The heading of a blog home page usually contains some statistics like the number of posts in the blog and the number of comments. Almost always it will mention the number of trackbacks. The codebetter blog homepage has a list of bloggers (reverse) ordered by number of posts, with our trackbacks. The way the latter changes over time made me suspicious. There are liars, big liars and (blog) statistics so I would like to know what I am actually reading.
A trackback is a word everybody is using, but almost nobody can give a good definition what it really is. I went to wikipedia :
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
TrackBack is a system implemented by Movable Type and later adopted by many blogging tools, including TypePad, WordPress, and Nucleus, that allows a blogger to see who has seen the original post and has written another entry concerning it. The system works by sending a ‘ping‘ between the blogs, and therefore providing the alert.
TrackBack typically appears below a blog entry and shows a summary of what has been written on the target blog, together with a URL and the name of the blog.
The specification for TrackBack and its implementation were developed by Six Apart, creators of the MovableType weblog and content management system.
Aha, so it is invented by a specific blogging tool. And not the most popular one amongst developers. What I know about the way .text and cs implement trackbacks when posting is that they scan a post for links and will send a trackback to all links found. And it’s up to the receiver what to do with them. What I have noticed about the way .text and cs deal with incoming trackbacks is that it’s next to random. The most extreme examples I’ve seen is referring to some of my own posts and seeing my count rise by six. And there are lots of links to my post which didn’t influence my count at all. So the tools used to post and to refer determine if a trackback is seen in the statistics.
What’s of real interest are referrals. In the statitstics of your blog it’s a list of links which have been followed to find the post. Including links from google where you can see what search phrases have been used to find your story. Referral is also in wikipedia but no-one has taken the effort yet to enter it as an internet term.
To sum it up:
- Trackbacks are no open standard
- Trackbacks depend on the blogging tools used
- Referrals tell the real story
Should CodeBetter switch from displaying trackback count to referral count ? Or to page hits ? A side problem would be we’de have to swich to scientific notation Imho we should display nothing, it’s the content itself which counts.