Stupid Trackbacks!

Yesterday, I felt dumb. I tried using trackbacks for the first time and it took me way too long to figure them out. Stupid! Stupid. Stupid? Most likely, but maybe not.

First. What is a trackback?

Per Wikipedia: TrackBack is a mechanism for communication between blogs: if a blogger writes a new entry commenting on, or referring to, an entry found at another blog, and both blogging tools support the TrackBack protocol, then the commenting blogger can notify the other blog with a “TrackBack ping“; the receiving blog will typically display summaries of, and links to, all the commenting entries below the original entry. This allows for conversations spanning several blogs that readers can easily follow.

Fine. So I am ready to submit my post and I want to have the trackback listed in the comment section of the article to which I’m referencing. Simple, right? No. More like infuriating.

First. I go to the referenced post in order to get its Trackback URL. I’ve seen a lot of blogs provide Trackback URLs in plain text on the post or provide a link to get the URL. This site didn’t provide this, however, there were already a few trackbacks in the comments so I knew trackbacks had to be supported. I ended up viewing the source of the page to come up with the ping address. (At this point, I’m feeling like a detective. I’m not stupid yet.)

Next. My blogging software (I’m currently using Zoundry) accepts a comma separated list of trackback URLs for each post. It’s clear as day and nearly fool-proof. (note the word nearly)

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I added the URL and published the post. Prior to posting, Zoundry presents a dialog which basically summarizes all actions which are going to take place. The dialog lists all of the sites to which the article will be submitted (i.e. Technorati), which images will be uploaded, etc. It also allows me to verify trackback information AND lets me modify the comments which would be submitted to the called page. By default, the first n words of my post were displayed, but I could simply have the comment read, “I like your post. Now check out mine.” Recently, I’ve seen some clever trackback comments so I was excited to see this feature. So, I update and publish and I’m told all actions were completed successfully, but the trackback comment never showed up on the called page. Bummer. I gave it a little time. It was a long shot, but perhaps the owner of the other blog approves comments/trackbacks before they are displayed. This wasn’t the case. It simply didn’t work.

I wasn’t able to find any documented issues of trackbacks not working through Zoundry, but I figured it would be best to try the trackback ping through another tool. I tried the online WordPress admin tool and the attempt was successful! But I was disappointed since I wasn’t able to send alternate text and the trackback comment includes the first n words of my post which looks and sounds (take a guess) stupid.

I’ll probably do a few more test which other blogging tools, but for now I’m going to rely on “poor man’s trackbacks.” (a.k.a. dumb man’s trackbacks) I’ll drop a “real” comment on a post I wish to blog about and in the comment provide a link back to my article. It should do the trick, no? It’s nearly fail-proof and I will never need to hunt down trackback URLs or hope trackback pings are enabled or wish I could alter trackback comments again. Stupid, meet Simple.