Laurence Simon and Bill Quick are launching a campaign against TrackBack abuse–the use of Movable Type’s TrackBack feature to garner attention and traffic for one’s site without actually providing a reciprocal link to the originating site. Susanna Cornett mentioned her annoyance at the practice last May, which was the first I’d heard of it.

For non-bloggers–and some bloggers for that matter, judging from the comments on Bill’s post–this seems like a rather silly issue. But, as Laurence rightly notes, reciprocity is a key feature of the “code” bloggers live by. I’ve had an announced policy of deleting such TrackBacks for months.

The strange thing about all of this is that it doesn’t cost anything to give up links to other bloggers! To take the most obvious example, Glenn Reynolds—who runs a fairly popular site called “InstaPundit” for you new readers—links roughly 700 other sites a day and yet still manages to get many links for himself. It’s not a zero sum game.

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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. Paul says:

    It’s not a zero sum game.

    You are just saying that because you want to the rich bloggers to take away links from the poor hard working bloggers. You pathetic capitalist pig!

  2. Kiril says:

    This is not something I’ve heard of before, but am not suprised.

    I’m with you with regards to deletion.

    I’ve been deleting the Comment Spam I’ve been getting 3 or 4 times a days a few days a week, for a couple of months now since it started.

    I’ve yet to have the issue described in this post, though.

    I believe that most SERIOUS bloggers, with something worth reading, and who seriously read what others write, don’t misuse the Trackback feature.

    There are better ways to bring attention to your work, if it’s worth the attention.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Try installing this: Jay Allen’s Blacklist

    It’s pretty easy and cut way down on the comment spam problem.

  4. mark says:

    Expect my trackbomb to appear with today’s OTB traffic jam. heh

  5. TheBull says:

    I thought we were supposed to put a link to the other blogger’s post, when we trackback. I’ve only been blogging for a week, but that just seemed like the thing to do. Weird thing is, in regards to your later post on problems with the ecosystem, I have evolved at an alarmingly quick rate and it seems to all be due to the trackbacks links that I give to other bloggers. I’ve only had one other trackback to me which shouldn’t put me in the slimy mollusc category. I, too, have emailed NZ about it but no response. How does one stop the evolution of a blogger?

  6. James Joyner says:


    Most people TrackBack and link simultaneously; it’s just a handful of people who send TrackBacks without a link.

    And movement through the first couple of categories is very fast, as the vast majority of bloggers have essentially no links. TrackBacks–especially inline TrackBacks–will generate links in a hurry. That’s OK.