Monday, November 7, 2005

HaloScan TrackBacks, but not Comments?

Can you use HaloScan for TrackBacks on your Blogger site but not use HaloScan for Comments?

Of course you can!

But why would you?

Actually, there are plenty of reasons. And there have been a couple of different approaches taken. But we're going to cover the one that I prefer ... even if no one else does.

Who knows? You might like it, too.

Oh, and we're also going to cover some of the issues involved with a manual installation. If you have installed HaloScan manually, or if you plan to, read on. We have some information you might find useful.


First, a little background about HaloScan and Blogger.

Blogger, now owned by Google, is a fairly easy-to-use system for blogging. It has some really good features, but it lacks some popular features.

Blogger seems to recognize its shortcoming of not having TrackBacks, and even suggests HaloScan as a service for adding TrackBacks.

Sure, Blogger now has something called BackLinks, but it's not quite the same thing as a TrackBack.

HaloScan Automatic Install?

Yes, HaloScan has an automatic installation wizard that will modify your Blogger template to include HaloScan comments and TrackBacks into your blog.

But there's a catch: It removes Blogger comments and replaces that feature with HaloScan comments.

Why Not HaloScan Comments?

You may wonder what's wrong with HaloScan comments. Well, nothing, really. But what's wrong with Blogger comments?

You see, use to be that Blogger comments sucked. Or I thought they did.

You used to have to log in to comment. And lots of folks don't like that. Sure, trolls hate it. But lots of regular humans don't like it, either.

What I disliked the most was the fact I didn't have a choice.

But, now-days, Blogger gives you a choice:
  • You can require Blogger account log-in
  • You can allow anonymous commenting
  • You can require the commenter to enter information

So now, Blogger comments do as much as HaloScan comments do ... and more!

Plus — and this is important — if you ever decide to move from Blogger to another hosting service, you cannot easily export your HaloScan comments. But the Blogger comments export just fine. Take it from someone who has done this!

Having said that, if you want to use HaloScan comments and TrackBacks, you don't need to read this post any further. Just go to HaloScan and use the Blogger Automatic Install wizard. But read on if you want to know about the behind-the-scenes stuff.

Why Not Use Both?

Some people choose to install both HaloScan and Blogger coments. I don't like that.

Why? Well, you're storing some in one place and some in another place. And I just don't like the idea of having to check two different places for comments. It strikes me as not very user-friendly.

And being user-friendly is important. If you're blog is hard or confusing to use, then many won't use it. And I'm sure you want to be user friendly. Otherwise, why would you be reading Blog Tips?

So, Get To It Already!

To incorporate HaloScan TrackBacks into your Blogger blog, you need the following:
  • A Blogger blog. If you don't have one, you can still gather some concepts from this post, but no in-depth instructions. Unless we get lots of requests about doing this on other types of blogs. Hint-hint.
  • A HaloScan account. If you don't have one, go get one. If you know of a free third-party system that also offers TrackBacks that you'd like to see incorporated, let us know. Hint-hint.
  • About 30 minutes of no interruptions. No, it won't take that long, but if you set aside that much time for no distractions, you'll be able to enjoy your handiwork before running down the street naked yelling "Eureka!"
  • Patience. If you don't have the patience to tinker with your Blogger template, then don't tinker with your Blogger template. Use the HaloScan automatic install wizard to use HaloScan comments and TrackBacks.


You need to back up your template. Never, never, never make any changes to your Blogger template without making a backup. Trust me on this. Don't learn the hard way!

Insert HaloScan Code

The first piece of code you must install is the HaloScan JavaScript functions. You see, HaloScan uses JavaScript to do it's interface magic. And they already have the code you need. You just have to tell your template to use the code.

Look for the closing HEAD tag. It looks like this:
Insert this line right before that line:
<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>
That goes on a single line. And nothing else goes on that line but the SCRIPT tag. And don't forget to replace the YourID with your actual HaloScan ID!

There's More Code, Isn't There?

Now, you need to insert another piece of code in the body of the template.

Where you insert it is important. So, let's divert for a moment and cover the possibilities. It involves Blogger tags.

Oh, no! Not tags!

There are four special Blogger tags of interest:
  • <MainPage>
  • <ArchivePage>
  • <ItemPage>
  • <MainOrArchivePage>
You see, on Blogger, any content on the template between the <MainPage> and </MainPage> tags will appear only on the Main page (the "Home Page").

Likewise, anything between the <ArchivePage> and </ArchivePage> tags will appear only on the Archive page (the week or month grouping of posts).

All content between the <ItemPage> and </ItemPage> tags appears only on the Item page (the page that shows one particular post, accessed via the Permalink).

The <MainOrArchivePage> and </MainOrArchivePage> tags, as you might figure, shows the content between the tags on both the Archive page and the Main page.

There's more, isn't there?

If you want your content to appear on ALL pages, don't put it between any of those four tags.

Oh, and you can have as many of these tags as you want. That is, you can have as many <MainPage> tags as you want anywhere you want.

So, what's all this mean?

You now need to decide how you where you want the TrackBack link to appear. Let me tell you what I think:
  • You want the TrackBack link to appear on the home page. When people get to your home page, it would be convenient to check out TrackBacks from there.
  • You want the TrackBack link to appear on the individual post page. The page your readers get to when they click the Permalink.
  • You want the TrackBack link to appear on the archives page.
So, inside which tags? None of them. Why did I mention them? Because there are many blogs out there with TrackBacks appearing only on the home page but not on the other pages. There are many blogs that have TrackBacks only on the individual post page, but not on the home page.

I'm not sure if that was intentional. So I want you to understand what will happen if you put the code inside one of those tags.

Get To It Already!

Now that we know where we want the links to appear, let's locate that area in the template.

Scroll down in you template until you find this line:
<p class="post-footer">
Got it? Good. Now look for the very next:
Got it? Good. Now, that's the general area we want. Look for this between those two tags:
If you see it, immediately before <$BlogItemControl$> is where the next piece of code goes. It may be on a line with other stuff, so watch out for that.

If you don't see it, then this piece of code goes right before the </p>:
<a class="comment-link" href="javascript:HaloScanTB('<$BlogItemNumber$>');" target="_self"><script type="text/javascript">postCountTB('<$BlogItemNumber$>'); </script></a>

Remember, that goes on a single line. That will insert a link that opens the HaloScan TrackBack window for your readers. The link also shows how many TrackBacks are already on this post.

Note: If you decide you want to use HaloScan for comments as well as TrackBacks, use this code instead:
<a class="comment-link" href="javascript:HaloScan('<$BlogItemNumber$>');" target="_self"><script type="text/javascript">postCount('<$BlogItemNumber$>'); </script></a>
<a class="comment-link" href="javascript:HaloScanTB('<$BlogItemNumber$>');" target="_self"><script type="text/javascript">postCountTB('<$BlogItemNumber$>'); </script></a>

Remember, that goes on a single line. Of course, if you want to use both comments and TrackBacks, it may be easier to use the HaloScan automatic installation wizard. But that's not nearly as much fun, is it?

That's Complicated! Why Does It Have To Go There?

The reason we want it there as opposed to somewhere else? That's where many (but not all) Blogger templates have a separate formatting look for links to the post.

That's where the Permalink is and where the Comments link is. And it will look best there. Or I think it will.

What Next?

Save your template. Then publish your blog.

Now, we need to verify your changes work like you expect.

How Do We Verify We Got It Right?

Open another browser window/tab and navigate to your blog's home page. Look for the TrackBack link.

Now, open a post. Any post will do. Look for the TrackBack link.

Now, open an archive page (probably a week or month). Look for the TrackBack link.

If it's on all three pages, you're done.

If it's on none of them, go back through the instructions and check each step. Don't try any shortcuts or make other changes "because you understand the code so well."

If you do want to tweak these instructions to your particular tastes, first save/publish according to these instructions. Once you're sure about the functionality, then go make the changes you want to make.

What If There Are Problems?

The most common problem is the link not appearing. It usually means you forgot to replace the YourID with your actual HaloScan ID. So double-check that.

Other common problems include it showing up in a really odd place or with a really odd look. That usually means the link code is in the wrong place or between the wrong tags.

Are We Done Yet?

Almost done. One last thing.

If you're using the HaloScan for free — that is, you haven't paid for a premium account — understand that it would be a common courtesy to put a link to HaloScan on your site.

HaloScan, in fact, asks you to do just that. So, let's be nice and do that.

Look for <p id="powered-by"> in the code. That's the Blogger button. To me, that would be a good place to put the HaloScan button.

Right before the:
<a href=""><img width="88" height="31" src="" border="0" alt="Weblog TrackBacks by" /></a>
Remember, that goes on a single line. Note: This is not the graphic HaloScan normally provides. The HaloScan provided graphic is in this code:
<a href=""><img width="88" height="31" src="" border="0" alt="Weblog Commenting and Trackback by" /></a>
Now check it out. If everything looks good, we're done!

That's A Lot Of Stuff

It might seem like a lot of stuff to do, but all we really had to do was insert two pieces of code. One had to go in the HEAD, and the other had to go in the BODY. But your blog is important, and we want it to look right. So, we took the time and effort to make sure our links went where we wanted them to go.

Are We Finally Done?

Yes. And if you want to see it in action, go to my My Other TrackBack Demo blog.

Speaking of Blogger...

As long as we're talking about Blogger, I have some questions for you.
  • What do you dislike about Blogger?
  • If you used to have a Blogger blog and moved, why?
  • If you looked at several options and rejected Blogger, why?
  • If you are currently on Blogger and want to move, why?
Tell me what you don't like about Blogger. I've been asked about alternatives to Blogger, but the answer depends on what about Blogger is disliked. I know what I don't like about it, but I'm very curious what you don't like about it.

Drop me a line at and vent about Blogger. And we'll come up with some good alternatives that address those problems.


  1. I don't like the lack of trackbacks and Haloscan trackbacks are not inline and I have no patience for modifying it by hand (although I have modified my templayte to include the font and which side I put the sidebar -- which is pretty cool for a person of my limited skills)
    I like all the other crap
    Is there anyway to change the template to Word Press easily?

  2. Because you stuck your code in <code> tags, you didn't need to use &lt;.

  3. Hans Mast:

    Well, I'll be a son of a gun!

    I posted this in three places: here, at the Alliance, and on my TrackBack Demo (Blogger) site.

    And it works just fine at the other two, so I didn't pay attention here when I copied and pasted the code from there.

    Will fix immediately.

    Note to self: WordPress handles <CODE tag> tag differently than TypePad and Blogger.

  4. Poca Dot:

    WordPress 1.5.2 does come with an import utility for Blogger, but I haven't used it. I will check into it.

    I imported from Blogger to TypePad back in January, then from TypePad to WordPress in October. So, I'm not certain how smoothly the Blogger-to-WordPress move is. But I will check it out.

  5. The move from blogger shouldn't be too bad.

    It will however involve temporary modifications to the template to get the content into a standard format.

    Since the platforms (Wordpress, Movable Type, Blogger, etc...) are all vastly different I'm 99% sure there isn't a way to import a template.

    If you have any questions feel free to ask, I'll see what I can do to help.

  6. Yeah, WordPress handles the <code> tag a lot better than the other platforms. The commonsense thing for when you put something into a code tag is to not have to worry about converting to displayable code. That's the whole point of the code tag.

  7. The day after ...

    Today's dose of NIF - News, Interesting & Funny ... It's the Free Jack Idema Blogburst! (+ Open Trackbacks)


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