Nice that __mode=rss is doing someone some good

One of the least-used features of Trackback, at least in the Movable Type implementation (has anyone else actually implemented it?), is the RSS feed of pings to an entry. Take an MT Trackback URL, like, and append ?__mode=rss and you get an RSS feed, with the channel/link pointing to the HTML page for the post, and item/links pointing to posts that sent pings.

I don’t remember much coming from it, other than Ben Hammersley’s More Like This From Others LazyWeb request, which seems to have mostly gone down the 404 toilet, but now as Ann Elisabeth notes, it’s become useful to at least one Trackback spammer.

Although my first thought was that it was a way to gather more spam targets, on the assumption that any URL which sent a ping was likely to also accept them, the more I think about it the more likely it seems that it’s just a way to find out what post the spammer needs to look at to see whether his spam worked. A good query for mt-tb.cgi will get you tens of thousands of targets, but since some people don’t even run MT off the same domain where they publish, it’s hard to accurately tell whether your spam was published, without knowing where to check back. Start with __mode=rss, and you not only know where it will be, you’ve actually got an easy way to check on whether or not it was blocked, and whether or not it was deleted later on.

Filed under: “no one can have nice things!”


Comment by Anil #
2005-04-06 11:02:44

I loved that, too, but it’s a shame nobody found a good use for it. The current version of the spec omits that requirement. FWIW, Sam Ruby had implemented it on his blogging tool, and at least one or two non-MT tools did as well.

Comment by Roger Benningfield #
2005-04-06 11:52:20

Phil: I implemented it… you just can’t tell right now because I’ve still got the brakes on TB until I get all of my anti-spam measures in place.

Oh well. If I’ve gotta disable something, let it be something no one ever uses.

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-04-06 12:12:50

I’m not sure you really have to disable it, unless you’re likely to meet the same fate of having Trackback URLs indexed without any other connection to the posts. And, since you don’t appear to be returning anything in the usual case, no pings yet, most of the time it won’t do a spammer any good, unlike an itemless feed from MT.

The secondary effect, making it easier for people who’ve pinged you to get spammed, isn’t pretty, but there’s a lot of that around: back when I paid attention, a fair number of spam visits came in on Google ”related” searches from the last victim.

Comment by Sam Ruby #
2005-04-06 12:56:01

I don’t remember much coming from it

I remember being called a dead end until I implemented it. And, the very next day after I implemented it, I actually found something useful to do with it.

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-04-06 13:16:05

I don’t remember whether I wore pants to work this morning.

That’s bad. I’m actually running something that attempts to use it, and I don’t even remember? What a drag it is getting older, or never to have had a mind to begin with.

It probably says something significant about us, or the state of our world, that all of the [back]s on that page say the same thing: ”Exception Traceback: Trackback RDF not found,” but I’m not sure what.

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-04-06 13:21:34

Running something that wants to tell me interesting and useful things, about pings to pingers, if only I remembered it was there. (Well, and had some automated way of checking, because I’m not about to cycle through every pinged entry every day.)

Comment by Mark #
2005-04-06 21:29:25

”What a waste it is to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind. How true that is.”

Comment by Shelley #
2005-04-06 15:13:11

And which I documented, as well as provided code for, and inspired same with Sam Ruby here January 2003.

Comment by Anonymous #
2005-04-06 15:15:50

Urh, but not intended as a how-to guide for spammers.

Let’s face it though — our weblogs have so many holes, you could slap us between rye and call us a reuban.

Comment by Anil #
2005-04-06 16:17:26

Alas, TrackBack Threading. I still love you.

Comment by Anonymous #
2005-04-06 21:37:49

Unrequited love’s a bitch, ain’t she? On the bright side, I got some CH3Ap V.!aG.R.A I could sell you. That plus some precision threading and you could knit yourself a Prince Albert, in a can,dy store. It’s like bullshit in a China shop, only without the china. Or the bull. IOW, it’s just shit. Like __mode=rss. I think I’ve made my point.

Comment by Mark #
2005-04-06 21:45:05

Bah. Humbugger. Not sure how that ended up anonymoose. Phil, can you be a deer in the headlights and fix that ex post factorial? k-cool thxbye.

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-04-06 22:13:30

Bwahaha. No.

I think the whole of the thread makes it clear that, um, I need a beer.

(Unless my cookie tray has somehow gotten empty while I wasn’t watching: that’s two quick second shots in one day where someone wound up by on.)

Comment by Anil #
2005-04-07 14:45:22

I think all the teasing means that Mark hearts __mode=rss!

Comment by Mark #
2005-04-11 11:49:53

Tease, tease, it’s good for your heart. The more you teat, the more you love RSS. C’mon Anil, when do we get __mode=cdf? And by ”CDF”, I mean ”Children’s Defense Fund” of course. Or the ambiguously-ampersanded California Department of Forestry & Fire Prevention. Take your pick axe. Or you could combine them to create something that mowed down baby trees to pay for your legal defense fund. Technically that would be __mowed=cdf, but in the spirit of HTTP_REFERER I can forgive the grammatic l’error and see the forest for the trees. Poor little baby trees, with their cute little baby squirrels. Won’t somebody please think of the gerbils? I fear I’m getting ahead of myself.

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