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Zombie Blogs and How They Can Hurt You

Friday, April 02, 2010

For your consideration this morning, a real life case study about Zombie blogs and how they can hurt you and your business when a blog you thought you'd killed rises from the dead to bite you in the proverbial you-know-where.

The Cast

FeedBlitz - everyone's favorite premium email and social media marketing service.
TypePad - the well-known premium blogging service.
FeedBurner - the popular but tragically neglected RSS service owned by Google.
"Bob" - the Zombie's victim (not his real name).

Act 1 - The Set Up

Bob is an early adopter.  He's got lots of services tied together to really make his blogging and online activities pop. He blogs on TypePad, and uses FeedBurner to manage the RSS feed from his TypePad blog.  He's using the integration between TypePad and FeedBurner to redirect requests for his blog's RSS feed at TypePad to go directly to his FeedBurner RSS feed.

Bob also knows the value of automated mailings and uses FeedBlitz.  His email list is powered by his TypePad blog's RSS feed, which is redirected to FeedBurner, and so his mailing list is really powered by the FeedBurner feed.  Since that's powered by his blog, that's OK.  All this works great. Bob is happy.

Act 2 - B and T get a Divorce

Bob and TypePad fall out, and so Bob decides he wants to date other blogging services.  Bob finds another service, they agree to settle down, and so Bob leaves TypePad. Sort of.

Now Bob's a smart blogger. He knows that he's got visitors at his old blog, some SEO Google juice, and so he doesn't kill the old blog.  Instead, he leaves it up and running with a final "Farewell" message to readers who still visit the old place.  To really draw a line under the whole affair, Bob stops the FeedBurner feed that was being powered by the old blog, reckoning that of the feed no longer exists and he's not longer posting to the old blog then he's made a clean break and everyone can move on.

What can possibly go wrong?

Act 3 - Zombies!

Time passes. Bob and his new service are happy, talking about having kids, picking out curtains, all that kind of stuff.  He doesn't think about the old blog any more.

When suddenly, it's BA-ACK.  The old blog sends a mailing to his mailing list! And he didn't post to his old or his new blog! And it's not even a post he wrote - it's someone else's! Zombies! Panic! Hackers? WTF!? Where's the military when you need them?

In the midst of all the chaos, fade to black...


This really happened.  Question is, why, and what can you do to stop a Zombie from hitting up all your subscribers with, well, almost anything?  And possibly stuff that your audience might find offensive and deeply inappropriate?  That can really hurt you and your business or organization if that happens.

So what happened was this. Remember, Bob didn't delete his old blog, he left it running.  He also left his FeedBlitz list looking at the old blog (well what would it do? He's not posting to it so no mailings were expected).  Bob also left the TypePad redirect to FeedBurner in place.  But Bob did delete his FeedBurner feed.

And in deleting his FeedBurner feed, he made the feed URL available for someone else to use for their blog instead.  Which someone else apparently, eventually did.

And when someone else posted to their blog, his old TypePad system became a Zombie.  Any RSS readers still using his old RSS feed would have received that third party's posts in their aggregators.  FeedBlitz, dutifully scanning his TypePad blog for new content, found it at FeedBurner (because the list was still active and the TypePad redirect to FeedBurner was still there).  So FeedBlitz duly mailed the new article it found to Bob's list. Only it wasn't Bob's article of course. Panic and mayhem duly ensued.

How to Avoid Zombies

If you're moving from one blogging service to another, or even changing your blog URL on the same service, here's how to avoid creating a Zombie:
  1. Don't delete feeds and lists. Instead, update them with the new feed information.  For FeedBlitz, update list sources at Newsletters / Settings / Content Settings / The Basics.  For FeedBurner, the feed source is under "Edit Feed Details" when you pick your feed from the FeedBurner dashboard.  The lists and feeds will simply start to pick up their content from your new blog.  No need to resubscribe anyone and all your readers will seamlessly move from one to the other.
  2. If you must delete a feed or list, make sure you delete everything. Stop redirects, for example. Delete or pause mailings.
If Bob had not deleted his RSS feed at FeedBurner, this wouldn't have happened.
If Bob had undone the TypePad redirect, this wouldn't have happened.
If Bob had paused the FeedBlitz mailing list looking at his old, "dead" blog, this wouldn't have happened.
If Bob had updated FeedBurner to look at his new blog, this wouldn't have happened.
If Bob had updated FeedBlitz to look at his new blog, this wouldn't have happened.

And to be clear, FeedBlitz, TypePad and FeedBurner were all working fine. None were compromised, hacked or anything like that.  They all performed as advertised.

So as and when you move your blog from place A to place B on the Internet, don't create a Zombie.

Now about that garlic, holy water and wooden stake you keep by the door...



Anonymous abendmode said...

you have to provide Very useful information on Zombie Blogs, I was totally unknown from this and came to know after reading your post.

10:53 PM, December 07, 2010  

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