Just getting bounced around RSS-space is Phil Long’s Syllabus Feb 2004 column on TrackBack: Where Blogs Learn Their Places . Some are saying tat it explains Trackback well, but to be honest, you cannot really understand it until you use it. We are glad that Phil is giving TrackBack some limelight (waiting for those to chime in its open-ness to spam and ill-use).
However, his idea on using Tb as a content aggregator has me scratching my head, (emphasis added):
The approach taken was to suggest that someone might start a dedicated TrackBack blog on a particular topic. This special blog would not be used by the owner of the blog to wax poetic on topics of his or her choice, but become a repository dedicated to a single topic. For example, imagine a site, which collects Weblog posts about the Civil War. Anyone interested in reading about the Civil War could look at this site to keep updated on what other Webloggers were saying about the Civil War, see photographs from that period in magazines, etc. This is accomplished when those who do write on their individual blogs about the civil war initiate a TrackBack ping to the designated collector site.
This begs a few questions. Which “TrackBack blog” is the central authority om collecting these? What happens when there are 2, 5, 10? But more so, the mechanism is strange- how will all of those Civil War blog posters know to ping the correct address? It requires them to do so on a manual basis. The whole point of TB is that it is built into the blog publishing tools, so when I see Big Bad Bert’s post on the Civil War, I blog directly from his post, my blog writing tool automatically extracts the correct Trackback ping address, and sends the ping for me. Automatic (in theory). Beyond MovableType, I am not sure if other blogs automatically send TB pings.
And to be honest, one can already do this sort of aggregating via saving the URL of Feedster Searches, e.g. Civil War keyword searches (no, I have not exlpored the results):
Or one could do this setting up something at PubSub, a service that allows anyone to set up dynamic aggregated feeds (harvested from other feeds)
And there are certainly other sorts of blog aggregating tools out there, and Stephan Downes has already done the conference blog corralling as well as the topical ones in Edu-RSS.
The other part of the wrong track is Phil is thinking of Trackback only as far as blogs, a rather limiting view. As recently barked here a few days, something TrackBack like could, should (and has already been) be applied to collections of learning objects.