Google Blogger has done it again. A major update to the service was rolled out at the end of September and many users woke up to find that the links and blog lists they had so carefully created had gone. See the Blogger Help Forum for some of the postings and comments on the incident. Blogger engineers are supposedly working to restore the lost information but it “may take up to several days.” Or never! This is not the first time that blog content has gone missing after an update. A few years ago an update somehow removed the most recent posts from people’s blogs. Most of them were eventually recovered but a few disappeared without trace.
The lesson learned from that experience was back up your blog. In Blogger the import and backup tool is under Settings, Other and at the top of the page. Note, though that this will only backup the text of pages, posts and comments. It does not backup any changes you have made to the template, or the content of the gadgets in your sidebars such as links lists and blogrolls. For the template click on Template in the lefthand sidebar and then on Backup/Restore. This will save the general layout of the gadgets but not the content. For that you will need to copy and save the content for each gadget or save a copy of the content and HTML of your blog. Back up your Blogger blog: photos, posts, template, and gadgets has details of what you need to do.
And don’t forget your photos. For those use Google’s Takeout service at https://www.google.com/settings/takeout.
If you don’t have a copy of your lists of links then see if you can access an older cached version of your blog via Google or Bing and save the whole page, or take screen shots. If you try this several days after the event you may be out of luck. Mine were still in the cached page for up to 2 days but have now gone. In Google, use the ‘cache:’ command, for example:
An alternative is to search for your blog and next to your entry in the results lists there should be a small downward pointing green arrow. Click on it and then on the ‘Cached’ text to view the page. This works in both Google and Bing and, again, the sooner you do this the better.
If none of that works then try the Wayback Machine. Type in the URL of your blog and see if they have any snapshots.
Still no joy? Then either hang around a while longer to see if the Blogger engineers manage to revive your lists or start rebuilding them from scratch. If you haven’t looked at them in a while, maybe now is the time to review the content anyway.
Google closed down its RSS Reader on July 1st and shortly afterwards stories that it had also discontinued RSS alerts started to circulate. The first one I saw was by Google Operating System (Google Alerts Drops RSS Feeds http://googlesystem.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/google-alerts-drops-rss-feeds.html) quickly followed by Search Engine Land (Google Alerts Drops RSS Delivery Option http://searchengineland.com/google-alerts-drops-rss-delivery-option-165709). Both reported that when they went to manage their RSS alerts Google told them that they would have to convert all of their feeds to email alerts. From this it was assumed that Google had decided to abandon RSS altogether, which confused me because I was still receiving RSS feeds for alerts I had set up in News and Blogs. It transpires that Google no longer offers alerts for web searches. That is no great loss to me as I have always found the web alerts to be unreliable. News and blog search alerts are a different matter, though, as I usually have about 70-80 running at any one time. I could set up a separate email account for the alerts but I find it so much easier to organise and view them in an RSS reader.
Two weeks later and my feeds continue to come through. I can still set up new alerts for Blog searches by running the search and then clicking on the RSS link at the bottom of the page.
The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that they have not yet removed the link inviting you to subscribe to the feed in Google Reader!
The procedure for a News RSS alert is more long winded and you need a Google account to set it up. First sign in to your account and go to Google News. In the upper right hand area of the screen there is a cog wheel. Click on the wheel and a set of personalization options should appear underneath it.
In addition to the standard categories that you can add or remove there is a box into which you can type in your own “topic”. Click on the + button to add it to the list and save the personalization. Your search topic should now appear in a list on the left hand side of the screen.
Click on your topic and at the bottom of the results page you should see an RSS icon which takes you to the feed for that search.
So the good news is that Google blog and news alerts are still available as RSS feeds. The bad news is that they are complicated to set up in news, and the links and text on the blog search results page have not been updated to reflect the discontinuation of Google Reader. This strongly suggests that RSS is very low on Google’s list of priorities so it really could be axed across the board.
If Google does decide to “retire” RSS and you want to carry on receiving RSS rather than email alerts there are several alternatives. So far, the best of the free services for me is the Netvibes Dashboards (http://www.netvibes.com/), which uses a number of tools including Google. Even if I ignore the Google results, Netvibes generally comes up a comprehensive and relevant set of alerts on my topic. Overall, I would rather not have the hassle of setting up my alerts afresh but Google has a habit of finishing off services with little or no warning. Now is the time to start looking for replacements.
The first of my updated guides and one new guide covering social media and collaborative tools are now up on http://www.rba.co.uk/web2/. I use these guides in some of my social media workshops and they are intended to help people get started with the various tools. You will notice that there are two Getting Started with Blogger guides: one for the old interface and one for the new. Don’t worry if you have not seen the new version of Blogger – Google is rolling this out gradually so it may be a while before the option appears on your screen.
The guides are Word documents so that you can edit them for use in your own organisation. I have given them a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License but if you are not sure whether your use of them will be covered by that license do get in touch with me.
So far the guides include:
Getting Started with Twitter
Introduction to Blogs
Getting Started with Blogger – Old Interface
Getting Started with Blogger – New Interface