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Monday, April 18, 2005

Um... Yeah, I knew about that!

[Note: If you are not a blogger you will probably find today's post to be a complete waste of time.]

The blogging/journaling community is spread out along a continuum of technical sophistication. 

At one end are the neophytes and newbies who can barely manage the intricacies of word processing, and who frequently say cute things like, "My Internet isn't working right", or "Who is General Failure, and why is he trying to read my disk?" [not my joke]

At the other end of the spectrum are the techno-savvy uber-geeks who insist on crafting every line of code that goes into their sites.  Every color... every function... every nuance of their blogs is painstakingly created keystroke-by-excruciating-keystroke.  It isn't enough that they do the blogging equivalent of performing brain surgery every day.  Noooo, they have to make sure we all know about it as well!  They drop frequent indecipherable references to the new tweaks they've made to their templates... and the updated plug-ins they've added... and they throw around the term 'WYSIWYG' * as the worst kind of insult.

I fall somewhere in the middle... although today's entry will probably indicate to most that I am closer to the newbies than the geeks. 

I'm pretty good at figuring out how my blogging software (TypePad) works without having to resort to tech support very often, but I don't do much customizing of my template.  Let's just say that if my blog software offers a mysterious feature that I seem to be doing very nicely without, then I probably won't spend the 5 minutes reading up on what I'm missing.

Such was the case with the mysterious feature called 'Trackback Pings'.

When I was first setting up treppenwitz, I noticed several mentions of TrackBacks and TrackBack pings in the online user manual.  But since it wasn't keeping me from posting, I never bothered to find out what it was.

Every couple of weeks I would get an e-mail telling me a TrackBack ping had been received on a particular post, and say to myself, "Self... You should really find out what the hell that means!" 

I would then immediately continue journaling, blissfully ignorant of the fact that many considerate people have been using this helpful feature to say, "Hey!  We liked what you wrote so much that we've written about it and even placed a link to your blog!" 

Then this morning while I was playing around with the way the TypePad text editor is displayed, I came upon a little text entry box I'd never noticed that said, "Send a Trackback to these addresses".


Since Zahava and the kids are in Eilat with my parents for the week I didn't have to wake anyone up this morning or make anyone breakfast.  Instead I used this extra time to finally find out what the hell a TrackBack ping is.

Simply put, most blog software has a neat little feature that automatically creates a TrackBack address whenever a new entry is published.  This address is different from the specific URL of the entry.  Unless the blogger doesn't want this TrackBack address to be visible it is usually displayed at the end of the entry or at the top of the comments section.

For the sake of demonstration: Let's say I read a great blog post by someone.  Up until now, if I liked it enough to tell you about it I simply placed a link to that entry on my blog and said, "Hey, go read this!"  However, unless that person also reads my blog or pays special attention to their referral log, it is possible that he/she would never know I linked to them.  This is especially true if you are a new blogger and won't be sending much traffic their way.

This is where TrackBack pings come into play.  My blog program (and most others that are out there) allows me to go to the entry that I enjoyed so much... copy the TrackBack address listed at the end of the post... and paste it into that little text box in my blog's text editor. 

As soon as I post my entry saying "Hey, go read this", the person who wrote the entry I am raving about receives a TrackBack ping which essentially says, 'hey... someone linked to your post... go check them out'.  Yeah, it's an extra step beyond just including a link to the person's post... but it is a very considerate thing to do.

A few days ago I made you suffer through my advice to would-be bloggers.  This latest discovery definitely should have been included in the section about how to get noticed by other bloggers without sounding needy or acting like an ass.  One of the most flattering things you can do in the strange world of blogging is to link to something someone else has written (or at least give them credit for something you gank from them).  I don't do it nearly enough... and up until now I have never used this TrackBack feature to let anyone know I was doing it.

I hope that any of my readers who keep blogs of their own (who aren't already doing so) will make use of this considerate tool.

* An acronym for What You See Is What You Get. WYSIWYG is used to describe applications that let you see what documents will look like when finished while you're editing them.  [definition is from this useful page]


Posted by David Bogner on April 18, 2005 | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Um... Yeah, I knew about that!:

» Tracking back from narrating kayoz
David of Treppenwitz fame has a great post up about using TrackBacks today, so I thought I'd link to the post AND send him a trackback! :) Um... Yeah, I knew about that! [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 18, 2005 2:36:07 PM

» Tracking Back from No Sharp Objects Required
I'm very new to this blogging lark, so finding something about Tracking Back was very useful. The power of the blog this, as I found it from a RedSugar entry. [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 19, 2005 4:28:56 AM

» Docs.Rage.NET: /system/mew-common-3.1/im-143/00changes from Docs.Rage.Net
This was suggested as being relevant by a visitor. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 17, 2005 3:31:17 PM


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That was an excellent explantion that I'll probably have to read three times before it sinks in to my thick skull.

Posted by: Jack | Apr 18, 2005 9:32:19 AM

Pingbacks and trackbacks, another great feature of WordPress, which is where I'm going, if I can find the time to get around to doing it (and then figuring out how I can get the php generated page to use my CSS template.)

Besides WYSIWYG rocks! :)

Posted by: jennifer | Apr 18, 2005 11:44:23 AM

May I add - if your blog [or blog provider] is not running a halfway useful spam filter, then, in addition to comment spam, trackback spam is likely to get upon you. Especially if your blog is listed in search engines and blog indexes.
Just thought people might like to know the little dark side of the trackback business. But you're right, it's a neat feature.

Oh, and some people have disabled trackback pinging; meaning, they won't let you send them trackback pings, in which event you'll get an error message [basically just to inform you; nothing will happen to your blog] when rebuilding your entry.

Uh, what's bad about Ubergeeks? In regards to reading about "what-I've-been-up-to-lately", I'm more bored by journals talking about piles of pooped diapers, latest greatest washing detergent deals and first knitting steps. Every man to his own humour ;) [oh, you mean geeks depress nongeeks? aw, c'monnnn....]

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | Apr 18, 2005 12:32:21 PM

Of course, they probably don't help you get recognised if the blogs you are sending trackbacks to are written by people who say to themselves "Self... You should really find out what the hell that means!" but then don't do it! LOL.

Posted by: Kay | Apr 18, 2005 2:32:38 PM

TODA RABA!!! I have not wanted to look stupid by asking someone, but I had NO idea how this feature worked... just that I knew I should probably be using it.
Awesome!! Thank you so much for the explanation David!!

Posted by: celestial blue | Apr 18, 2005 2:54:24 PM

Well, I tried to trackback you... but Blogger doesn't seem to want to make it happen for me. Either that or I am a special kind of stupid (which is admittedly possible).

Posted by: celestial blue | Apr 18, 2005 3:06:53 PM

I suspect there is a checkbox in your configuration that says something to the effect of "Enable TrackBack Auto-Discovery." If so, and you check it, it will automatically send trackbacks to everyone you link, so you don't have to put the mismatched trackback link in the box.

(I might be a huge geek, but even I don't pronounce it "wizzywig!")

Posted by: Tanya | Apr 18, 2005 3:12:14 PM

Jack... Just don't move your lips while you read and nobody will know. ;-)

Jennifer... Ah yes... I forgot your tagline; The 'WYSIWYG Blog!' :-)

mademoiselle a. ... So far (tfu tfu tfu) I have not had any trackback spam... only a few isolated encounters with comment spam. Either Typepad has a very good spam filter or I have been incredibly lucky!

As to what interests you, to each his/her own. No, geeks don't depress me so much as they remind me of how much I don't know about these toys I play with. I enjoy the illusion that I am somewhat in command of the technology... and not the other way around. :-)

Kay... That occurred to me a few minutes after I had left the house this morning, but by then I was in the car and it was too late to change my post around! Thanks for the trackback ping... I now appreciate them for what they are; Compliments!

Celestial Blue... Your reaction is exactly why I chose this topic today. There have been more than a few occasions that someone has blogged about something and made an important connection that I had been too embarrassed (or lazy) to ask about. I'm pleased that I helped make the connection for you. Unfortunately, I have no expereince with blogger so I don't know whether it supports trackbacks. Anyone knwo the answer to this question?

Thanks Tanya (one of the many geek goddesses who frequent treppenwitz)! I hope that works out for her. As I told mademoiselle a., I don't have anything against geeks (some of my best friends...) but they do tend to remind me of how much I still need to learn. Luckily, all of the geeks I know are very nice about such things.

Posted by: David | Apr 18, 2005 4:33:08 PM

I went all over blogger and found nothing in the settings for trackback, though I did find a page saying Blogger doesn't support trackbacks. And here I was gonna make David my first! :-(

Posted by: celestial blue | Apr 18, 2005 6:29:43 PM

Although blogger does not support trackbacks
you can go to haloscan. Once you join (which
is free) they can now automatically generate
the code to your blog.I just did it
after reading this post. I have tracked
back to this post so far it hasn't
showed up as a trackback so
I'm not sure if this is what you are referring to or not.

Posted by: Shloimy | Apr 18, 2005 8:05:17 PM

I'm sorry, celestial, I was talking to David. Now I understand his comment, too.

I've never used blogger, but I'm almost positive it supports trackbacks.

Posted by: Tanya | Apr 18, 2005 8:44:18 PM

What is the latest on the bee keeping situation and the paraniod elderly couple?

Posted by: jason | Apr 18, 2005 9:05:08 PM

Celestial Blue... I guess blogger figures that they don't have to offer all the bells and whistles with a free service. Oh Well... the thought is worth something.

Shloimy... When you get that working check back with us and let Celestial know how to do it. Thanks.

Tanya... Sorry about the confusion... now I see you were trying to give me a clue. :-) It turns out that the auto discovery trackback feature hasn't been released yet for Typepad. For now I have to add the addresses for trackback pings manually. As I said in the post, this is something I should have been doing all along!

Jason... There have been developments but they deserve their own post. Maybe later in the week I'll give everyone an update. By the way, are you still in Iraq or has your unit been rotated back to the US? I've missed hearing from you!

Posted by: David | Apr 18, 2005 9:45:53 PM

Your newfangled words scare and confuse me. My VPN connecting my office to my house broke yesterday. I must make a sin offering to the internet.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Apr 18, 2005 10:12:18 PM

Blogger just doesn't [yet?] support a lot of the finer things that make blogging so great. I should know; I use Blogger.

Posted by: Isaac B2 | Apr 18, 2005 11:39:01 PM

I still don't get this WYSIWYG thing, but that's okay :-)

Posted by: Maria | Apr 19, 2005 3:27:36 AM

Managed to get trackback working OK with Blogger and Haloscan (see trackback above to prove it). Creating the link to be pinged: installing Haloscan code (this is done automatically), automatically generates links for pings. Pinging others. This can be done from the Haloscan site.

Posted by: John | Apr 19, 2005 4:37:53 AM

Um, what?

Posted by: ball-and-chain | Apr 19, 2005 5:16:38 AM

Doctor Bean... There are no scary words... just concepts we haven't learned about yet. :-) Hope your line is up soon. This time of year it can be hell trying to find a sacrificial lamb.

IsaacB2... John seems to have worked out a solution (see his helpful comment). I know he isn't volunteering to provide tech support, but I imagine if you have trouble following his instructions he would probably be willing to provide a word or two of clarification.

Maria... Let me give you an example: When you write something in Microsoft Word... You only see the finished document. However, each time you hit enter, or change a font, or make something bold, etc., there are hidden bits of code that are being automatically generated behind the scenes so your computer (and anyone else's computer who you might send it to) knows exactly how to display it. The fact that you only see what the finished product looks like and don't have to write any of that code is called WYSIWYG. Many of the blog applications are the same way. If you want a word in italics you just highlight it and click the italic button... but behind the scene there is an opening and closing 'tag' telling the computer how to display that word. There are people out there who enjoy adding their own coding rather than letting a program do it for them. They are called geeks. :-)

John... Thanks for the good advice (and for the ping). I have never used blogger so I wouldn't know how to begin to give tips to anyone using it.

Ball and Chain... Let me guess... the good doctor has you set up to blog as if it was a word processor, right? You don't really deal with any of the technical issues? On the rare occasions when Zahava guest blogs we have the same arrangement here. :-)

Posted by: David | Apr 19, 2005 6:45:48 AM

Did I not volunteer to provide tech support? How remiss of me :-) It really is quite easy. If anyone is stuck with a problem with getting it to work with Blogger, then post a comment here and I'll try to sort it. In the meantime you might care to look at this step-by-step on the Haloscan site. Incidentally Haloscan works with many other blogs apart from Blogger.

Posted by: john | Apr 19, 2005 9:32:05 AM

John... Thanks... that was very decent of you. Just one more reason to love the connections one makes via the net.

Posted by: David | Apr 19, 2005 9:43:12 AM

Tanya, If you don't pronounce it 'wizzywig' how do you say it?

Posted by: Kay | Apr 20, 2005 3:42:51 AM

my problem wasn't setting it up on my blog (I can use Haloscan, no prob) but trackbacking David's blog entry on MY blog. where do I put the trackback URL? because I can't just paste it into my text box when writing my blogger entry... it shows up as a link, not "invisible".
I thought I got this... but now I'm confused again.
*hangs head in shame*

Posted by: celestial blue | Apr 20, 2005 2:28:48 PM

WYSIWYG only has meaning to us old-timers who worked in the days of DOS. I'd type up something in Multimate or WordStar or the old word perfect, and it would look pretty good. I'd line up my indents and columns and what not. Then I would print it and it looked completely different. The font, spacing, indents were completely different than they looked on the screen. The screen font was usually some generic DOS font.

Then, early 90's or so, WordPerfect and Word started to offer Print Previews which would show you how it would look if you printed it before you ruined a perfectly good sheet of tractor feed paper.

After that, newer versions (mostly windows versions) would offer to let you type in WYSIWYG, so that you would see what it was supposed to look like when you typed it. Nowadays, all word processors do this by default.

But with web editors, you have a throwback to the old days, since people's browsers can be configured to a default text font, so you never quite know what they will see unless you force a font from your end.

does this make me an ubergeek or just boring?

Posted by: psychotoddler | Apr 20, 2005 10:33:43 PM

This is an EXCELLENT description and I thank you so much. I've just started blogging and just didn't get this part. I had the same conversation with "self" and now I know. Thank you so much!!!

Posted by: Holly | Jun 21, 2005 2:03:20 AM

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