Updated: TypePad blog posts suddenly sport mysterious title


Is it a hack or just a platform-wide glitch? It’s hard to tell at the moment, but here’s what has happened:

A few minutes ago, one of our sister blogs, blog.yourmoney.ca noticed a strange story had crept into their RSS feed entitled: “Your best friend calls you and tells you he/she’s really sick? How do you show you care?”  Given that yourmoney.ca is a personal finance blog, it was immediately obvious that this was not an article written by any of the blog’s contributers. The article was swiftly removed by the team, but a deeper investigation has revealed that yourmoney.ca was not alone.

A Google search for the same title first produced 74,000 results, and then 3 million results minutes later. Update: When you surround the search in quotes, you get 47,100 results.

In each case many cases, the new title has replaced the title of an existing blog post.

Because this title has been absorbed by the RSS feed of each blog, it has now been tweeted and Facebooked as well, with some tweets having been affected as long as 23 hours ago.

If this is indeed a hack, it’s a weird one. I can’t fathom why anyone would want to do this – especially with such a random title. A quick inspection of some of the affected blog posts doesn’t indicate that any other information was added or modified. And yet, it may have been done deliberately as a proof of concept – perhaps someone trying to prove they could do it without leaving any clues as to who had done it.

On the other hand, it could simply be a glitch on the TypePad system that will be fixed shortly.  At least no user data appears to have been affected by any of this.

So far, no indication that TypePad is aware of the problem – at least there’s no mention of it on their official blog.

Update, 1:34 p.m.: TypePad doesn’t think this is a hack. A SixApart SayMedia representative who replied to my inquiry says “That specific title was used as a TypePad Conversations post starter, so that’s why there are so many of those posts in Google. We are investigating the cases where the post titles changed from the originals. Right now, though, we don’t believe this is a hacking situation.”

Update: 4:58 p.m.: Just got a response from Jeff Reine, GM for TypePad. He says ‘…most of the posts carrying this title are legitimate answers to a sponsored “TypePad Conversation.”‘ TypePad Conversations are a sponsored feature on the TypePad platform where TypePad ask their users questions on behalf of a sponsor in order to “spark conversation.” He also points out that an implementation of their Conversation widget may have caused some of their users to inadvertently use this title as the title of their posts. I’m not completely convinced that this explains what we’ve been seeing, so I’ve asked for more information if they can provide it.

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2 comments

  1. cdt

    Why is Google indexing this stuff? It is none of their business. Seen then and other serch engines indexing stuff from yahoo groups, etc. That stuff should be private within the group. Not for public display. These places are not some public wall.

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    • Simon Cohen

      Blogs – unless set to private by their owners – are public sites. In fact most bloggers (Sync included!) want Google to index them more, not less :-)

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