Thursday, November 01, 2007

V. Raghunathan warns us about Shelfari's shenanigans

Shelfari appears to be a social networking site for book lovers; and no, I'm not linking to them. It appears to me that after you become a member (I certainly am not!), it lures you into sharing your e-mail account details, uses them to raid your addressbook, and spams people in your addressbook with an invite. Indiscriminately. And, in some cases, repeatedly.

This is evil. Pure evil.

Such evil tactics were used last year by another social networking site Gazzag. This post, which describes some of the seriously bad consequences of those tactics, seems to have had the right effect: the spam that I used to receive from Gazzag stopped immediately.

Now, coming back to Shelfari, Prof. V. Raghunathan (formerly with IIM-A, a regular columnist at several newspapers, and author of Games Indians Play: Why We Are the Way We Are) was among those who complained to the Shelfari folks about their shitty practice. He is so upset with their unwillingness to address his concerns (and worse, their inability to honor their own explicitly stated commitments) that he has now written to everyone on his addressbook, stating clearly that all those invites that were purportedly from him were not authorized by him.

Prof. Raghunathan also shared with his correspondents his latest e-mail to Shelfari. With his permission, I am excerpting it here.

I had complained to you that unsolicited emails were sent from my addressbook to hundreds of my contacts on my addressbook by Shelfari some time ago, causing me immense embarassment, simply because I happened to accept somebdoy's invitation to Shelfari (in retrospect a big mistake). You had apologized "for the frustration and confusion [caused to me] and had assured me that you "only send emails on behalf of users who have explicitly authorized you to do so" - a statement patently untrue - testified by yet another unsolicited invitation that has gone on my behalf today (Oct 30, 07), unknown to me, to yet another innocent victim of Shelfari. And this, when as recently as October 27, 07, you had responded to my complaint saying, "If you had contacted us sooner, I would have prevented all the follow-ups from being sent."

I am therefore left with no option but to send out this communciation to all those who happen to be on my my addressbook that none of the invites from Shelfari have ever consciously originated from me. I have never invited anybody consciously to "share my books" or solicited any "friendship" or sent any reminders to anybody. Shelfari is using most unfair means to reach out to as many eyeballs, by means fair or foul, perhaps more of the latter than the former, since it has an "invitation page" designed to suit its own purpose, never mind its nuisance value to the innocent victims.

That your methods are questionable is clear from the fact that you have also stated in your response to me, stating:

For your friends to stop any future invitations from friends on Shelfari, they can enter their names here [URL deleted].

Why should my friends have to do any additional work just because you guys are inflicting yourself upon them uninvited? The default setting should be that you respect others' privacy and not send out unsolicited "invitations", and not the other way round.


  1. peeleraja said...

    true...its the worst spam culprit ever...even after you join the spam continues

  2. anantha said...

    Abhi: Yes it is spam. But I won't accept that it is unsolicited. It looks like most people DON'T READ these signup pages. I posted a few weeks ago about this with screenshots on what to do to avoid this.

    One thing is true. The Professor probably did not consciously send invites. But rather, invitations were sent not because he specifically authorized their accessing his address book, as part of the signup. So I won't agree with his "patently untrue" statement. All this happened because he clicked through without reading what was on the page. If he had read the page carefully (it was not even small print), he'd have noticed the "skip this step" feature on the page where he authorized Shelfari to access his address book.

    I am not here to defend Shelfari, but to tell you that things usually happen because we rush through a lot of things when we should actually be paying attention.

    There is a grey area here. The invitations were not unsolicited (the frequent reminders if you don't join Shelfari are unsolicited, though) at all. The Professor and most people inflicted this on themselves by not reading. Plain and simple.

  3. Kathy R. said...
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