Blogger Hacks, Categories, Tips & Tricks

Monday, August 14, 2006
Significant Blogger Upgrade
Things are more exciting than even my previous post suggests! Thanks to Pete for pulling back the curtain & pointing out that signon integration is not even the start of the deal.... Long & short of it is that this appears to be the upgrade we've been waiting for. There are labels (categories) and WYSIWYG template editing, PsycHo style.

The new features are beta, and are not yet fully integrated with the existing system, but as the Blogger Help overview reveals, there is plenty of new stuff happening at Blogger. Some of the upgrades are "backroom" changes, and others will be visible to Blogger users and to your readers. There are five significant changes:

1. Dynamic Serving: Dynamic "on the fly" serving of blog content for Blogspot hosted blogs. No more lengthy republishing process or building of multiple static pages. "Dynamic Serving" means that your edits are instantly saved in a database, and the page that the edits appear on isn't built until someone tries to look at it. Think of that! Make changes across your whole site as quick as a click.

2. Private Blogs: Blogger's new Access Control Settings will enable you to keep a private blog, viewable only by selected Google account holders that you've approved.

Folks who you invite by e-mail will be able to view your blog whenever they're logged into their Google account. Failing that, they'll be able to get hooked on your blog by viewing it as a guest for 2 weeks (from a link in your e-mail). The author of a private blog will be able to delete readers off the list of approved accounts.

3. Categories / Labels: We've asked for categories pretty consistently, and developed 30+ variations on methods for working around the omission. Well... Someone was listening, because Blogger Beta has Labels, which I guess puts us out of a job, kids!

You add comma separated labels to a special field in the footer of the create post page, and those labels are published with the post. When a label is selected on your blog, all posts with that label are displayed. Even the sidebar menu has some teeth. You'll be able to sort your labels either alphabetically or by frequency.

4. Drag & Drop Page Editing: Labels will require the use of Layouts, which is the new drag & drop WYSIWYG template editor. This will probably open up a world of custom template fun, but currently requires you to select a default template.


For more, check out the Layout Guide, & the guide to Fonts & Colors


5. Choice of Feeds: This new version of Blogger also offers a much richer set of options for syndication and feeds. You'll be able to choose between Atom 1.0 and RSS 2.0, or make use of an advanced feed mode. What's so advanced? That would be comment feeds!
Blogger are now offering an integrated comment feed, as well as the option to toggle the comment feed on & off on a per post basis. These new feed options can be offered in your sidebar by default using new feed tags.

In addition, there's a redesigned dashboard:


It appears that the navbar will find a purpose, and double as an admin console when you're logged in:


There's also the promise of much more to come..... Not that it's all fluffy clouds and such. There are some known issues, the most significant of which is an incompatibility of old accounts with new blogs for comments:
Users who have not switched to Blogger in beta will not be able to login to comment on blogs that have been switched. Commenting using the "anonymous" or "other" options will still work.
To see whether you can take the blue pill and go down the rabbit hole. See Blogger Help once again. If you have the option to signon to Blogger w/ a Gmail account, do so. After you're signed in, Select the "switch now" link in the top right of the page to jump to Blogger beta. Look for the "switch in two steps" box.


If you're able to get to the goodies, you'll see step 2 and your account will roll over to a Google account, you'll accept the new TOS, and your new start URL will be beta.blogger.com. If not, you'll be cruelly shut down & cut off in your prime, as I was. (weeps softly...) Freshblog isn't eligible to migrate in the first wave because we're a team blog.

Does that mean we can't play? No... See Pete in the comments again. There's nothing to stop you from creating a new blog in the beta to go with your gmail account, and then integrating it back into a single Blogger account at a later point. For more on the integration of accounts, see the pre-emptive Blogger Help FAQ. Not hosted on Blogspot? This may be an incentive to switch.

Have fun, & please leave a ton of comments documenting your reactions and experiences with the upgrade.

Update 8/15: Check this out on Slashdot, or Digg It

Filed in:
Posted at 6:53 PM by John.
54 Comments:
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Blogger Pete said...
Don't forget you can make a new blog over at the beta, and when you're eligible for moving over (sometime in the next few weeks) you'll be able to combine your Blogger account with your beta/Google account.

Enjoy!

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Blogger John said...
Good point! ;-) I'm glad someone's thinking clearly.

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Anonymous phydeaux3 said...
Heh, yeah it didn't let me switch mine yet either. And probably a good thing. It doesn't look like the new features are completely compatible with old templates. It looks like they need a new template setup to function.

I did create a test account to play with and first impression is, well it's what everyone's been wanting.
Categories, New archiving (all post titles available on the page), Drag and drop template widgets, gui color/font changing, comment feeds, private blogs. There's a lot to take in.

Sniff, makes most of our carefully crafted Blogger hacks obselete in an instant. As long as everything keeps working as advertised it's a nice job indeed. I'm impressed, although I reserve the right to change my mind later. :-)

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Blogger Amit Agarwal said...
i did some goofup..

when Google accounts asked me to link to an existing blogger account, i created a new blogger account by error..

now any idea how do i delete this association and link google account with my old blogger account ?

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Blogger Chaim said...
It's very exciting, I was wondering when they would upgrade. Do we know how long it will be till I can intergrate my old blog into the new settings? What will happen to all our hacks, will we have to take them out and manually re-add labels to every post?

The main things for me were label (which is a custimizble tag, you can change it to read Categories) and automatic drop down menus, comment feeds, this is huge.

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Blogger John said...
@Phydeaux: Agreed... we're out of a job... ;-) No... My thought is that this will promote a new round of innovation and creativity that will be just as interesting as what has gone before....

@Amit: I'm going to follow through the process again & see if I can find a way to fix it. Might be a helpdesk ticket....

@Chaim: Huge, as you say! Plenty of new good stuff to play with. I notice, for instance, that Blogger knows that I'm me (at least the beta version of me!) if I visit the site while I'm logged in to GMail. Manual re-labelling may not be necessary, since html & script widgets are still allowed, & so you'll be able to keep your tagroll... As for how soon the dust will settle, I have no clue. There's surely a lot of dust after such a major renovation? The known issues page says soon...

Oh, and just a random bullet of crap, (to quote Julie).... I wonder if this will cause the blogger user base to double, temporarily, as we all go out & throw up temporary test blogs so that we can see the new goodies? Hmmm.

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Blogger John said...
I'm sure there'll be lots more of these, but here's some other starter posts:

Google Blogoscoped

Digital Inspiration

Micro Persuasion

The Blog Herald

TechCrunch

Ionut

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Blogger Ramani said...
Waaahooo! This is way too cool. I created a temporary blog and it's a breeze to add/change stuff.

* They support comment feeds
* They allow any feed to be displayed in your blog

I added my temporary blog's comment feed to itself and a "Recent comments" section is ready! Oh man, remember all the roundabout ways that we got this working?

No comment about the Labels (I can understand the mood of many hackers).

This is surely going to increase the number of Google accounts. They know what they are doing :)

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Blogger John said...
Allow me to confirm the presence of the rel="tag" attribute on Blogger beta labels. A quick review of the source of the test post on Freshblog Beta reveals the following....

Labels: <a href='http://freshblogbeta.blogspot.com/search?label=blogger' rel='tag'>blogger</a>,

Very cool...

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Blogger Avatar said...
Well, this is it, is good to know i was right all along, but we all knew that..right?

in anyway this changes the game completely.

As i had already forseen it, and mostly the reason i didn´t tagged my blog of course.

But about innovation john i had some great great ideas because i had this thought just a month ago:

If blogger upgrades and offers Labels (wich they truly are, since they work both as a filter/tags/sidebar index that put´s the topic in the main.

I can think of subcategories and a new way of reformat they way we used to tag the posts and do things.

Because now that the bridge of actual web 2.0 has reached Blogger, we must think in what Blogger lacks are right away from just seeing what the beta will bring.

i have 1 ideas on that. so now it´s only a matter of reconfiguration.

What do you think john?

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Blogger Greg said...
More importantly, they expose the tag construct through in the URL:

?label=blogger

And the date search ranges:

?updated-min=2006-01-01T00%3A00%3A00-08%3A00&updated-max=2007-01-01T00%3A00%3A00-08%3A00&max-results=1

I was worried it would all be done with smoke, mirrors and obfuscated serial numbers.

Now I'm optimistic about the hackability of this new regime!

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Anonymous Amit Agarwal said...
will they provide an easy way to tag older posts ?

it is such a pain to do it manually when you have thousands of posts in your blog..

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Anonymous ricardo.santos said...
i just categorized my blog yesyerday(150 posts, blogger2delicious hack)) just to find out today its already supported by blogger

good job!

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Blogger Scott said...
More important (possibly) than automatic retagging ...
will there be a simple way to convert an existing template over to the new "Layouts"?

I could perhaps spend a few minutes a day retagging posts, but I'd rather avoid having to completely re-create my template in some new form.

Or perhaps I'm over-reacting. Any insights?

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Blogger John said...
Holy cow!

I think I just peed myself a little.

I was just about to add a categories hack to my blog. Saved!

<    >
Blogger John said...
@Ramani: That's probably the first Blogger Beta Hack... you ought to write it up but quick! Congrats! Labels, I'm sure, will provide us w/ other opportunities for integration and extensions...

@Avatar: I'd be happy to help you to share your ideas about extending and integrating the new label function, & making the most of the upgrade. Let us know what you have in mind.

@Greg: This points the way, I think, to some new and groovy interactivity...

@Amit: Let's hope that there's a way to label old posts in bulk. Failing that, we'll have to leave old category methods in place for older content, I guess....

@Ricardo: You'll always be able to say you were the last of the old-school blog category hackers! I hope you still see traffic benefit from having your content tagged for search and listed on Del.icio.us

@Scott: As with the tagging of old posts, I've got to believe that existing custom templates will be allowed somehow.... although there appears to be a connection between labels and layouts that may limit access to the new category features, at least at first, if you don't have a default template.

@John: Thanks for the heads-up, but man, that was way too much information!

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Blogger Ramani said...
//@Ramani: That's probably the first Blogger Beta Hack... you ought to write it up but quick! Congrats!//

Thanks John. but, nah, it's not worth calling a hack. Greg's and your insights on labels are the way to go. I will look forward to your upcoming label hacks! A good question to ask ourselves: is label - a category or a tag or both?

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Blogger anniebluesky said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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Blogger anniebluesky said...
I've been reading about the new blogger beta with interest. I feel the new features are wonderful.

But (there is always a but)... I am wondering if I will be able to use my old template, which I have grown fond of, and add some of the new features. I like editing my template's html/css and want to continue doing it.

Also, does anyone know if we will eventually be forced to change?

So far I've been sitting tight. I haven't switched because somewhere it said you can't go back.

Anyone else have these concerns?

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Blogger anniebluesky said...
Just had another thought. If you switch to the new beta blogger will your URL change? That would be a shame because of links from other blogs, blogrolls, etc. Hope not.

<    >
Blogger John said...
@Annie: I'm sure that most of the basic migration stuff will happen without requiring a big change. I can't see all users being required to choose a new template, for instance.

The HTML template editor is there, it just isn't active. I'm sure it will come online soon.

I'm sure the URL's will stay the same. Bloggers would be v. upset to lose existing inbound link-love.

The one potential block that I see / issue that I want to investigate, is the requirement that the new labels technology currently requires the use of layouts (the drag & drop editor) Blogger Help: "You will also need to be using Layouts, since labels are not yet supported in the old template system." Looks like the sidebar menu is the only part of labels that is unsupported, though, so that'll come. I think a bit of time will work out a lot of the kinks, & if we don't rush to switch, it will all be OK when we finally do!

<    >
Blogger Johan Sundström said...
I'm still wondering whether the live template composition is something Blogger will manage to deliver, with good stability. (Figuring how much intermittent trouble there has been with delivering static files.)

Well, it'll probably be interesting, anyway.

<    >
Blogger Pete said...
Answering some template questions:

If you migrate your blog, your template will be preserved as-is. It's in what we call "Classic" template mode. It will be dynamically served, but you won't get the drag-and-drop customization. You also won't get labels.

New blogs have Layouts by default, but can switch to Classic mode (there's a button on the Edit HTML subtab page).

You will be able to upgrade from Classic to Layouts, but, as the Layouts template language is completely different (but significantly improved), you'll lose your prodigious customizations. We make a best effort to save straightforward changes (sidebar lists, for the most part) but your milege will decrease the further you have gone from the stock templates.

You can see that there's a "View Classic Template" button on the Edit page, which is there to make it easier to copy over anything that the upgrade missed. (I'm going to a have a fun time w/ my blog... might just take the opportunity to design a new one.)

I'm excited to see what folks will come up with when Layouts's Edit HTML is available. Dragging and dropping in the official templates is fun, but doing it with your own template design is even better.



Oh, and as for mass-labeling, there's no interface for that. You can, however, use the new Gdata API (based on Atom 1.0) support to change labels. Atom categories === Blogger labels.

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Blogger The Light-House. said...
I just did the switch.
I hope it does not have bearing on my current blog.
At presenty I cannot log into my Blogger account.

Nothing weill put u people out of show beacuase bloggers and people at google might be keeping a Hawk's eye on your blog as to the changes they want to make.

How would u rate the "switch?"

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Blogger Scott said...
I'm not ready to transfer over my FTP-served, highly customized blog yet, but I did set up a test blog to poke around a bit.

Without the html editing, there are some really annoying issues that I couldn't get around.

For example, all of the templates make the title of your post into a permanent link to that post. I'd prefer to use the "link" field there. In fact, I couldn't find any templates or any settings that would let the "link" field appear on the blog ... anywhere.

I put a list in the sidebar, but the default in the template was not to put any bullets in front of list items. No way that I can see to change that for now. It's functional, but ugly.

Also, just for grins I tried adding Google AdWords code in a widget and it won't appear. I'm not sure if that's a AdWords thing or a not-supporting-scripts-yet thing.

There's a lot of good stuff, though. The feed support is very simple and the drag-and-drop widgets should make the blogosphere less uniform as newbies play with the options.

Here's my test blog.

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Blogger anniebluesky said...
I've looked around and cannot seem to find the answer to my problem.

I did the switch, keeping my old template (ie edit html vs customize design). Everything went smoothly except for one thing. I can't get my tags to show at the bottom of my post.

Also, a little greasemonkey script isn't working as before that puts a link after publishing your post that goes to del.icio.us

Anyone else finding the tag problem?

<    >
Blogger John said...
Annie,

Do you use the greasemonkey script to add the tags, as well as to bookmark?

Can you see the field that you'd usually use to add the tags? Can you add them but just not see them, or are they not even adding?

I'm not the king o' the greasemonkey (but I know a man who is!) My guess is that because the beta pages are sitting on different servers & have different addresses, the script isn't set to see those pages and so doesn't run. We might be able to use tools > manage user scripts to "add included pages" (the blogger beta create post page, for instance..) I can't promise that will work, though....

<    >
Blogger anniebluesky said...
John, I did what I could to Greasemonkey by adding the new beta addresses which worked for some of my scripts. Like the one to make my template editor page larger.

About the tags. I can see the tag field (after adding the address in Greasemonkey) and I am able to add tags to that field. But 2 things are not happening after that.
1. when I publish the post, it doesn't offer the del.icio.us link to go to their site and save (not such a big deal...I can just go and add the link and save it myself, just more time involved)
2. Even after saving the tags in del.icio.us the tags do not show up on my post on my blog. This is the part I would like to fix.

Another thing (isn't there always?)...I use to have the ability to delete comments if I choose. Is that a feature only with comment moderation?

Not done yet... my google page rank is back to 0. Is there a way to make them see me again, or do I just have to wait for them to get around to it?

There. I'm done...for now.

<    >
Anonymous Christian said...
it seems like the wonderful recent-comment-hack (hearsay) doesnt work with the beta. i switched and as a wrote a comment got the error-message mailed to my google-account:

Blogger could not process your message at this time.
Error code: 11.15E5164

<    >
Blogger Greg said...
Hi Christian,

That's to be expected since they changed the format of the comment notification emails.

Hearsay should still prove useful for displaying recent comments, although comment feeds mean it would no longer require the convoluted process of setting up a comments blog and playing around with email forwarding etc.

The new Hearsay should just take your blog's comment feed by default and render it nicely. Of course, Blogger may come up with even nicer comment display functionality - here's hoping!

<    >
Blogger anniebluesky said...
New development: my FreshTags doesn't work with the new blogger beta. When a tag/category is clicked in my left sidebar a 404 error page comes up.

And I noticed on FreshBlog the 'To See Categories' drop down menu doesn't have any categories at all.

So, what is up? FreshBlog hasn't even done the beta switch yet. Is it a glick with the Freshtags code?

I'm whining...I want my FreshTags!!!se

<    >
Blogger Greg said...
Hi Annie,

Freshblog's problem is to do with a change in delicious, and we've logged a support query (which is many days old ...). If it's affecting anyone else, please let us know.

Your problem arises because Blogger Beta and FreshTags do not get along.

FreshTags works by putting a "tags" parameter in the URL: http://blah.com/page?tags=blue

This is fine for any static page, and you get to put whatever you want after the ? without hassle.

Now that Blogger has gone dynamic, it's "taken over" that part of the URL. Even appending ?a will break the page:

http://bloggeruniversity.blogspot.com/2006/08/i-did-blogger-beta-switch.html?a

The upshot is that the hackability of Blogger has been set back.

On the plus side, it appears to be more flexible for beta blogs with labels (and hence layouts) enabled:

http://freshblogbeta.blogspot.com/search?label=blah

We'll be looking at FreshTags in light of Blogger's upgrade. In the mean time, my advice when upgrading is not to expect any hacks to work.

<    >
Anonymous Charity said...
The title shouldhave been "Blogger Upgrade for Idiots". Very good,matey, very good.Keep it up.

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Blogger B42 said...
Thanks for all of the insight kids, I've created a new blog as well as moving my old blog over {retaining original template design}and am loving it besides the obvious omission of del. tag/ping helper...will be interesting to see what you all come up with in hack/greasemonkey world...I wait with bated breath..

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Anonymous josi said...
I used a google account to migrate but it's not the account I would like to attach to the blog. Then I invite myself to another google account, became an admin too, and.,... I can't remove the first account because it's a non-changeable admin!!!

Boooooh!
anyboy help?

<    >
Blogger John said...
Josi,

Do you need to remove it, or can you just add the primary acct & ignore the one that you used to migrate?

<    >
Anonymous josi said...
I need to remove it!

<    >
Blogger anniebluesky said...
josi, I did the same thing. I didn't realize that it would be so tightly connected to the gmail account. Now I have to do a lot of logging in and out of accounts to get where I need to be (not to mention disabling greasemonkey now and then in the process).

I would like to change the log-in gmail account to attach to my blog, but like you, it isn't changable. So, if you are ever able to change the account login, let me know!

<    >
Blogger John said...
Josi & Annie,

This is probably worth a (combined?) helpdesk ticket.

<    >
Anonymous josi said...
I already sent one.

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Blogger Avatar said...
wait for a huge lot more of issues in the coming months. even if you call my reports (consumer board style) conspiracy theories....the nerve.

And i still dont see the edit john.

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Anonymous quicklode said...
I tried the new Beta:

OBSERVATION: there is no FTP option, so I cannot use my own domain, own server. Presumably to do with new dynamic page generation...
QUESTION: When will this feature be available? I am at the crux of a Blogger -vs- Wordpress decision but cannot wait too long.. need to use my own domain and LABELS!

Thanks
quicklode

<    >
Blogger Greg said...
Hi quicklode,

I'm not sure how it would work with your own domain, without some sort of aliasing, since everything is pulled out of Blogger's database.

You could try Blogger "Classic" + FreshTags?

<    >
Blogger Avatar said...
@quicklode:

expect this to be clear by the end of the month, they are going to offer supposedy a substitue of what you cannot get, my best guess is that they maybe will offer something for you host..

however, there are good options for you since you are using FTP, like the mentioned Freshtags if you are into a community driven thing or The ABC index from aditya that you can look up at Aditya blog and mine.

Among two other options, that i was feeling like there was not a point in releasing but i guess we will still have to wait..just two more weeks to have it clear.

<    >
Anonymous Caroline Natasha said...
hi...

I'm curious about what this comment from ramani is all about:

"I added my temporary blog's comment feed to itself and a "Recent comments" section is ready!"

How? What? That looks really interesting.

Btw, I've flipped to Beta Blogger (as of yesterday) and it's been more or less issue free. I do have seriously low expectations in this respect though.

c",)

(Assume I'm a simpleton in this respect)

<    >
Anonymous Laura said...
I upgrades my blog and OI love the knew features.
Yhe problem is that If I want to leave a comment in a no-upfraded blog ...I am not able to do so. Only if they have the "other" and "Anonimous" option available.

Someone with the same problem?

(just happened while commenting here :()

<    >
Blogger John said...
Laura,

This is a known issue & will be resolved, I guess, as a consequence of everyone migrating...

<    >
Blogger Scott said...
Caoline Natasha,

All you need is the feed URL for your comments. It'll look like this
http://beta.blogger.com/feeds/[really long number]/comments/full
A simple way to find the [really long number] part is to go to the bottom of your blog's front page and right click on the "Subscribe to Posts (Atom)" link and copy the link location. Paste that into a text editor and you'll see your blog's long number.

In Beta, you can add a feed in the layout with one of the selctable widgets. Add that widget, and when it asks for a URL, put in the one described above. That's all!

There may be a more elegant way, but this one's guaranteed for "simpletons".

<    >
Anonymous Caroline Natasha said...
lol

thanks Scott. That's great. I'll try that for myself.

CN

PS - maybe my choice of words was a bit off the other night. Less 'simpleton' more 'uninitiated'... ;o)

<    >
Blogger Josi said...
ANNIBLUESKY: THEY ANSWER ME THAT FOR NOW, YOU CAN'T remove the admin.
:(

<    >
Blogger kwoozy said...
Easy enough to switch. Been dying for categories and now we have it properly done.

Although I am getting annoyed with the no HTML editing right now. Patience patience I suppose.

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Blogger joanium said...
Anyone else having trouble with their comments feed? My feed is at here for my blog at http://joanium.blogspot.com. The feed displays about 20-30 of my very oldest comments. Why not the most recent ones?

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Blogger Neeraj Pattath said...
I really liked your article regarding the features of beta blogger.

Its good to see each and every step explained clearly with specific links embeded wherever required.

Keep up the good work and keep writing in more, hope you get more hacks, articles and tutorials...

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Blogger John said...
Joanium,

I'm not sure what the issue is here, but there is one, for sure... See my post re: Feed URL's (& esp. the comments) for reports of other feed-related irregularities...

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