When I first got online I only knew one other person in the world with email. Gradually this number increased until today when only a couple of people I know aren’t online and I can barely keep in touch with them. Similarly, it seems like over the past year or two everyone who wasn’t already weblogging is starting to. One anonymous friend has slowly started Sofaville and hopefully he’ll keep it going (although he’s anonymous I can reveal I’ve known him since the age of 7 when he told me he didn’t like my tracksuit). Tim, with whom I had the pleasure of sharing a house some years ago, started his Bandwagon last year but I’m not sure if I’d noticed it until now.
I came across Tim’s Bandwagon because he was experimenting with Trackback and pinged one of my posts. In one of those coincidences that should no longer be surprising Tom and I were playing with Trackback only yesterday because, like everyone else who’s ever used it, he was trying to get his head round it. Trackback Makes No Sense. It’s a wonderful idea but it’s so complicated as to be useless by anyone but the most dedicated or lucky weblogger.
For example, at the end of this post you’ll see the “Trackback URL.” What is this for? I hunted through the Movable Type documentation while rewriting this site to figure out why I needed it. I assumed it must be important but I couldn’t find anything that told me how to use it, or why this ugly URL bearing no relation to the URL of its associated post should be visible to the majority of readers who don’t care. I now know that if you paste it into Movable Type’s ‘URLs to Ping’ input field then you can put a link to your post on the site you got the URL from. Still with me?
Another Trackback oddity… Handily you often don’t need to know this URL because Movable Type does magic things (that I’m not even going to attempt to describe) to handle Trackback for you when you link to a Trackback-enabled post on someone’s site. However, if you link to a post on your own site it doesn’t work. But you can use the weird “Trackback URL” to force a link to appear on the old post you wanted to Trackback to. If you got this far you’re brave, or now have a glazed look on your face. It’s a great idea but if a great idea is impossible to explain, or even demonstrate, understandably it needs to be simpler.