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Spock's betrayal of MY trust

I try lots of social networking tools.  It's the business I'm in, plus personal curiosity.  However, I have learned that not everyone has the same interest I do.  So, I try not to spam everyone I know with invites to each new social network, unless I really use those networks myself, and feel I can give them an unqualified recommendation.  Typically that means that when I sign up for a new one, I look for people I know who are already using the network, and ask to link with them. That way I can find out whether the tool will be useful to me by networking with people who are already using it.  Most social networking sites have tools which allow you to find your friends who are already using that network, and separate tools to invite any that aren't.

Sunday night I loaded my gmail address book into Spock, and found a bunch of people using it.  So I sent them all link requests.  Then Spock informed me that a bunch more people I knew might also be using Spock.  So I sent them a request as well.  My thinking was that Spock might simply not be able to determine definitively whether some other members were also people I knew based solely on my address book entries, and that it would ask these other members of Spock to confirm whether or not they knew me.  Clever trick, right!  After all, people do change their email addresses. 

But that's not what they were doing.  What they were asking me to do at the time was to invite people who weren't already using Spock to join it.  The language they used was deceptive.  They abused MY trust to grow their network.  I unwittingly sent hundreds of mails to people, asking them to sign up to Spock. Moreover, the mail message they received was a confusing message that asks the other person to "accept trust". It reads:

Alec Saunders has added you as a trusted contact on Spock. By accepting trust, you will be able to search each others’ network, share contact information, and get news.

What does accept trust mean?  Is it like accepting God?

As a result I have an inbox loaded with people replying to Spock generated emails with one liners like "?", and "what's this", and "I'm not joining any more social networks". Spock team, how about being clear and replacing the words "By accepting trust", with "By joining Spock"?.

A lot of other people must have complained that Spock was being deceptive about their invitation process as well.  I tried it again this morning, and the language has changed from informing that others might also be using Spock. This morning it now reads:

Contacts With Incomplete Search Results
Spock has incomplete search results for 993 of your address book contacts.

Please select which contacts to add to your Trust Network. An email will be sent to each selected contact notifying them of your request.

That's a little more clear.  But what it really should read is:

Contacts With Incomplete Search Results
993 of your address book contacts are not yet Spock members, and have not yet claimed their Spock identities.  

Please select which contacts to invite to use Spock and become part of your Trust Network. An email will be sent to each selected contact notifying them of your request.

The whole incident has left a bad taste in my mouth. Social networks are trust networks. Right now I feel like the organization that's running this one wants to deceive me.

{ 12 comments… add one }

  • Peter Weyant December 18, 2007, 6:11 am

    I did the same thing – but then before hitting the enter key, took a second look and cancelled. The approach will eventually shut them down.

  • Ken Camp December 18, 2007, 10:45 am

    I have to agree, perhaps in even stronger terms. Spock has bombed me with email of all sorts, but frankly there's no value proposition that I can find. That's what I struggle with. After building a network, spamming my friends, being spammed and spending hours trying to use it, the truth is, I find ZERO VALUE.

    I haven't gone and tried to kill my account yet, but if I don't, it sure looks like another one that will wither and die due to lack of value.

  • Nick December 18, 2007, 1:40 pm

    Wow, that’s nasty.
    I can’t figure out why spock would want to take such unpleasant measures. If they think that this is the right way to get traffic, they are dead wrong.
    To prove my point, I’m gonna cancel my account based on this entry alone. Hey, I don’t use it anyway.. I’m a desktop kind of a guy,which makes me an 8hands kind of user.

  • Brad Templeton December 18, 2007, 8:14 pm

    I went to Spock and typed in your name and was surprised to see they still had you as a registered member. You should put your money where your mouth is, and have spock delete your profile, as that’s the only thing that would get this message to them — if they realized people were fleeing or not coming because they didn’t think.

    Or worse, did you ask them to delete it and they refused?

    If so you should change it to a dummy profile with no info that says “Spock’s privacy practices are unacceptable — link to blog — so do not contact me or network with me on this service”

  • Alec December 18, 2007, 9:48 pm

    Neither Brad. Spock aggregates your identity whether you’re a member or not. The only way to ensure that the identity that is aggregated there is YOU is to maintain an account. How’s that for a nefarious scheme?

  • Alec December 19, 2007, 3:45 am

    I did use your suggestion, actually. Rather than make the profile into a dummy profile, I added a comment to the profile to say that I wouldn't be accepting any links because of their privacy practices.

  • Brad Templeton December 19, 2007, 4:59 am

    Right, but you could still have your profile be a stub if you have an account. I also tried to opt out of their mailings, which it makes rather hard to do. (Type in each email address, wait for confirm mail, click on link, type in address again, be told how awesome spock is) We will see how that goes.

    I certainly have no interest in joining at this point.

  • Simon Harriyott December 20, 2007, 1:01 am

    It's like Quechup all over again!

  • Shannonp December 20, 2007, 5:48 pm

    Alec, I received another Spock request the same day I received yours. You are right that they abused your trust because I never would have looked at it if it had not been from you.

    Once I looked at the site I refused to sign up. Perhaps there should be some litigation if these types of sites promulgate incorrect info. Hit 'em in the not-so-fat wallet.

  • Kathy Jacobs January 18, 2008, 9:12 am

    Me again…
    I agree that the initial emails were a bit over the top (ok.. way over the top). But the Spock team is working to adjust the messages and to ensure that people understand what they are asking people to do.

    My initial reaction to this post was to ask: Why is it that this leaves "a bad taste" in your mouth? Do you feel the same way (and did you blog about) any of the other networks that send invitations on your behalf? I get many more requests from people asking me to join xyz app on Facebook than I get requests from people asking for my trust in Spock.

    After starting this comment, I see that you have blogged about a couple of FaceBook's more obvious similarities to this situation. I wonder if you have removed yourself from FaceBook because of the complaints or if you continue to participate there because you see it as a different situation.

    As I have said in another comment on your blog, I see a benefit to Spock. It lets me know if you are who you say you are. It lets you know that I am who I say I am.

    My suggestion? Check out Spock in detail. See if what they say about you and those you know is correct. Remember that you can help to correct the information – which is not something FaceBook or other networks let you do. And remember, that unlike FaceBook, Spock doesn't use your name and identity to make people believe you are supporting unrelated products without your knowledge.

    Just my two cents.
    Kathy Jacobs, Spock Evangelist

  • Alec January 18, 2008, 2:12 pm

    Hi Kathy,

    Thanks for dropping by.

    The issue is pretty black and white for me. Any time an application causes me to send mail to my (large) address book, it had better explicitly tell me that it’s doing so. You guys didn’t. Spock told me that there were people who “might” be on Spock. You told a white lie to deceptively entice me to mail everyone in my address book. That earns you a big thumbs down from me. None of the other social tools I’ve ever used did this.

    Show me that the company has changed this behavior and I’ll look at it again. However, until I see otherwise I’ll continue to hold the opinion that you folks are deceptive spammers.

    My two cents.


  • Patrick January 18, 2008, 4:46 pm

    Sorry for chiming in a little late, but I figured I might help clarify a few things about Spock.

    1) As noted we've clarified our Address Book Import to be as clear as possible, including highlighting which of your contacts are on Spock and allowing users to select which of their contacts they would like to send an invitation to Spock.

    2) A trust request is similar to an invitation in that it enables people on Spock to share each others contact information. A Trust Request will also enable a user to refine a search on Spock by enabling a user to search within his own network and extended network of people. Please note that these invitations are user generated and not from Spock. At no point do we make a user send an invitation, and while the term "Trust Request" may seem odd at first, the idea is not unlike receiving an invitation to another site.

    3) Spock is primarily a people search. With the exception of sharing contact information, the same information is available to non-members. The advantage to being a user is the ability to claim your search result and contribute information. Because people can be searched by name, e-mail, or tag which is a personal piece of information such as an occupation, the more enriched your search result the better. By being notified of any changes to your search result you can be confident in being notified of any changes which enables you to be as active as you choose to be.

    If you have any other questions please feel free to contact me at patrick@corp.spock.com

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