Nico Macdonald nails it. In the near future, all websites will have RSS (or Atom or some such syndication format) files with the meta data he seeks. That plus the capabilities of PubSub gives you the ability to track the debate crucial to modern society. PubSub TODAY, unlike the much better marketed Technorati, allows you to see when anybody in the RSS generating world (which is blogs mostly for now but more and more traditional pubs like the BBC and the New York Times are generating RSS) references a topic by name or by URL. This is superior to Trackback because it doesn’t require any software on the publishing end. TrackBack is a good concept and was needed in the pre PubSub days. Now with the advent of PubSub, TrackBack is no longer crucial. Somebody just has to fund :-) (easy for me to say since I don’t have the money to do so!) PubSub so they can track all blogs and RSS generating sites, not just the subset they do now!
High quality and informed debate about current affairs is crucial for any modern society. For most publishers Web-based discussion tools have failed to create such discussion, though there are exceptions such as The Economist and the Wall Street Journal. Webloggers already link extensively to, and comment on, articles published online (though some publications impede this by hiding all their story information from non-subscribers or by obscuring the story URL by adding in user, session, or page element information) and often create the most vigorous discussion about them. However, unlike Web-based discussion postings, Weblog-type debate is distributed and hard to get oversight of. If online publishers, and particularly newspaper and current affairs publishers, syndicated the meta information on every article they published (title, author, date, introduction, and so on), readers could more easily find, review and organise those that were of interest to them. As writers they might choose to post a Weblog commenting on particular articles. If publishers then used the ‘track back’ model to list an appropriately edited selection of these comments, in the context of each article, readers could follow the developing discussion and commentary. Tied to reputation management and good presentational tools, this would be likely to facilitate a greater awareness of new ideas and a more engaged (and possibly more informative) debate about them. And for the beleaguered publishing industry it would create greater engagement with its current readers, and may open up new audiences as well. In the absence of large numbers of publishers taking up such a challenge it may be possible to achieve these ends in another fashion. Many services already aggregate Weblog links to individual Web pages and could present these to readers in a ‘browsing assistant’ window that refreshed with each change of page. A similar model was pioneered by the now defunct Third Voice, whose browser plug-in used a meta-server to allow readers to write on Web pages. This idea is not new, and was a prominent request in the pre-BloggerCon discussion. It has even been implemented in a limited way with the Technorati Anywhere! bookmarklet. If it could be realised it would at least break open the small and slightly incestuous circles into which the blogerati have settled, allowing their ideas and those of the blogging masses to spread more widely. And it would break open the out-dated model of knowledge development and discussion still being peddled by the unduly smug proprietors of the fourth estate.