Tuesday, 21 March 2006

Blogpot spam blogs: restoring Blogger navbar or flag

[Added 29 March 2006:] For a simple bookmarklet or favelet you can click to flag a Blogspot spam blog that you're viewing (e.g. if the script below doesn't work to bring back the flag), see this post.

Previously I'd blogged about spam blogs ("splogs") hosted on Blogger's free Blogspot, which cunningly hide the flag in Blogger's navbar (that you see along the top of the page on Blogspot blogs) so that you can't report the blog to Blogger as spam. I wrote a simple Greasemonkey script for the free Firefox browser to restore the flag in the case of one specific way used to get rid of the flag.

But of course there are many ways for splogs to stop people from reporting them, by hiding not just the flag but the entire navbar itself, etc - which is in fact against Blogger's TOS (terms of service), and could in itself expose the blog to deletion by Blogger.

Well now the incomparable Kirk has greatly enhanced that Greasemonkey script so that it restores the navbar/flag for 6 hiding methods seen, as Kirk puts it, "in the wild":

1) Flag button hidden with script
2) Navbar hidden with CSS
3) Navbar hidden with noembed tags
4) Navbar flag/"Next Blog" links overlaid by banners or other content, so you can't click on them (like the "Make Poverty History" banner) - the banner is still there but you'll now be able to click on Next Blog
5) Navbar commented out
6) Navbar hidden with noscript tags.

Magical Sheep Blogspot Navbar Restorer

So, I now give you the Magical Sheep Blogspot Navbar Restorer script, version 0.7 beta (direct link to script).

(How to install Greasemonkey and its user scripts. NB - if you were using my original Blogspot flag restorer script mentioned in my previous post, it's best to uninstall it first in Firefox (menu Tools, Manage User Scripts, click on the name of the Blogspot Flag Restorer script in the list on the left, then click the Uninstall button and OK) before you install this version).

The script restores the flag or navbar in all the situations listed above. Of course it can't deal with every single sneaky method used by spammers to hide the navbar, but it addresses the ones which are the most common at the moment (March 2006). If you come across any other naughty hiding tricks by spammers or have any other feedback or comments, do let Kirk and me know, and the script will be updated to deal with them if possible.

This script could be useful not just to flag spam blogs but also to go to the Next Blog, e.g.if you're surfing Blogspot blogs and want to move on to the Next Blog, but can't because the current blog has removed or hidden the navbar.

The script shouldn't interfere with any Webpages other than loading back in the navbar or flag, but if you have a blog-related problem you can always try disabling Greasemonkey in Firefox (menu Tools, Extensions, scroll to find Greasemonkey in the list, rightclick on it, choose Disable), just in case... though that's do with Greasemonkey generally, rather than this particular script. We don't think there is anything in this script which would mess up a page, it hasn't yet done that or crashed Firefox during the time we've been testing it privately, but you never know - so if you use the seript please note that you do so at your risk.


Red border. When this script restores the flag button which has been hidden by a script, or when it adds the whole navbar back after it's been hidden, you will see a red border around the flag or navbar to show that the blog has tried to hide the flag or navbar. In rare cases the navbar may be restored without the red indicator border, but most likely this is due to coding errors rather than mischief.

Formatting. Sometimes the restored navbar may have some "gaps" or funky formatting. This is usually due to sloppy coding in relation to the original blog (some people leave out the closing </style> tag which keeps the imported Blogger CSS from functioning). In those cases, the Navbar Restorer script reloads just the minimum CSS to get the bar back in place, but nothing more on the formatting/looks front.

Exclusions. If you're using the script but don't want it to restore the navbar on certain blogs, you add those blog to the exclude list as with other Greasemonkey scripts. (To do that, in Firefox go to the Tools menu, Manage User Scripts, click on Blogspot Navbar Restorer in the list on the left, then on the right by the box headed Excluded pages click the Add button and type in the URL of the blog you want to exclude, and repeat the Add process for each blog you want to exclude.)

Trying it out. If you want to test this script out, try looking at these blogs before installing the script (or look at them in Internet Explorer, where the navbar or flag will still be hidden), and then again after installation. Note though that these splogs may not be there forever as no doubt people will now be flagging them!
Script hiding of flag:
Flag 1
Flag 2
CSS hiding of navbar:
There are noembed ones and Make Poverty History banner ones but most aren't spam so I won't list any, I'm sure you can find a few.

So you can now go forth and flag more splogs!

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Craffter said...

not to contradict you imp, but as i have worked redacting contracts.. removing the navbar is not direct violation, that is just what is called "a context note" removing the blogger button however is strictly a direct and high violation of the blogger contract. and until they re-write the contract it will be that way.

Improbulus said...

Thanks for your comment Craffter. The Blogger TOS does say (my emphasis):

"You agree that Pyra, in its sole discretion, may terminate your password, BlogSpot Site, use of the Service or use of any other Pyra service, and remove and discard any Content within the Service, for any reason, including, without limitation, for lack of use or if Pyra believes that you have violated or acted inconsistently with the letter or spirit of the TOS."

So if Blogger say they consider modifying the navbar is a violation, then I think it is! Would be interested to know why you think removing the Blogger button is a direct & high violation though? The Blogger Help page on the button doesn't spell that out. Maybe I've missed the bit in the Blogger help that says so, I'd appreciate it if you could give me the link?

Craffter said...

well, they key in you argument is as follows:

unless the line is explicit like this :


it will not matter.

then that lines in the terms are as vague and as inconsecuential because under that argument ANY kind of modification would be a modification of the service. making you a HIGH infractor imp.

I think reading the last stand on blogger buzz about the msn search really states clearly that blogger don´t gives a damn about modifications in a template.

About the blogger button: well i am with blogger from back day one they exist.

there was a official statement before by pyra on the button, when you check several blogger official templates, you will note that the blogger button has a note that says very explicit: "a blogger button must be present at any part of your template" and things like response from blogger back in the day that said: "you can change your button in any matter you wnat as long as it directs to blogger and is present in your template at all times"

of that i am 100% sure that a blogger representative wrote that!

so, that is where i took to say that it is a direct violation (whatever context that can be taked in that is) to the terms of services. becuase that is the only real response and where there is lines written about removing the blogger button in more than one instance.

i mean, you can still not agree with me, but hey i satnad by my word. ;)

Craffter said...

fuck, i should not write that fast.

Improbulus said...

Thanks Craffter.

I don't take Blogger's statement to mean that any modification to the template is a modification of the service and therefore an infraction, as you seem to suggest - I was merely repeating their recent clear statement that modifying the navbar will be considered a violation of the TOS.

Thanks for the info about the Blogger button. I haven't been able to find anything in the Blogger Help about the button still being compulsory so maybe it isn't, but still I wouldn't risk it. You say a note about that is still in Blogger's official templates? Which ones, out of interest? I haven't had a chance to check yet.

kirk said...

I think that note about the Blogger button is only in a few of the templates still...I think only in the Jason Sutter designs, Simple, Jellyfish, Herbert. If you pull one of them up and look around the button is has that notice. Not my favorites for other reasons, and I believe those are older templates, although I don't know that for sure. Craffter probably does, he's been around blogger for awhile. The newer designs don't say that it's against the TOS to remove the button.

Another place where it would be good if Blogger would just pull in all the information out there and make it consistent.

Improbulus said...

That's interesting Kirk, thanks, I hadn't had a chance to look at those templates yet.

But I dug around a bit more and found these:

Regarding "is Blogger free?", Blogger say:
Yes... The only "payment" we require is that you include a link back to Blogger.com to help spread the word (this button is a good way).

Regarding the navbar, Biz Stone's article on Blogger on "Promoting your blog" (not sure when it was written) said:
The Blogger Navbar replaced mandatory ads a few weeks ago.

Now we know there has to be SOME link back to Blogger (e.g. via their button, but the button doesn't sound compulsory from the above); the Navbar replaced something that was mandatory, that doesn't mean the replacement is itself mandatory, but that rather suggests it is particularly if the button isn't necessary but something linking back to Blogger is. So I think this reinforces my view that they ban removal of the navbar, not just modifying it.

I agree, it wouldn't be at all hard for Blogger to just say "You mustn't modify or remove or hide the navbar if you use Blogspot". Who knows why they haven't...

Anonymous said...

anyone know what to do with this guy

the script was able to bring back up the navbar and everything else but the flag button

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

HERE ARE SOME BLOGS THAT NEED TO BE FLAGGED!! http://www.blogger.com/profile/24049914

Improbulus said...

Thanks for the comments.

If you have trouble flagging a blog with the script, try the bookmarklet - see this post for more info.

Nathan Jolly said...

Hey, just wanted to point out a blog that defeats your script. It's not spam though, it's just a warez monkey. Still, he hides his navbar in such a way that your script doesn't restore it, figured you'd want to update it, if you're still updating it.