Social networks are all the rage. Or so it seems amongst those who have jumped on the web 2.0 bandwagon, scratching their heads as they keep adding “stuff” to make their business more “web 2.0” — here a blog, there readers comments, or getting a hard-on at getting-rich-fast on “User Generated Content” (OMG! Free content to monetize !), whatever. The latest seems to build a “social network” on anything (probably when all other 2.0 goodies have failed to produce any satisfying result).
Every now and then, I get an email out of nowhere, claiming that XYZ wants to be my friend, or talk to me, or share stuff with me. Of course, for that to happen, I need to register on a site. And in almost all cases, I have no clue whatsoever who it is who wants me to join. The only clear thing I see is the service provider which wants me to grow its user base, but totally fails in helping people actually grow a social network (or at least pretending to help them).
Worst offender so far in volume: Microsoft MSN / Live Messenger. This service is a pure nightmare when you try to figure out who is who. When I get an email from a stranger it goes along those lines : “<Some pseudo> wants to talk to you! Download this free software. Note this email then do these complicated steps to blahblah...” (the French translation is actually incomprehensible). I have no way to know who's asking unless I send them an email. (My biggest gripe being that once someone is on my allow list, I've still got no way to remember who is who, so once in a while I get pinged by some pseudo who asks “who's this?” to who I can only reply by “who's this?”, utterly stupid.)
The latest offender is spymac.com, which sent me that email today (anonymized to protect the innocent):
Hi François Nonnenmacher,
<some dude> would like to share some photos, movies or files with you!
Signing up for Spymac is free, and takes less than a minute. Just click here:
See you there!
From The Spymac Team
p.s. If you are not interested, just ignore this email. Spymac won't bug you again and there's nothing special you have to do.
I have no memory for names, I really don't (to the point that it's embarrassing), so I have no clue who this dude is. The only link (and action) provided in this email is to accept a connection with two total strangers: 1) registering on an unknown site with a link that read "accept" and has an identifier in it, 2) the issuer who I still don't know. Spymac is really doing a shitty job here (at least, in the case of Microsoft, they provide you with some sort of idea of what Live Messenger is about).
In those times of spamming and phishing I would normally treat this email as pure junk, and trash it in half a second. But I tried to do a little research on my own. So I googled the pseudonym, found a few sites that have it as their domain name (still no clue and frankly I wouldn't want to be associated with some of them), found it on several prominent sites like Wikipedia, and Flickr. Hopefully my lack of memory for names is compensated by a good visual memory, I recognized the user icon on Flickr to one I know from the TextDrive community forum. I was also lucky to find the same user icon and pseudonym on Spymac.com, so now I know who this is. If this is Spymac's idea on how to build a social network, then I suggest they take some professional advice on social computing if they can get some common sense in the first place. But right now they're just shooting both themselves and their users in the foot.
I complained already in the past on how easy social networks are making things easier for their users to swamp their friends with invites. The trouble is just that, due to execrable execution from most of them, it's just social spamming in a click of a button.
I have yet to receive an invite to someone's cat friends list, but that too is around the corner I guess.
(BTW, Reid, no offense, but next time you want to share stuff with me, well, you know my email address, but please don't use the one that I exclusively reserve to friends to register me on unknown sites!)
P.S. Reid wrote back with the following, it gets even worse than what I thought:
> take no offense, but you inspired my second "social spamming" post ;-). And no, I won't join until I get a clue on the benefit of doing so.
My apologies. Here's what happened. I got an invitation from a friend
that I had not heard from in a while. So I checked it out.
As part of the sign up, the site asks you if you'd like to *check* and
see if any of your Gmail contacts are already members. It then,
without warning or permission, *spams* your contact list with invites.
Stern letters will be issued shortly. Again, sorry for the intrusion.
Spymac is actually spamming under the disguise of social networking. Craptacular:
A forum admin claims it’s simply not possible, in the face of multiple people saying “um, it happened to me.” And good luck trying to sign up for that forum to chime in.
[Update: Checking into this has revealed that I am not Patient Zero of this spam plague, I’m at least Patient Two … meaning two people before me had this same thing happen to them, which brought me into the chain. You are Patient Three of Spymac Spamplague 2007.]
Of course, I’ve emailed the appropriate addresses at Spymac, and, of course, I’ve heard absolutely nothing in response. So until I do, I have to assume that the folks that run Spymac.com are Bad Netizens who’ve let their greed to grow users overwhelm normal sensibilities.
And I have now seen as much of their site as I will likely ever see. Remember that old business homily, if you treat a customer right, they’ll tell a friend? Well, if you treat them wrong, they’ll tell ten friends.
Or a few hundred, if they’ve got a web site.
Or a few thousands! ;-)