It's an interesting phenomenon. Most people have trackbacks turned off on their Blogs (mine included). The ability for a bot to create a spam trackback is just too easy and most of us would rather not have trackbacks initiated than deal with the problem.
Well, that problem is now growing its own, unique, problem that is bigger and, in my humble opinion, could cripple the whole infrastructure of conversations within Blogs.
Here's how Wikipedia defines a trackback:
"A Trackback is one of three types of Linkbacks, methods for Web authors to request notification when somebody links to one of their documents. This enables authors to keep track of who is linking to, or referring to their articles. Some weblog software programs, such as Movable Type and Community Server, support automatic pingbacks where all the links in a published article can be pinged when the article is published. The term is used colloquially for any kind of Linkback."
I've noticed in the past little while that the amount of commenting on the Blogs I frequent has dropped. It's not because the readership has dropped, and it's not because the content is any less compelling. I've come to realize that, more often than not, most people who comment on Blogs now actually have their own Blog. So, what would be the point in commenting on a Blog when you can take the core idea of another Blog posting, quote it (link to it), and create your own original post that resides on your own original Blog?
That's why now, more than ever, I think we need to rethink this whole "no more trackbacks because most of them are spam," and figure out a way to make trackbacks work more effectively as a way to keep the conversations alive and - most importantly - as a way for individual Blogs to connect to one another and build new online social networks that are inter-connected on the value and depth of the content being created.
Trackbacks are one of the best ways to stay informed and follow the flow of how content (and a meme) is created. If it was not as easy for bots or people creating Splogs (Spam Blogs) or Flogs (Fake Blogs) to grab an automated reciprocated link, my gut tells me that we could use trackbacks as a way to incite more conversation and in-depth commentary.
It's not that I am against comments on Blogs. I'm all for them (the more, the merrier), but I'm guessing that people feeling the need to comment on a Blog versus creating their own unique post, with their thoughts on their own Blog, is much more attractive and, as more and people create their own Blogs, realistic.
While I do feel that trackbacks are pretty much dead at this point in time, I also feel that if we don't bring them back, what we will have is millions of individual Blogs with fewer and fewer comments and less obvious ways of figuring out where an idea got started and how it evolved.
We're looking at re-launching this Blog in the next short while (I know, I've been saying that for a while) and one of the first functionalities that I'm hoping we bring out to the forefront is the ability to trackback.
Bloggers unite - let's work on connecting to each other through our individual Blog content and not just via what we post in each other's comments.