hypocritical : talking the talk without walking the walk

October 25, 2005

Typepad trackback ain't

UPDATE (October 27, 2005): Mena Trott, co-founder and president of Six Apart, offers an open apology to Typepad users. See how she addresses the problem. And see how she handles it far better than Google did when Blogger was suffering a similar fate.


As I've mentioned before, I use Blogger to compose this blog. Cheapskate? Yes. But it also has to do with the fact I started with it too long ago, and I feel some morbid allegiance with the tool. It's too hard to explain.

And yet, there were things missing. So I found ways to compensate. Like the way I compensate for my lack of confidence by berating companies on this blog.

For example, one of the contemporary blogging features that Blogger never seemed to have was trackback. (But we have backlinks, now. Wah wah wah. Too late.) So I started using Haloscan to support my trackback and comment needs. I've been satisfied and am willing to pay for this service. What a happy ending.

Not so fast.

You see, lately, the happy-go-lucky world of trackback pings has been a complete hair-tearer. And for the longest time, I couldn't figure out why.

So, I immediately blamed myself. It's me, isn't it? I'm not good enough for a trackback ping. My post wasn't good enough. That's it isn't it?

After wiping away the tears and taking a few deep breaths, I decided to rely on something more than my own self pity to provide some insight.

So, since I use Haloscan for tackback pings, I decided I would get mad at Haloscan. I've been posting these errors for weeks. Haven't heard anything from Haloscan to the contrary. I'm going to blame them. And I'm going to continue to believe it is Haloscan's problem, because they're not telling me that it's not.

Why won't Haloscan fix this problem? Don't look away when I'm talking to you.

Turns out. It's not their problem to fix.

It's Typepad. All the blogs I was trying to ping that were giving me an error were Typepad blogs. Some of my favorite bloggers use Typepad. Some of my most trackbackable posts want to reference those bloggers who use Typepad. But trackback ain't happening.

And--as my ego breathes a sigh of relief--I'm not the only one encountering the problem. I also see reports of errors here and here.

And who knows? This may be some way of preventing trackback spam. Or maybe it's a way to prevent spam blogs from sullying trackback and comments. I don't know, because I don't hear anyone saying anything.

Know what would have helped this whole problem? Some communication.

And for that, I can blame Haloscan. Yes, there's a discussion taking place on their forum, but they really could have done more.

What, you say? I'm glad you asked. How about these for starters:
  1. Post something on the Haloscan blog about the issue. New layout? a) Not really and b) Who cares? There are errors abound. Look, I realize it's not your problem, but your users are the ones dealing with the problem. Haloscan needs to clearly communicate to their customers about the problem and propose the resolution.

  2. Put something on the homepage. I couldn't care less about the number of members you're serving. I care about me. So take down that promotional graphic and tell me what you're doing to solve my problem.

  3. Put something on the "Send Trackback Ping" page. A simple message to the effect that "We are currently experiencing technical difficulties when pinging Typepad blogs. If your trackback ping URL begins with 'http://www.typepad.com' you cannot ping that post. We will alert you when this issue has been resolved." Throw in a "not our problem" for all I care. Just communicate.

  4. Write an intelligible error message or at least decipher the error message you're receiving. Instead of telling me "Pinging http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/... Problem: Server said 'Server IP is too far away from source URL IP'" which means next to nothing, give me something I can use. Provide a translation for me. Tell me what the error means. And better yet, tell me what you're doing to resolve it.

Typepad? Same goes for you folks. You should be alerting your users that a problem exists. Instead of waiting for them to come to you. Aren't you one of the leaders in this whole blogging thing, SixApart? For shame, for shame. I would have expected better of you. But maybe you're too busy arguing with 37signals about whether bigger is better or less is less.

And so where does it finally come back? Me, of course. Me me me. I can't trackback what I want to trackback. So I can't show everyone how smart or well-read I am. I can't brag or spew pithy retorts. And that's what really makes me mad. Because it affects me. Me.

So Seth? Steve? Don't be mad, please. I've been meaning to trackback the posts I've referenced. But I simply can't. I know, I know. We've worked to build the circle of trust, but it's not my fault. Please, don't let this tarnish what we have. I'll try to do better. Be mad at the tools. Whoa, whoa, whoa. That's a little low. The software tools.

Typepad? Hello? SixApart? Someone? Someone fix it. And please fix it now. If this is Customer Service 2.0 of Web 2.0, I think we're in dire need of a service pack.

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Typepad trackback ain't
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