Wherein I occasionally rant on various topics including, but not limited to, PHP, Music, and whatever other Topics I find interesting at the moment, including my brain tumor surgery of August 2010.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Too Many "Friends"

Bear with me here, there's a fairly long prologue...

So, here's the thing:

In one of my alter egos, I'm a Talent Buyer at a music venue.

Now, you may not know much about the internal workings of music venues, but, basically, a music venue has about 1000 bands pounding on the doors wanting to play for every available position.

There's nothing we'd love more than for there to be way more fans out there, mind you, so we could actually accommodate about 100 of those artists, instead of just he 1.

Do note that I said 100 of the 1000, not all of them...

90% of everything is still crap.

Anyway, at the email address we've set up specifically for artists to submit a demo, we tend to get a whole lot of friend-link requests to basically all the big social networking sites.

Now, this is going to sound petty, but it's getting pretty dang annoying.

Most of these friend link requests are coming from artists we don't work with.

Many of them are coming from artists we simply can't work with, as they're not the 1 in a thousand.

I daresay a lot of them are coming from the 900 we wouldn't want to work with, even if the the supply/demand went the other way, with way more fans than artists...

Our website pretty clearly asks bands not to add us to their promotional mailing lists. Do we really need to spell it out "and don't send us be-my-friend emails either"?

Anyway, I'm thinking that all these social networking sites should just stop sending out emails on behalf of their users to non-users to invite them to join.

If I want to join your social-networking site, and buy into the whole thing, then fine, I've agreed to get your emails.

But I haven't!

So, really, all these social-networking sites are just thinly-disguised spammers, when you get down to it.

Or maybe there should be some kind of industry-standard minimum proof that the recipient might actually want these dang things, or that the sender actually has an existing relationship.

Knowing an email address is not an existing relationship!

Because it's gotten to the point where a new entrant in the social networking market, to me, just means yet another flurry of invites that I don't really want.

Then I have to spend 20 minutes digging through their site for a place to contact them to say not only to ban that one user from sending me emails, but to ban ALL the users from ever sending me emails.

I don't even want the dang things at my personal address anymore, really, from friends I actually know. It's gotten that bad.

I definitely don't want them from strangers to an email address that was set up for a very specific business purpose.

Am I being too petty?

I don't think so.

We came up with guidelines for the robots, and that seems to have (mostly) worked out.

Can't we come up with guidelines for these social networking / stay in touch sites?

Here are some suggested starting points for guidelines:

If I'm not a member of your site, don't email me more than one invite ever, period.

If I didn't want to join when Lee invited me, I still don't want to join when Fran invites me, okay?

The invite email should provide links including:
    ban this user from ever emailing me again
    ban all users from ever emailing me
    accept invitation
    decline invitation, but join site

Perhaps there should also be a "do not social-network-invite" shared database maintained by the larger existing social networking sites, which other social networking sites could pay a reasonable fee on a per email basis to check against, and a person could register with that one place to not get any invites from any social networking site.

Note that the fee should be large enough to make it prohibitive for spammers to just pay up to garner emails, that it should not actually hand out email addresses but return a YES/NO for a submitted address from the social networking site, but be cheap enough that any serious new social networking site would buy in as a matter of course. Maybe there is no such price-point, but at least give it some thought.

I sure don't want to keep contacting every johnny-come-lately social networking site to ask them to put a ban on their users sending me invites. There are too many of them springing up like weeds.


Coling said...

To be honest I think you are getting a bit overly concerned about it.

As a business, I can see how the social network sites' contact/friend request emails can be a total PITA and there I sympathise with you, but wouldn't classify it as your classic SPAM which is usually trying to scam you or sell something too you.

In a personal sense, I was a social network site snob for a while, but then I joined one particular PHP based one that will remain nameless I changed my tune! I'm just as much of a snob now tho' and shun all the emails from friends who want me to sign up to other sites!

Being in the music industry you're bound to get more emails than a lowly individual like me so I'm perhaps coming from a different point of view!

My €0.02

Jason said...

From a business stand point, and a mail administrator I can see where you are coming from, I don't necessarily agree though...

I may have gotten invited by Rhonda, but didn't know her, Tommy on the other hand I do know and would join to keep in touch with. How would you handle those times?

Also, there are ways that you could block those messages at the MTA level to prevent them from coming in.

Anyway just my 2¢+/- Inflation

Richard Lynch said...

I thought my suggested standards handle the Rhonda / Tommy thing fairly well.

Provide a COMPLETE ONE-TIME OPT-OUT link in every invite.

Provide a "join but not as a friend of this user" link as well.

Never send more than ONE invite to any given address.

Or even make it reasonable like no more than ONE invite per year.

I can live with deleting one invite per year from these goofballs. But the volume I'm dealing with right now is a PITA and I don't see it getting better anytime soon if nothing changes, since there will only be more of these sites.

Jeff said...

Rich, Jeff Altergott here. Sorry to bug you here. Can you call me asap 773.532.9423 or check your booking email.

Thomas said...

Hi Rich!

I took your ideas on board for my own networking site at www.tradeprofessional.net

When someone invites a friend they will get email with the four options you mentioned.

I hope this will make our invitations more acceptable to those who receive them since we really are focusing our site on CONTENT and not just CONTACTS!

But I wanted to let you know your 'rants' did not fall on deaf ears!

Best regards,

Thomas Smith

Richard Lynch said...

Thanks Thomas;

I do appreciate that you're doing the right thing.

Perhaps you can bring these points up with your colleagues with less of a "rant" orientation :-)

I don't think they're totally unreasonable, and might even be better in the long run for the social networking community.

I'd really like to see this becoming a Standard, or at least and industry de facto standard practice.

I do appreciate the usefulness of social networking sites.

I am even on several of them in various capacities.

I'm just finding myself turned off more and more by the collateral damage they cause. :-)