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In Defense Of Trackbacks, Part II.

We recently urged bloggers everywhere to keep trackbacks on their sites, even with rising levels of spam. Some of the biggest bloggers are now wondering if trackbacks are worth it.

First, for those who have no idea what trackbacks are, M.A.W.B. Squad has a succinct definition:

A trackback sends a link to another person's post to show that you've commented on what they've written about.

Powerline, unfortunately, nixed trackbacks "one and for all," but offered a glimmer of hope for the trackbackophiles:

Maybe we'll revive them if the spam situation improves someday.

Captain's Quarters blog explains, "the clean-up has gotten very tiresome," but sees worth in them nonetheless:

I think TBs are an essential tool of the blogosphere in directing readers to other opinions in the debate. A great example of this is the ongoing discussion over judicial nominations and the filibuster -- I use my own TBs to see how others have reacted to my arguments.

Michelle Malkin asks for advice on what to do:

We're beginning to have the same problem here (in many older entries). Let me know what you think I should do.

Blogs for Bush, meanwhile, offers a relatively easy solution to the problem.

Patrick Ruffini also believes trackbacks are useful, and notes popular blogging software designer "Movable Type needs to get on a fix for this pronto."

Ed Driscoll, meanwhile, is less optimistic about the future of trackbacks, noting, "enjoy trackbacks while they last."

Half Sigma blog (found through a trackback at Ed Driscoll) breaks it down in a very unique way:

Trackback spam is an example of negative sum activity. Sending a spam trackback ping may have a benefit of +1 to the spammer, but a cost of -10 to the blog owner and readers. But because so many members of the human race are scum, they will engage in activity that has a benefit for themselves but a net loss for society.

Blogicus argues:

...the power of the blogosphere is, in part, tied to the subject dependent interconnectivity. Without trackbacks, the network is likely to stagnate and resist desirable change that brings new thoughts and analysis forward.

From the perspective of WILLisms.com's growth over the past 90 days or so of blogging, trackbacks have been invaluable for breaking through the clutter, even just a little. For emerging blogs, trackbacks are crucial for cultivating a base of readers, then occasionally reminding those readers visiting the larger blogs to "come home."

But trackbacks have a more important purpose. They allow blogs to engage in "conversation" about ideas, letting people discover new perspectives outside the entrenched mainstream of blogs. And make no mistake, as blogs become increasingly mainstream, without interactive tools such as trackbacks, there will be a handful of mainstream blogs, much like the mainstream media, that set the agenda on their own.

In short: Save the trackbacks!

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 April 2005 11:59 AM


I love trackbacks! I get on WILLisms.com and take off with the trackbacks... Trackbacks take me all over blogland. Keep trackbacks! Please! Thank you!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at April 18, 2005 12:41 PM

All previous grousing aside, it was a trackback that first led me here, and I've never regretted it. And yeah, cleaning up the spam can be a pain in the ass (my personal record was 15 one morning), but the benefits -- for now -- outweigh that.

And I will deny under oath ever saying that first sentence.


Posted by: Jay Tea at April 18, 2005 12:47 PM

Count your blessings, folks. People with trackback spam have successful blogs. The two go hand-in-hand. We have no spam at our blog. We also get 30 visits a day. We'd gladly trade deleting a little spam for more readers and more nonchalant banter on our comment threads.

Posted by: Hoodlumman at April 18, 2005 06:07 PM

My apologies for the double ping! I republished to remove some extra space at the bottom of the post and Typepad sent it again. (Normally it erases it after the first time.)

Ironically, on a post about trackbacks, of course....sigh.

Posted by: Sandy at April 18, 2005 07:06 PM

Add my agreement. I find interesting blogs though trackbacks which I would never find without them. Bloggers who comment and who trackback are engaged and I want the opportunity to explore the richness of opinion and comment out here.

Posted by: Ralph at April 18, 2005 07:19 PM

I wrote a plugin for plog that solves the track back spam in two ways.

1) It can only accept trackbacks when the specified url points at at web page that itself has a trackback url
2) It can only accept trackbacks when it passes the bayesian spam filter that is used for comments.

Posted by: Paul Westbrook at April 19, 2005 02:38 AM

We'd gladly trade deleting a little spam for more readers and more nonchalant banter on our comment threads.

Bite your tongue! I don't think it has as much to do with traffic as it does with how long you've had a blog running. I've got about 1% of Michelle Malkin's traffic, and I've seen it at blogs with less traffic than mine.
That said, Movable Type just plain sucks ass for spam. I use Wordpress and with a couple of hacks I've been able to eliminate 99.99+% of it.

Wizbang's worst was 15 in a morning? My worst was about 300 in one morning. That was the day I learned about the hacks. ;-)

Rather than turning off trackbacks, people need to go look for the fixes--they're out there, although MT's are harder to find and probably less reliable. I hate blogs that don't use them when they can, just like the ones who don't allow comments. And I actually DO click through the trackbacks I get; it's not only fair, it's a good way to see what others are writing. (Not to mention the only way to see if it's a blasted one-way trackback...pet peeve.) And you're right, it's the best way to get your blog "out there."

Posted by: Beth at April 19, 2005 08:06 AM

Posted by: alaska trout fishing at June 25, 2005 05:49 PM