Today, we (well, I say 'we'; I mean, as often happens, that I kept banging on about an idea and Tom took an idea we had, worked on it, came back to us with a couple of queries, then finalised the code) added trackbacks to the 2lmc spool.
I must say that I'm impressed with this, partly since it is (as far as I'm aware) the first IRC-backed weblog tool that actually sends and recieves trackbacks. However, what's more interesting is what happened after we actually had it running live. Firstly, we tried running it against an earlier entry pointing at Ben Hammersley's webblog. It turns out that he doesn't have the TrackBack autodiscovery code in his pages. Later on, we found an article that was kind of interesting on Tom Coates' plasticbag.org, and discussed it past the magic 5-post limit on the spool, and I think we covered some at least vaguely interesting ideas. However, I'll admit that we did take the discussion in a somewhat tangential direction.
Now, call me paranoid, but when within three hours Tom had posted about autodiscovery and trackback etiquette. He wants people to turn on autodiscovery, in Movable Type, which is good. (It's very simple, too: just put <$MTEntryTrackbackData$> in the <head> section of the main index and individual entry archives, at least. Incidentally, I found out that while I was yakshaving I missed a bit, namely the trackback RDF in individual entry archives.) The part I take exception to is some of his assumptions in his third section. I agree completely about recieving pings; in fact, the spool recieved before it could send. However, I'm not in agreement over his second point. Maybe it's because I'm lightly trafficed and/or more curious about my readers, but I'd be happy if a pure linklog sent me a ping. He also wants trackbacks to be seen as a way the 'thread of a conversation can be maintained.'- his emphasis.
Funnily enough, Leon and I were discussing this at lunch, and he wondered what the point of trackbacks was. Is it to allow you to comment on stories on your own site? Is it that it allows a way of tying things together? He asked if I ever visited trackbacks, and I do; I find they often lead to more interesting things, admittedly sometimes unrelated, unlike comments. So I don't feel that they do have to maintain a thread of conversation. (On the other hand, I'm on a fair few mailing lists that have suffered massive thread drift. I may be conditioned to this more than other folks.)
After Tom's post, I mentioned that he almost seemed to see trackbacks without comments as spam, and Leon noted that it would be trivial to do *real* spam with trackbacks; minimal Googling reveals that this isn't an original idea. So, what's the solution, to both celebrity-hunting trackbacks, for want of a better word, and to real spam, should it emerge? Perhaps it is to be liberal in what you recieve, and selective about what you display, whether that's by automatic metadata parsing ('this ping says it's from a linkblog; I won't display it'; 'I know this site already, displaying it is fine') or by manual filtering. Personally, though, as I said, I don't yet find it a problem.