Trackback Ethics

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I've encountered a strange trackback dilemma. It's standard blogging convention that you don't send trackbacks to a blog post unless you link to that blog post. See this post on the history of trackback for an explanation of its original purpose, and see Outside the Beltway, The Moderate Voice, and Eternal Recurrence for standard accounts of what not to do and why. Most bloggers who pay attention will delete any trackback that doesn't give any reference to their post but is merely sent to garner attention without repaying the compliment. I deleted a trackback within the last week that fit this description exactly. Someone wanted to draw attention to his blog, so he was sending trackbacks to any posts about the subject he was writing about without discussing anything on those blogs and without linking to it. I resolved to write a post about the ethics of trackback so I could point to an encapsulation of the issues really easily. Then the post I intended took a turn for the more complicated.

In the last few days I've received trackbacks on these two posts. The posts they point to do link to the posts in question, and they describe the posts here as related blog posts. The only problem is that they're clearly not related in any important way. One is a book review of a novel, and it points to a book review Abednego wrote here of something completely unrelated. One is about dating Jewish men, and it points to a post of mine about the dating of the when the Edomite nation existed.

I'm of two minds on this. It seems like a genuine abuse of trackback and deserving of deletion, but the posts in question do link here. So what does standard blogging convention have to say about such a situation? My impression is that it wouldn't be wrong to delete these trackbacks and to institute a policy of deleting all such trackbacks, but I'd like to hear from others before I do so. Ideally you will give arguments for your view. A stronger view is even possible. One might think I have a moral obligation to delete these trackbacks if leaving them up endorses the immoral flouting of standard blog conventions. So, any thoughts?


I'm with you on this, Jeremy. Trackback ought to be for discussing a topic, not for advertising. If it happened on my blog I'd delete it.

I've gotten four more, and they've become progressively more clearly spam, so they're all being junked.

It is spam. The offenders is attempting to defeat automted spam filters. Some (like the one I use Spam Karma for wordpress) acutally scans the page that the trackback leads to to see it there is a link back to the post. If not it is treated as spam. By placing a link it is attempting to fool the filter. Treat it like any other spam.

and clearly I shoud read each comment for providing my own

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