Facebook Like Box is blank/empty in some browsers

Recently, I discovered that my custom Facebook Like Box on my website was totally empty or blank, but only within all versions of Internet Explorer and still working fine in certain other browsers. (I run all my versions of Explorer in a virtualization environment.)

At first, I thought that I overlooked something in my code. After rearranging some code and inspecting the DOM, I still could not see any problems, but yet the Like Box remained invisible.

Then I thought that Facebook updated their Like Box code making mine obsolete, so I updated it to the latest version… still invisible.

Finally, I found a thread on StackOverflow that had the solution. Apparently, if you have any age or country restrictions on your Facebook Page, the Like Box will remain invisible unless you’re logged into Facebook in that particular browser. Sort of makes sense, since Facebook cannot validate your age or country unless you’re logged in.

The solution is simple, remove all age and country restrictions from your Facebook Page forcing the Like Box to always appear on your website.

It seems weird that they give you this tool, but yet there’s no graceful degradation for the very common situation where a visitor may not be logged into Facebook. Rather than breaking your website layout, it seems that they could have put a placeholder or some other generic content into the Like Box for any unauthenticated visitors.

Point & Click Geolocating on your own Google Map

There are many ways to find the latitude/longitude coordinates on a Google Map:

  • You can create a map at Google and pull the coordinates of the center point from the query string of the permalink.
  • You can right-click on the map at Google, go to “What’s Here” which creates a marker, then when you hover that marker, you’ll see the geographical coordinates.
  • You can use Google Earth, which shows the coordinates in the corner of the screen as you move the cursor around.

No matter how easy these various techniques might seem, getting the Latitude/Longitude of a larger number of map points can become quite tedious.

Let’s say you’re using Google Maps JavaScript API to create an embedded map for your website and you need to draw a line or polygon through a long series of map coordinates. Now what?

Easy fix. During map development, this chunk of JavaScript integrated into your own Google Map JavaScript will give you an info window containing the coordinates wherever you click.

As long as your map object is named map, you’re all set. Of course, if you have a polygon on the map already, you may have trouble clicking on it. In that case, change map to the name of your polygon object and continue.

The info window will stay open until you close it which is handy for mapping out a line of coordinates… just cut & paste each lat/long into the JavaScript that makes your lines and polygons.

Once you’re done creating your custom Google map, simply remove this piece of code. (unless you want your website visitors to have access to this great feature too.)

Working DEMO: http://jsfiddle.net/X7vHG/

Integrate Tooltipster with jQuery Validate

Prerequisites:

Tooltipster Plugin version 2.1 or 3.0 (The raw code for version 2.1 can be found inside the first jsFiddle below.)
jQuery Validate Plugin

First, initialize the Tooltipster plugin (with any options) on all specific form elements that will display errors:

Second, use Tooltipster’s advanced options along with the success: and errorPlacement: callback functions built into the Validate plugin to automatically show and hide the tooltips as follows:

Working Demo: jsfiddle.net/2DUX2

Note that this code example takes advantage of the new Tooltipster API features released in version 2.1 on 2/12/13

For Tooltipster version 3.0

The latest version of Tooltipster, version 3.0, is supposed to be working more correctly than version 2.1.

That’s fine, except that an animation flicker is now occurring on every single keystroke even when no content has changed. I suppose we could disable the default onkeyup option in jQuery Validate, but when multiple rules are used, the user would not be aware of his data entry violation until after leaving the field or clicking the submit button.

The workaround is to set the updateAnimation option to false.

Demo: jsfiddle.net/2DUX2/2/

I’ve made a suggestion to the developer to simply check the new incoming content against the existing content and only run the animation when they’re different. I can see other practical applications for this… any situation where the same content is sent repeatedly but yet we still want an animation to occur when/if it changes. I’ll update this posting as the situation warrants.

UPDATE:

The Tooltipster developer made the following suggestion to preserve the message update animation in version 3.0, which works very nicely. From within the jQuery Validate plugin’s errorPlacement callback function, this simple code makes sure the error message is not blank and has changed before calling Tooltipster’s show method. This has the added benefit of greatly reducing the number of calls to Tooltipster.

Demo: jsfiddle.net/2DUX2/3/

404 errors (url: /a) in Google Webmaster Tools

As you may already know, I’ve been a Web Developer since 1999 and run Website Setup dot net.

I use Google Webmaster Tools for several of my and my customers’ websites. Recently, under Diagnostics > Crawl Errors, I discovered quite a few 404 (not found) errors pointing to the same non-existent location:

http://baudindentalmission.org/a

Sure, a 404 error is totally expected. After all, the “/a” directory does not exist, however, the question remains, how did the Google-bot get the idea to crawl there in the first place? Perhaps a programming error on my part or a typo?

Well, this is strange, I’m now seeing it on more than one site and I’m finding other people complaining about the same thing suddenly appearing in their Webmaster Tools Dashboards.

Let’s now examine my Dashboard’s Linked From data:

http://baudindentalmission.org/donate.html
http://baudindentalmission.org/haiti.html
http://baudindentalmission.org/about.html

Hmm, no clues there. Nothing in any of those pages link to a “/a” location.

Let’s dig further into the JavaScript Includes. Searching the first JavaScript file (which happens to be the jQuery JavaScript Library) for “/a”…

We find this occurrence…

What’s that doing in there? Actually, it doesn’t matter… it’s part of jQuery and very smart programmers spend countless hours developing, troubleshooting and refining jQuery… so, for this discussion, we’ll just trust them. What’s more important is that the Googlebot is actually crawling around inside an external JavaScript file, presumably searching for content. Why? Ask Google.

Personally, I fail to see the value in this practice of crawling JavaScript. If it’s searching for malware or some SEO trickery then great, but it shouldn’t be following things it thinks (assumes) are valid links and creating 404 errors. If it’s crawling JavaScript in order to figure out your site navigation, then shame on Google for rewarding such a poor programming practice. (Your content and code should be two separate things!) Malware or some goofy JavaScript navigation system, either way, these things should be penalized with lower rankings or removed from Google altogether.

What’s even more odd is that the particular JavaScript file it’s crawling is jQuery itself. Since jQuery is part of the Google Libraries API, you’d think it would quickly realize crawling around in there is kinda pointless.

Here is a jQuery Bug Report on this very issue. According to notes in that report, this is not something they intend on fixing. I can’t say that I’d blame them for this attitude, Google should not be crawling JavaScript if it doesn’t know how to properly parse it for valid content. (Although as mentioned before, I can’t imagine how one could argue that JavaScript should contain any content at all. Best practices indicate always maintaining a separation between content and code.)

What’s the solution to all this? You don’t want a bunch of 404 errors piling up… although Google is smart enough to drop bad URL’s from their index, they can also penalize a site for this by reducing the crawl rate.

Solution 1: Redirect “/a” to your home page with a 301 in your htaccess file. This approach has two minor issues. One, that your server is doing the work by sending the Googlebot back to your home page and two, the page never existed in any Search Index, theoretically, there should be no reason to redirect it elsewhere.

Solution 2: Block this location from the Googlebot in your robots.txt file. This puts the responsibility on Google to stay out of someplace they don’t belong.

After several weeks, you should see these erroneous 404 errors disappear. Good luck!

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EDIT: In this article, I’m only assuming this is an issue for sites that host jQuery locally. I cannot imagine the google-bot trying to crawl scripts hosted on it’s own CDN!

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EDIT 2: Here is an official response from a Google employee posting in Google Groups:

JohnMu
Google Employee
4/28/11 – 4:39 AM

Hi guys

Just a short note on this — yes, we are picking up the “/a” link for many sites from jQuery JavaScript. However, that generally isn’t a problem, if we see “/a” as being a 404, then that’s fine for us. As with other 404-URLs, we’ll list it as a crawl error in Webmaster Tools, but again, that’s not going to be a problem for crawling, indexing, or ranking. If you want to make sure that it doesn’t trigger a crawl error in Webmaster Tools, then I would recommend just 301 redirecting that URL to your homepage (disallowing the URL will also bring it up as a crawl error – it will be listed as a URL disallowed by robots.txt).

I would also recommend not explicitly disallowing crawling of the jQuery file. While we generally wouldn’t index it on its own, we may need to access it to generate good Instant Previews for your site.

So to sum it up: If you’re seeing “/a” in the crawl errors in Webmaster Tools, you can just leave it like that, it won’t cause any problems. If you want to have it removed there, you can do a 301 redirect to your homepage.

Cheers
John