E-mails and comments welcome from teachers and learners of all ages.  
January 24, 2003
Brian needing some education

I will now exploit the ambiguity of my blog's title by emphasising the Brian's Education aspect of it.

I need to understand better than I do what is meant by the words "permalink" and "trackback". I do links to other blogs by just mousing around until I find something that seems like a link, and then later I check that this does indeed take my readers to the posting I'm referring to. But is there a system that automatically tells the linkee that this has happened? I get e-mails about how people have linked to me, sometimes. How does all that work? On this blog I have the time of the posting, which seems to be a link of some kind, and then a trackback, but no permalink. Is the time bit the permalink but called something different here. And what is a trackback?

You can tell that other people did all the setting up of this, can't you? I once asked Perry de Havilland of Samizdata about this stuff but couldn't understand his answer, so I thought I'd try you lot.

Someone, please educate me. Thanks in advance for any comments.

But please don't anyone say that it's up to me to discover it all for myself, and that your job is merely to enable me to do this.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:44 PM
Category: Brian's educationTechnology

I do not use trackbacks, but I will have a try at explaining them.

The time bit is the permalink. It is simply a place I can link to where a given post will continue to exist after it has fallen off the main page of the blog. For example, I link to this post from here: http://takosan.us/cogito/archives/2003/01/24/tackback_test.html#000447. Nearly everyone (including you) uses this.

When I do that, you have no way of knowing that I did it other than to examine you site log for referring websites. If I want you, or your readers, to know about my post (perhaps it is a particularly insightful comment which (obviously) everyone who reads you will find irresistible), then I ping a page on your website, the address of which I get from clicking on "TrackBack(#)". Now anyone else who clicks on that will find out that I have done so and may, if they are interested "continue the discussion". In movabletype, you do this by adding the url to the "URL(s) to ping" text box at the bottom of the post entry page.

The advantage over just using your comment section is that I have a record of what I said on my blog, and I have more control over its presentation (and I can edit it later for spelling, a seemingly critical part of my blogging experience). The disadvantage is that people on your site must click back and forth to read all of the trackback posts, while the comment posts are conveniently grouped on one page.

I know you asked us not to do this, but a (slightly) longer discussion of possible uses is in movabletype's users manual here: http://www.movabletype.org/docs/mtmanual_trackback.html#using%20trackback

I hope this helps.

Comment by: Steven Gallaher on January 24, 2003 03:55 PM

A large portion of bloggers constantly watch their "referral logs". These contain information on every visitor to their site, which includes the location of the page containing the link that the visitor used to get to your site. These do not appear until someone actually clicks on the link. For this reason, if you link to someone it is important to click on the link once after you have posted it, because this usually lets the linkee know about it.

(I do not know how to look at referral logs using Moveable Type, but I am sure it is not hard).

Comment by: Michael Jennings on January 24, 2003 04:31 PM

Many thanks gentlemen. I am studying your comments carefully.

Comment by: Brian Micklethwait on January 26, 2003 09:55 PM
Comment by: Steven Gallaher on February 11, 2003 06:38 PM
Post a comment