Welcome to The Blog Report

I'm so glad you stopped by and hope you find this blog an interesting read. I've been blogging since April of 2006, currently the author of six public and two private blogs. In the beginning I knew absolutely nothing about blogging. Over the years through trial and error, frustration and elation, and a few tears I've learned a lot. However, the learning process when it comes to blogging continues to evolve. Here you will find a hodge podge of my blogging experiences, useful codes and how-tos, sprinkled liberally with my opinions. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How Often Should You Change Your Passwords

How often should you change your password?  Well a lot depends on the type of account, what you use it for, if you have been compromised and your comfort level.  Let's face it, we all have oodles of passwords.  Changing them all the time can be time consuming but it gives peace of mind.  Seriously, I have changed my Blogger (Google) password twice tlast week.  The first time was due to a suspected compromise.  It was a good, strong password.  Then I changed it again to make it a butt a$$ ugly but stronger password.  Trust me it is about as ugly as it can get!  I change my passwords when:

  1. I remember - Ideally passwords should be changed at least twice a year so think spring and fall.  Some recommend changing them more often.
  2. I think one or more accounts have been compromised - If I feel an account has been compromised in any way I change the password then work my way through changing the passwords for any accounts the compromised account could lead to.
  3. something is amiss - Sometimes something in an account goes amiss.  There isn't the panic that someone has hacked into or hijacked my account, but more of something just not working as it should.  This can be a sign the site is having problems or someone hacked in and is just doing a bit of toying.  I change the password anytime I notice this type of thing.
  4. a script goes awry - Like many bloggers I do use javascript based widgets on my blogs.   For the most part they are fine but sometimes they go awry even though you used them for years.  I had a widget on one of my blogs that performed nicely then suddenly I was getting reports my blog was flagging anti-virus software as a possible dangerous site.  What happened was the script contained a line that pointed to a bad neighbourhood.  I removed the widget then immediately changed my password.  
  5. I revoke access - This mainly applies to Twitter and Facebook that can be used to sign into other accounts.  If I revoke access as in Facebook can no longer access Site A, I change Site A's password. 


Monday, July 30, 2012

What Makes a Good Password

With my recent scare over the possibility that my Blogger (Google) account had been compromised, I set about changing passwords on several accounts.  In all honesty, I should have done so earlier this year but like many had become a bit lax.  What I noticed when changing my passwords is some sites have a rating to tell you how strong your password is.  This is a great idea!  So what makes a good password?  Here's a few tips:

  • don't use the same password for all accounts -  This is a disaster waiting to happen as that would gain the hacker access to every account you have.  Choose unique passwords for each account.
  • use a mixture of capitals, lower case, numbers and characters -  Strong passwords contain a mixture of all 4 in random order.  
  • don't use a pattern - It is easy to fall into a pattern when creating a password which means if someone cracks one password the others will be rather easy to crack. 
  • length - The longer a password, the harder it is to crack.  Many sites stipulate the password should be between 8 and 10 characters in length.  Don't use the minimum but rather use the maximum or close to the maximum number of characters allowed and make sure you mix them up.  As my husband says, it's a butt a$$ ugly password but at least it is secure.
  • don't use words - Don't use words in your password.  Your password can make sense to you without using words that would make it easier to crack your password.
  • don't use anything from your profile - This is especially important if your account has ever been hacked and someone has gained access to your personal information.  When creating a strong password don't use your initials, you postal code, your street numbers, the site name, your date of birth or anything else from your profile that would make your password easier to crack.  Anything used from your profile if used should be written in code.  For example, say you want to use 'cat' in your password.  Instead transform it into '3aT'.  See where I'm going? 


    Sunday, July 29, 2012

    Doing a Bit of Blog Cleaning

    I first noticed the share button problem last February and while I didn't think my Blogger account had been compromised, I did change the password.  Then I noticed the login message that I had to login again because I had logged out from another location.  Well, once thinking about it, I decided to get aggressive and make a few changes.  Here's what I've done so far across all of my blogs:

    • changed password
    • eliminated old share button code problem
    • removed old share button codes and replaced with new social networking codes
    • cleaned up directory sections
    • removed selected advertising from sidebars
    • added updated My Free Copyright code
    • changed password again


    Saturday, July 28, 2012

    New Social Networking Buttons

    I posted earlier this year about a share button problem I was having.  Blogger calls them share buttons and makes it easy to add to your blog simply by toggling on the option in template/post/edit of the template.  These buttons make it easy to share the blog posts you like via email and Facebook but Blogger didn't have options for Digg, Stumbleupon, Twitter and now the new Pintrest.  I used individual button code for all but Pinterest.   My share buttons worked great on three of my blogs but on the other three there was writing over top of them something to the effect of This7is!:tenok and This7is!tterook.  Again, when I first saw this, I changed my Google (also Blogger) password then thought no more of it.  As one commenter said, it was likely something hidden in javascript.  What was interesting is the problem was only showing on three of my blogs.  When I toggled off the share buttons on those blogs, they reappeared on the far left hand side with the writing over top of them.  I removed share buttons from one of the blogs but with my recent little scare, I decided to get aggressive and replace all share buttons with new social networking buttons.

    This is where the fun started!  I toggled off the option in Blogger for share buttons then removed the individual Stumbleupon, Digg and Twitter buttons.  Checking preview the share buttons were back on the far right side.  Again, only three blogs showed the over writing so  I continued on.  I installed the custom designed social button widget from ShareThis then check preview.  The old share buttons were still there right beside comment but the new social buttons loaded fine.  So I went into edit the template, did a back-up then removed all coding related to 'sharebuttons'.  There were two blocks of it.  Once removed the old share buttons then checked preview.  The old share buttons were completely gone and in their place my nice new social networking buttons. 

    I am still stumped at what was happening with the old share button code.  I've gone through the code several times so perhaps it was a conflict with other javascript on those codes.  At any rate the problem is solved.  The buttons look nice and they offer a few more options for social networking.  I like that you can pick and choose which buttons to include on your widget. 


    Friday, July 27, 2012

    Spelling

    I am not a professional writer and while I am published, blogging is more a laid back thing for me which means spelling errors do get through from time to time even though I do use a spell checker.  Apparently, some search engines and specifically Google, are going to start penalizing for spelling mistakes.  We can all thank those bloggers using black hat SEO methods.  Some of these bloggers are intentionally using common spelling mistakes to attract attention to their blogs.  Well, that is likely going to give me a few and hopefully minor infractions as I tend to use Canadian spelling for certain words and I do know a few typos get through but hopefully it shouldn't affect me too much.


    Thursday, July 26, 2012

    Any Idiot Can Blog

    It doesn't seem possible that I have been blogging for over six years now.  Honestly that is pretty good considering the average lifespan of a new blog is 3 months.  The reality is any idiot can blog!  There are no special skills involved other than perhaps coming up with something to blog about.  You don't have to use proper grammar or spelling.  You don't need to know HTML or web design.  You don't need to have a digital camera or upload any pictures to your blog.  It doesn't matter what you are wearing, where you are or what time it is when you blog.  If you miss a day blogging, you won't get a pay cut or your boss yelling at you either.  You can blog about any topic imaginable providing it doesn't promote hatred or illegal activities or it's criminal.  In fact, blogging is one of the least restrictive hobbies there is.  So there you go, the world is anyone's oyster with respect to blogging. 

    Ok, that all sounds fairly easy and it is but quite frankly there are some rules that should be followed when blogging.  Here are a few that I feel are important:

    • content is king - Keep adding content every chance you get.  Make the content unique and fresh.
    • updating - Updating includes blog templates, layouts, backgrounds and all those little extras.  Change them from time to time to brighten up your blog much the same way as you change decor in your home from time to time.  Widgets are an interesting way of adding certain kinds of content to your blog like a blogroll or word of the day.  Change them occasionally to keep content fresh. 
    • alt tags - If you are using images it is imperative to use alt tags as search engines do not see images only code.
    • keywords - Keywords are very important for attracting search engines.  Choose them wisely and don't abuse them.  Never engage in keyword stuffing!
    • links - It is very important to check any outgoing links from your blog.  Dead or broken links will cost you in page rank.  Make any links on your blogs are not pointing to bad neighbourhoods as that could get your blog delisted from search engines.


    Wednesday, July 25, 2012

    So You've Been Hacked

    Yesterday, I wrote about a few of the things you can do if your blogging platform account has been hacked.  In reality these are all things you should be doing anyway.  Seriously though the chances of your blogging platform account being hacked is minimal unless you have ticked off someone online, picked up an online stalker or you are blogging about controversial issues.  You can easily tick some off or pick up an online stalker without even knowing about it.  Here's a few more tips on how to deal with the situation should your blogging platform account be compromised.

    • don't panic - It is natural to panic when you realize your blogging platform account has been hacked.  It is important to stay calm.  As soon as you change your password the hacker can't access your account.  This is your number one line of defense.  Simply change the password then calmly work on damage control.  If you stay calm, you are less likely to miss any content changes that might have happened.
    • be methodical - Damage control should be very methodical and thorough.  Check out each area of your blog from one end to the other.  When satisfied, more on to the next section.
    • stay proactive - As you check through your blog and make any necessary corrections, watch for problems and potential problems.  Tweak your blog settings to prevent security breaches.  Check your stats as you might notice a problem IP.  If so, set up an IP blocker to prevent that IP from accessing your blog.  Continuously check outgoing links, removing any dead links.  Check widgets from time to time.  Change your password often and get into the habit of backing up your blog.
    • stay low keyed - Hackers like to get recognition and attention for what they have done.  Refrain from saying anything about your account being hacked on your blog, groups or social media.  Simply make any necessary changes, tighten your security and move on.  This is especially effective for dealing with hackers who want into your account while still giving you access to your account.  The only way they will know you are on to them is when they try to log in but can't.  This also allows you to act without tipping your hand which could cause this type of hacker to lock you out of your own blog or delete your content.
    • file complaints - Check through your stats as well as contact your blogging platform provider who can see what IPs were accessing your account. Now a hacker trying to hide their tracks will use a proxy service but kids fooling around or an amateur hacker likely won't.  Illegally accessing someone else's account is a sure fire way to lose your ISP!


    Tuesday, July 24, 2012

    What to Do if Your Account is Hacked

    I wrote about a suspected security breach in my Blogger account which falls under Google products.  What this meant is if someone hacked into my account they would have access to any of the Google products I use.  If someone hacks into your account, always assume malicious intent.  They certainly are not gaining access to your account to help you out.  Gaining access to your blogging platform account is done to alter or delete your content as well as get any private information you may have on your account.  Some information on your account that is not made public (eg. home address, phone number, Pay Pal account ID, etc) has the potential of personal threat or harm to yourself or family as well a potential financial harm.  A hacker could hijack your account denying you access by changing your password.  They could delete content or the entire blog!  If you suspect your blogging platform account has accessed without your permission, there are a few steps to take.

    • immediately change your password - Make your new password stronger by using a combination of letters, numbers, capitols, and characters.  Don't use anything that was in your profile as part of your new password as whoever got into your account may have that information giving them clues to your new password.
    • immediately change your email password -  Most sites send a confirmation notice to your registered email address.  Ensure that whoever got into your blogging platform account does not have access to your email account.
    • check your blogging platform settings - If someone gained unauthorized access to your blogger platform, chances are very good they will change some of your settings especially those that lessen your security and/or privacy or they may have turned off comment moderation.
    • back-up your content - Unless your blog has been completely deleted or your content completely deleted, back it up even though it may contain any changes the hacker made.
    • check through your content -  Look for any alterations to your content including posts, links, advertising, coding and images for any changes. Pay attention to the coding of any protective measures like Copyscape.
    • make any necessary corrections - This is fairly straight forward and while tedious it is very important to do.  
    • restoring your blog - In the event you content was deleted and/or replaced by a message from the hacker, upload your last back-up copy of your blog.  If you have been doing regular back-ups at most you may lose a week's worth of blog posts but those can easily be restored if you.  Restore any missing blog posts from your email copies. 
    • back-up your content - This back-up copy will have all the corrections you made if any.
    • change your password - Once someone has breached your security to gain access to your blogging platform account, there is a good chance they will try again especially if they realize you know what is going on.  First and foremost, they are doing so for a reason whether to steal your content, cause you problems, do a bit of online stalking or worse.  Remember, they do have malicious intent.  Second, folks tend to use certain patterns or words as passwords making them rather easy to crack.  Step away from your pattern for creating passwords.  Although the initial password change should solve the immediate problem, changing your password again gives one more level of security.  It's a good idea to change your password a few times until you are sure any threat is over then regularly after that.


    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    Don't Forget to Change Passwords Occasionally

    The other day I had a couple of Blogger windows open.  When I switched back to one of them there was a message that I had been logged out from another location.  I didn't think anything of it as I use several Google products so I could have logged out of one of them not realizing it would log me out of Blogger.  At the same time Blogger was showing a warning messaging saying I was using an unsupported browser so parts of Blogger might not work properly.  I thought it could be due to my browser.  However, it happened again yesterday and I was sure the only Google product I was using at that time was Blogger.   Still I didn't change my password until this morning when I just had a nagging feeling.  I did notice when I opened Blogger the warning message was gone on all pages except the dashboard but I still don't think my account was compromised.  Chances are good that no one had hacked into my account as my password was fairly strong but why take the chance especially after passwords were recently stolen when someone hacked into part of Yahoo's services.  If at anytime you get that little nagging "what if" feeling it is a good time to change your password simple for ease of mind.  It's a good idea to change your passwords on a regular basis just to prevent unauthorized access to any of your accounts.


    Friday, July 13, 2012

    Traffic Building Using Cold Calls

    Brick and mortar stores as well as salesmen learned a long time ago that if they made cold calls there would be a percentage of sales resulting from it.  Well the same thing can happen with blogs.   You may not be selling a product but you are selling a blog aka yourself.  Essentially, if you make 200 cold calls meaning you send out a request to do a blog post for the party you are contacting or if you send them a few links from your blog they might be interested you can expect a return of 1% to 10% (2 to 20) visitors.  Now, out of that you may pick up one or two folks interested enough in following or subscribing to your blog.

    By default, a cold call means you have not had a previous relationship with the person you are contacting.  That means a cold call can easily be viewed as spam and you definitely do not want your blog labeled as being a SPLOG.  Yet cold calls can be very effective if used properly.  This is not a method I use very often, perhaps four or five times a year and then only if I really feel the person being contacted would be interested.  Here are a few things I do when making a cold call for one of my blogs.

    • contact information - I feel it is very important to address anyone I'm making a cold call to via email by name.  They are much more likely to respond favourably.
    • brevity - I keep cold calls brief and to the point.  I include the salutation, a two or three sentence intro including how I found them, one or two links and a thank-you for their time as well as my contact information should they require further information.
    • sporadic - Any of the cold calls I make for my blogs are sporadic.  They are very much an opportunity that presents itself.  
    • unique - All of my cold calls for my blogs are unique.  I don't use a form or cut and paste.  Both of these methods will get your blog labeled as a SPLOG and really just tick anyone who receives the off.  
    • no follow-up -  As tempting as it is, I do not do follow-ups for any cold call.  The person contacted may be quite busy, out of the office, not interested or may have set my email aside until they have the right opportunity.  A follow-up even one as simple as asking if they got your email can make them think you are a spammer, get you complaints to your ISP or get you labeled as a SPLOG.  Seriously, I have had responses from cold calls I put out over six months ago!  I just put them out there then hope for the best even if it takes months for a response.