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January 18, 2007




I always thought trackbacks were different from comments in another way (apart from the fact that it's a link with no text); specifically, I only add a trackback to a blog post if a post on my blog has a link to that blog post. For example, if I were to write a blog post on my blog (Software Abstractions) that links to this post, then I would put a trackback here pointing back to my post.

Incidentally, Wikipedia supports this definition [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trackback] and TypePad implements this feature within their blog management interface.

I have to disagree with Mathew Ingram on this one - I think trackbacks used in this way are valuable, because they enable a reader to follow a conversation carried out across multiple blogs.

Don Dodge

NitinK, I agree with you, and if everyone used Trackbacks as you suggest, life would be good.

The problem is that spammers put trackbacks on blogs that have absolutely nothing to do with the content of a post. They do it simply to get a link to their blog, and thereby build up their PageRank for search engines.

As an aside, Danny Sullivan left a trackback yesterday to my blog post about Gabe Rivera and TechMeme. That trackback was exactly the right way to do it...just as you have suggested.


While trackback spam is an issue, I think Matthew is being a tad too purist here. Trackbacks show that your discussion has been referenced elsewhere, instead of directly commented on. That said, it doesn't seem to be a much-used feature - it's not obvious for non-techies - and those spammers... &%!@$!!

Mathew Ingram

Just to clarify, I sent Don an email after I got his trackback link and noticed that he hadn't actually linked to me in his post, or even mentioned my post (the one he was tracking back to).

Since my understanding of the trackback was the same as the definition NitinK gave from Wikipedia, I said (as I recall) that I didn't mind having him trackback a post of mine -- provided he actually mentioned or linked to the post in his post.

I'm happy to have comments or trackbacks, and can see the value of both. But if a post that tracks back to mine doesn't contain a link or a mention of my post, then that seems to me to cross the line into spam.


It may be useful for me to mention for the sake of the tech-minded and bloggers that the search engines developed a protocol for the outbound links from your site so that you can essentially say "I don't vouch for this link", and using that protocol helps reduce spam. If enough people used it, it might reduce the value of spamming blogs.

The protocol is called the NOFOLLOW parameter, and you can make it so that all links from comments or trackbacks are NOFOLLOWED, telling the search engines to not count those links when they're calculating the ranking values of the destination pages.

Joseph A di Paolantonio

I've never seen a trackback that didn't include a summary, usually the first 255 characters, of the post tracking back [trackbacking?] to another's post. So, I must disagree with the idea that trackbacks don't have content. Another similar, though different idea is "pingback". Pingback software on your blog looks for links in a blog post that you're publishing, then looks for a pingback server at those link's targets, and then provides to those targets a summary taken from your post near the link in your post, and thus a more relevant pingback appears in the trackback or comment section of the target link's post. Unfortunately, pingback is much harder to implement than trackback, and not all blog engines do so, or do so successfully. Spammers abusing comments, trackbacks and pingbacks are another issue altogether.

Blogging is like speaking from a podium, and often to an empty room. Allowing comments invites questions, opinions and clarifications from the audience. Trackbacks and pingbacks transform blogging into a panel discussion, wherein anyone with a blog and something to say on the topic, can be a panelist.

Flash Porsche

Love your blog. Can't wait to see what you write about. Go for it!

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