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China’s Ban on Blogger Blogs (and Possible Workarounds)

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There has been much speculation about China’s recently imposed “blanket ban” of all Blogger powered blogs. Some believe this is intended to quell references to the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident, while others wonder if this is a technical difficulty as hinted on Blogger’s Known Issues page.

In either case, this ban affects blogs hosted on the *blogspot.com subdomain (approximately 275 million) and also those who use a custom domain for their Blogger blogs (statistics of which are very difficult to gather). Here are the results of accessibility tests from WebsitePulse which show whether sites are accessible from within China:

china bans Blogger.com

screen-shot02-may-25

According to logs from Herdict Web, Blogger powered sites have been blocked from around the 16th of May onwards; even today, there are dozens of references via Twitter from those in China who are unable to publish to their blogs or access websites they wish to visit:

screen-shot03-may-25

What can we do to work around this ban, ensuring those in China can publish their blogs and access the sites they want to read?

For bloggers in China who want to publish new posts

Bloggers in China are unable to access their Blogger dashboard by regular means. However, there are other services which can still be accessed that can publish to Blogger on your behalf.

Post by email

Blogger has offered the “Mail to Blogger” service for quite some time, enabling bloggers to publish new posts while on the move. This enables us to write an email to our secret “Mail to Blogger” address which is then automatically published on our sites.

The only downside to this is that the Mail to Blogger address must be set up from within the Blogger dashboard, so this service is only possible for China-based bloggers who have already set up their email address.

A possible alternative is Posterous, which you can set up as a third party “Mail to Blogger” client using your blog’s unique ID number (which can also be found in the source code of your blog’s feed).

Auto-post via Facebook or Ping.fm

BlogIt is an app for Facebook which enables you to update multiple blogs and status feeds from your Facebook profile. Once you have installed this app in your Facebook profile, you will need to authorize use of your Blogger account (through Google hosted pages), after which you can update your blog via Facebook any time you like.

Ping.fm is another alternative, offering a simple solution to update your Blogger blog (and other social profiles) from a single application. Using Ping.fm you can update via the web, IM, email and other third party applications. It is advisable to use Ping.fm for short posts only as no formatting options are enabled.

To read Blogger powered blogs from within China

For those wishing to read their favourite Blogger powered blogs from within China, here are a couple of possible solutions:

Translate Blogger blogs

Using Google Translate or Babelfish, you can circumvent the restrictions by viewing Blogger blogs in a translated page. This ensures that the URL of the site you are reading is based on a different server.

Choose to translate from Chinese to English (or whichever translation you prefer) and paste the complete URL of the blog you wish to read. The blog will then be accessible for you to browse recent posts or archives with ease:

screen-shot04-may-25

Unfortunately this does not appear to work when attempting to access the Blogger home page, so this workaround will not enable you to post from the Blogger dashboard.

Subscribe to “banned” blogs using an RSS reader

It is also possible to read updates from your favourite sites by reading in an RSS reader. Sign up to use Google Reader, BlogLines or Newsgator (none of which appear to be banned in China) and add the URL of the default feed for the Blogger blog you wish to read. This will be in the following format: http://your-favourite-blog.blogspot.com/atom.xml.

You will then be able to read the latest updates from your favourite blogs, though unfortunately it may be impossible to comment on these posts since this requires access to Blogger servers.

Digital Inspiration also offers some interesting techniques to access banned sites from within China in this post.

Additional resource: https://www.vpnmentor.com/tools/test-the-great-china-firewall/

How to find out if your blog is banned in China

The simplest way to discover if your blog (or website) is inaccessible from within China is to use this free tool from WebSitePulse. Paste the URL of your blog in the window and hit enter. After a few moments, you will be presented with results which show if your blog can be accessed from China and comparitively with other servers from different continents.

How to find out if your ISP is blocking Blogger blogs

To discover if you will be able to access Blogger powered blogs through your internet service provider, it is advisable to ping blogspot.com using your computer’s DOS ping tool.

If you use Windows, you can do this by clicking the “Start” button and choosing the “run” command. Type “cmd” into the box and hit “enter”. Then type ping blogspot.com into the black box followed by enter.

For unrestricted access to blogspot.com through your ISP, you will see something like this on your screen:

Pinging blogspot.blogger.com [208.73.210.121] with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from 208.73.210.121: bytes=32 time=329ms TTL=239

Ping statistics for 208.73.210.121:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 294ms, Maximum = 337ms, Average = 323ms

In cases where the URL is blocked, you will likely receive a message like “Ping request could not find the host. Please check and try again.

Final thoughts

It seems unlikely that Blogger powered sites will be accessible from within China in the close future, though as we have seen before, such restrictions are usually lifted after a period of time.

I hope the information and tips in this article assist those who need to post to their blogs or read Blogger powered sites from within China. Please feel free to offer your own suggestions and comments below.

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Amanda is a freelance blogger and web/blog designer. She writes about Blogger at www.BloggerBuster.com and maintains several other blogs on various subjects.

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4 Tips for Using Wikipedia as a Marketing Tool

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When you type in a Google search for a name brand, famous figure, or historical event, you’ll almost always see a familiar name at the top of the search results: Wikipedia. In fact, it’s hard to spend much time in any search engine without encountering a Wikipedia page. But have you ever thought about whether this popular online encyclopedia could be a powerful marketing tool for your brand?

Four Tips for Wikipedia Marketing

Whether it’s for a personal brand or a business, it’s possible to obtain a Wikipedia page. Don’t confuse this with being easy or effortless, though. Depending on a number of factors, you may find it challenging to get started.

However, here are some helpful tips that should get you moving in the right direction:

1. Wikipedia Has Notability Requirements

Wikipedia has some requirements regarding who and what can have a page. These are known as “notability requirements.” You can read about all of the details, but the basic gist is that you must have a collection of authoritative third party sources of biographical information on the internet in order to create a page. These sources typically come from PR releases, interviews, articles, or online records.

2. Wikipedia Shouldn’t Be Your Initial Focus

Let’s say you’re trying to build your personal brand. While Wikipedia is certainly a very visible website, it shouldn’t (and can’t) be your first focus. You must invest in a far more general content marketing and PR strategy before even considering Wikipedia.

Take Tim Sykes, successful millionaire penny stock trader and coach, as an example. If you look at his Wikipedia page, you’ll notice there are nearly 50 references at the bottom. In order for his page to be validated, every single statement had to be backed by a third-party resource. It took years for Sykes to earn enough links and stories to earn the right to have a Wikipedia page. Remember, focus on molding yourself (or your brand) into a notable entity before considering Wikipedia.

3. Don’t Take a DIY Approach

“If you believe your company passes the notability test, but Wiki volunteers have not yet created an article for your organization, you may be tempted to take matters into your own hands,” journalist James A. Martin explains. “The DIY approach to Wikipedia, however, is usually a bad idea.”

Wikipedia has a conflict of interest guidelines. These guidelines simply state that Wikipedia pages must be written and edited by third party individuals. Instead of writing your own page (that will more than likely be flagged), hire a professional who is unbiased and understands the intricacies of publishing on Wikipedia.

4. Be Prepared for Criticism

In an ideal world, your Wikipedia page would be a powerful marketing tool that would tout all of the wonderful things you’ve done. But you have to remember that Wikipedia is a collaborative platform where people can edit and revise entries.

“The biggest reason to avoid a Wikipedia entry is that once you finally achieve one, it stops being your own,” journalist Monica Hesse says. “You might have created it, but everyone else can edit it. The resulting product isn’t going to be a celebration of you, it’s going to be a clinical analysis of your failures as well as your triumphs.”

If you’re willing to take on these risks, then so be it. Just remember that you aren’t in total control of your Wikipedia page.

Wikipedia Marketing: Proceed With Caution

When it comes to Wikipedia for marketing purposes, the best piece of advice is to proceed with caution. There are great pages – such as this one of baseball Hall-of-Famer Hank Aaron – and then there are big blunders – such as these.

Be careful and don’t rush the process.

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How to Watch Netflix Outside of the United States

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As bloggers and especially travel bloggers, we may find ourselves with the opportunity to travel through out the world. In addition to the many perks of being able to run your business and blog from anywhere, you might also run into connectivity issues when traveling outside your country. One specific issue that travelers may discover is there inability to access some of their favorite sites such as Netflix.

Once getting their access to the internet and seeing they can’t access Netflix, but they can access other areas of the internet such as WordPress and their own sites, they may feel that Netflix, Facebook and other media sites that are being blocked is a lost cause… however, this isn’t the case.

Yes! It is possible to watch Netflix outside of the States – and you can access other video streaming websites too!  

Blocked Access‘Orange is the New Black’ and ‘House of Cards’ are currently my two most favorite TV shows, making Netflix an online holy grail… especially when you have time to kill or for long flights that have internet access.

For those of us who live in the States, accessing Netflix poses no problem at all, however, if you happen to go on vacation, travel overseas for business or perhaps even move to another country you will have one serious issue – you won’t be able to access it.

You could end up wasting valuable time trying to figure out how to watch Netflix whilst in Europe or any other country that you may find yourself in, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. No matter where you are in the world, there is a way to unblock Netflix, plus all the other video streaming sites out there such as Pandora, Hulu and HBO.

The secret to unblock Netflix – continue reading, it’s coming!

How does Netflix know where I am in the world?

Netflix recognizes you by your IP address – it doesn’t matter what type of device you use to access it, because it checks your IP address to find out where in the world you are.  If you’re in Europe, and you connect to Netflix, it can detect that you’re outside of the United States, and it will display the message “Sorry, Netflix is not available in your country yet”. Netflix will only grant access to its services to those who are located in the States – those with an American IP address. So, you need to change your IP address to one that is located in the States.

The secret is to use a VPN (which stands for Private Virtual Network).

Using a VPN is like using a different internet service provider, no trace of your original IP address can be detected. For example, if you’re in Florida, and you connect to a VPN server in New York, your original IP address is hidden, and any website you visit thinks that you are now in New York.

While the concept and basics of a VPN might look something confusing like the image below, the complications of it all have been made quite simple by many of the different VPN server companies on the market today.

businessman drawing a security plan for a firewall system

I’ve tried several VPN providers over the years, but one that I’ve always stuck with is Hide My Ass! because a) they have thousands of IPs, b) they have more servers around the globe than any other VPN provider, and c) have the fastest servers on the market, which of course is so important when streaming Netflix.

You can use Hide My Ass! on your PC (Windows), Mac, and Linux operating systems. And you can download their free app for your iPhone, iPad, etc. via the iTune’s store, and for your Android device via the Google Play store.

Downloading the software takes a few minutes, and if you do have any questions you can contact their customer support guys who are really knowledgeable and helpful.

Currently, they have 620 VPN servers, and over 77,000 IP addresses to choose from, and they are continually adding more servers, new countries and locations to their database making them my number one choice of VPN provider.

This screenshot shows that I’ve selected a US State, which will allow me to watch Netflix.

Hide My Ass VPN

Do I need an American credit card to purchase Netflix?

You’ll find that you will be able to use your non-American credit card to pay for a Netflix account, but you will likely need a US ZIP code. It won’t stop your payment from going through, so don’t worry about that.

American ZIP codes are made up of 5 numbers, for example, 10003 is a New York one. There are a number of websites that provide ZIP all US states.

So, enjoy Netflix, and if you have any questions I would love to hear from you!

For many bloggers traveling throughout the world, the last thing they would probably think of when leaving for their trip would be what sites they might have trouble accessing at their final destination. Fortunately through the use of VPN providers this shouldn’t be an issue, especially when planning ahead.

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Less than 5% of Men Cited Reading Blogs as their Favourite Online Activity

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So when you wrote that piece about how you loved Phil Neville’s commentating style during the FIFA World Cup 2014, the men you were hoping would lap it up, quite probably didn’t. That is, of course, unless you carried out some research of your own and found that’s exactly what your male audience was crying out for.

For those that didn’t want to read a blog post, not only might you have turned them off (or bypassed them completely) by choosing that channel, your praise for Phil Neville’s commentary style may well have done the same. But at least a bad reaction is better than no reaction at all.

A recent study [infographic] revealed that unlike the 7% of women who said reading blogs was their favorite online activity, more than 95% of men chose social media, games, videos or other types of content as theirs. Admittedly neither party was overly enamored with blogs, so while they can be an easy way to add active content to your website, you might be completely wasting your time. So how do you know?

Men vs. Women Blogging

Conduct your own research

Finding out what people do and don’t like doesn’t have to be costly. If budgets are tight or content just isn’t on senior management’s radar – it’s free to ask your customers what they want via social media. If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands, basic metrics from Google Analytics will tell you things like your top landing pages, how long people spend on a particular page (and therefore how interesting/engaging it is), as well as the route they take around your site. These are all insights into their behavior and what they enjoy looking at online.

Look at what your competitors are doing

Nobody wants to be late to a trend, but getting a feel for the kind of content people go crazy for and reacting to it can be a good place to start. Sometimes it’s a good first step into the world of creating content that works. Sometimes a great way to achieve success is by taking an idea that’s been done, and creating something bigger, better and more shareable.

What’s being shared?

Dig around on Twitter and Facebook – what are people liking/sharing/commenting on? Is there something relevant to your brand/business that you can pick up on? Even if your starting point is as simple as getting involved in a discussion on a particular hashtag, you might find you pick up a few more followers and at the same time start building a picture of your audience.

Enlist the help of analysts

If the thought of research or analysis fills you with dread, there are plenty of companies and lots of available software on hand to help you know your audience. Have a dig around, maybe even try a few out – there are plenty that will offer you a free trial. If you make good use of Twitter, a great tool to analyse your followers is Followerwonk.

 

Soon you’ll know exactly what content your audience likes and the tasks of planning, creating, publishing and analysing content will become something that delivers satisfaction, not nightmares. And when you can show the powers that be just how much can be achieved from content, your business cred will soar and we think most of our readers would probably like a pat on the back.

For more related tips, check out this great post which can be used to help blogging as well as social media efforts.

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