As I continue to educate myself in the fine art of blogging, I continually find new terms and ideas I want to try. Case in point: trackbacks.
Definition: It is a remote commenting system between blogs. This is used when an individual reads an entry in someone's blog and chooses to write about that entry in his or her own blog. When TrackBack is used, a ping will be sent to the originator of the post, so he or she will know who blogged about his or her blog entry.
To me this helps illustrate the valuable essence of blogs' interconnectedness. One thing I really love about blogging and reading blogs is how much I've learned, and how many new ideas and websites I've found. I can read a blog entry, and find out about some cool site or idea, then I'll likely mention it in my own blog. If I do, I can "trackback" to that original blog entry, telling that original blogger that I have referenced their ideas in my blog. The link in my subsequent post create a virtual "trail of breadcrumbs", so my blog visitors can see where the inspiration for my post came from.
Basically, if I find something interesting in a specific blog entry, and that blog is Trackback-enabled, I can copy the Trackback URL at the end of the post, and enter it in the appropriate field in my own blog entry. When I publish my blog entry, it will 'ping' the original blog's server, letting the blogger know I have referenced that blog entry in my own subsequent entry. A link to my 'inspired' entry will then appear near the Comment section of that original blog entry. That way, anyone who is interested in the original topic can see I have also discussed that topic, and they can view my entry for further information/discussion.
To me, like I said, this helps cement and further the interconnectedness of blogs. I love the spiderweb of blogs -- how one entry, with its links to other blogs and websites, can lead me in directions I didn't even know I'm interested in. So if a blog entry has a list of Trackbacks, I can visit all those other blogs to read more about something.
My reference to Trackback as Blogging's RAK (Random Act of Kindness) isn't entirely accurate, because it's not random, and it's often not done truly altruistically. BUT, how I do it, and how it's been done for me, it can feel like an RAK. For example, in my Sunday Thoughts entry, I wrote about some issues I'm struggling to work through. Cynthia Ewer (aka CEO) noticed my entry, Trackback'd to it, then referenced my original entry in her blog. When she sent the Trackback 'ping', my Comments section reflected that Trackback. By following up with a link to my original post in her blog entry, the circle is completed. People reading my original entry can follow her Trackback link to read her thoughts on my original post, and people reading her subsequent post can follow the "virtual breadcrumbs" back to my blog, because she linked back in her entry. (I know it sounds kind of convoluted, but try not to think too hard about how it happens, just follow the circle.)
I talk about something in my blog.
Someone reads my blog, in this case, CEO.
She comments about what I originally said in her blog, linking back to my blog entry.
She sends a Trackback ping, to let me know she referenced my entry.
That message shows up in my Comments section.
The circle is complete, and our blog entries are now connected.
Of course, Trackbacks can be misused, or not nicely done -- someone can Trackback to an entry just to get the traffic to their blog, without linking back to the entry in their blog -- the circle is only half-completed. For Trackback to work like *I'd* like it to, everyone needs to 'play fair' and show where the discussion started. A form of "credit where credit is due", kinda.
For more info on the Trackback technology, visit: TrackBack - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Does this make sense?? How/why do you use Trackback? Is it a feel-good thing for you, too?
1/4/10 EDITED TO ADD: Case in point on trackbacks - a sad reality of the Internet - I just had to close/hide trackbacks to this post because I keep getting trackbacks from nasty blogs about nasty topics. Since I don't want the "virtual breadcrumbs" to give them any unearned traffic, I'm hiding trackbacks. Sadly ironic, that I can't allow actual examples of how trackbacks work, via this blog post.