“Acquaintance Spam” – now that’s a term we need.
Plaxo is a particularly obnoxious with their viral attempts to hide behind my friends in as they strive to get to know me better. Each time I mention it to a Plaxo using acquaintance they explain that there is some button in there and sooner or later they hit by mistake … they are always really sorry about that.
There is a really evil dynamic where in the the product marketing people at these social networking sites create attractive nuisances that draw in the unwary, clueless, overeager or desperate networkers – who then hurt themselves and their ‘friends.’
update: snam Social Networking Spam 🙂
update 2: Stacy Martin replies in the comments below. Man, she’s got my sympathy! “stacy martin plaxo evil” gets 4 hundred plus hits at google!
I disagree that there was anything evil going on here. I think this is simply a matter of learning through user feedback and experience. Early in Plaxo’s development, people told us they would prefer to update their entire address book and try to keep it updated by occasionally requesting updates from their contacts. The product was build around these concepts and we required the member to approve and acknowledge the action to send an update request before anything occurred.
But while this may still be true, experience and feedback has shown that it is not always appropriate for people to request updates from everyone in their address book. Many of these contacts may have very loose association with the member and therefore not recognize the sender as a known contact. Plaxo is moving to address these concerns through user training and services changes. Please see the original post for more details.
Plaxo built an system that embarrasses your users and irritates people with whom Plaxos has absolutely no relationship. You call that “learning.” I call that avoiding responsibility. You tell a story about process. A story that ends, if I understand it correctly, not with a promise to fix it, but just a hint that something might change. “moving to address” Then it blames the users “user training.” The users Plaxo’s design embaressed. But I really like the phase “services changes.” Does that mean fix it, no it means more “learning.”
How about “We will fix it.” “We are very sorry.” “We screwed up.”
The evil dynamic here runs really deep. Firms like yours exist to aggregate social relationship and personal information. I’ve no problem with that. But there are forces in play that press continuously on the firm to abuse that data. This creates a dynamic that is evil. You know that, I suspect, you spend your days pushing upstream against that dynamic.
Ben – I noticed that my response to the original post is currently not available (going though moderation process first, I suspect). I shall therefore post what I responded with here as well. But before I do so – let me summarize – yes: we will fix the issues you’ve touched on and yes, we do apologize for any inconvenience the current functionality and behavior may have caused Plaxo members and non-members alike.
Here’s a portion of my response to the original post:
I acknowledge that as the service provider for the processing of these messages, we must take some responsibility as well. Your comments are quite timely actually, as they provide me an opportunity to announce a few upcoming changes to the Plaxo service and software. We are making these changes based on feedback from members and non-members such as yourself that we hope will continually improve the Plaxo service and allow people to benefit greater from its usage.
As you may know, Plaxo provides the ability for people to easily manage, update, and access their contact, calendar, tasks and notes information. We currently provide an option for the Plaxo member to send an Update Request message to their “entire address book”. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the number of contacts they truly maintain and end up sending unwanted update requests to people they have little association with. This option will be removed. We also have an “reminder” option that allows the Plaxo member to resend update requests that have not been responded to (ie: “I noticed you didn’t respond…” messages). This option will also be removed.
We’ve always provided the ability for non-members to instruct Plaxo to block messages sent through our service to their e-mail. This feature is accessible by clicking on the appropriate link included within each Update Request message or going to the URL: http://www.plaxo.com/opt_out. We are investigating methods to automatically block messages sent to non-members who have previously not responded and thus demonstrated a desire to not receive messages from Plaxo members.
Our goal is to continue to improve the value and benefit of using Plaxo for everyone, while dramatically reducing incidences of “acquaintance spam”. Our business is built on earning and maintaining the trust of both members and non-members, and hopefully through user education, product improvements, and ongoing feedback we will continue our efforts towards building a successful business.