Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Google/GoDaddy Rhumba

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog*

So I wrote a book and published it. So far, so good. I know that in the Internet Age I have to promote the book myself. Unless I can somehow become the next James Patterson or Nora Roberts, no publisher will offer me mammoth advances or fly me around the country for appearances; I am on my own. But I also know my main job is to write, so I can't do everything. Twitter, for example, is beyond me. I  procrastinate enough with Facebook and Pinterest. The last thing I need is another social network (although I did join Goodreads, which turned out to be a story of its own). But I figure I can handle a blog. I should have the tech savvy to set it up, especially through Google Apps, which has suitably low expectations most of the time, and to update it once a week or so. Computers have become much more user-friendly since I got my first PC, so I expected the setup to be a breeze. The hard part, I thought, would be coming up with a steady stream of ideas.

Boy, was I wrong. My first effort failed when I realized that Google’s Announcements template, described as "like a blog," would not allow people to add comments unless they also had the right to edit the site itself. Huh? To let someone comment on a post, I had to give him/her the right to change the site however s/he saw fit? No.

I needed a better solution. Through my control panel (which requires a separate login, naturally), I found Blogger, added it, set up a blog in no time flat. I couldn’t get Blogger to follow its own directions for accepting my profile picture, but other than that, life looked good. Still, I didn’t really want my blog living off on its own on Blogspot. The point was to link the posts to my site. I searched the settings and found one that would let me redirect my Blogspot address to Google Apps. But when I clicked on that option, Blogger informed me that I had to adjust my DNS settings with GoDaddy, the site that issued my domain name in the first place.

Uh-oh. I heard the thud of dinosaur feet on the plains. I’ve tried to adjust DNS settings before, and it has never been pretty. I have to go through Google, enter a string of weird numbers and letters that GoDaddy rarely accepts, then stare a screen written by techs for techs. But after three or four tries and minimal wailing, I found the magic combination, logged in—and encountered a screen that looked nothing like the instructions on the Blogger page, which I still had open in a separate window while I nurtured the vain hope that Blogger would tell me what to do next. I clicked on one option after another. DS Settings? No. DS is not the same as DNS: what was I thinking? CNAME records? Maybe, but what is a CNAME? According to GoDaddy, it is an alias for a subdomain beneath the main domain name, which you can indicate with @. Yes, no kidding. Makes perfect sense, right? That's what I thought. Time to call in the big guns.

By a stroke of good fortune, my son—who not only graduated from a university guaranteed to make a Tiger Mother drool but has spent the last few years building websites from scratch—was in the house. Surely he could figure this one out. So I called him. It sounded more like a whimper, but he responded right away. Once in my office, he looked at the page. He looked at the instructions. He noted that they did not match. I agreed. He clicked around and announced that I must be on the wrong site. I said I didn't think so, since my only access to GoDaddy went through Google Apps, and Google Apps had dumped me here. We discussed the options, while I interjected, "Don't log me out! I'll never get back in," and he assured me he hadn't touched a thing. After a while, he had to leave—problem still unsolved. I thanked him, wondering who writes a set of instructions so complicated that even someone who designs his own websites cannot untangle them, let alone how the writer of such instructions imagines that people like me can follow them.

By then, I was feeling like the proverbial chimp who might produce a Shakespeare play by randomly tapping on the keys. If I altered the DNS settings, would my website explode? Lock me out permanently? Collapse into some Internet black hole, become dust on the information superhighway?

Well, to cut a long story short, through pure dumb luck and a quirky memory, I eventually stumbled over the right adjustment to the CNAME record. Five minutes later, I had redirected my blog to display on my website and had even posted the right link to my author page on Amazon.com. I switched to focusing on trying to persuade Blogger to show a comment box so that people who visit my blog can post—the reason I started using Blogger in the first place. That took another two hours and the help of another author to test it out (thank you, Courtney!). But I still have only the vaguest sense of what I did to make it work. There has to be a better way.

So this post ends on a high note. Maybe I’ll even find out what Blogger expects from my profile picture someday....

*A paraphrase of the subtitle to Dr. Strangelove.

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