maintaining the dialogue

There are a variety of ways for blogs to communicate and even publish information with simple protocols in semi-automated as well as manual ways. The great thing is that they all offer ways to let the original author/poster know you thought what was said was worthwhile. As I am sure I’ve mentioned previously I am not a developer so the definitions and interpretations are purely from a user perspective. I am far from an expert on these topics, but was thinking about how it all works and truly find it intriguing. One of the more fascinating things about maintaining a blog is checking your traffic patterns and discovering how people are finding you – and then what they might be saying about you.

Referral

Referrals are the most basic way you can see that someone has linked to you and requires you check your traffic logs to see that in fact people are coming to your site from another. You can see whether it’s a straight link or even whether someone has searched for specific terms in a search engine which led to you.

You can use a tool like Refer to track referral traffic to your site without pouring over the logs, but you’ll find (as discussed below) unfortunately people know how to take advantage of this system.

Comment

Many blogs include a link to comments which let you leave your thoughts about what you’ve read right there connected to the post. In most cases, the blog system allows the author to be notified via email when someone has left a few words for them.

Trackback

Trackbacks are where things start to get interesting. If I see something on a blog I find of interest and the system is in place I can refer to the post on my blog and send a trackback over to the original blog. The trackback will post a comment directly on the other blog — assuming that is how things have been configured. This is similar to a comment except you post simultaneously on your blog as an original post with a cookie trail back on the referred site.

You can find Trackback development information here

Pingback

When I started using WordPress, I noticed something called a Pingback, which can be activated and used on any post you make with a referenced URI. From what I can tell, the pingback basically says “Hello” to the referred author and does not post anything on the other site as a comment, though I am pretty sure it can be configured to work that way. This seems to be more like a private comment, between you and the person you have referenced on your own site.

The spec is published here. I am not sure what happens or who wins if a post received a pingback and a trackback. UPDATE – I now know that Pingback and Trackback both publish on the noted site (see below) which now has me believing that they are really competing bits of technology. Probably to move things to a more open platform, beyond Moveable Type where I think things started with Trackback.

Caveats

Unfortunately just like in email, people have figured out ways to take advantage of the system to promote sketchy enterprises – generally spam engines and porn – by utilizing automated systems to leave comments on (primarily moveable type) blogs. A comment spam blacklist was designed to delete and then block attempts to do this. The main reason for referral and comment spam seems to be much more than just getting whatever traffic happens to be on a site to see the post for viagra or whatever the porn site du jour happens to be.

Behind all the blogs is an amazing system of sites culling what’s being said and creating smart directories so users have a way to search the conversations. You can check out Technorati, Feedster, Daypop, Popdex, Blogdex and Blogosphere to get yourself started … What you will find is that this spam collects enough traffic by referral to create it’s own buzz. The more links to a site there are, creates more notice and therefore more alleged priority.

The SixApart people, who developed Moveable Type have created a new way to stop comment spam called TypeKey which is a universal registration system for blogs (primarily MT sites) which will allow you to comment without saying who you are each time and for the authors to believe you. We’ll see if it works. There are plenty of people for and against this.

WordPress was smart enough to create some rules for filtering comments which on my site so far has allowed for no comment spam. My older site which is based on MT still gets a fair bit of comment spam and unfortunately requires I run the blacklist plugin to manually delete it each time this happens.

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