Open Posts & Inline Trackbacks

Ok folks, time for some serious “inside-baseball” of the blog variety. If you’ve never heard of an “open trackback” or “link party”, you should probably just skip right on by this post.
Recently, I’ve been noticing that the phenomenon of “open trackback” posts has been becoming more and more widespread across the blogosphere. Here’s a few examples of trackback posts.
It seems to me that the main motivation of such posts is simply to provide a quick and easy way for bloggers to generate links to each other, without any real regard for the substance of each other’s posts. The links, rather than symbolizing and codifying the relationship between two posts, or two blogs, have become an end in themselves.
I believe the Ecosystem has created at least part of the motivation to do open trackbacks, and this troubles me. My goal has always been to reflect, as accurately as possible, what is truly popular and interesting in the ‘sphere — not distort it by creating bogus incentives for blogs to create automatic links to each other with no real meaning. If you don’t believe me about creating the incentive, check out the Open Trackback Alliance:

1) What is the Open Trackback Alliance?
Are you tired of seeing?
I’m an
Insignificant Pond Scum Spore
in the
TTLB Ecosystem
The Open Trackback Alliance helps your blog ranking grow by increasing the links between each other’s blogs and showcasing articles on one another’s sites…

And guess what: it works. Over time, I’ve noticed that some bloggers are using Open Trackbacks to systematically work their way up in the Ecosystem rankings, and more recently, to ensure that their posts are flagged on my Top Posts pages.
So this weekend, I decided to do something about it. I implemented a simple solution: when the Ecosystem scans a blog’s front page for links, it now simply ignores any inline trackback sections that are found, while still counting the links within posts or on a blog’s blogroll.
I haven’t announced the change because a) I was still debugging it and b) I didn’t really think anybody would notice so quickly. But it turns out, Don Surber and some others are apparently watching my stuff so closely that they figured out what I was doing almost immediately (which, I think, says something in itself).
Don emailed me asking if it was true that I was filtering open trackbacks, and I responded that I was, but that I hadn’t yet announced anything as I was still working on the system. A few minutes later, Don posted my email on his blog (without asking my consent, although I would have granted it). I’m also told that certain other bloggers (not Don) are emailing around trying to fire folks up about the grand injustice of it all. (There’s even a petition).
Now let’s be clear. If bloggers find value in Open Trackback posts, they should by all means continue to do them. But at the moment, I think the best decision for TTLB, and for the blogosphere, is to not count them in my system, and thereby remove the incentive to create trackbacks for their own sake.
But I’m always open to feedback, and would appreciate further comments and debate. So please, weigh in, even if it’s just with a simple “You’re making a mistake” or “I think you’re right”. I’m listening…
Update: See also, Link Sluts

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