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The Prisoner of Blogger

There is no escape from the spinning wheel of death

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I am not a free man, I am a number - number 27950736 to be precise - on Blogger, the village cloud application I've been trying to escape from for the past year.

Oh, it started out great in 2006. Seemed like a nice thing. But a year and a bit in, the Blogger machine's FTP service began stumbling.

FTP publishing isn't important if you like blogging in the Google cloud. But it is for others, having to do with reasons like not having Blogger's little fink button at the top of your vanity publication. Someone might figure your rants were best hidden behind an adult disclaimer, or should be sent to the spam cops and your blog locked and deleted. (More on the latter below.) Or you already have a substantial amount of material in the root directory of your domain, material you'd not like to see lost in space.

Not publishing your blog is taking longer than expected

So I used FTP to push blogger files to my property at dickdestiny.com and that's where the trouble started. When Blogger's FTP publishing servers can't get their act together, and that's now regularly so, interesting things happen. They're usually associated with something called 'the spinning wheel of death', followed by a "Publishing your blog is taking longer than expected" error screen.

This should actually be updated to "Not publishing your blog is taking longer than expected."

To understand this, first you have to know how Blogger deals with bugs.

At the door, it's always your fault. And it stays that way until enough people complain in unison in the Google Blogger help forums, at which point wheels begin to invisibly turn and something is done which passes for a remedy. If the screw up is really bad, as it was during a failure of Blogger's FTP servers earlier this year, it may be mentioned publicly by an official.

Most of the time, though, if the bug is fixed - particularly if it's anything to do with its FTP servers - nothing is said. Was there a problem, eh? Or did you hallucinate it?

No problem, sir...

Readers have probably already sussed that this approach to 'help' is one in which a problem isn't a problem if you're the only one complaining and posting about it. Let's apply it across the board for 'help' desks: "Well, sorry sir, but you're the only person who's complained about that today. Call back tomorrow, maybe the etiology will have improved and some others will have cried out, too."

In any case, when I first started using Blogger, I thought the FTP fail was due to my many imperfections. A week would go by with all posts meeting the spinning wheel of death, the blog unassailable as granite. I'd sit in front of the PC, dumbly wondering what it was that I had done so wrong.

That's because Blogger's stock excuse sounded reasonable: FTP publishing requires cooperation between Blogger and many separate and idiosyncratic hosts and if it has failed, your host has probably done something to screw it up. However, many now used to Blogger's FTP publishing fail have become aware of exactly how their hosts are not screwing things up. If this is you, the stock excuse, delivered again and again in the help forums, is just a fob. Yeah, sending stuff across the net to another party sure eats it - those rascals are throttling FTP access, they've denied access to Blogger servers, Blogger has had to make compromises, etc.

Around the same time Blogger's FTP publishing was going sideways in May, the service also labelled dickdestiny.com as a spam blog, a thing which can entail being denied access and having the blog deleted. Again, this was apparently some type of failure in Blogger's automated spam detectors because multiples of legitimate users immediately showed in the help forums to protest. The result was a Blogger employee assuring everyone their blogs would be cleared without further problem.

With FTP publishing a constant aggravation, product manager Rick Klau acknowledged it, calling the feature "brittle." Prior to that, he'd asked those who used Blogger's FTP publishing to describe why they wanted to continue using it in favour of coming home to the hive. In Twitter tweets.

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