The problem arises out of the natural inclination people have to shorten their phrases. Link exchanges are still a great way to get links. What will get you in a bit of some heat is
Reciprocal link building
People shortened that phrase and now its link exchanges are no good in general. Truth is for a very long time there have been more than one kind of link exchange
Reciprocal where you link to a website and that Website links right back to you is not generally a good practice. Three way or parallel link exchanges where you link to webmaster B and he links to another site of yours (not the one that you are linking from) is FINE AND DANDY
Three way or parallel links are one way links and harmless unless you over do it with the same link partner.
Since Most iMers have multiple sites it is a VERY viable way to get links particularly if any of them have Pagerank. The complaint that they will be bad links is nonsense.
A) One way links are good for your site and cannot harm it and a parallel link is one way
B) you choose who you wish to exchange with and for what
The final complaint is that you will have to track your links in case they fall off with the webmaster but theres nothing different about that with any linkbuilding and there is software available that can do that effortlessly.
For those of you who have multiple sites and even those of you who have networks with PR you are crazy not to using those to leverage free and potentially powerful links in link exchanges.
Some people even buy PR sites/domains for no other purpose but link exchanges and they potentially get more ranking power for the same money they would pay a service provider who supplies nothing but weak links.