are problems only to the OP; others will post after with “I can see your blog fine”. If so, clear cache and cookies, and restart the browser.
  • If the blog is missing, and nobody can see it, is it a new blog? Are you maybe publishing thru Blogger to an offsite (non-Blogger) service? Log in directly to the Blogger dashboard, and see if the missing posts are in Draft form. If that’s true, Blogger may have labeled your blog as a spam blog, which causes offsite published blogs to end up as Draft. If your posts are ending up as Draft, you’ll not see them online.
  • If the blog is missing from the Dashboard, see My blog disappeared from my account!.
  • If the blog is not new, and is not offsite, try republishing again.
  • If none of the above help, then report the problem.

Triage Key

(1) 404 Not Found
(2) Blog opens, but with errors
(3) Stated as cannot open in Dashboard / cannot post (we can’t verify this obviously).
(4) No problem observed in either Firefox or Internet Explorer.

Backup Your Blog

March 27, 2006

If you spend any time developing your blog, you’ll probably not going to enjoy recreating it again. Occasionally though, mistakes happen.

  • Maybe you hit the “Delete This Blog” button, and realised it just a microsecond AFTER you hit the Yes button. Too late. Now you have to wait for Blogger to restore it, and hope that it doesn’t get taken by the spammers in the meantime.
  • Maybe you just tweaked the template a little too much, and can’t get it right again.
  • Maybe you’re plagued by the problem of the week, Blog Corruption / Hijacking.
  • Maybe you would like to carry your computer around, and show others your blog (or look at it yourself), even if you’re not online.

If you can, by a miracle, get Blogger to restore your blog, or if you’re one of the lucky ones reading this who doesn’t have a problem, take a couple hours and Backup Your Blog. One solution for this need is HTTrack, which is a free and very easy product to use. Note this caution when using HTTrack. And note this additional advice – backup your template, separately.

  • Get HTTrack (free).
  • Install it. You will want to close all open applications, and prepare to reboot afterwards.
  • Run it. The first time, you will have to identify your blog by URL and by Title, and identify the HTTrack Mirror Base Path. The mirroring itself is easy.
  • Setup a shortcut to the mirrored code. Now you can view your blog locally, whether or not your computer is online.
  • Whenever you make changes, rerun HTTrack. Changed blogs remirror quickly.

Organise Your Mirrors Properly – Setup A Significant Base Path
When you setup a mirror using HTTrack, you don’t get a complicated applet to change all the many options. There are a lot of options that you can change, to tweak your mirroring, later – HTTrack is very configurable. There is, however, one important setting, that you input on the first screen.

There are 3 settings that you will see on the first screen, when you start HTTrack.

  1. Project Name.
  2. Project Category.
  3. Base Path.

Project name should be pretty obvious, or easily guessed. Project category is something that you can change, to suit your needs. Base path is something that you can change, at any time, too.

The URL for your blog you will input on the second screen. HTTrack allows you to mirror multiple blogs in one Project. If your Blog is named “myvacation2006.blogspot.com”, you’ll input “http://myvacation2006.blogspot.com” into the URL List. Simply hit the “Add URL…” button on the second screen, and input each URL, as you need. Then hit the Next button, twice, and watch it mirror.

But, before you hit Next from the first screen, setup the Base Path properly. My professional recommendation is to separate your operating system, (non operating system) program libraries, and data into 3 separate partitions. I have, as an example:

  • C:\Windows for the operating system.
  • D:\Program Files for the non operating system program libraries.
  • E:\Web Site Mirrors for my HTTrack web site mirror databases.

You might have everything on C:, which is not my preference, but default system installation will do this to you. Then you’ll have:

  • C:\Windows for the operating system.
  • C:\Program Files for the non operating system program libraries.
  • C:\Web Site Mirrors for my HTTrack web site mirror databases.

When you install HTTrack, the default will be for Base Path to be equal to the folder containing the HTTrack program components. If you install HTTrack into “C:\Program Files\HTTrack”, that will be the default for Base Path too. I DO NOT recommend this. Please change Base Path, when you run HTTrack for the first time, to something like “C:\Web Site Mirrors”. You will thank me, in the long run.

If you have the latter setup, and you mirror 3 blogs – Blog1, Blog2, and Blog3, you’ll mirror them into “C:\Web Site Mirrors\Blog1”, “C:\Web Site Mirrors\Blog2”, and “C:\Web Site Mirrors\Blog3”. The name “Blog1” for the Project and for the folder go hand in hand. If you rename the Project to “My Main Blog”, the mirror folder will be automatically renamed to “C:\Web Site Mirrors\My Main Blog”. Similarly, if you go into Windows Explorer, and rename “Blog1” to “My Vacation Blog”, the entry in the pulldown list for Project Name will become “My Vacation Blog”.

Always organise your data libraries. If you really use your computer, your data libraries will become many times larger than your operating system, or your applications. Data library organisation is therefore more important.

If you care for your blogs, as I do for mine, you’ll take extreme care in organising the mirrors that you setup. You will thank me, in the long run, if you can do this.

Make it easy on yourself – setup shortcuts to the mirrors. If my Project Name is “The Real Blogger Status”, and my Base Path is “C:\Web Site Mirrors”, I could create a shortcut of “C:\Web Site Mirrors\The Real Blogger Status\index.html”, and copy the shortcut to a folder on my desktop or Start menu. I do this for each mirror I create. Try it, it makes checking and using your mirror so much easier.

NOTE: Here’s a word of caution. Don’t just save one copy of your important blogs. If you’re reading in the forums about problems accessing blogs, you go run HTTrack, and your blog is afflicted like the others, HTTrack may have the same problem accessing your blog. HTTrack will copy the same problems into your blog mirror that everybody else is experiencing. You will have no blog mirror either, when it’s done.

If there are ongoing problems, make multiple mirrors of your blogs. I have one main backup job – “Main Backup”, which backsup (among others) PChuck’s Network and The Real Blogger Status, together. I have “Main Backup – A”, “Main Backup – B”, and “Main Backup – C”, each a copy of each other. Today I run the first, tomorrow the second, the following day the third, and the day after that, I run the first again. This was called, in olden IT days, a “grandfather – father – son” backup strategy.

A backup takes maybe 5 – 10 minutes, and can be run while I am busy elsewhere. It occupies (for me) maybe 15 – 20 MB of disk space.

After you run an HTTrack job, check the error log. Look for any line besides “link added” or “link updated”, and make sure that it doesn’t indicate a problem with the mirror that you just created. Test what you just created. With a GFS backup set, if you find that today’s mirror is corrupt, because of problems with Blogspot, you can fall back on yesterday’s mirror. In extreme cases, the day before that.

How important is another 20MB of disk space to you? When I make significant changes to my blogs, I can even run an extra mirror. The peace of mind provided, to me, is significant.

Deleted Blogs Can Be Restored

March 26, 2006

If you haven’t backed up your blog, locally, on your computer, you may be able to have it restored by Blogger. To what state, will it be restored, is something you will find out. Blogger prefers that you fill out the standard Blogger Support form, of course.

You may also find success by posting at Google Blogger Help, as Deletion of my blog, No Response from Blogger shows. Here we see an example of personal attention by Pete Hopkins, who doesn’t speak for Blogger, but still provides assistance, in odd cases.

Official assistance, according to Pete, will be provided under the bloggeremployee nym.

But don’t be mislead. Getting a dleeted blog back won’t be easy. Be aware of the proper recovery procedure.

Current Issues

March 24, 2006

We have a new, and disturbing trend. Blogs getting hacked? See below.

But this blog won’t go away. Not right now, anyway. I certainly won’t delete it!