January 09, 2003

BackTracking

Old canine here acquiring novel acts of prestidigitation. I see "Trackback" on my MT entries. I have some crude idea of its purpose, but none of its application. So what, sez I, makes no difference to me... until I noticed last week four "recent pings" show up on my MT edit page. Curious. Following them, I find that other bloggers have posted excerpts or comments on certain of my ramblings.

Chances are, without that "trackback" notice, I would have missed the link to Fragments. Had it turned out to be a matter that leads to further discussion wanting involvement of others (rather than a soliquoy on rutabagas, for example, which would be more typical of a Fragments topic) this trackback thing would really come in handy to create a "thread" by engaging the author in the discussion, apart from the often-overlooked "comments" section for the entry or a private email back to the person who linked to my article.

So I sought info from Scott Chaffin, author and custodian of The Fat Guy, who had been one of my trackbackers, and was bold enough to ask "how does this thing work, exactly?" His answer was so well crafted and clear, even this old dog can learn a new trick. Now I'm sure that for most of you seasoned and web-wise folk, this is old hat. But, with the possibility that there may be at least one more sheltered blogger out there that has wanted to know but was afraid to ask, I have taken the liberty to post Scott's excellent reply in full. I'm going to be more aware of the possibilities of TRACKBACK, and promise to use it at least once in the next few days.

Ooooh, I love learning a new trick. Hurts my brain a little. But you know, it hurts good.

Fred, There are two ways to do it: First, when editing a New Entry, there is a space for "URLs to Ping" in the Advanced Editing menu. For me to ping you, I place my cursor over your TrackBack URL, do a right click and Copy Shortcut, then paste that into the window for "URLs to Ping." When I publish the entry, my server will ping your server and tell your server that I have a TrackBack entry. So, that's: - type your entry that references another Movable Type blog - on the other blog, move your pointer to the TrackBack pointer - right-click - Copy Shortcut - go back to your entry edit screen - paste the copied shortcut (link) into the "URLs to Ping" window - Publish the entry - Everything else is automatic The second way is easier, if you have set up the Bookmarklet for one-click posting. When you do the one-click deal, if you are posting from an MT blog, it will automatically find TrackBack links and give you a list to choose from. Then all you do is select the item you want to ping. Everything else is automatic. So, the next question is WHY you should do all this? Well, some say a pingable web is a good web. It's a way for me to tell your readers, "Hey, I had something to say about this post." Ideally, your readers will click the TrackBack link, and they will see a page with a list of links to other posts, and they can go from your blog to my blog easily if they think it's worth reading. It's like an extended comment pointer. If you click on Movable Type Support in your editing menu, it will have an entry for TrackBack that describes how it works and what it does and how to set it up. Since it's in all the default templates, you probably won't have to do anything, except set up the one-click-post Bookmarklet, and that's easy. The instructions are in the same section. Theres also a Blog Config | Preference that will cause an publish command to automatically look for TrackBack-able entries, and that works really good, too -- I did it last night to Oliver Willis. Honestly, it's not used as much as I would like to see it used, because it's very vaguely defined and it's an MT-only standard, and it's not well understood. I mainly do it as a courtesy. And of course, it could conceivably drive traffic to your site, but I'm past the "gotta get more traffic!" stage. If I get it, I get it, and if I don't, well, then, I don't. Sorry for the novella -- but you asked. I hope this helps...and that it's not 100x more info than you needed. Scott
Posted by fred1st at January 9, 2003 06:29 AM | TrackBack
Comments

sounds like a cool app...

Posted by: sarge at January 9, 2003 07:16 AM

I've never wondered about the trackback, but what on earth is a "ping"??!?! I hear people talk about it here and there... and still have no clue what a "ping" is.

I know it's not me, though. *grin* ("Ping" happens to be my Chinese name, the name by which my parents call me. I'm Malaysian Chinese, in case you didn't know.)

Posted by: irene at January 9, 2003 09:57 AM

Mike Muuss wrote PING and his web site still has one of the most charming and easily understood explanations of PING. One that is also very much in context to your Chinese name "Ping".

..."Using deft allegory, the authors have provided an insightful and intuitive explanation of one of Unix's most venerable networking utilities. Even more stunning is that they were clearly working with a very early beta of the program, as their book first appeared in 1933, years (decades!) before the operating system and network infrastructure were finalized.

The book describes networking in terms even a child could understand, choosing to anthropomorphize the underlying packet structure. The ping packet is described as a duck, who, with other packets (more ducks), spends a certain period of time on the host machine (the wise-eyed boat). At the same time each day (I suspect this is scheduled under cron), the little packets (ducks) exit the host (boat) by way of a bridge (a bridge). From the bridge, the packets travel onto the internet (here embodied by the Yangtze River).

The title character -- er, packet, is called Ping. Ping meanders around the river before being received by another host (another boat). He spends a brief time on the other boat, but eventually returns to his original host machine (the wise-eyed boat) somewhat the worse for wear"


Here's the URL to Mike's PING page with the book about Ping the Duck and Mike's story of how and why he wrote PING. Unfortunately Mike is no longer on this plane...but I am sure he is sitting at God's hand teaching him UNIX.;-)

http://ftp.arl.mil/~mike/ping.html

~f

Posted by: feste at January 9, 2003 07:46 PM

Thanks!

Posted by: irene at January 10, 2003 12:35 PM

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