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Editor's Blog: Social networking faux pas

Do I know you... ?
Written by Tony Hallett, Contributor

Do I know you... ?

I received an email addressed from 'AccuCard Service' this week. Now I don't get these emails as much as I used to. It stated:

In the past, you have updated your contact information, helping to keep AccuCard Service subscribers up to date with any changes.

Would you please take a moment to do so again? As before, your updates are sent only to our subscribers who already have your contact information in their address books.

Thank you,

AccuCard Service

I took a decision some time ago not to reply to these. Anyone I wanted to stay in touch with I wrote back to politely. I simply said: "I don't use this sort of software but here are my details [in the email body]."

Why? Well, several reasons.

For one, I and other writers at silicon.com started getting update emails from people we didn't know using services such as AccuCard and Plaxo. There was not even an out-of-date landline number to revise and names of senders didn't ring any bells.

When I contacted Plaxo about two years ago to ask whether this was a spam/phishing tactic, they simply told me that no, they hadn't seen instances of that and that maybe I'd met someone at a conference, given them my card and forgotten their name. Mm, not sure about that.

Anyhow, I didn't have time to check out all the different privacy policies and generally didn't get involved.

As with social networking invites for services such as LinkedIn, I delete requests from people I don't know or who I don't want to know.

But what of those people you like? An old contact of mine called Hubert contacted me earlier in the week. He's a nice guy but the service he was using - namesdatabase.com - didn't do it for me either.

I did the polite email back to Hubert's Gmail account... but then a few days later I received a 'You didn't reply to Hubert's recent request...'

No. And next time I'll forward a link to this blog posting.

Around a month ago I had a briefing with the CEO of Plaxo, Ben Golub. Ben struck me as an unassuming exec with real scruples. I spoke to him about my past experiences - people mailing me who I didn't really know, emails that looked like 'Plaxo spam' - and he put my mind at ease.

He admitted that a while back the company "misjudged" the scenario where one person is a Plaxo member and the other isn't. That had been, at times, "abused". But now there are limits on invites that can be sent out. I and others I know don't see the same levels of 'acquaintance spam'.

Plaxo isn't quite in the social networking space that's abuzz right now - despite (or maybe because of) no one really knowing where it's going. But I like the approach of those that can provide a platform either for actual networking (something like LinkedIn) or personal info exchange (like Plaxo).

In fact, for the latter, silicon.com might just look at a version to network together online our pool of several hundred CIOs and other IT bosses who regularly take part in our CIO Jury feature. An annoying service isn't the same thing as smart software - though the latter can lead to the former.

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