Do you remember the Trackbacks?

I like blogging again. There’s a slight concern that the way I’ve been able to balance working from home, looking after the kids, making loads of new music and re-start blogging and the newsletter suggests a brain in the hyper-fizzy stage before a complete burn-out. On the other hand, with no gigs or football to physically attend, and no commuting to do, I’ve suddenly got a lot more hours on my hands. So what can you do?

So I was thinking about blogging, and how I used to do it every day without fail for years, and then it went out of a favour, and I suddenly remembered Trackbacks, and how they belonged to a completely different era of the internet.

[EXTREME JARVIS COCKER VOICE]: Do you remember the Trackbacks?

If you don’t, back in the early 2000s, blogging software had a feature that if another blog mentioned your post, it would ping your webserver to let you know. And then your post would automatically add a link to that post saying “This has been mentioned/replied to here”, without you even having to read what had been written about you.

It was, in theory, a completely automated way of threading conversations and debates between multiple websites. Like a ‘quote retweet’ type thing, but between discrete sites.

At the time it all seemed perfectly sensible, I’d write about something I’d done at the BBC, a colleague in a different department would blog about it, a link would appear on my site, some UX/IA expert elsewhere would gather the two together and critique the work, and you’d could follow the intersection between all the posts, and generally add to the sum of human knowledge.

Of course it soon got hijacked for spam purposes, as Google increasingly dominated search and used domain authority and link density as key ways of ranking sites, so you had an incentive to get links back to your site. Which meant adding in layers of moderation until it became a chore.

There’s still a button, I notice, to activate them on a post-by-post basis on this WordPress-powered website now. But honestly, CAN YOU FUCKING IMAGINE DOING THAT IN 2020?

In an era of bad faith politics and social media troll armies and just *gestures generally everywhere* doesn’t Trackbacks seem like one of the most WTF idealistic why would you ever do that to your website ideas ever of all time?

Simpler times etc etc…