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Dear Beth,
I am an employee of Shelfari and found your blog a bit disconcerting. Shelfari by no means forces or tricks its members in anyway to sending invitations to all of their contacts. We only send emails on behalf of users who have explicitly authorized us to do so. The invite friends page clearly lists your friends in the system and all the email address of friends from your address book who from which you are given the opportunity to invite. If you don't want to send emails to your friends there is an unselect button above each section. We have actually evaluated numerous designs for this process and have chosen one that we felt was extremely clear explaining the process and what is happening.

For your friends to stop any future invitations from friends on Shelfari, they can enter their names here

All the best,

Beth Kanter

well not clear enough -- too many smart people I know were embarrassed.

Ruby Sinreich

Danny, your description makes it clear that you are trying to fool your users into spamming their friends. Smart marketers reply on opt-IN not opt-out to get addresses. And I am not about to give you my address if I don't want to hear from you!

By the way, before I ever heard of Shelfari I was deleting messages that said "Do we read the same books" because I got so many of them out of the blue. I assumed it was either bacn or spam.

Nancy White

First of all, I unselected all then selected 10 people - still it sent to my entire list. So something is wacky in the user interface. Also, if you happen to have a lot of people in your contact list already on Shelfari, there is a "send" button right UNDER that list, which makes you think you are JUST sending to that list, not the full list. I thought at first I was just not paying attention, but others have fallen into the same trap.

THEN, the system sends a reminder notice. No where does it say you are going to do that. SO the embarrassment is 2X's. This was the final straw. DON'T SEND REMINDERS by default!

I deleted my account and quickly recommended to others not to use Shelfari.

Amy Gahran

Damn, Nancy, I got my shelfari invite from you, and I signed up.

Shelfari looks like a good idea for a service, but if they've turned me into a spammer, that sucks! I'll have to check to see if they spammed people. I didn't select to send invites to anyone.

Beth, thanks for noting this.

- Amy Gahran

Loretta Donovan

Just like Nancy White, I carefully unselected all and chose a few friends very purposefully to invite. And I did notice 2 Send buttons, but chose the one just below the selected friends. Within a couple of hours I was receiving email notices that people I did not know had accepted my invitation to join Shelfari. Among them were members of listservs and online communities to which I belong. That meant an even wider net had been cast than I could have imagined. I could see the effect since 2 of my own other email accounts were being bombarded by the "invitations" in my name. I have spent several days apologizing to strangers for the intrusion. And the reminders continue to irritate my online social network. What a dreadful example of social media! I have opted out too.


If you all are looking for a more user-friendly service, I built a site called Goodreads that also helps you see what your friends are reading (and it doesn't spam people).

Check it out:

Nancy White

I like Goodreads and Librarything. They both take a slightly different approach to each other. I blogged about this, but fricken blogger is still messed up, so this link may not work...

Shaping Youth

omg, Beth, thank you for this heads up! TERRIBLY disconcerting. I'll go check my Readergirlz, YALSA posts, and LibraryThing social media piece to add warnings! Here's Shaping Youth's post on Library Thing: very worthy site, no spam.

I'll also check out the user above on 'goodreads' etc.---I abhor Quechup for what they did, and am saddened that the opt out bit is once again being used as a branding tool...'when will they ever learn' is right...sheesh.



Josh from Shelfari here.

I just posted a fairly detailed description of what the problem was with Shelfari's invitations and how we fixed it last week. Please take a look at the changes and send me any feedback that you have.


shelfari = spam

Josh, you haven't fixed anything -- not by a long shot. Your interface still requires people to opt out and all email addresses are still checked by default.

Shelfari is STILL acting in bad faith after all the bad publicity they've got and it's probably fair to say that you guys really deserve to go down, crash and burn for your dishonesty.

After reading some of the horror stories above -- that despite unchecking all and selectively checking some email addresses, Shelfari still sent to ALL email addresses -- I've come to the conclusion that the nefarious Shelfari engaged in outright hijacking of user address books without user-permission.

The extent of Shelfari wrong-doing goes deeper than previously thought. Please don't blame an intern or an accidental programming flaw. You can't be trusted.


StumbleUpon does the exact same thing! If you click on the "Add your friends already on stumbleupon" button, but forget to uncheck everyone else UNDER that button, it adds everyone you know. ack!

Amy Alkon

Goodreads spams your address book, too. How disgusting that its founder claims otherwise. I learned of it when I got spam from a woman I met only once, that made out that we were friends and that she'd seen me on the site. She had not, but that got me to the site, where I entered what would've been my password, which really pisses me off, and then got more spam from them when I entered "lost password?" and my e-mail address.

Here's my blog item on this, with the story from Lizzy, who inadvertently sent me Goodreads spam.

Spread the word to your friends! Another hijacker is

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