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September 06, 2006

Trackback and Kudzu


  Kudzu, The Silent Killer 
  Originally uploaded by mojo.

Spam is strangling trackback as surely as kudzu kills trees.  It’s too bad.


Trackback, in case you don’t know, is a clever mechanism for linking related blog posts together.  Suppose I rant about AT&T (been known to happen).  You read my post and write a brilliant and well-reasoned rebuttal which you post on your own blog.  You then use trackback so that people looking at the comments on my rant will see that there is something relevant to read on your blog and have an easy way to link over to it.  The alternative is making your entire post a comment on my blog and that still won’t reach all your readers.

Two rules are supposed to be observed if you going to use trackback to place a link to your post on my blog:

  1. Your post should also contain a link to my post.
  2. Your post should be relevant to my post.

This works for everyone.  Your readers and mine get more points of view on the subject.  We both get exposed to each others readers.  In the grand hierarchy of the blogosphere, each of our blogs gets a smidgen better rank because each have one more inlink and more inlinks mean better ranking in search engines.

And that’s where the kudzu comes in!

Suppose that Sam the Slimeball has a website which sells used cellphones and sexual aids.  Sam wants better ranking on search engines, too.  He wants to make sure any time anyone Googles “tools for dysfunction”, his site shows up on the first page of results.  He needs inlinks to accomplish that.  If he posts trackbacks on my blog and yours pointing to HIS site, search engines think he’s a little more important.  If he gets a robot to post the trackback on a zillion other websites, he’s much more important.

Sam doesn’t expect many people to actually follow the trackbacks.  In fact, he knows that we’ll probably delete them as soon as we see them.  But he’s counting on the searchbots giving him credit for the links faster than we can take them down.

I can’t stand to be the tree on which kudzu grows.  Got so I was taking down trackbacks all day and most of the night.  It was like trying to kill kudzu by picking the leaves.  So I took a hack at the roots.  Now no trackback actually gets posted on Fractals of Change until I have a chance to check it out and make sure it’s legit.  Lot easier than taking down the bad ones as fast as they appear.  But it’s not great because it discourages legitimate use of trackback.  People aren’t sure why their good trackbacks aren’t appearing right away on my blog or whether they ever will.  The number of legit trackbacks is down which is a shame.

Naively, I thought that Sam and his buddies would stop spamming me with trackbacks if I didn’t let them actually get posted.  Hasn’t happened.  I think it’s cheaper for Sam’s robots to just sow their kudzu on every blog they see than worry about where it really roots.

Worse, lots of blogs have stopped accepting trackbacks altogether.  See Fred Wilson’s post here.  In the old day’s I would have posted trackback on his blog since I’m discussing what he discussed and linking to him.  But Fred doesn’t accept trackbacks on his blog anymore.  That’s everyone’s loss.

And it’s all Sam the Slimeball’s fault.

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Trackback and Kudzu:

» Techmeme trackback badges from Web X.0
Techmeme (which I also wrote about here) is a great service for tracking emerging memes on the blogosphere. What's really cool about it is that it does a great job of identifying the significant participants in the discussion around each [Read More]

» I Hate Spam: Trackback Edition from Brian Berliner's Brain
Just saw Tom Evslins post on Trackback Spam: Trackback and Kudzu. Im a fairly new blogger, so I got thrown into this whole comment spam, trackback spam, trackback denials, comment denials, trackback reviewing, comment reviewing, pingbacks... [Read More]

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