On Using Manual and/or Automatic Link Notification Systems

Filed as Features on January 7, 2008 2:01 pm

When writing a blog post I place links to relevant sources and material. I choose my links carefully and they represent what I think fits the topic best.

Trackback is an intentional way of notifying other blogs because WordPress requires you to manually enter the blog’s trackback link. It also allows you to send a notification to another blog even if you don’t explicitly link to them in the post. This may be done in an attempt to include the other blog in the conversation. On top of that trackbacks may be considered “the real letters of recommendation on the web.” However, with the increasing disappearing of a visible trackback link is it still a popular feature?


Only three years after the invention of trackback Tom Coates declared that it “has been killed by spam and by spammers.” Tony Hung recently posed the question if Trackbacks Become Too Spammy To Be Worthwhile? and addressed how, despite of the burdens of spam, trackbacks helped him to participate in the discussion and to get his blog noticed.

As a relatively new blogger I initially did not know the exact difference between trackback and pingback until I read the ‘WordPress Trackback Tutorial.’ After reading the article I discovered that I had never actually used the trackback feature and mainly relied on pingback. I have become so used to pingback that I have taken linking and linking notification methods for granted.

Pingback was designed to answer some of the flaws of trackback:

horrible internationization support, bad auto-discovery, proclivity for spamming, no verification, historical baggae of category junk, bad spec. Fix all these and you get… pingback. (Mullenweg)

In contrast to the manual trackback, pingback is fully automatic. WordPress is automatically enabled to send a ping notification to the links in my blogpost. If the other blog is enabled to receive pingbacks the link will usually be displayed in the comment section. While I consciously link to other blog posts I also unconsciously comment on them by sending a pingback.

That I do not use trackbacks is not a matter of being lazy. I don’t mind spending an extra few minutes to look up the trackback link and send the blog a manual notification. It was simply a matter of not knowing the difference between trackback and pingback. I have become so accustomed to the easy and automatic notification method of pingback that it is hard to incorporate a “new” and manual method in my blogging routine.

Do you send manual notifications in the form of trackbacks to other blogs? Or do you rely mainly on automatic pingbacks? Do you have a particular reason for not using one or the other?

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  1. By Alessandra posted on January 7, 2008 at 2:42 pm
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    I am doing just like you! ;-)

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  2. By Mike Goad posted on January 7, 2008 at 5:22 pm
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    I rely on automatic pingback. It does what I need. Of course, I didn’t know the difference, either.

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  3. By Big Fella posted on January 7, 2008 at 8:04 pm
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    After about 12 months of blogging, I finally realized what the trackback field was for in the WP template. I was still not comfortable understanding the difference between trackbacks and pings, your explanation above is much clearer to me than anything I found on the WP site.

    I try to include trackbacks in my posts, but I don’t think they are very successful, because I usually do not find an actual “trackback link” on the blog I want to link to, and try to link to the particular posting (page), but rarely see anything from my blog show up on the blog I am trying to trackback to.

    At this point, based on your explanation above, I will go in to my WP Admin module and try and determine if I have pingbacks properly configured.

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  4. By Elaine Vigneault posted on January 7, 2008 at 10:38 pm
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    “Do you send manual notifications in the form of trackbacks to other blogs?”
    No – I began blogging as a diarist, not as a journalist or as participating in a conversation. I started at eljay, just keeping a personal journal. So I never really understood or took part in trackbacks.

    “Or do you rely mainly on automatic pingbacks?”
    Yes, but I’m not sure what you mean by ‘rely’. If I really want a blogger involved in the conversation, I’ll go to their place instead of asking them to come to my place. I don’t rely on pings to send messages. I rely on humans to send messages.

    “Do you have a particular reason for not using one or the other?”
    Just habit mostly. But also feeds are changing the conversation. I rely more on the assumption that anyone who wants to hear what I have to say will subscribe to my feed or come to read my blog, than I rely on the assumption that pings will work. And vice versa – I subscribe to blogs I want to read. I don’t wait for them to ping me to join the conversation.

    Basically, I’m in support of whatever’s simplest and easiest for regular bloggers to understand and use. So… pingbacks for now. I’m a big fan of making blogging about free expression and less about technical stuff.

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  5. By David LaFerney posted on January 8, 2008 at 2:19 am
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    I’ve only been using WordPress for about 6 months, and I’ve never used manual trackbacks yet, but the way that pingbacks help you to automatically give and receive credit is great.

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  6. By Annie B Lawrence posted on January 8, 2008 at 3:32 pm
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    I’ve been blogging on blogger and wanting to make the jump to WP or typepad. Can you help me make my decision between the two. I have an account with WP and a host for my blog ready but haven’t made the leap yet. Thanks for your article about track backs. I find a lot of interesting articles here and great info.

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  7. By Anne Helmond posted on January 9, 2008 at 4:57 am
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    @Big Fella: That is what I experience too, a lack of visible trackback links. Is the trackback link vanishing?

    @Elaine: “I rely on humans to send messages.” is an excellent description of notifying other blogs or engaging them in the conversation. Whether they use trackback/pingback/comments or feeds to communicate, intentional communication usually works best.

    @Annie: I personally cannot help you as I am not a Typepad user. I am sure there most be a lot of tutorials out there that will help you to make the actual leap. In WordPress if you go to Manage > Import you will be able to import your Typepad blog (make sure to first export your blog in Typepad). Good luck!

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  8. 10+ Gründe für oder gegen Trackbacklinks in der Blogosphäre at viralmythenFebruary 6, 2008 at 10:54 am
  9. Trackback Declared Dead… Again! : The Blog HeraldApril 21, 2008 at 12:26 pm
  10. Anne Helmond » Experimenting with TweetbacksJanuary 19, 2009 at 11:08 am

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