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April 27, 2003


I was very puzzled by Phil Rignalda’s recent complaint about Trackback AutoDiscovery, and I said as much. But then (ironically, by reading a trackback on his post), it occurred to me that perhaps the problem wasn’t AutoDiscovery, but leaches.

The subject of Marcus’ (and perhaps Phil’s) concern was gratuitous trackback pings sent to “A-list” blogs by folks hoping that the resulting trackback link would drive some traffic back towards their own site. If that’s the problem then, of course, AutoDiscovery has nothing to do with it. The “leaches” would send their pings manually, if necessary.

If leaches (as opposed to inadvertent gratuitous pings) are the problem, then perhaps the solution, as Marcus suggests, is to refuse trackback pings from repeat offenders. Whether this is a “feature” of the blogging software, or simply done using .htaccess rules doesn’t really matter much.

Update: There’s also a discussion of these issues going on over at Adrian Frost’s blog. Since he didn’t trackback us, let’s trackback him. ;-)

Posted by distler at April 27, 2003 2:44 AM

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8 Comments & 0 Trackbacks

Re: Leeches

No, at least for me leeches aren’t a problem (if someone wants some of my traffic, and can craft an excerpt that will get it for them, more power to them). The problem is that “ping them all, and let Phil sort them out” expects me to decide whether you add something to the conversation, and to shut you out if I don’t think you do. Maybe people with better social skills that mine can get away with that, but to me the idea of deleting pings that I don’t think should have been sent is just a huge minefield of hurt feelings.

If someone pings from a post that just says “You should read Phil’s post” then there’s no question (in my mind, that is) that the ping shouldn’t have been sent, but if someone pings from “You should read Phil’s post. This is important stuff, and I’m going to try it myself.” was that just an automatic ping that they don’t mind having deleted, or was it an intentional ping because they thought it added to the conversation? What about three sentences, adding “I think he overstates the case somewhat, but that’s just his way.”? You know whether you intend your post to become a part of a distributed conversation, or just to direct people into it elsewhere, I don’t, so I think you should decide whether or not to ping, and as much as possible I should allow you to decide.

Posted by: Phil Ringnalda on April 27, 2003 2:28 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Leeches

Jacques - as you say, if people are that desperate for traffic, the abolition of AutoDiscovery is unlikely to alter things much.

Phil - it is, as you demonstrate, a highly subjective issue. But as you originally implied, if people begin to think that TrackBack is for “…ego, or backscratching, or Google-voting” then it will quickly become a technology hijacked from its original intention. That will surely diminish TrackBack’s usefulness to the reader and to the community.

I think your idea of encouraging people to consciously Trackback ping is a good one. If you remove AutoDiscovery or at least introduce checks and balances into its usage, and add a user-enabled ping block for those that want it, you surely have a bulletproof solution to spurious pings and thus a means to prevent the dilution of TrackBack.

Posted by: Marcus on April 28, 2003 1:27 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Leeches

So let’s distinguish between AutoDiscovery (finding out which hyperlinks have corresponding Trackback URL’s) and AutoTrackback (automatically sending a ping to each such Trackback URL).

If it could be done, I’d be happy with something along the lines that Phil suggests: do AutoDiscovery, and then present the poster with a list of checkboxes for him to choose which Trackback URLs to ping).

The trouble I see with that comes if you are (like I am) using blogging software to post via XML-RPC. Currently, the AutoDiscovery is done server-side — after I have submitted my post — and the pings are sent automatically. I think I’d object to doing the AutoDiscovery client-side (I certainly would, if I were on a dialup line).

But if we are going to do AutoDiscovery server-side, then we need a whole new extension to the XML-RPC posting protocol:

Client: Here’s a list of URLs. Which ones have corresponding Trackback URLs?
Server: (thinks for a moment) OK, here are the corresponding Trackback URLs.
Client: Thanks. Here are the ones I want you to ping.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on April 28, 2003 1:50 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Leeches

Actually, you might have hit on the best way to sneak it in. In theory at least, it should be easy to either hack, or replace mt-xmlrpc.cgi with one that calls a new .pm that subclasses MT’s XML-RPC server and adds a method to discoverTrackbackUrls. From a quick glance at things, that seems a lot easier than hacking it into MT’s main UI.

Posted by: Phil Ringnalda on April 29, 2003 12:35 AM | Permalink | Reply to this


Good! There’s already a way to send trackback pings from an XML-RPC client:

TrackBack ping URLs can be set via the XML-RPC server in metaWeblog.newPost and metaWeblog.editPost, in the mt_tb_ping_urls field.

So, as you say, what is needed is a new mt.discoverTrackbackUrls method (or maybe just mt.discoverTrackbackUrl that gets called repeatedly?).

And then I’ll have to ask very nicely for Adriaan to support it in Kung-Log.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on April 29, 2003 1:06 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Leaches

how to kill leaches in the river. and wouldlike to have some photos if leaches . to see what kind there are .the leaches ,some are over 7”inchs long, a lot of them.

Posted by: shirley on July 6, 2003 12:13 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Leaches

Hi, I have a bad case of leaches also, in our little lake on our property. When or if you find out how to get rid of these leaches other than cathing them with a net and putting them in a salt water bucket. Please let me know. We can’t swim in our lake anymore.

Posted by: barb on July 26, 2005 12:00 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Leaches

Okay, I guess that puts my problem of getting a few bytes of pointless text sent to my webserver in perspective, doesn’t it?

Though, if I threatened to put bogus pingers in a bucket of salt water, I bet they’d stop pinging wildly.

Posted by: Phil Ringnalda on July 26, 2005 1:05 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

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