Shelfari Stumbles

It looks like things in the book social networking world are heating up.

It seems that in their race to gain market share Shelfari has engaged in some pretty dubious behavior including astroturfing (posting on blogs pretending to be users, not employees) and partaking in widespread spamming campaigns.

Tim Spalding founder of LibraryThing has documented the travesty over at the Thingology blog. The post is titled Shelfari Spam: “basically social network rapists” with the quote coming from a Gawker post on the issue.

Before you get into the well he is the competition of course he is going to knock them read the post. He is not running a negative campaign he is simply telling it like it is providing 51 examples of people who have been duped by Shelfari. It is shameful.

So what’s the problem?

According to the Shelfari gang it is a usability or user interface design (UI) issue. An issue that plagues many technology websites, both start-up and veteran. With most of the talent and energy leaning technical there is little or no time spent on the front end of these sites.

Unfortunately, this is no excuse and if there hadn’t been such an uproar I doubt Shelfari would have moved an inch to provide a cleaner user interface.

In responding to the recent uproar on the Shelfari blog CEO Josh Hug admits that the user experience was of little concern saying “We haven’t taken the time to address the complaints about our invitations in our blog or by updating the site.” He goes on “It’s been about five months since we last touched our invitation design. In June we looked at a number of different designs with the goal of creating something easy to use as well as clear.” Now 5 months later they are doing something about it and only because the life of their business is at stake.

Remember this is a company that recently received money and a board member from Amazon. The same Amazon who’s CEO Jeff Bezos proclaimed in an interview in October’s Harvard Business Review :

“We can’t be thinking about how [B&N] has so much more in the way of resources than we do… Yes, you should wake up every morning terrified with your sheets drenched in sweat, but not because you’re afraid of our competitors. Be afraid of our customers, because those are the folks who have the money. Our competitors are never going to send us money.”

Shelfari better get afraid of their users quick because if Jeff finds out…

Quote from the Bezos interview with Harvard Business Review via GalleyCat
Previous Book Patrol post The Shelfari Climb

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