Refback from IndieWeb Chat

It took me a moment to realize what it was exactly since I hadn’t yet added a field to indicate it, but since the IndieWeb chat doesn’t send webmentions by itself, I’m glad I support refbacks to be aware of comments on my posts. The avatar didn’t come through quite like it should, but it’s nice to be able to treat refbacks like any other type of mention.

Thanks David Shanske for the Refbacks plugin. Thanks Tantek for what I think is my first incoming “mention” from chat.

The chat has some reasonable microformats markup, so I suppose the parser could do a more solid job, but this is a pretty great start. Sadly, Refback isn’t as real-time as Webmention, but it’s better than nothing.

My first mention (aka refback) from the IndieWeb chat. Click on the photo to see the UI display on my site.

I suppose we could all be posting chats on our own sites and syndicating into places like IRC to own our two directional conversations, but until I get around to the other half… (or at least for WordPress, I recall having gotten syndication to IRC for WithKnown working a while back via plugin.)

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Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

6 thoughts on “Refback from IndieWeb Chat”

    1. Aaron, It took me a while to figure it all out too, especially since refbacks are so ungodly simple compared to the other notification types (at least from a plumbing perspective). There’s also a missing UI bit in the administrative fields of your comments admin screen and without it you may think they’re just duplicates of your webmentions, which in some sense they are, just with less data. I used the Admin Columns plugin to add a few additional columns to my comments admin UI so I can tell what kind of mention (Webmention, Pingback, Trackback, or Refback) I’ve received. My comments UI now looks roughly like this:

      Additional columns at the end of my comments admin UI have been added to indicate the notification type as well as the semantic type. It also makes deleting duplicate/unnecessary refbacks easier.

      In simplest terms , when someone clicks on a link on any website that directs to your website, your site logs that fact and indicates which site it came from. It doesn’t provide as much information as a Webmention, Pingback, or Trackback, and it relies on the link on a particular site actually being clicked on. Depending on how much traffic the “sending” site gets, it may take minutes or hours to months or even years for you to get a refback from such a page, so they’re definitely not as realtime a technology as something like Webmention can be.

      As an example, the ProfHacker blog mentioned one of my posts in an article at, but since the Chronicle doesn’t support Webmention, pingbacks, or trackbacks nothing happened when they published their article. Thus I didn’t get a notification about it until someone actually clicked on that link to me several days later. As soon as they did click on it, I got a refback notifying me that the post existed. Without refbacks (or diligently pouring through my sites’ web traffic–and who wants to do that?) I would never have known that Lee wrote about and linked to me. Useful refbacks like this are infrequent, but when they happen, they can be quite useful.

      Because Webmentions are prettier than refbacks, generally when I get a “useful” refback, I’ll go to the originating site and copy the URL and put it into the manual webmention box on my post’s comment section and use that to send myself a manual Webmention which then looks a lot better and richer than the refback version. I then delete the original refeback to get rid of the duplicate.

      The tough part is that I also get a lot of self-refbacks, so anytime someone clicks on one of my own links back to myself, I get a refback for that too. I’ve tweaked my comment settings so all of those typically go to either my spam folder or trash. Given that I self-link a lot and have some reasonable traffic, I’ll get 300+ self-refbacks a day which is annoying, but worth cleaning out once a week for the couple of useful refbacks I get otherwise. Another side benefit is that it gives me a visual/physical indication of how popular particular posts are within a week. Maybe we could talk David into adding some code to mitigate self-refbacks?

      1. As always Chris, thank you for the clarification, that makes a bit more sense. I like your point about picking up on the odd click that is not necessarily captured through linkbacks or webmentions. As you have touched upon elsewhere, I can see the potential for UI improvement.


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