Monday, 30 May 2005

Technorati: membership; claiming blogs






This post is an intro or tutorial on:
  • Technorati membership and what you get for it;
  • claiming your blog at Technorati - what it means, how to do it (even if you don't get the emailed code from Technorati), and why you'd want to; plus
  • a possible security issue with who can claim which blogs.
All this seems to be a bit of a mystery, in some respects, because the Technorati help pages aren't as clear as they could be and I have a feeling some of it is out of date as well (you'll see why, below) plus the procedure for claiming a blog can be confusing and doesn't seem to have been fully documented.

Why become a Technorati member?

To me, the best reasons are because you can then:
  • "claim" your blogs (great for bloggers), and
  • set up "watchlists" (whether you're a blogger or just want to keep an eye on blogs).
As the Technorati help says:
"What does it mean to "claim" a Weblog?
By claiming the weblogs that you (co-)author, your profile information will appear (if you wish) with your photo or image next to all searches that involve your weblog. When people click on your image, they can learn more about you — they see the information you want to provide to them about yourself — current contact information and other blogs you author. Naturally your profile information is completely within your control and all provided information is governed by the Technorati privacy policy."

[Added November 2005:] Technorati have now clarified that "Claiming your blog on Technorati allows you to customize your blog's display in our search results. You can add your photo, add a blog description, and place your blog in up to 20 categories in Blog Finder. Plus, if you claim your blog with the Technorati Embed, you can enable cool Technorati features on your site, like a search box, "blogs that link here" link, and more!"

Expanding on what Technorati say, as a member (it's free to join) you can:

Profile pic

"Add a photograph to your profile and it will appear next to every search referencing your site" - the best reason. A good pic is great for drawing attention to your blog entries in the results list. (Strangely, this doesn't work on Technorati's tag pages - no profile pics appear there.)

You can upload a photo or image to Technorati in the Member Tools area (after you login), under the Profile tab (500k max size, in JPEG, non-animated GIF, BMP or PNG format). If you've claimed a blog but haven't uploaded any pic, people will see a generic icon instead which they can still click to view your Technorati profile - it looks like this:

Profile info?

"Help other people find your site's posts and learn more about you and your writing" - I'm not sure what they mean by this point unless they're talking about your Technorati profile (with info about you) being displayed against your blog entries too (see the Technorati profile help). In terms of people finding your posts, well I believe Technorati's spider will crawl the blogs even of non-members. It would be interesting to know though if it prioritises members' blogs.

However the Profile tab in the Member Tools area doesn't let you say much about yourself. Just your first name, last name, email, company name if any, zipcode and country (and whether you have a blog). It's also odd that although Technorati say clicking on your image will provide people with "current contact information", it doesn't actually do that. It just shows the member's name and links to their claimed blogs, that's all.

If I were Technorati I'd either enable that feature (see the Wishlist below) or change the help to remove the inconsistency - pedant that I am!

Watchlists

"Create free watchlists utilizing RSS to stay informed and track conversations as they happen" - yes this is also a very good reason to sign up at Technorati, as only members can create Technorati watchlists to keep an eye on certain topics e.g. mentions of their name. I've explained watchlists previously and I think they're pretty useful, as a ego search tool for bloggers if nothing else! Tracking topics of interest to you is of course helpful, but if it's a popular topic you can get somewhat snowed under.

Technorati searchlet

"Enable your readers to search your blog on your own web pages with the Technorati Searchlet" - that would probably be the main advantage of being a member (aside from the profile pic and watchlists points). The searchlet is just a form which can be included in your blog template and will enable your readers to search, from your blog page, Technorati's index of your blog or, if they choose, all blogs indexed by Technorati.

I don't use a searchlet myself. I use Freefind instead. I won't go into detail as to why, in this post. Suffice it to say that I've found the searchlet (which to be fair is still in beta) to be buggy in the past, searching all blogs not just mine even when "this blog" is selected; and furthermore it's beset by the same limitations as a search on Technorati itself: it won't search old blog posts (including new changes to old posts), because Technorati's spider won't crawl and index old posts that are no longer on your main blog page, and sometimes it doesn't index even new posts for yonks (which I mean to discuss separately in a future post).

Summary

The profile pic and watchlists are definitely good enough reasons in themselves for every blogger to become a Technorati member, in my view, given that Technorati seems to be the most used blog search engine, because I think your blog entries stand out more in the search results list if there's a profile pic next to them, and watchlists are pretty useful.

"Claiming a blog"

But how does Technorati know which blogs in the search results to display your pic against? That's where claiming a blog comes into it - if you successfully claim a blog, your profile pic (or a generic icon if you haven't uploaded a pic) will show up by that blog's entries in the Technorati search results list. That's why it's worth claiming your blogs. (And yes you can claim more than one blog, and blogs with multiple authors can be claimed by each one of them too).

So if you don't know what's "claiming a blog", that's all it is - it just means laying claim to a blog as yours so that Technorati will show your profile pic and profile info against posts from that blog in Technorati search results; e.g. I've claimed http://consumingexperience.blogspot.com.

How do you claim a blog?

According to the Technorati help:
"Enter the main URL for each weblog that you wish to claim in the members area. You will receive an email from Technorati with a snippet of HTML code to add into your weblog configuration. Simply cut-and-paste the HTML into your weblog template (usually it is best to put it into your sidebar in a blogroll or external links section), and save your changes! For most blogging packages, that is all you have to do. The next time Technorati indexes your weblog, it will see the special HTML code, and Technorati will update your account to show that your weblog claim is now complete."

Or as Technorati put it a different way (on a members' only page):
"You can "claim" your weblogs in the member's area by submitting the weblog URL and then adding a small HTML snippet to the front page of your weblog. Technorati verifies that you are indeed an author of the weblog by spidering your weblog and looking for the special code you placed on your weblog.

Once you've done this, your picture and profile will be associated with all links to your weblog in any Technorati search."

So, to claim a blog, first you have to sign up for Technorati membership, then fill in the names of your blogs on the Claimed Weblogs" page" (accessible only to members who are logged in). But the second step is more confusing.

Why didn't I get the email with the code?

OK, so Technorati do say (e.g. on this page) that on claiming a blog you'll be sent an email with code to include in your blog template. They say you should insert the code usually where you put your blog links and other related items.

But that email isn't automatically sent when you claim a blog - someone at Technorati support has to manually send it to you (or they did when I claimed my Consuming Experience blog a few months ago). So if you don't get your email after a couple of days, you could try emailing Technorati support to chase it.

However, you may not need that email to claim your blog, as it doesn't seem to work like that anymore (and I think Technorati need to clear up what the procedure really is these days, and update their help pages). These days, if you fill in the "Claim a weblog" form with your blog URL, you get taken to a page which gives you two choices:
  • Quick claim your blog - by filling in the username and password you use to login to your blog management/compose pages (e.g. Blogger login details), or
  • Editing your blog template or blog/blogroll list - by adding certain code (the same code which Technorati would have emailed you, before) to your blog - if you'd rather not let Technorati have your blog's user/password details.
I think that if you claim your blog in the second way, Technorati call it "claimed by embedding" (i.e. including that code in your blog).

The blogroll option seems pretty straightforward, and from some testing I've found that what it contains in essence is a link to the Technorati profile of the member who's filled in the claim form. Obviously it's the main option for those who can't edit their blog templates but have a blogroll, and don't want to give their blog login info/password to Technorati.

What does the Technorati code do?

The code has two main purposes.

First, it's supposed to serve a security function. When Technorati next crawls your blog and sees the code they've given you, that should confirm to them that the blog you've claimed really is yours (as you have enough control over that particular blog's contents to be able to insert that specific code into the blog, which you shouldn't be able to do of course unless you really were the owner or co-author of that blog). But there's a possible problem here, which I'll discuss below.

Second, the code will display (on your blog page), at the location where you've pasted the code:
  • a link to your Technorati profile
  • a Technorati bubble icon which when clicked does a search on Technorati for the name of your claimed blog (also known as the Technorati "cosmos" for your blog - explained in more detail in this previous post), and
  • your Technorati profile photo (if you choose to show it).
If you don't want to display the cosmos link or your Technorati profile pic for a particular blog, you can just untick those options in the "Show on blog" line under that blog name in your Claimed Weblogs member page, and I think the Javascript file (see below) on Technorati's servers is then adjusted accordingly. A clever way of doing it. As it's possible to leave out your profile pic and Cosmos link, I suspect that the only bit that you need to include in your blog, the bit that properly confirms your claim to that blog to Technorati, is the link to your Technorati profile.

Deconstructing the Technorati blog claiming code

That code simply comprises a link to a Javascript file (ending .js) on Technorati's servers, which looks like this (where "SOMETHING" will be a unique reference that relates only to you and the claimed blog):
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://technorati.com/embed/SOMETHING.js"></script>
What that file does is to use Javascript to write certain HTML to your blog page. Once I figured that out, I got rid of the .js link and instead customised my template to insert manually just the bits which I wanted (this was in the days before Technorati offered the ability to tick just the bits I wanted, or perhaps I just didn't notice that option when I first claimed my blog!). For instance, I didn't want or need the Technorati profile pic to display again in my sidebar, because I already had my pic at the top of my blog.

So here's the contents of the Technorati .js file:
<!--
document.write('<div class=\'technorati\'><p><a href=\'http://www.technorati.com/profile/YourTechnoratiUsername'>Technorati Profile</a>');
document.write('<a href=\'http://www.technorati.com/cosmos/search.html?url=http&#37;3A%2F%2FYourBlogURL.com\'><img src=\'http://static.technorati.com/images/bubble_icon.gif\' align=\'absmiddle\' hspacing=\'5\' height=\'20\' width=\'24\' alt=\'Get Conversations about YourBlogName\' /></a>');
document.write('</p><img src=\'http://www.technorati.com/progimages/photo.jpg?uid=YourTechnoratiProfilePicID\' height=\'60\' width=\'40\'>');
document.write('</div>');
// -->
As Javascript people will know, that script has just the same effect as if you inserted the following HTML into your template:
<div class='technorati'>
<p><a href='http://www.technorati.com/profile/YourTechnoratiUsername'>Technorati Profile</a>
<a href='http://www.technorati.com/cosmos/search.html?url=http://YourBlogURL'>
<img src='http://static.technorati.com/images/bubble_icon.gif' align='absmiddle' hspacing='5' height='20' width='24' alt='Get Conversations about YourBlogName' /></a></p>
<img src='http://www.technorati.com/progimages/photo.jpg?uid=YourTechnoratiProfilePicID' height='60' width='40'>
</div>
So if you want to customise the code by hand (instead of using the tick options), it's easiest to forget the Javascript version (whether the .js file or a version of the "document.write" stuff above) and just stick to HTML. As can see the first "a href" inserts a link to your Technorati profile; the second a link to your blog's cosmos; and the img bit displays your Technorati profile pic. The advantage of using HTML is that you could insert the profile link in one place and the pic and cosmos links in other places in your sidebar, etc, as you wish - whereas using the Technorati code, those links will all be kept together. As mentioned earlier, I suspect the only bit you need to claim your blog (if that, see below!) is the first bit.

Of course you'll need to change the code where indicated (YourTechnoratiUsername, YourBlogURL, YourBlogName and 'http://www.technorati.com/progimages/photo.jpg?uid=YourTechnoratiProfilePicID') to refer instead to your Technorati member username, your own blog URL, your blog's name and the URL of your Technorati profile pic (if you've uploaded a pic, that is - you can get the URL by just rightclicking on your profile pic in the search results or on your member's Profile page and choosing "Properties").

Can you claim your blog by code alone? Or just filling in the form?

I wonder if, as long as you include that link to your Technorati profile in your template, you could claim a blog even if you don't officially fill in the form on the Claimed Weblogs page. So I'd be interested to hear from anyone who's a member but hasn't filled in the form tries this and gets it to work. I tried it with a new blog (which I'll be transferring to eventually), by embedding the Technorati code in it, but it didn't show up in my claimed blog list.

However, it may work the other way round (which is more worrying). When just embedding the code didn't work, I experimented by taking the Technorati code OUT of my new blog's template, and then just entering the blog's URL into the Claimed Weblogs form for claiming a blog. Guess what? My Claimed Weblogs page said my claim was successfully embedded and all I had to do to confirm the claim was to ping Technorati with the URL of the claimed blog. That's worrying (unless it worked because Technorati's spider was looking at a cached version of the blog page, where the profile link was still present).

Security and authentication?

The thing I'm most concerned about is that Technorati seem to have recognised my claim to my blog just upon my filling its name on the form, even before I inserted their code into my template. I don't know about anyone else, but even before I'd got that email from Technorati I'd found, on just logging in to Technorati, that it said my blog had been successfully claimed by me.

I hope they're not doing that anymore, but I've heard about the same thing happening with other bloggers too. And my recent experience with my new blog, where just filling in the form worked to claim the blog although I'd removed the embedded code, suggests it's still happening. I'd much rather it was the other way round - that you can claim a blog by including the link to your Technorati profile in your template or blogroll, but you shouldn't be able to claim a blog just by filling its URL in on the claim form.

Now I know it's hardly likely that anyone will want to hijack a blog on Technorati, because it doesn't give the hijacker much (except to have their pic and Technorati profile show against someone else's blog entries in Technorati search results!). It should be obvious who a blog belongs to, from the blog content itself. Still, there are people who don't know better, and will think a blog is owned by the person whose profile appears against its entry in Technorati's search results. And I wouldn't want it thought that my blog was written by another person!

Plus given the possibility of practical jokers and the like, and the fact that maybe someday Technorati will give more privileges in relation to claimed blogs, it would be helpful to know whether Technorati will be making sure that unclaimed blogs can't be claimed by a Technorati member just submitting the blog URL in the blog claiming form, without the right code being included in the blog itself and checked by Technorati's spider. And I hope that Technorati's terms will enable them to terminate the membership of anyone they find trying to hijack someone else's blog like that.

I haven't experimented by trying to fill in the name of someone else's (unclaimed) blog in the form but I do wonder if it would let me…Is anyone willing to volunteer to let me try it with theirs? I promise to un-claim it afterwards (or, officially, "Cancel the claim"), if it works!!

Even if the authentication is sorted out, I can foresee people trying to claim a blog by putting that code (but using their OWN Technorati member/username) into a comment or trackback excerpt on the to-be-hijacked blog, if HTML is allowed in that blog's comments etc. and the blog is set up to display comments on the main blog page (which some are). But maybe it's just me being nasty and suspicious. Other systems authenticate claims to blogs in exactly the same way too so if that's a real security flaw, it's common to them all, not just Technorati.

Wishlist

I know Technorati's team is small and they're working flat out on areas where they can make the most improvements to their service, but here is my own wishlist in relation to Technorati membership and claiming blogs (and I'd be interested to see if anyone else agrees):

Authentication/security - make sure that embedding or quickclaim are the only ways to claim a blog, not just filling in the blog URL on the claim form.

Help pages - explain more clearly how blogs can be claimed; if the email route is no longer used, fix the Help to explain exactly what the methods now are and how they work.

Tag pages - Technorati members' profile pics don't appear against entries on Technorati's tag pages, oddly enough. I hope they'll introduce that, for consistency and a seamless service.

Profile page - have more fields to allow people to fill in more info about themselves if they want to; have checkboxes so people can choose which bits they want displayed publicly (e.g. contact info) or to keep private so only Technorati can see them (with all except links to the member's blogs being set to be private by default).


Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

14 comments:

Niall said...

Thank you for your comments! I want to let you know the Technorati team is listening to your feedback.

Regarding quickclaims, Technorati only passes this information along to your web host: we do not store the data.

Regarding claims using links, we require our members to use a special profile link that redirects to a profile page. That link is generated when you attempt to claim your weblog.

The best way to check if your blog claim was successful is to check your member profile page. You may see a premature message that your claim was successful and awaiting a visit from our spider, but we do not believe the claim is successful until we see it in our index after visiting your page. If you would like to experiment to make sure this is the case you are welcome to create blog claims against my weblog, niallkennedy.com/blog/.

What information would you like displayed on your profile page? We respect there may be privacy concerns from our members and we require only an e-mail address and username to become a member. What other information do you feel is useful to a community interested in finding out more about you and your writing?

Thank you for spending part of your weekend to help the Technorati community stay informed.

Niall Kennedy
Community Manager
Technorati

SatishTalim said...

Once again, a great and useful post. I am a fan of Technorati and use the tag feature extensively, again thanks to one of your post on this.

When I claimed two of my blogs, I did get an email immediatley from Technorati. However, emails to their support team are never answered. I had to ask a blogger friend at Technorati to help me out when I had faced a problem, last.

ChickyBabe said...

Another great post on one of my favourite topics. I always thank you in my mind as I create my tags. You're the Technorati Queen!

RedRyder said...

Technorati should put you on their payroll. You write better help files. ;-)

Improbulus said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Niall, I will be putting up a separate post about your comments, I appreciate hearing from you. (And I hope you are taking note of e.g. satishtalim's issues with Technorati support!).

redryder - I wish! But this way they're getting it for free aren't they? Still it would be good to get more specific info from them which I'd then be happy to report on. And yep being paid would be nice!

TaB said...

This get’s printed!

I found this makes more sense than how *they tell it, I dabbled a tiny bit with terrawhattie stuffs before I left, im going to test more and try a few things you suggested.

p.s. I LOVE how you reigned in the code snippets ;) Bravo!

Well done Improb!!

Improbulus said...

Ta G-BOAC! Look forward to hearing about your experiences with it. (And the improvement in code display is all down to RR52 - as improvements usually are!)

Scott said...

I stopped by because I found this post on Technorati. I'm having a heck of a time getting my blog on Technorati. It used to show up without problem. Then something happened. No idea. I then thought there was a conspiracy against Blogger users. I'm still not convinced there isn't but your posts end up there so my conspiracy theory is starting to have holes in it. I've been traveling the pages of Blogger Blogspot users and viewing their code just so I can see if they are doing anything different. Haven't been able to figure it out.
If anyone has some tips, let me know. Thanks.

Improbulus said...

Kingtone, problems with Technorati appear to be escalating and I think now merit a separate post, which I am going to put up in a day or two (have been very busy!), so please check back in a couple of days.

Could you just clarify, when you say your blog used to show up, but don't anymore, do they show on a standard search but not the tag pages, or do they not show up either way, on Technorati?

Scott said...

Well, they used to show up on a standard page like: http://www.technorati.com/tag/Firefox
If I do a Technorati URL search for my blog I do find links to it so I guess the general searching is working.
I wonder if I need technorati's code (as you've outlined in this entry) on my blog pages?
Yesterday in a fit of frustration I 'unclaimed' my blog and can't get it back so I'm working on that too.

Rose DesRochers said...

A very useful post.

Mike Carter said...

I would like to state that;

This is all well and good for those that can claim their blogs, what about the blogs that cannot get claimed. They just have to be content with "error, your blog cannot be claimed, please try later".

This has happened to me, and I have sent several emails to technoratti - over the past 4 months, with no response what so ever. I am just going to have to have my blog as untechnorativiable.

Claimed by feedburner - no problem.

Improbulus said...

Sorry to hear that Mike. Have you tried contacting Dave Sifry the Technorati CEO direct? He made the offer that people having trouble with Technorati could get in touch with him, and gave his email and even mobile phone number.

See this post for details.

Do let me know if you manage to get through, and what transpires.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! That was really helpful! I was scouring the net for this information!