ShelfSpam! A Story of Books, Trickery & Embarrassment ~ BitterSweetLife

Saturday, November 03, 2007

ShelfSpam! A Story of Books, Trickery & Embarrassment

I know that I should feel bad. And part of me does. I feel a kind of token embarrassment for propriety's sake. To those of you whose online lives were rudely compromised, I apologize. You experienced something unspeakable, unthinkable. But how embarrassed can I be for something that began with a generous thought and ended with with the initiation of an international book discussion ring?

Let me be clear: It was never my intention to do this. When I discovered Shelfari several weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised. A free way to catalog books online with a nice web 2.0 interface--cool. But I've never been the guy who spams his entire address book with the week's latest "new thing." Not even when a new baby arrives. Not even when KU is poised to make the Final Four. No, you can credit Shelfari's clever self-propagation strategy for the email that arrived in many of your inboxes. Think about it--I wouldn't make this claim if my track record didn't bear it out.

So on that fateful afternoon, minutes before I spammed my entire address book with Shelfari invites, an address book that included school professors, members of the media, pr representatives, writing clients, and Blogger help (who/which politely declined), I had decided to include a handful of people in my Shelfari experience. The caveat: they had to already be members on Shelfari. You see, my friends, that is how conservative I am when it comes to invading your private e-space.

But Shelfari was too clever for me. Had I scrolled further down the page, I would have noticed that Shelfari had a subtle but nefarious scheme to expand its web 2.0 real estate: all my contacts were checked by default. The horror.

Only when I checked my email ten minutes later and found 20 Shelfari notifications did the realization struck me: I HAVE JUST SPAMMED HALF THE LITERATE WORLD WITH INVITATIONS TO SHELFARI. As you can imagine, my distress was acute.

However, it faded into the background about five minutes later when Asher puked all over my shirt and Aidan started using my electric shaver. So this apology is overdue, I know. But for what it's worth, mea culpa. I am sorry. As I couldn't really send out another mass email, retracting my invitations, this post is my only recourse.

I hope you all read it, enjoy a small chuckle at my expense, and stop throwing eggs at me in your mind.

Small print: No, I don't hate Shelfari, although I hope they change their opt-out approach to invites. Also, I'm happy that a lot of my friends actually signed up with Shelfari and like it. That lessens the trauma. If you missed out on the invitation explosion and would like to jump in, go for it. I'll even be your friend if you ask nicely and refrain from bad KU jokes.

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Rodney Olsen said...

I deleted my account after they spammed the whole of the known world under my name.

I wrote my tale of woe on my own blog.

A Modern Mom said...

How is Shelfari different or the same as LibraryThing? I just discovered LibraryThing... and it didn't ask me to spam anyone...

Ariel said...

Rodney, it feels good to know I'm not the only one who got ripped off by Shelfari. In a twisted kind of way.

How is Shelfari different or the same as LibraryThing?

For my money, LibraryThing is better. Literally: I saved enough dimes to actually pay for a "lifetime" membership. And on top of that, there's the fact that they don't spam the world in your name.

By way of another testimonial, Rodney (first comment above) just asked to be my friend on LibraryThing (I graciously agreed). No doubt he's just one of many who will soon be fleeing Shelfari for the blessed anonymity of LibraryThing.

And this too: "LibraryThing" is more fun to say aloud.

Dschauffer said...

I am an employee of Shelfari and found your blog a bit disconcerting. Shelfari by no means forces or tricks its members in anyway to sending invitations to all of their contacts. We only send emails on behalf of users who have explicitly authorized us to do so. The invite friends page clearly lists your friends in the system and all the email address of friends from your address book who from which you are given the opportunity to invite. If you don't want to send emails to your friends there is an unselect button above each section. We have actually evaluated numerous designs for this process and have chosen one that we felt was extremely clear explaining the process and what is happening.

For your friends to stop any future invitations from friends on Shelfari, they can enter their names here

Ariel said...

Modern Mom, I found a fairly detailed breakdown of Shelfari vs. LibraryThing (and another book site, Gurulib). The comment are also a big help. Check it out.

Dschauffer, I think I was actually pretty gracious. (Did you read the small print--isn't it remarkable that I don't vengefully hate Shelfari after this debacle? Am I not actually a very forgiving person? Etc?)

The fact is, whether or not Shelfari deliberately attempts to spam their members' address books, it's a common occurrence. And it's not hard to see why. Call it a design flaw or conspiracy-to-spam--the way "friends" are recruited lends itself to unintended email barrages.

Ariel said...

Here's another--more angsty, more detailed--tale of Shelfari woe. To which I reply, Yes, YES.

A Modern Mom said...

Thanks for the info, Ariel. I love the LibraryThing! I am having a lot of fun with it, including importing your "Master List" and marking it with the "want to read" tag. Love it, love it, love it!

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Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife