The high value we’ve come to place in reputation on the Web is underscored in several ways by the recent dustup over Shelfari. In short, Shelfari is being called out (primarily, but definitely not exclusively, by Tim Spalding, of competitor LibraryThing) for two violations of the norms of that reputation system:
- AstroTurfing (though in this case it sounds more like Sock Puppeting) in the comments of blogs around the Web.
- Deceptive spamming of new users’ Gmail address books.
While Shelfari CEO Josh Hug has posted something that might be called an apology/explanation regarding the spamming, when considered alongside the rampant AstroTurfing, claims of benign neglect lose their credibility.
What is particularly telling is the profound sense of violation (and deep embarrassment) expressed by those who feel duped:
- "Red face. Egg on face."
- "surprise and horror" (In the comments) [BTW, if their customers were expressing "surprise and horror" all the way back in July, fixing the interface should probably have been escalated]
- "what sucks is the cheap tricks"
- "I have blacklisted email from shelfari.com [from] my servers"
Our personal social networks are not only more valuable than ever to us, but also to businesses, in particular those whose success requires social transmission. Smart ones will avoid pissing in the well.