What Are Trackbacks?

I was just sent an email asking “what’s up with trackbacks?” I thought the info might be of use to many readers here.

Trackbacks are a way to say “I posted a blog post about this post of yours, so I’m going to leave a trackback to connect the 2 posts.” It’s like a citation for a particular post. It solidifies the conversation by allowing readers to follow links to other places online where any given topic is being discussed.

Trackbacks usually have to be created by hand. Your blogging or commenting program may have an option to send a trackback to some one else’s blog. Many blogs include URLs in each post for you to send a trackback if you want to. (Mine here for example.) Some blogs will automatically detect trackbacks elsewhere (links to your post).

When you post a trackback, you usually select a snippet from your article linking to the one you’re making a trackback to. I think this is an important chance to show what unique perspective you offer in the discussion, not just to say “I’m some random person linking to your blog.” In other words, it’s cool to offer some value in your trackbacks.

Your text snippet and the trackback URL of the post you are what you need to make a trackback.

Some people have turned off trackbacks on their sites because of trackback spam.
This is an even bigger problem than comment spam for some people. That’s true probably in part because there’s not generally an expectation that trackbacks are going to clearly be valuable, relevant contributions to the discussion. People often put no thought into writing them, so when we read them we often don’t read them closely and realize they are spam. It’s probably easier to send out trackback spam than it is to send comment spam too.

All of this is likely to change in the near to mid term future as people figure out how to maximize connectedness and conversation while minimizing technical barriers and spam. But for now, that’s what I know about trackbacks. Let me know if you need help sending them to sites you are citing.

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Blogger Sentenced to Prison, Lashings

Protect Freedom of Speech - protect Omid Sheikhan
Sign the petition to keep Iranian blogger Omid Sheikhan out of prison

From the Committee to Protect Bloggers.

Omid Sheikhan has been sentenced by the Iranian court to one year in prison and 124 lashes.

Omid was first arrested last year, confined for two months, including one in solitary confinement, and tortured, due to his blog which featured satire on the Iranian situation.

When he was brought to court on October 8 he faced different charges, due to the fact that even in the Iran judicial system it would have been difficult to convict him on charges relating to his blog. Instead, he faced, and was convicted on, charges stemming from “morals” violations, including “having unlawful relations, drinking wine, corruption of morals (for having a birthday party) and possessing satirical pictures of Iranian politicians.”

Now this blogger in his early twenties will be beaten half to death and join Mojtaba Saminejad as a felon in the general prison population. The Iranian government should be as ashamed as the Iranian people no doubt already are. Please sign the petition for Omid.

Omid now faces a second trial, presumably an appeal, not unlike Arash Sigarchi’s.

In addition to signing the online petition, please consider visiting the Committee to Protect Bloggers website. There you will find the code to put this graphic and link to the petition on your own site. The Committee also has an RSS feed you can subscribe to so as to keep up to date on issues like this.

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Technorati Tag Troubleshooting

Ok, so some folks are still having trouble getting their bookmarklet set up to be indexed by Technorati’s tag search. Below is the bookmarklet.


For some reason it appears that some users are getting code that looks like this:
a rel=”tag” href=”http://
instead of like this: a href=”http://…” rel=”tag”

Now I don’t know why this bookmarklet would give you code unlike what it gives me. I really don’t. My first guess is always to wonder wether it’s a PC/Mac thing. Are folks who are using PCs getting that funky code and Mac users are getting the correct code when they push the button? Any javascript experts out there with suggestions?

Ok, I’d really like to get this figured out and move on. This should be a big time saver once we get it taken care of.

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How to be Found by Technorati

Several people have been asking me why their blog posts are not appearing in Technorati search results, even after they use the Technorati Tag bookmarklet I wrote about earlier this week. (Clarification: I didn’t create it, I found it on an old web site that has since gone offline, but I had it archived in Furl.net.) Here’s what’s going on….

When you write a blog post, it has to be indexed by search engines in order for it to show up in the search engine’s results. Google goes nuts and crawls all over the web indexing like crazy – but that doesn’t mean that Google or anybody else is guaranteed to find what you’ve written. Even if you link to someone’s page, that doesn’t mean they’ll discover that until someone travels that connection – be it an indexing robot or a visitor who leaves tracks through your traffic monitoring program. (Technorati tags are really just a particular way to link to Technorati, but they still have to index the link.)

The way to get indexed quickly is to do something called pinging. You can set up (or I can set up for you) your blog to automatically tell the blog search engines (like Technorati) “Hey, look over here, I have new content for you to index!” Pinging is big business but it doesn’t have to be complicated for bloggers.

The best solution right now: use Feedburner.com for your RSS feed (a great idea for many reasons) and use their Pingshot service to automatically ping the top blog search engines. This will include Technorati and shebang – you’re Technorati Tagged posts should show up very soon after you post them in Technorati Tag Searches. Update: This post is appearing in Technorati 10 minutes after first posted.

There are alternatives, like Pingoat, but now that Feedburner offers this service it’s a not an issue. Depending on how quickly you find this post, Technorati may not have indexed it yet. But I wrote the previous one just this morning and if you click on its tags you’ll see that Technorati found it within 2 hours.

Let me know if I can help you with this or if it’s still confusing. Also, let me know if you would like to hire me to get your blog all souped up for maximum traction with all these new tools. There are many things that can be set up once and that you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of without thinking about it in the future. My blog optimization rates are reasonable and you’ll be very glad we did it.

For now, I’m going to go back and link to this article from the original post about the bookmarklet. I should have told readers, “don’t forget to ping!” Once all your ducks are in a row you’ll see that this stuff is easy and powerful to use.

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China Web News Roundup

Several items of interest today re China, where a number of regular readers live. I love it when people from China visit this site. Perhaps primarily for the rest of us, here’s some links to interesting news today about China and the web.

I imagine we’re going to see a lot of very exciting web-related things come out of China. I hope that the Chinese web will help the world become a more just place.

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NPTech Meta Feed Update

Several months ago I was excited to find out about an attention stream for non-profit technologists that utilized the tag “nptech.” Althought begun in Del.icio.us, I found that the tag was being used in many different platforms to tag many different kinds of online content – from photos to upcoming events. There’s discussion and aggregated content over at at http://nptech.krazy.com. I thought it would be helpful to create an RSS feed that pulls together items tagged nptech from all the sources listed at Tag Central.net. I should probably update the sources to include podcast tags.

The aggregated feed is at http://feeds.feedburner.com/NPTechMetaFeed.

So it’s been about 2 months now since that feed was created, and I realized last night that I should probably share some statistics from Feedburner.

There are currently 21 subscribers to the RSS feed, NPTech Meta Feed.

That number has grown steadily in the last two months. (graphic coming in a minute)

The articles most clicked through so far are:

LATechSurvey.pdf (12 clickthroughs)
How about a nonprofit related application? (7 clickthroughs)
theses8.12.low.pdf (7 clickthroughs)

To be fair, two of those are pdf files, which had to be clicked through in order to be read, as pdfs don’t appear in an RSS reader. Other links people have clicked through the most to comment on or otherwise do more than just read include:

Scuttle: de.lirio.us
Michael Stein’s NON-PROFIT TECHNOLOGY BLOG: Bread and Butter 2.0 (I liked this one a lot.)

This week’s most popular clickthrough has been a podcast on IT Conversations about non-profits blogging. Unfortunately, whoever bookmarked it in Furl appears to have bookmarked the download link and not the podcast’s permalink – so clicking through just gets an error message. That podcast, titled Non-Profits Blogging can be found at http://www.itconversations.com/shows/detail439.html

Ok, so that’s a run down of the NPTech Meta Feed so far. I’ll try and write a similar blog post every from time to time. This is a good example of a community of practice creating an attention stream using a tag.

These statistics were gathered via the wonderful folks at FeedBurner. If you are curious about the ins and outs of how RSS works and how these stats are gathered, you can listen to Madge Wienstien’s great interview with a FeedBurner exec.

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Meet the Sploggers

Any time a new medium emerges with a low barrier to entry, people are going to try to make easy money off it. Online that means spam. Spam doesn’t just mean email, though. There’s Tag Spam, blog comment and trackback spam and Splogs, or spam blogs. Splogs show up all the time in the RSS feeds I set up for searches. It really bums me out. The splogs appear to have valuable information about whatever search term you’re looking for, but they are really just worthless attempts to get you to click on ads or click through to another site or to raise the inbound link profile of another site. It’s wretched, and there are so many of them! Since Blogger in particular is free and easy to use, many people are just filling the blogosphere with crap. I have my ideas on how to deal with it, but I’m writing today to point you over to an interesting article titled “Meet the Sploggers”. It’s a description of the goals and tactics of just a few current sploggers out there. It’s a pretty interesting read, I think.

For the record, I think that one way to deal with splogs is to find ways to integrate attention data into filters for our search results. For example, I could say “show me only those resulting pages that have been flagged as spam by less than 5 unique readers.” or “show me only sites that people from more than 2 continents have spent at least 30 minutes on in the last 3 days” or some variation of that. There are ways to game systems like that too, but it becomes more of a burden to do so as these obstacles are built up.

Finally, check out social-recommendation enabled search engines like Wink.com. Tools like this, and social bookmarking, will allow you to just search inside the validated worlds of your trusted friends. Obviously limitations exist here, and you’d want to wander out into the wilderness in many circumstances, but for the cleanest search results…you may want to look to a “walled garden.”

Ultimately, I believe that search to RSS is one of the most powerful tools in the Web2.0 sphere. It automates the rapid discovery and delivery of key information. It is a powerful means of getting and staying on top of your field.

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