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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Updates from some FTP converts

Following last week's announcement, a couple of users have shared their experience moving off of FTP to Blogger's Custom Domain feature. We thought their write-up of their experience, along with their early reactions to the switch, was worth sharing.

Kent Newsome:
I've now experimented with Blogger Custom Domains and the newer features enough to confidently report that publishing via Custom Domains is a reasonably powerful platform.  The inclusion of static pages (via the Blogger in Draft beta page) adds the much needed ability to include ancillary pages.  See the index pages I added to Errbear.Com for an example of how to implement static pages.  I also found it reasonably easy to modify the new template, as you will see.  It's early, but so far I'm pretty impressed.

Conclusion
Overall, this was a pretty easy process.  I don't know if I the additional Blogger features that weren't available with a custom template will outweigh the limitations of a canned template, but I can tell you that the process of moving to a Blogger Custom Domain was pretty easy.

Louis Gray:
As a recently converted FTP Blogger user, I know the experience I had on the FTP site was less robust and less dynamic than the Google experience I've long been used to. Switching, though a non-trivial process last fall, which also saw me migrate from www.louisgray.com to blog.louisgray.com, has been nothing but good news for me since, with greater access to all the new Blogger features, and near-instant publishing without outages that used to plague the FTP service.

Both Louis and Kent have offered to answer questions on their posts, and you're welcome to post a comment here as well. We will be sharing more details about the migration tool that's being built shortly, as several people have asked specifically what we will be doing when we release it in February. Stay tuned.

36 comments:

  1. Thanks for the advance warning, and for setting up this blog and everything. I know it's going to be a pain for you to deal with all of us, so I appreciate the effort. :-)

    Here's my main concern/question:

    Will we still be able to use classic templates on the migrated blogs, or will we need to switch to layouts?

    If the latter, can we have javascript templates or things like that? Right now I have a couple of blogs that are used as javascript includes in the sidebar of another blog. Will that still be possible?

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  2. What about the old "Label" urls? Is there a possibility to redict them to the new ones?

    domain.com/labels/News.html should redict to domain.com/search/label/News

    With the momentary switch there's only a "File Not Found" The requested URL /labels/News.html was not found on this server.

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  3. @Herbert - thanks for the heads-up, we're looking at making sure that the migration tool addresses that.

    @Graham - you will still be able to use classic templates for the time being. Layouts do support javascript and generally provide more flexibility than custom templates, but there's no forced update when you migrate off of FTP.

    You can see what an upgraded Layout version of your site looks like - try it on a test blog. (Just grab a copy of the template from your current blog, then upload that to the test blog, then upgrade it to a Layout.)

    Clarification, though - you say your blog is used as a javascript include in the sidebar of another blog. That's not controlled by your template - that sounds like something that's handled by the downstream blog (unless I'm missing something). Care to elaborate?

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  4. Thanks! My reading list is an example of a javascript-included mini-blog. You can see that it's really just a very simple template, with a few lines being spat out in document.write() statements.

    My main blog includes that mini-blog in the sidebar, just using a <script> tag and specifying the above file in a src attribute.

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  5. Graham - easier way to do that would be to simply run the reading list feed through FeedBurner and use BuzzBoost to translate the feed into javascript. (Or if the reading list itself is a feed from somewhere - Amazon? (a wish list?) - then you can cut out the blog and just run the feed directly through FeedBurner.)

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  6. The reason I don't just do the easy way with FeedBurner is that it would only show the most recent posts. If you click on the monthly archives for my main blog, you'll see that it actually gets the correct month of my sidebar blog as well.

    Getting to keep classic templates will certainly help for some other cases I'm dealing with. (I'm not too keen on converting some custom templates to layouts if I don't have to!) Though I just realized for this case that I'd still be stuck publishing .html files, huh? I couldn't do the .js files like I have in this reading blog case?

    So... I guess I'll try to do a bit of research and see if there's another workaround. And if not, well, it was nice while it lasted but I suppose I won't die without that little piece of my blog.

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  7. Hi Rick, I noticed that the two featured FTP converts have their navbars hidden. Can I propose to have the navbar removed? Actually, I'm not totally against navbar. But I'd like it to be more configurable. If you could please have a look at http://blog.adeishs.com/2010/01/looking-for-new-blogging-solution.html (just skip to para 4), see my concerns and please comment (either here or there or both). Thanks.

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  8. @Ade - answered on your blog. Thanks!

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  9. @ Rick Klau: thanks for your support! Another important thing is the rss-feed: does your migration tool redict the old feed domain.com/rss.xml to the new domain.com/feeds/posts/default? Or should we better switch to Feedburner?

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  10. I'm wondering how this will work for someone whose used Blogger where they publish with FTP to the root of the site not some subfolder. For example I've used blogger at jaybrewer.net and used it as my main page and blog.

    So http://www.jaybrewer.net is my blog and the index.html is there - how would I go about moving it but maintaining a main page and then having the blog as a sub domain - or the like? I want http://www.jaybrewer.net to just be the same but be at blogger if that's my only choice. I don't like having to turn http://www.jaybrewer.net to a cname of http://blog.jaybrewer.net - then losing the route - any help would be great. I just may not get something - we have the same issue for http://www.fastfoodfever.com too.

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  11. @Jay - you'll be able to do exactly what you want: have Blogger host www.jaybrewer.net. The one issue is that if you've uploaded any files to www.jaybrewer.net, you'll want to create a CNAME for a secondary domain (like files.jaybrewer.net which you'd point to your existing IP address), then use Blogger's missing files host setting to point there in the event that requests for www.jaybrewer.net/files/foo.jpg 404 on our side, we can rewrite the request to files.jaybrewer.net/files/foo.jpg - which will just work, and users won't notice any difference.

    @Herbert - the easiest way to manage the feeds would be to use FeedBurner, then once you've moved you can just update FeedBurner with the location of the feed your new URL is producing.

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  12. I have what I think is a more difficult version of the problem Jay has. The root of my blog is http://www.g4ilo.com/blog.html but my domain also hosts a website running under a CMS that uses a complicated .htaccess script to map www.g4ilo.com/*.html URLs that don't really exist to CMS generated pages.

    As I understand it, I could switch my blog to using a custom domain such as blog.g4ilo.com on your hosting. Presumably to redirect all the old blog URLs to the new domain I'd need an .htaccess script, but how the heck to do that without breaking the existing one used by the CMS?

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  13. @g4ilo You can modify the existing .htaccess file to add the specific rules needed to incorporate redirection for the blog URLs to the Blogger-managed domain. Wikipedia's page on htaccess is pretty solid.

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  14. Rick. Perhaps somebody could. Whether *I* could is another matter. I don't understand the .htaccess I just copied it from the CMS documentation and changed the "example.com". But if there are any step by step instructions for DIY migration I'm happy to take a look at them.

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  15. @g4ilo You got it, I'll add that to the list of info to include in the help files in the next couple weeks. Thanks.

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  16. I use asp.net on my blog pages. Will this support .aspx pages as the classic blogger did?

    Thank you!

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  17. Rick - thanks for the reply. Will it support any type of include page?

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  18. Do you have specific functionality in mind? We have a bunch of gadgets that likely handle what you're looking to do.

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  19. How will you deal with templates that refer to stuff on my server? I had a look through, and my template includes:
    - header images in an images folder (not uploaded_images)
    - a css file in the blog root
    - a couple of .js files that are read from the blog root to save replicating them in every page.

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  20. @g4ilo They will continue to work just fine. You can create an htaccess file that will specifically redirect the archives URLs without touching the images folder or other files you rely on for your template.

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  21. Rick - on one of our blogs we have a database call that displays dynamic information. Is there a way to get that working?

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  22. @G How are you calling the database? Locally, via PHP code, or...?

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  23. Rick - I have changed the publishing to a custom domain blog.g4ilo.com. I have done the CNAME and I can now access the blog there. I set up the missing files thing and it seems to work.

    I can add a line to .htaccess that redirects www.g4ilo.com/blog.html to blog.g4ilo.com. But I don't know how to permanently redirect www.g4ilo.com/2009/* .../2010/* and .../labels/* nor all the files www.g4ilo.com/20xx_xx_xx_archive.html to the new subdomain. I can't do a blanket "redirect all www. to blog." because there is non-Blogger generated stuff on the site that must remain un-redirected. Can you help?

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  24. Just wanted to let you know that I did the migration from FTP to Custom Domain last night, and it took about two minutes. My setup was from:

    http://www.lizkuball.com/blog

    to:

    http://blog.lizkuball.com

    The only issue I'm having right now is this: When someone types in www.blog.lizkuball.com, they get an error message. I checked with my host (Media Temple), and they had me set up a second CNAME record pointing www.blog.lizkuball.com to ghs.google.com. So far, that isn't working (but, to be fair, it hasn't been a full 24 hours).

    If this doesn't end up working in the next few hours, do you have recommendations for how to get www.blog.lizkuball.com to redirect to blog.lizkuball.com? I could set up an A NAME record for it, but the help article at Blogger is a different situation than I'm in. It talks about having a naked domain point to the one with the www, and because I'm using a subdomain, I'm in the opposite situation. I don't know if that matters. . . .

    Thanks for your help!

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  25. @ Liz - Try using 'www.blog.lizkuball.com' in the custom domain field and redirecting 'blog.lizkuball.com' to 'www.blog.lizkuball.com' and see if that helps.

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  26. My ftp blog was at 'www.avgroup.com/talk'. I it is now at 'http://hangarchat.blogspot.com'. I would now like to have anyone going to 'www.avgroup.com/talk' be redirected to 'http://hangarchat.blogspot.com'. Could you tell me where I could find a code snippet that I could paste into the index.html file in my talk directory on my domain that will accomplish this?

    If I can do this, the transition would be seamless for me and anyone who has bookmarked my blog.

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  27. Hi all - just noting that the FAQ is updated, addressing a number of recent questions raised on this and other posts.

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  28. I found a solution to the problem I mentioned in my earlier comment on this post, and I wanted to pass it along, in case anyone else is in the same boat. (I couldn't find this question addressed in the update to the FAQs.)

    I created an .htaccess file containing the following:

    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.(.+)$ [NC]
    RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://%1/$1 [R=301,L]

    I uploaded that to my root directory, and that solved the problem. Now http://www.blog.lizkuball.com redirects to http://blog.lizkuball.com.

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  29. Hi there,
    My web designer set up a template on my website and I use blogger to create & often update a blog which is automatically uploaded to this 'what's new' page, which is consistent in style with all the other pages on my site. Obviously I have a website url, so can you explain what will happen with these changes?
    Do I need to buy another url, or can I use my existing website address.
    And is going to affect the look of things.Will It automatically continue to go to the same site, or will I need to contact my web designer to make these changes as I am not a techie. He set up the ftp site originally. Please advise.

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  30. FYI - blogger/blogspot hosted blogs are not available inside schools. Schools block the entire domain - not just individual web sites, because there is much inappropriate-for-schools content on blogspot.com.

    We have used blogger as a simple interface for teachers to create blogs that are then hosted on FTP servers that are accessible within the schools.

    I understand your decision to drop FTP but you are also dropping all use of your services by most schools (and some libraries) that use Internet filtering software.

    Consequently, we will be exiting from the use of Blogger. As several people in China have also noted, Blogger's FTP feature enabled publication of blogs in China.

    I am surprised that Google/Blogger is taking steps to suppress the free flow of information.

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  31. @Edward: This is definitely not a move to suppress the free flow of information, but one to ensure that the information that does flow on Blogger is able to keep flowing. As we noted here, supporting FTP was actively slowing down our ability to support the product in general, and build out features that allow 99.5% of the users of the service to express themselves.

    Re: the issue you raise about blocking blogspot.com: does your school also filter domains hosted by us? I would expect not, so the easiest answer would be to simply host the teacher blogs at a subdomain. Publishing would be faster and more reliable, and the info would still be available to students who wanted to get it.

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  32. Hey guys. not sure if this question has been asked already, but I have mutiple blogs on one web site. For example, www.thecloserreport.com has two blogs that I use on it. I have another site with three blogs. How can I use mutiple blogs at one site? If I can't it's devastating for my sites and Google will need to rethink the way they treat people who put their trust in them. This is really bad if I can't have multiple blogs on one custom domain.
    Thanks,
    Todd

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  33. @The True GURU: Each blog has to have its own URL.

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  34. @Rick

    Kids always manage to put a spanner in the works! Have two of my own so I can sympathise with the weekend you had.

    Update:

    Good news - I think I have migrated. There is one minor issue and I need to test it but it looks like I'm done. If there are disappointments it's that I have lost using my original domain names and my original feed is no more (I syndicate my blog so I'm going to have to chase all those individuals and have them change their source feed). Is there a way I can keep using my original feed address - even if it means feeding the feed???

    [1] I was able to migrate my TradingJobs using the tool (I had left it last) without a hitch. Key to the getting the process (for me) to work was not replacing my current ISP DNS with those of Google's; I set the subdomains DNS to Google's (the new homes for the blogs) and kept the master with the default DNS for my ISP. So when it came to FTPing the modified files the Migration tool was able to communicate with my ISP server and make the necessary changes.
    [2] When I was setting my [A] DNS files I had to do it for both the subdomain and www.subdomain. In my initial attempt I was only able to get the http://subdomain.fallondpicks.com to resolve, not http://www.subdomain.fallondpicks.com. By adding the additional [A] DNS for the 'www' for each of the four Google addresses I was able to get both directs working.
    [3] Using Filezilla I was able to FTP the files which the Migration Tool couldn't do for me (having been unable to communicate with my ISP because I had removed my host's DNS). Once this was done the site kicked back to life. But at this stage you just have to ignore the Migration Tool and FTP the Unzipped modified Google files to the original host blog directory.

    So now the next step is testing, posting and seeing how the feeds work.

    The one issue I have is no auto redirect. You have to manually click the link to be taken to the new blog. Presumably things will be slow initially but I did notice it was taking a while for the 'new' sites to load; I don't know if there was timing out issue on the redirect???

    Post-migration:

    I notice in the Dashboard the links are for the old style (i.e. Template). If I upgrade the template (and I accept there may be lost changes) will this allow me to use the 'newer' blog templates in the Layout form - as is the case in my current blogger hosted blogs?

    Thank you,
    Declan

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  35. Note: Comments are closed on this post. Please direct general questions to the FAQ page, and specific problems with the migration tool to the issue tracker. More details about support for the FTP migration are here.

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