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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

How do it know? (A PSA for Luddites)

There's an old joke about two rednecks - Bubba and Skeeter - shivering off the early morning chill out on their rickety bass boat, when Skeeter pulls out a thermos of coffee and starts to pour himself a steaming cup.  Bubba watches in blinking amazement for a couple of minutes and says, "Hey Skeeter,... I seen you put soda in that there thermos and it comes out cold.  I seen you put coffee in it and it comes out hot".  Skeeter nodded and said, "Yeah... so wut?"  To which Bubba reponded, "How do it know?!"

For those of you who keep blogs or journals and want people to actually show up after you've posted new content, pay attention... this post is for you:

Many web sites, blogs and journals have something called a blogroll... essentially a list of other sites, blogs and journals.  We'll leave aside for the moment whether the site-owner actually visits all the sites listed in his/her blogroll on a regular basis.  Let's just take it on faith that someone is theoretically clicking the sites listed in every blogroll, mmmkay?

Now, some of the blogrolls out there are static... meaning they are simple lists with hotlinks on each entry.  But many blogrolls out there are actually dynamic... meaning they can change order based on which sites have recently been updated with new content.  This is a fantastic time-saver since it saves readers from clicking over to a site, blog or journal that still has the same, stale post at the top from last week!

Which brings us back to our old friend, Bubba.  If he were fortunate enough to have Internet access in his double-wide trailer, he would probably be asking Skeeter; "How do it know when to move blogs to the top of the blogroll?"

The simple answer is: 'Magic'

No, actually that's just the answer I would probably run by the Bubbas of the world in order to see their mouths fall open in gap-toothed wonderment.  But then eventually I'd have to go on and explain to them about something truly magical called 'pinging'.

'Pinging' has a lot of definitions, but for the purposes of this post we'll limit ourselves to the following: 'Pinging' is what happens when a virtual shout of 'HEY YOU!' ... is sent from one site to another in order to say 'NEW STUFF IS POSTED OVER HERE!'

Some of you out there already use blogging software that automatically sends a 'ping' to sites like 'Blogrolling.com, Google, Technorati, blo.gs and weblogs.com whenever you post something new.  Basically, whenever you hit the 'Publish' button, a message/'ping' is sent to one or more of these sites telling them your site has fresh content.  They, in turn, send out a 'ping' to all the sites that have their blogroll code installed on them, and your site (if it is lucky enough to be included there) magically jumps to the top of the blogroll!

However, a lot of you out there either aren't using blogging software that automatically sends out an update 'ping'... or for some inexplicable reason you have this function turned off.  It's for you Luddites people that I've really written this post.

Take a moment and poke around the settings in your blogging software... in the preferences section... probably under 'publicity'.  If you have the option of automatically 'pinging' any or all of the sites I've mentioned above, PLEASE turn it on.  But if not, I would consider it a personal favor if you would take two seconds after you've posted something new to send a manually 'ping'. 

What's that you say? 

"How do we do that , Trep?" 

Well, I'm glad you asked!  Here, I'll use 'blogrolling.com' as an example of how to go about it:

If you go to www.blogrolling.com you will see on the left hand side of the page a menu option called 'Ping Form'... go ahead and click that.   Now type your site's title and URL (web address) into the appropriate text boxes and then click the 'Ping' button. 

It's that simple!

Oh... another thing.  If your site has more than one URL (e.g. treppenwitz is linked on various blogrolls as http://bogieworks.blogs.com, http://bogieworks.blogs.com/treppenwitz or www.treppenwitz.com), you will have to send a 'ping' for each URL each and every time you publish something new.

But wait, I can hear you saying "That's too much trouble, Trep... I don't want to go to a whole different web site each time I post a new entry!".  Fair enough... so I'll give you a little tech tip on how to do it from your favorites/bookmarks list:

  1. Enter a URL into your browser... any URL. 
  2. Now add this URL to your bookmarks/favorites
  3. Go to that entry on your list of bookmarks/favorites, but instead of clicking it with your left mouse button*, click it with your right mouse button and scroll down to 'Properties'  and click that with your left mouse button.
  4. Change the name (it might be on a different tab) to 'PING1' and copy and paste the following URL (both lines at once) into the text box (making sure to substitute your blog's URL for the letters in red):
    http://www.blogrolling.com/ping.php?pingform=single&title=treppenwitz&url_1=http://yourblogurlgoeshere.com/&submit=Ping .
  5. Before you click Save/OK, make sure you have replaced the letters that are in red (above) with your blog's URL.
  6. Click 'Save' / 'OK' and you're good to go!
  7. If you have multiple URLs, just do the same thing as many times as necessary and name the additional bookmarks 'PING2', 'PING3', etc.

Now, each time you post something new to your site, all you have to do to let everyone know about it is select 'PING1' from your bookmarks/favorites list, and voila!... just like that, somewhere in the mountains of West Virginia a redneck will stare in rapt amazement as your blog magically jumps to the top of the blogroll, and wonder, "How do it know?!"

Don't thank me... I'm a giver.

Warning:  Please don't abuse this feature.  A blogger I know (no, I'm not mentioning names) got into the habit of 'pinging' blogrolling.com whenever he was bored (and not when he had posted something new), just to see if he could get people to show up at his site.  This person is no longer on my blogroll.  You have been warned.

Additional Note: A previous treppenwitz Public Service Announcement explained the finer points of using trackback pings.  If you don't know about this, go read!

* I haven't given explicit instructions for Mac users because I figure you are already tech-savvy enough to know all this.  ;-)

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Posted by David Bogner on January 2, 2007 | Permalink

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Ok, I admit, I am one of these blogging Luddites. So I poked around my settings, found "publishing" and went from "no" to "yes" when it asked about notifying weblog.com. So far, so good. My question to you is, is this enough? Blogger automatically notifies one source, but not all of them. (Any future tips to those of us who are "geekingly challenged" is sincerely appreciated!)

Posted by: westbankmama | Jan 2, 2007 10:47:17 AM

westbankmama... I'm not sure if weblog.com relays a ping to blogrolling.com (which is one of the most popular blogroll providers out there), so you might want to run a test. Find someone (like me) who has you on their blogrolling.com blogroll and check to see if you move to the top when you publish your next entry. If not it would behoove you to follow my instructions for manually pinging blogrolling.com.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 2, 2007 10:58:09 AM

In answer to you and WBM, I believe that notification is sent to blogrolling, simply because of this blog. I only have my blog set up with that notification on, and my blog pings Jrants when I post... and yet I've noticed that my blog will show near the top of your blogroll if I've posted recently. (Thanks for that, btw.) So I'd venture that for those on Blogger, at least, just turning on that one setting should work.

As for using a moving blogroll to see who has updated... I think using a good, organized RSS feed is better. I use Sage on Firefox, thanks to a tip from an anonymous reader; I think it's great. (I read about 150 blogs on varying levels of regularity, most regularly.)

Posted by: Ezzie | Jan 2, 2007 1:04:27 PM

Ezzie... As I've said on a number of occasions, I am very much anti-RSS feeds. As far as I'm concerned they are the take-out food option of the blogging world. Sure they're convenient, but you miss out on the ambiance of the bloggers you read. Granted, many blogs are cookie-cutter and don't have much to visually set them apart from one another. But you miss out on so much (comments, graphics, etc.) when you order your blogs 'to go'. You also deny the blogger the 'hits' he/she would have garnered if you had actually visited the blog (this is especially damaging for bloggers whose advertisers pay by page view).

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 2, 2007 3:02:07 PM

I like the dynamic blogrolling thingy. Not only does it let others know when I have a new post up: it also lets me know when someone has commented. If it is at the top and I haven't posted anything new in a while, I know it is either a comment from a reader or the dreaded spam comment.

Posted by: seawitch | Jan 2, 2007 3:14:43 PM

Got it. Thanks! I'm on WordPress, which does let me specify which services to ping when I publish. (Who knew?) I entered www.blogrolling.com. Any others you recommend I ping?

Posted by: Albert Fuchs | Jan 2, 2007 4:27:25 PM

This is so weird. I actually came over here because I know that you sort your blogroll based on updates. I did the same thing for a while. Then I noticed that blogrolling wasn't picking up the updates anymore. All I was left with was a random list of blogs. So I went back to sorting them alphabetically.

I think this is more an issue with blogrolling not working like it did before than anything we are/aren't doing.

Posted by: psychotoddler | Jan 2, 2007 5:43:55 PM

As an advocate of exercise I strongly urge that people do more typing than clicking.

The international health crisis depends on our cooperation. Together we can end the scourge of fat fingers.

Posted by: Jack | Jan 2, 2007 6:00:11 PM

Trep,

In your case, the ping is a warbling sound that goes out several convergence zones....and doesn't get a return. :-P

(Payback fer the redneck comments, from one who's frum tha' back wuds of Florida, went to high skool in West Vergnia and was stuck in Conektecut fur for years.)

;-)

Posted by: K Newman | Jan 2, 2007 7:26:29 PM

Trep - I somewhat agree, actually. But that's why I set my posts on "short" feeds, so a person has to come anyway and (hopefully) join in the conversation.

I also think it's fair to readers: A) They may not be interested in every post, so they can get a quick scan of what it's about; and B) Some blogs load incredibly slowly. There's also a C, which is that many blogs aren't as conversational as this one.

I generally end up going to most blogs, even if they have full feeds, simply because I want to. But honestly, if not for feeds, I'd only be reading about 1/3 of the number of blogs I do - the feeds let me skip through the posts I'm not interested in. Do some blogs get less hits because I use a feed? Perhaps. Do others get more? Definitely.

Posted by: Ezzie | Jan 2, 2007 8:34:12 PM

Why do I suddenly feel like I know as much about this stuff as my grandmother?!

I got to step 3 and then could not find "Properties" anywhere. Feeling quite Bubba over here. But I did implement some of the other stuff.

What's the proper ettiquite for asking to be placed on someone's blogroll? In other words, am I "Good Readin'"? ;)

Posted by: RaggedyMom | Jan 2, 2007 10:00:09 PM

ok yes i am a luddite, although i am the most evolved in my family with regard to computer stuff. i got stuck when you started talking about left and right clicking ... i have a mac and don't know how to do that on my mouse. also, do you have any previous posts i could check out re how to post photos without going through flickr? thanks!

Posted by: ravaj | Jan 2, 2007 11:50:33 PM

Okay, I just went over your list in a verrry slow and deliberate manner and I think I finally figured it all out. In doing so, to test it out I inadvertently re"ping"ed myself. Let me just say that I don't know where you learned this dark magic, but it is pretty wicked amazing.

p.s. Thanks for blogrolling me!

Posted by: RaggedyMom | Jan 3, 2007 4:08:21 AM

Uhh, I just updated my blog, with a referral to this post! (Don't ask me to do trackbacking yet, one thing at a time). I then did a manual ping at blogrolling, but it hasn't moved my blog to the top. Is there a long time lag?

Posted by: westbankmama | Jan 3, 2007 8:21:45 AM

Uh, it did go up now! Tomorrow I will check to see if just updating (without the manual ping) will do the same.

Posted by: westbankmama | Jan 3, 2007 8:22:56 AM

Seawitch... I was not aware that the dynamic blogroll changed when someone comments on a blog. Are you sure?

Albert Fuchs... I can't think of a reason not to ping all sites possible. The whole idea is to let as many people know as possible that you have posted new content to your site.

psychotoddler... All I can think is that something in the blogrolling code you installed on your site has changed or been corrupted because mine works fine. There are days where blogrolling is clearly having technical issues and things remain static for a few hours... but I would suggest you check with their support for advice on how to deal with your issues.

Jack... Those of us who are dyslexic dare not try to type long strings of text... especially if even one wrong or transposed character will invalidate the results.

K Newman... No, a 'ping' is the last thing you would hear as the MK46 fish goes active on you! ;-)

Ezzie... That makes no sense. What if someone uses the first paragraph or two of his post to deal with something boring/inane and then goes on to write a compelling post? You can't tell (especially with my stuff) what the post is about from a few lines in a short feed. You also miss out on any formatting or graphics that might make the post more compelling. I don't know about you, but I sometimes forget where I am if I have been reading a lot of blogs in one sitting and seeing the color scheme and unique layout of someone's blog helps me recall who I'm reading.

Raggedymom... It should have been at the bottom of the menu that appeared when you right clicked on the name. As to your worthiness to be considered 'good readin'... you are totally worthy. :-) As to the dark magic... I am actually quite a Luddite myself and have been blessed with several very patient and tech-savvy readers who have clued me in to the finer aspects of keeping an online journal. I am just sharing the love.

ravaj... If you click and hold the link or object with your mouse you should get the same menu with 'properties' at the bottom of the list. As to photos... that is a enough for a whole 'nother post. :-)

westbankmama... Welcome to the wonderful world of successful pinging! Now everyone (including myself) will know when you have posted fresh stuff!!! :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 3, 2007 9:37:14 AM

David -

Your opposition to RSS is surprising, even ... luddish.

You write:

"You can't tell (especially with my stuff) what the post is about from a few lines in a short feed"

Well, you certainly can't tell what the post is about from a ping.

I use My Yahoo as my RSS reader, and it works great. I see the title and first couple of lines of any post, and that's enough to decide whether or not I want to read more. Unlike a ping, where I can't be sure there something I haven't read, I can recognize a new post by the new content.

Now for my blog I use Blogger, which doesn't have as rich functionality. But you use Typepad, which should allow you to decide what appears in the RSS feed.

One of my favorite blogs, http://www.joshreads.com/ , which uses Wordpress, has text in his RSS feed that doesn't appear anywhere in the post - it's just a teaser to get people to come open the site.

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Jan 3, 2007 11:55:18 AM

Dave... I'm actually a little surprised that you missed (of confused) two central points of my expressed feelings on feeds. You compare reading just a paragraph or two to pinging which is apples and oranges. Unless it is being abused, pinging simply informs you that new content is up... that's it. You haven't addressed any of my objection(s) to feeds in what you've written (lack of graphical/visual content to orient the reader to the blogger's 'home'... possibility/probability that the first few lines will give little or no hint to the quality or even topic of the post... denies the host the 'hits/page-views' he/she would normally get from a visitor). I like the creative use of the feed to send a teaser to potential readers, but very few writers are using feeds for this. Personally, I allow RSS feeds, but only a few lines and I'm considering turning that off.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 3, 2007 12:11:24 PM

I'm going to change my blog title to "Luddite Central" --no, not really, but reading all these comments makes me feel like a dinosaur. I learned how to 'ping' from your earlier post but I haven't got a clue what some of the tech vocabulary is, much less how to implement it. I'm just old-fashioned --I read what I like, bookmark the best, follow other bloggers' advice on who else to read (and yes, I read everyone on my bloglist and some others I haven't had time to add yet)....I'm going to go now, and see if I can figure out what "trackback" means and how it works........sigh....

Posted by: aliyah06 | Jan 3, 2007 2:44:01 PM

Two of the communities that I'm part of, Project VALOUR-IT and Southern by Blog work that way. Whenever a new post or comments to a post are made, it pings the blogrolls.

Posted by: seawitch | Jan 3, 2007 3:12:03 PM

Trep, that makes no sense, though the last few lines of your last comment are pretty much what I've been saying all along.

A ping only lets you know the person has updated; a short RSS feed lets you see what the beginning is about. How does the RSS feed make someone less likely to read the blog than a ping? Unless you assume that the first paragraph will turn people AWAY from a blog, which is highly unlikely, most readers would continue to click through the RSS to the blog. The question is regarding those who normally would NOT read the blog on a regular basis - while the blog being updated won't get them to come, a short feed might.

Put it this way: If not for feeds, I likely wouldn't have ended up being a regular reader of this blog. I would have stopped at about 40 blogs, which was well before I stumbled on Treppenwitz. I highly doubt I'm the only one like that.

A short RSS feed won't cause someone to lose regular readers. It will only add to their readership as more people don't mind putting the RSS feed on their list, and slowly grow to enjoy the blog.

I don't buy that people really come for the visual aspect of a blog, unless there's a picture within the post (which usually would show on a feed) or a video (which would also). If anything, visuals only affect me in that ones with terrible formatting are harder to read. As for what feed you're on, looking at the top will always tell you.

Posted by: Ezzie | Jan 3, 2007 6:17:16 PM

http://yourblogurlgoeshere.com

I can guarantee that at least three people are going to enter that exactly as you have it.

I should go register the domain right now. Money to be made for the early bird. ;)

Posted by: Jack | Jan 3, 2007 6:41:59 PM

It has nothing to do with the code on my blog. It was working fine until about 2 weeks ago. That's when blogs were no longer showing up as updated (on my blog or yours or anyone else's) automatically. It DOES show as updated when I manually ping. The point of sorting them by updates was to let me know when a new post was up.

Since that wasn't happening, i went back to alphabetical sorting. At least now I can find the blogs when I'm looking for them.

Posted by: psychotoddler | Jan 5, 2007 3:43:40 AM

Hey! It worked! Thanks!

Posted by: Albert Fuchs | Jan 5, 2007 11:41:47 PM

Sorry for being late to the party but I find it necessary to put on my geek hat. In the example cited in step #4, I believe that one would need to change the TITLE parameter as well as the URL in the querystring...

http://www.blogrolling.com/ping.php?pingform=single&title=YOUR BLOG TITLE GOES HERE&url_1=http://yourblogurlgoeshere.com/&submit=Ping

I could be incorrect but I think that would also be required. Can you please review the instructions in your post and update them as needed?

BTW - Excellent site! Thanks!

Posted by: zonker | Jan 9, 2007 12:42:20 AM

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