Sending TrackBack pings indiscriminately makes you a TrackBack spammer

In: Blogging

29 Dec 2003

Yesterday I received 2 TrackBack pings for my entries on MT-Blacklist Updater and my October 2003 monthly report. What is interesting about these TrackBack pings is that the entries they were sent from had almost nothing to do with what was discussed in my entries. I began to think that I have got my very first TrackBack spam. Am I really famous? The answer to that question, of course, is an emphatic no (thanks for the compliments though, Kyrah).

Being curious and, as I’d like to think, benevolent, I decided to post a comment on one of the suspect TrackBack-happy entries:

I’ve no idea why you sent a TrackBack ping to my weblog entry which has totally nothing to do with the things discussed here. I have deleted it.

I looked through your entries and noticed that you pinged other people too.

I hope you aren’t offended if I begin to think you are a Trackback spammer! Unless you have a good explanation, I will submit your Trackbacks as spam to Jay’s comment spam clearinghouse!

It was later that I found out that at least 2 other guys, Heiko Hebig and Martin, received the TrackBack pings of the same suspect nature as I did. Hmmm… it seemed that we may be onto a spammer here. But that would be jumping to conclusions a little too early. I have been going on without saying anything about the person or the weblog which sent the TrackBacks, but I have to make it clear here that it is my view that the mentioned person isn’t a TrackBack spammer, but rather a (very) misguided TrackBack-trigger-happy blogger.

Christoph Cemper has responded to our complaints with an entry entitled TrackBack Spam complaints. He says the purpose of sending TrackBack pings is to

notify others that you wrote about the same thing

and later goes on to say:

to notify Person B was my intention.

Yes that is very much the reason for sending TrackBack pings, but I have to question how what Christoph wrote about can qualify as the “same thing” when they can hardly be qualified as vaguely related. Don’t think so? Check out my entries and the pings Christoph sent (see bottom of this entry). Ahem! Just because my entry mentions “Google PageRank” doesn’t mean that your entry on Google PageRank is a form of “continuing the discussion”, much less writing about the same thing. At least, that is how I interpret the way TrackBack should work.

As a last note, I leave it to readers to judge for themselves the relatedness of the entries from which TrackBack pings were sent to my entries. For my entry on MT-Blacklist Updater, this is the pinging entry. For my October 2003 monthly report, this is the pinging entry.

12 Responses to Sending TrackBack pings indiscriminately makes you a TrackBack spammer



December 30th, 2003 at 3am

Your post is relevant, although I have a question: what happens when people start retaliating against posts that annoy them by sending them to Jay’s clearinghouse? Mark Pilgrim posted about that: who is going to make sure our clearinghouse remains pure?


Jay Allen

December 30th, 2003 at 6am

I will…

We’ve already had one trackback “misunderstnding” with the guy who runs ClarkBot. It was resolved peacefully, as it should be.

Cemper has sent quite a few pings my way as well. The first few, I went over to see what it was about and was confunded. His post seemingly had nothing to do with the post on my site. After a few of those, I just simply started ignoring them.

That is, of course, the result over over-Trackbacking: you lose credibility and people ignore you.

In my opinion, it isn’t spamming (in the Comment Spam Cleaqringhouse sense), but it is rather annoying. And if it continues, I can bet that certain people will elect to add people who do this to their own blacklist installation.

But this is not the domain of the Comment Spam Clearinghouse. Cemper is a blogger and a prolific one at that. He is not a bottom-feeder like the porn and pills spammer. He simply needs to understand that trackbacks are conversation. If you “talk” too much, people will avoid you at the party…


Joanne Jacobs

December 30th, 2003 at 2pm

The irony is that the trackback on the Movable Type blacklist entry may be a heads-up for a need for the same kind of ping blacklist. This isn’t about fame; it’s about notoriety.

I, too, received the same trackback ping on an entry for my own blog about Jay’s software from Christoph. I ignored it and deleted it once I’d established there was no direct quote of my own site: it seemed a rather bald-faced attempt at self-promotion to me. But I am glad you have responded in this manner. This is, perhaps, the beginning of a wave of trackback abuse. And it’s best that we nip it in the bud.


Cheah Chu Yeow

December 30th, 2003 at 10pm

Camilo: I read your entry on your blog and you may be surprised that I do agree with most of your opinions. I must truly admit that I was a little pissed off at Cemper because it seemed to me like he was trying to gain traffic and backlinks – that made me want to submit his trackbacks to Jay’s clearinghouse (which of course I didn’t) for a while there.

Besides, if I’d submitted it, Jay would have been on hand to point out that Cemper’s actions don’t classify him as a comment spammer and is out of the domain of the comment spam clearinghouse. For that we have Jay to thank for his tremendous efforts keeping the blacklist clean even with tons of spam submissions.

My idea of the comment spam clearinghouse’s function was that it was there to prevent people who try to self-promote, gain exposure for, and seek backlinks for their websites on blogs without contributing to the “discussion” – an abuse of TrackBack. That is my judgement of what Cemper was doing there as well, and for a moment there that made him (or rather his URL) eligible for submission to the clearinghouse to me. Of course, that is a true misjudgement on my part.

I did not think to abuse the clearinghouse and never intend to. Quoting you (Camilo):

the idea of the clearinghouse used as a way to silence anyone with whom we disagree

I fully agree with that and I do not appreciate being adjudged to be attempting to use the clearinghouse to silence Cemper, even though I disagree with his idea of when a TrackBack ping should be sent.

Joanne: I agree with you on a possible need for a counterpart to the clearinghouse, although I’m not certain of how rampant TrackBack abuse is. Perhaps this is just the beginning of a wave of trackback abuse as you’ve said. When the time comes, we have Jay’s pioneering efforts to guide us.


Richard Evans Lee

January 5th, 2004 at 9pm

Wish I’d seen this when you wrote it. Yesterday I wrote my own entry about him after blacklisting him. The first time he sent me a trackback is was more or less on topic. The second time was just dimly related. Then he started hitting me with wholly unrelated trackbacks.

Some of these are clearly an attempt to get his name to show up on Google as an authority to promote his IT consultancy. The discussions about him will probably rank higher on Google and thus backfire on him.


December 29th, 2003 at 12am

TrackBack spam from
It looks like I wasn’t the only one getting pinged for no obvious reason. Says Cheah Chu Yeow: I’ve no…



December 29th, 2003 at 12am

WTF is Cemper?
When a mostly irrelevant old entry suddenly gets trackbacked out of the blue from someone else’s old entry, it’s time for some curiosity, especially if others have mentioned the word “trackback spam” already. The same behaviour has been observed by…


Ben's Thought Crimes

December 29th, 2003 at 7am

TrackBack Spammers
It’s interesting that one of the the first things I saw when I got online tonight was the Top 10 Words of 2003 (via Jeremy’s links) which lists “spam” and “blog” among the top 4. After leaving that I went…



December 30th, 2003 at 3am

Spam and censorship
Cheah Chu Yeow, pondering about the trackback spammers, issues a warning to a possible TBS: I hope you aren’t offended…



December 31st, 2003 at 10am

Trackback Spamming?
Could it be next? It loooks like Cheah Chu Yeow has fallen victim, and I myself may well have been a target the other day. Hey, it’s like comment spamming (just as annoying!) except easier (you don’t even have to…


Ensight - Jeremy C. Wright

January 5th, 2004 at 9pm

What The Hell @
Has anyone else run into this? I’ve gotten dozens of “trackbacks” from It’s almost like trackbacks spam. It’s not like his ideas are referencing my posts or are even related. It’s getting a bit tiresome. Trackback spam? Maybe… Just…



January 9th, 2007 at 6am

Nice site actually. Gone to my favourites. Thanks for creation.