ALTHOUGH I RARELY respond to invitations to join widget-based communities that revolve around objects instead of people, I started an account on Shelfari because it relates to a social networking experiment and then violated a second operating principle by failing to scroll down on an "invite friends" screen before hitting the "send" button. It turns out that the Shelfari invitation system is spring-loaded to automatically send invitations to people located in your address book if you permit Shelfari to access your Yahoo!, MSN, or Google Mail accounts. So you might guess what happened next. Shelfari started sending invitations to many people who are stored inside of my Yahoo! address book. These are legacy addresses, some gathered from the early 90s. One hour after I pressed the button, Shelfari invited two dead people, one prisoner (he should probably read books but his warden is reading his mail), the CNN news desk, four European editors--and potentially a boatload of others who I hope I never meet. Their names are in my address book since my Yahoo! account is an amalgamation of a filofax, ACT! database, Notes record set, Exchange mail records, as well as contact data shoveled into Yahoo from a minimum of 20 different phones I have used, owned, borrowed or tested. I would never send a bulk mail from my Yahoo! account. I would have never had a bulk mail sent under my signature so this embarrassment means I have loads of work ahead as I may have to go around and apologise to hundreds of people. I hope that is not the case.
Bulk mail spamming has hurt me professionally and as a result of several power users getting unsolicited mail from Shelfari, the Shelfari mail system faces the sin bin. I expect Spam Assassin will pick up on my inadvertent error because several companies will receive multiple copies of Shelfari invitations. If this plays out, Shelfari will have to change its sending details in order to remove itself from the spam lists automatically incorporated into many corporate email systems.
To those who received a Shelfari invitation from me--sorry. If you didn't get an invitation, consider yourself lucky. Or know you're not in my address book and that's probably a good thing.
I really resent being used by the Shelfari invitation system. On my back, Shelfari has received an endorsement because it's my name that people see when Shelfari arrives with an invitation to join up. A few months ago, I read that Shelfari enjoyed a spike in their page views and now I know that this spike could easily have occurred on the heels of inadvertent endorsements that were made when Shelfari invitations were sent.
I've relearned a valuable lesson and now have another footnote worth considering. I doubt that people test their online webforms--things like Shelfari's bulk invitations--on mobile phone screens. That's how I bungled this adventure. I read the email invitation on a Nokia handset and followed the linkages on the small screen. It takes a lot of effort to scroll a small handheld screen and I didn't scroll to see what was folded into the bottom half of the webform on the Nokia phone. I screwed up and won't forget the poor user experience.
After what's happened to me today, I am going to change my Yahoo! address book management by populating a new name and address inside Yahoo! This will probably irritate those who hate the fact that I have five separate internet nicknames. No worries--real Bernie will always receive correspondence directly at the text lines listed on the Inside View blog.
It's important for me to make a slim address book because I have seen companies go bust, selling contact details they have harvested from large address books like mine. While I have no indication this could happen with Shelfari, it has occurred before to other friends and it means giving real names and addresses to spammers who make our connected lives more challenging.
Shelfari -- "We love you too"