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posted by DL Byron on February 07, 2005

Apparently, John Gruber's influence isn't as vast as I'd expected. In 2003, he posted at length on the uselessness of TrackBacks, concluding that, "linking should be enough," and there's a site called Technorati that'll show you who is linking to your post -- check the link cosmos on this post. All you do is link like you do (of course, without a nofollow rel attribute) and Technorati does the rest, puts it in context to who's linking, who's linking to them, little photos, and more.

Trackback is notoriously difficult to explain and I've always pointed people to Gruber's post or cited Molly's, "talking with two cans on a piece of string," analogy. His post made sense to me. He vowed to never use trackbacks, I agreed, and figured everyone else would. Well, that's not been the case. Readers on the Blog Business Summit site complained and I turned them on for their benefit. I then checked blogs that use trackbacks, scrolled down the list to see all the pings, and quipped to Jason in an instant message they should be called, "Crapbacks." He said, "I've never understood them. Still don't. Yeah, they're crap."

Hey, "Me Too!"

Bloggers trackback to say, "hey, me too on that post," and then a blog cites those posts. In itself that's not crap, but check the Six Apart post on NoFollow and you'll see trackback after trackback. Then click through to find more trackbacks of the trackback, irrelevant trackbacks, and a bonus "spamback." That's crap because you've just added to the page scroll, it's not ranked by authority, most recent, and in Movable Type's case, that page has to be rebuilt to display new pings. Now compare that page of trackbacks to a Technorati result. Ah yes, much mo' betta.

Ping less, Post More

The reason to ping a blog and say, "Hey, me too!" is for page rank, but now that's squashed for sites that use NoFollow. View source on Six Apart's post and you'll see all those trackback pings are coded to not be followed. If you're pings are not being followed, what good are they? They're not. It's much easier, faster, and better to do what Gruber recommended two years ago. Just post more, link, and let the search engines do the rest.

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Feb 07  |  Tara said:

No doubt about it, trackbacks are annoying when they are abused for “me too” posts, etc. But from a reader’s perspective…I like being able to scan through the list of trackbacks to see what others are posting, particularly if they have a different point of view or introduce me to a new, relevant site. I suppose that could still be accomplished via the comment section, but it just seems faster/easier to use trackback. Maybe I’m just lazy…

Feb 07  |  -b- said:

Or just by checking the link cosmos, you can set that link in your MT templates with a simple tag. Here’s a tutorial.

Feb 18  |  jennifer rice said:

I love trackbacks. Usually if I find someone has a great commentary about something I’ve written, I’ll contact them and request that they do a trackback link. Why? Because I want a permanent record of all the smart ways that others have challenged/expanded on my thinking. I’ve also gotten really good discussions going on my blog… via the combo of trackbacks and comments, others can clearly see the train of thought. (And not everyone uses MT!!)

Feb 19  |  -b- said:


I bet that was you I turned them on for at the BBS 05!

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