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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Trackback for Bible users

Trackback isn't just for Bible scholars, such as Jim West (see my preceding post). It turns out that trackback can also be used on blogs of Bible users. If you use a blog service such as Blogspot which does not include trackback along with comments, you, too, can add trackback for free to your blog. In the remainder of this post I will give step-by-step directions to install trackback on your blog.

"Wait, wait, wait!" some of you might be saying at this point. What does trackback do? How can it benefit my blog? Trackback is one more way that blogs have of communicating with each other. If someone links to one of your blog posts, telling how much they like (or dislike!) it, if you have trackback on your blog, they can send a signal (called a ping) to your blog, telling it exactly which post has been referenced on their blog. Through Trackback you can then see all the blogs which are connecting to that post. Of course, we can tell a blogger that we have linked to their post, by placing a comment to that effect under their post. But not every blogger takes the time to click on your blog link that should accompany the comment you place on their blog. And even if they do, you may not be able to tell exactly which of your blog posts they are discussing. Trackback takes care of these details for you.

First, go to the Haloscan website and register for a free account. Be sure to write down your username. You will need it later in this process. Now, if you mosey around on the Haloscan website, you may discover that they have a process which will automatically install Haloscan Comments and Trackback to almost every kind of blog, including Blogspot blogs like mine. I used this automatic procedure, and it works great. BUT in that process you will "lose" the comments which are already on your blog. There are directions posted somewhere on the Internet which will enable you to have two kinds of Comments links on your blog, one for Blogspot comments (yours will reappear; they never were actually lost, they just disappeared until you re-activated them) and one for Haloscan comments. But I don't need two sets of comments on my blog. That's confusing to me and probably to blog visitors. I had to learn the hard way (with the help from other bloggers who posted their experiences on the Internet so I could understand the process) what I wish I had known more clearly, the process of installing only Trackback, which I am describing in this post.

Next, backup your blog template, in case something goes wrong during the trackback installation process. For that matter, you should backup your template regularly, anyway, just in case the blogging service loses your template. (I understand that that has happened.) I backup my template by copying it in its entirety, then pasting all of it to a text file in my computer folder for my blog.

Now, for the hardest part. You are going to insert two or three pieces of template code into different places in your template. I will try to give you enough information so that you can locate those places in your templates precisely.

Here is the first block of code:
<!-- ## Begin first Haloscan insertion -->
<script type="text/javascript"
src="http://www.haloscan.com/load/username/"></script>
<!-- ## End first Haloscan insertion --& >
Before you can insert this code into your template you must substitute your Haloscan username for "username."

Now, let's search your template for the place to insert this code. For many of you, this should work: search for exactly this sequence of symbols:
!-- Blog Header --
Insert your first block of code (I have only given you one so far; insert all of it) right after that line of code that you just found.

Here is your second block of code which will be inserted:
<!-- ## Begin second Haloscan insertion -->
<a class="comment-link"
href="http://www.haloscan.com/tb/username/<$BlogItemNumber$>/"
title="Trackback" onclick="HaloScanTB('<$BlogItemNumber$>');
return false;"><script
type="text/javascript">postCountTB('<$BlogItemNumber$>'); </script></a>
<!-- ## End second Haloscan insertion -->
Once again, change "username" to your Haloscan username.

Now let's find where this block of code will be inserted in your template. Search for the following sequence of symbols:
/BlogItemCommentsEnabled
That sequence of symbols should appear twice in your template. For now, we want the first time it occurs. Insert your second block of Haloscan code in a blank space preceding the line on which your searched for symbols occur.

Only one more insertion (third insertion) to go, for some of you (at least those of you with Blogspot blogs--others of you will need to experiment--if this insertion produces two Trackback links on your blog, then delete it from your blog template)! You will use the same block of code you did for your second insertion. Be sure your Haloscan username is used instead of "username."

Now, find the second time in your template where the sequence of these symbols occurs:
/BlogItemCommentsEnabled
Insert the second block of code in a blank space on a line preceding that sequence of symbols that you found.

Now save your template and view it. If everything went right, you should now see a "Trackback" link next to your "comments" link.

Now, some of you, especially those using a paid blogging service such as MovableType may already have Trackback installed. You, of course, don't need to insert Haloscan Trackback. But you may or may not have a way to automatically ping (signal) the other blog post that you have discussed it. To take full advantage of Trackback, you must ping and be pinged. You can ping a blog post that you are discussing. You can only ping a blog which has Trackback installed. But the converse is not true: you can discuss a post on a blog that has Trackback and ping it even if you do not have Trackback installed on your own blog.

For those of us who do not have any way to automatically ping another blog post, you must ping their post manually. (And, PLEASE, only ping a post if you have actually discussed it, and blog etiquette calls for you also to link to that blog post from within your own post--do not spam other people's blogs just to try to get more visitors to your own blog. That is dishonest, and considered in very bad taste within the blogosphere.)

To manually ping a blog post, I use the ping tool called Simpletracks. When you first look at the form, you may feel confused. Don't worry. This learning curve is quite small and soon you'll be pinging rather easily (again, do NOT use the ping feature unless you have made a genuine post about some other blogger's post).

In the first blank window of the Simpletracks form you are to put the "Trackback URL". That is the unique Trackback code for the specific blog post you are pinging. This is NOT the URL of the post itself. It is the Trackback URL for that post. Ping will only work with the Trackback URL. To find the trackback code, click on the Trackback link under the blog post that you have quoted (on the other person's blog). A little window will pop up with the trackback URL. Copy that exactly. Don't try to copy it with your eye. Copy it by highlighting, copying, and pasting.

The next line of the Simpletracks form asks for the name of your blog. After that you are asked for the title of your own blog post that refers to the other blog post. Then you are asked for the URL of your own blog post (NOT the Trackback URL of your post). To find the URL of your post, you can click on the "time" or "Permalink" links below your post. I like to right-click, then click on Properties and copy/paste the URL to the Simpletracks form. Next, copy up to about 250 characters of your own blog post that refers to the other blog post. Finally, click on the "Send Ping" button. If you entered all the information properly and if the other blog is ready to receive the ping and if the pinging service is working, you should get a message in red letter near the top of the Simpletracks screen saying that the ping was successful. If the ping was not successful, click on the Back button your your Internet browser and look for any errors in the information. One problem which has frequently caused my pings not to work has been a blank space at the beginning of the information in one of the form's windows, especially the windows for the Entry Title or Entry URL. For some reason the copy/pasting process of filling that window often inserts an unwanted blank space at the beginning of the line. I think that that blank space can prevent the ping from being successful.

OK? Now if you read the Bible and/or are interested in Bible translation, and if you have a blog, you, too, can have trackback. I am by no means an expert in Trackbacking (although I have had to do a fair amount of back tracking in my life!!). I have been using it only a few days myself. So if some of this doesn't work for you, or if you have a blogging service or template that doesn't seem to fit the procedures I have outlined, I probably won't know the answer. But, as it has been said, "Everything I know I learned ... on the Internet." (Ahah! Some of you thought I was going to say kindergarten, didn't you?! Well, I was educationally deprived--some would say depraved--and did not have the opportunity to attend kindergarten. There was no kindergarten in our little Alaskan village when I started school.) So, you, too, may be able to find answers to questions about Trackback on the Internet. I'm sorry, but I am simply so busy wrapping up our Bible translation program that I cannot give individual help to other bloggers. That's why I posted this message, hoping it might be accurate and thorough enough to help other bloggers who want to add Trackback to their blog.

Oh, one other thing. I've stated that this installation would work on blogs of Bible users. The secret is that you don't need to be a Bible user for this procedure to work on . But I like to encourage people to use the Bible, and I also wanted a nice title for this post, so it seemed relevant for this Better Bibles blog!

If you install Trackback on your blog following my directions, would you please trackback to this blog post? It will be a good way to keep track of how bloggers have benefitted from these instructions.

For the ESV enthusiasts among us, if you post about something you first read on the ESV Bible blog, you can now ping the appropriate post on the ESV Bible blog. That blog has Trackback enabled, but not Comments. Please, please, do not abuse the Trackback function on the ESV Bible blog or else they will have to close down that function, just as, for their own security from spam, and the integrity of their website philosophy (and perhaps to prevent flame wars), they do not have comments enabled. I do not know if the TNIV blog has trackback or not. At the moment I am unable to access the TNIV blog.

Also, if you find any mistakes in my directions, please let me know so I can correct them.

Enjoy!

UPDATE (Aug. 21, 2005): I just discovered that a popular blog, La Shawn Barber's Corner, requires that trackback pings be sent with Simpletracks, so you might as well get friendly with that simple, easy-to-use form. La Shawn notes:
For people on Blogger.com who don’t have a trackback feature set up, you can still use Simpletracks to trackback to other blogs.
The same is true for those using Blogspot, which I think is connected to Blogger.com. And now with the the directions given in this post, both Blogger and Blogspot users can have Trackback on their own blogs and well as be able to ping other blogs with Simpletracks. But, as always, never, never, never spam other blogs with your pings. Be sure to refer to the blog you are pinging in your post, so there is a legitimate reason for your ping.

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10 Comments:

At Tue Aug 16, 10:59:00 AM, Anonymous brandon wason said...

Wayne, you can put angle brackets in your blog, like so < & >, by using the following code: &lt; & &gt;

 
At Tue Aug 16, 11:01:00 AM, Anonymous Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, Wayne. I have tried following your instructions for the new blog which I am in the process of setting up. This seems to work, but you will know if you receive the ping I just sent. You will be the first to view this blog, unless someone has stumbled on it by chance. But please don't link to it yet, until I am ready to make it public.

 
At Tue Aug 16, 11:03:00 AM, Anonymous Tim said...

Thanks, Wayne, seems to have worked for me, though I use Blogger, so I had to make a couple of small adjustments, mainly to just add the second (and NOT the third) set of code. However, the thing that I found invaluable in getting it working was a non-techie description of what one does to make it all work (sorry - "send a ping")!

 
At Tue Aug 16, 11:07:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Thanks, Tim. I was going by instructions I read by other Blogspot bloggers. If the third block doesn't work for your blog, that is good to know. So, not all blog templates need the third block.

 
At Tue Aug 16, 11:07:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Brandon, thank you for giving me the alternate symbols for the angled brackets. I have revised my blog post to include them and that simplifies the directions.

 
At Thu Aug 18, 04:21:00 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

So glad I found your manual instructions for Trackback! I use blogspot and didn't have trackback. Another blogger said he had lost some comments, installing Trackback, and I was afraid to try, until I read your article. Thanks to your instructions, it worked like a charm and I didn't have to do anything, after saving and republishing my blog.

 
At Fri Aug 19, 08:41:00 PM, Blogger Godsdragon said...

OMG! I think I finally am getting somewhere with this trackback nightmare. I have been wrestling with haloscan now for a few weeks, and it is only lately I see light at the end of a tunnel and it is not the train comming at me! LOL
I am glad to see you offering your explanation of trackback here and I intend to visit back soon. In th emean time, please feel free to come on over, comment or trackback if you'd like as I have not been successful verifying that, in fact tgrackback is functional in my blog(s).
Thank you and God bless you.

 
At Sat Aug 20, 11:12:00 AM, Blogger Godsdragon said...

Thanks. It worked! Woo Hoo!

 
At Sat Aug 20, 10:30:00 PM, Blogger kmg said...

Help!

What is the third block of code?? I think I got lost there...

 
At Sun Aug 21, 07:01:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

kmg, the third block of code is the same as the second block of code. Since you are using Blogspot service, insert the second block of code into both of the parts of your template which are described in my directions.

 

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