No More Trackbacks?

Dean Esmay is getting sufficiently tired of trackback spam that he’s considering doing away with the feature altogether. Kathy Kinsley has more or less cured that problem at OTB, although I still get dozens of e-mails to delete that are autogenerated by the spamming attempt.

Dean asks an interesting question: “How many of you out there actually follow trackbacks?”

My guess is that few non-bloggers do, whereas most bloggers do. Certainly, trackbacks are invaluable as a means of networking within the blogosphere and a key way for up-and-coming sites to get noticed. As a reader-blogger, I find myself more irritated with sites that lack trackbacks (or don’t make the trackback URL easy to find) than with sites lacking a comment feature.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Matt says:

    Aside from my first thing in the morning reads, I use trackbacks almost exclusively to surf. If you only use your blogroll, you’ll never find anything new.

  2. I certainly follow trackbacks, to find additional blogs that address a particular subject. I particularly like them when I am blogging an item on my blog, so that I can quote what other bloggers have thought about the same topic. If I quote a blog and if it offers a TrackBack, I also attempt to do a trackback to my blog’s entry so the quoted blogger can see if I have quoted him correctly.

    I hope that you will continue trackbacks.

  3. lunacy says:

    I’m not a blogger, although I visit many and often. I follow trackbacks if they look interesting enough OR are a blogger who’s opinion/writing I enjoy OR hint to a sufficiently contrary view to spark my curiousity.


  4. Jon Henke says:

    I suspect that trackbacks are mostly a way for bloggers to tell other bloggers about their entry. i.e., it’s not the readers who the TBer is intended for, but the blogger, who may follow the link back and see what we’ve written, be it response or further detail.

  5. Just Me says:

    I don’t have a blog, but read blogs regularly.

    I use trackbacks, and have found several blogs I check regularly from them.

  6. Chris says:

    I turned off trackbacks a couple of months ago and have not missed them. I have an RSS feed from Technorati that lets me know when somebody links to one of my posts.

  7. McGehee says:

    I always check out TBs to my posts, and do sometimes follow TBs from other bloggers’ posts if it’s a subject I’m interested in. But then, I’m a blogger.

    And it’s true that not all links to any given post will result in a trackback, but I also check Technorati for those.

    As for trackback spam, the platform I use, ExpressionEngine, is vulnerable if you don’t pay close attention to the notifications and blacklist offenders as soon as you spot them. Yesterday I got two spam attempts and was able to blacklist both before they were repeated — and a successful blacklisting also deletes the offenders automatically, which is nice.

  8. LB says:

    Several people found me via trackbacks during Rathergate. They’re definitely add value to a blog.

  9. bryan says:

    I’ve gotten a lot of traffic from trackbacks at certain times on certain subjects. I haven’t had any trackback spam recently. My main problem is that my WP automatic trackback function doesn’t work as well as it did on MT.

    It’s definitely beneficial for lower level bloggers to generate readership from people who wouldn’t normally have a lot of readers.

  10. Mark J says:

    What are you using to block them? Spam Karma 2 with WordPress 1.5 is a beast, and you only get digests of spam every X hours.

  11. Sherri says:

    It seems trackbacks only include the first X characters of the TB post. Sometimes trackbackers babble about something that makes no sense in the part that shows the TB. Also some TBs just show a paste/quote of what the main post already said. So I skip those kinds of TBs.

    But if it’s a nicely done TB, then I’m just as likely to click it as a comment.

    I don’t consider sites without some type of open discussion to be a blog. I’m happy if they have at least one of the following: comments, trackbacks, or a linked-forum with a thread just for that post. I don’t care that much for “email me” psuedo-blogs and only subscribe to one.

  12. McGehee says:

    But if it’s a nicely done TB, then I’m just as likely to click it as a comment.

    For most bloggers, I think composing a post for the express purpose of making a good-looking trackback may be … secondary.