Prompted by Zeldman’s commentary and Mark Pilgram’s improved script, I started to gather all the various papers, scripts, commentary, etc. I had on backlinks/referrer linking then I noticed that the IAwiki had already made me a list. Thanks IAwiki!
I like to note similarities between traditional media and the Web. For example, following a referrer link is like using a citation index. Starting with a given article, you can see who later cited it. Odds are pretty good that later article will be on the same subject or something related. So, if you like that first article, you would probably be interested in those that cite it. Just as Jeffrey noted that most of the current referrer scripts seem to be less about related content and continuing the conversation and more about traffic analysis, citation databases are frequently less about finding more recent, relevant papers that cite one you’re currently reading, and more about whose work gets cited more often. I’ve heard that it’s common practice when considering a candidate for a position at a college, or perhaps a professor for tenure to use citation databases to see how often that person’s work is cited.
An interesting paper from 1999 “Surfing the Web Backwards” notes that citation databases are used to trace the formation of an idea through the literature and backlinks on the web could be just as useful in the process of information discovery. They also point out that, “[b]acklinks enjoy an advantage over automated ‘find similar resources’ mechanisms because they are human-created,” and that “…creating links involves quite some deliberate effort and judgement, certainly far more than any automated system can dream of doing for the foreseeable future.”