Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Learning To Blog VII: How To Use Trackbacks

Lately have been reading Harvey's blogging tips, and taking them as courses. I'm hoping that if I am able to learn from those smarter and more experienced, I'll move up to semi-adequate as a blogger. And then one day, adequate. And then, to take over the world.

Wait, that's not me, that's Frank J. I get the two of us confused. One of us in an egomaniac with violent tendencies. The other lives in Florida.

Anyway, I'm learning to blog. And I'm proud to say that I've done some things right. But there are some things I haven't done right. And I'll continue to work on those things.

But now it's time to take the next "lesson" in Harvey's series: How To Use Trackbacks. Like the other lessons, I'll list excerpts from his posts and my comments on them. But, I suggest you read his entire post, particularly if you're interested in learning to blog.

In all the previous lessons, I read them as I wrote my post. However, this is a recent addition to Harvey's list of blogging tips/instruction, and I read it when he posted it. So this isn't the first time I've seen it, and I've had time to think about what he wrote and implement much of it.
On Trackbacks

You've heard of trackbacks, but you may not know what they are. Here's an excellent short explanation from Michael of Cruft:
1) The purpose of TrackBack is to let a site know that you are referencing them on your on site.
2) The TrackBack URL is different than the regular permanent link URL.
3) TrackBacks are fun.  You should use them.
He also gives a longer explanation, with pictures.

Which is all well & good if you use Movable Type, but how do you send them if you're stuck (using some) blogging software that doesn't do automatic trackbacks?
That was me when I started. I used Blogger. There are several others that don't have TrackBack capabilities.
Well, you can go to Haloscan, which give you the code for installing the Trackback feature. It'll even set it up for you automatically if you have Blogger.
Yes, it will. I discovered that when I installed HaloScan on my old Blogger site. So, I'm 1-0. Good for me.

All you need to do is fill out the Wizbang Standalone Trackback Pinger.
I have used it when TypePad's TrackBack functionality has not worked. So, I'm 2-0.

Oh, and I have links to it, and to Adam Kalsey's TrackBack form, near the top of the left-hand column.
But what if neither one of you has trackbacks enabled ... ?

Simple. You can use the "poor man's trackback", which is where you just leave a comment on their site like: "Nice post. I blogged about it here:" and leave the permalink to your post. As long as your post is related to their post, this is NOT a breach of netiquette. ...
I don't think I've ever done this (linking in a comment). He's right, though. It's definitely and option to consider. So, I'm 2-1.

By the way, one of the things that has caused much grief is unknowingly violating netiquette (Internet etiquette). If I become aware that something is expected or if something is expected to not happen, I try to follow proper etiquette.
Now here's the BIG question: WHEN do you use trackbacks? ...

Remember, the purpose of sending a trackback is to let the person whose post you're linking know that you're linking them. If you know that this person is a daily reader of your blog and will see your post anyway, there's no reason to ping them. ...

The main people you want to ping are the people who don't know you exist, so you can get on their radar. Also as a courtesy to the host, you should - if you enter a Carnival or link-fest - ping the round-up, just to let them know that their hard work was both noticed and appreciated.
I think I've done this properly. If I've failed this, it's because I just screwed up, not because I willingly chose not to. Of course, that falls under unknowingly violating netiquette.

In summary:
Trackbacks are a courtesy to the person you're linking, and not mandatory.
If you have to do it manually, use the Wizbang Standalone Trackback Pinger.
If they don't have trackbacks, you can leave a link in their comments.
Trackbacks can bring you extra site traffic.

Harvey has more, and I suggest you read all of his post. But I want to add one more thing. He mentioned pinging off-topic posts just to call attention to yourself. However, there are times when this is acceptable. That's when it's spelled out that such pings are welcome. One example would the the Outside The Beltway Traffic Jam. It's a wrap-up of posts the OTB crew found interesting, and they encourage submissions via TrackBack.

I do the same thing with my meal-time posts. I list about five posts I found of interest, and encourage others to submit a post, too. If you do participate in one of these "roundups" where they encourage TrackBacks as submissions, don't forget to include the link. TrackBacks go with links. If you don't link, don't TrackBack.

One other thing: Who the heck do I think I am? I'm supposed to be taking these lessons, and I end this post by acting like I'm teaching this course. Totally out of line, yes. But I think it's a valid addition. Let me know what you think.

Oh, the next lesson will be "Never lose another post." That ought to be interesting.


  1. Re: one-way trackbacks... AMEN!
    Worst blogging offense of all! No, wait, trolling is worse, but this is a close second.
    Thanks for bringing it up. One of these days I'm going to do an entire rant post about one-way TB's! ;-)

  2. Open trackback post!

    [a.k.a. Gimme a Break, at least for a few hours]

    Link to this post and send a trackback to show off your stuff!

    If you don't have trackback capability, go HERE or HERE to send a manual trackback.

    For more information on trackbacks, see basil...

  3. Thanks. And I look forward to that post!

  4. Trackbacks

    SO THIS GUY wants to talk trackbacks. There are lots of people that need to read the whole thing. Don't make me name names.

  5. not if I don't beat you to it, Beth! eh, who am I kidding? I'll just wait for Beth to rant then trackback to it. ;)

    Good job Basil, another good how-to-blog post, I might finally get it one of these days...

  6. jody:
    I think I'll TrackBack to it, but not link to it. But she'd hurt me ... and not in a good way ... so I better not.

    Thanks for the kind words, although they are due Harvey, not me.

  7. I'm glad you made this post,Basil. I just got Haloscan this week,and began fiddling with the trackbacks for the first time yesterday. I think I understand it now, but the netiquette aspect, I didn't know til now.

    One thing I don't know about, is why when I tried to ping you and moehawk at the same time, it said I was trying to send too many. moehawk's went through, but yours didn't. Ah well, I'll try again tonight after you've all done headlines.

    Anyhoo,much thanks to you and Harvey,Basil. These "How To" posts have really been helpful.

  8. Just this week Moe? That would explain it. :-)
    Harvey, basil, everything I learned about the mechanics of blogging I learn right here. Now kill a forest and get it to the rest of the world! And of course you can have a contest to come up with a name for your book. I nominate "Blogging for Short Bus Riders".

  9. Moe:
    Although I like TypePad, it's not perfect. And one area of frustration is the fact that many times TrackBacks don't always go through. Part of the problem is their system to prevent TrackBack Spam may also be stopping real TrackBacks. I don't know a workaround other than re-send if you can confirm it didn't go through. If, after 3 times a TrackBack fails, I'll use one of the forms to send a TrackBack. One of those usually works.

    And if you haven't, go to Bad Example and let Harvey know. I don't know if he realizes just how helpful those posts are. He'd appreciate it, I'm certain.

  10. DB:
    Same thing. Let Harvey know how much his work is appreciated.

  11. basil,

    I have a question. I added the auto discovery thingy from Ogre's site for haloscan users.

    Has it helped yoou to track back to my site at all. I can't test it from blogger.

  12. Honestly, I don't know. I may be confused, but I thought AutoDiscovery dealt with your site automatically checking for TrackBacks on your posts.

    I'm manually entering TrackBack information on when I publish a post.

    Sorry I'm no help.

    Anyone reading this who can offer insight?

  13. You guys are making me blush :-)

    About the autodiscovery code for Blogger... all it does is make your Haloscan trackback link visible to the software of people who are linking to you who have an autodiscovery feature for sending pings.

    For example, if I (an MT user) were to link to Mustang's site, MT would automatically detect his trackback URL and send a ping to him. This saves me a few clicks from having to copy & paste the URL manually.

    If Mustang links to my site... the code makes no difference whatsoever. He still has to ping me manually.

  14. Thanks, Harvey. That helps a lot!


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