Trackbacks, spam and Technorati

Posted on August 26, 2005

The trackback mechanism, while a good idea at first view, does have a few ugly design flaws that render it a perfect target for spammers.

In fact I spend way much more time cleaning trackback spam than I do posting on my weblog. People like Melo who posts rather less frequently than me have an even bigger problem than I do in that spam trackbacks usually are made in old entries and as such they don’t have that much visibility at all, but in Melo’s case they usually appear right on the front page of his weblog which is pretty bad.

So lately many people have been getting fed up with it and are starting to decide to drop trackback support on their weblogs and are pronouncing that trackback is dead. Sometimes in the most amusing ways. Others have never really caught on to it and have some very good reasons for it.

Anyway, while I’d gladly let go of trackbacks on my weblog I do enjoy the benefit of automagically having a notification appear on each article when people refer to it.

So what are the alternatives to trackbacks?

Well, one alternative which has been mentioned around is simply to go to the original article you’re elaborating on and post a link on the comments (assuming comments are turned on for that weblog, otherwise you’re essentially out of luck) and say you’re continuing the discussion there. This surely works, but people do have to take the time and effort to do it and given the natural predisposition of people towards laziness I’m guessing it would almost never get done.

Another alternative, one which I like better because it is automatic, is to use a service like Technorati to keep track of links to your weblog or to a specific post on it. This sounds like a much better alternative because it doesn’t require any human intervention and is therefore, much more effective.


Technorati in particular is in trouble and people are leaving it too.
This is rather unfortunate because, as far as I can tell, Technorati’s problems are problems of scale, rather than problems inherent to the mechanism itself.

Even yesterday I was chatting with Melo and I started talking about how Technorati’s service sucks and he told me that no, Technorati’s service doesn’t suck at all, they just have scalability problems which, he told me, derive from lack of funds for the massive hardware upgrades they require right about now. And, of course, he’s right, the service itself is awesome, it’s just the implementation that is lacking in performance.

Now I don’t follow Tehcnorati’s development weblog so I’m really not into the know here, but if it is money they need why doesn’t anybody just buy them and give it to them? Isn’t this a great service to have? Just this morning I was listening to the Gillmor Gang’s August 12 episode and, once again, there was Robert Scoble saying loud and clear that if it was up to him Microsoft would just buy Technoraty and make it everything it could be. And why not? Scoble has surely been very vocal about it for a while now and I do believe that under his guidance it could be a great leap up for Technorati so why don’t they? Or any one else, for that matter?

Technorati has the potential to be a very big service and, particularly relevant to the topic of this post, a very good alternative to the trackback mechanism so would someone just please give Technorati the money they need (and then preferably get out of their way so they can do their thing as they should)?

And yes, I know there are alternatives out there, Ice Rocket being the latest and greatest to get under the spotlight but I do feel sorry to see something which started so long ago with just the right idea get left behind like this. Money surely isn’t the issue, there’s plenty of that to go around when people see the value in things, so what is the issue? Lack of awareness? Well, if that’s it then go Scoble!