Hoodwinked By Another Plaxo

Another embarrassing morning. Last night I tried out a new contacts/social networks program called ZeroDegrees, which promises to ‘connect you with the people you really need to reach through the people you already know’ etc etc. A sort of cross between Plaxo and LinkedIn.

The software installs into Outlook and one or two other email clients. It then mines your contact list, uploads it to ZeroDegrees’ server, while offering all sorts of reassurances that nothing will be sent out without your sayso (‘Your contacts are secure. They are always your private information and in your control. ZeroDegrees will never send email to your contacts (unless you invite them).’) Sounds like these guys have learned the three Plaxo Lessons: Privacy, security and privacy.

Er, no they haven’t. And neither have I. Click on the Outlook toolbar button called ZeroDegrees and you get one button ‘Build Your Network.’ Nothing more. Click on that and you get a synchronisation page. It’s not really clear what’s being synchronised but you’re told that still nothing is being sent out, so you should relax and watch the sliding bar.

Well, actually, don’t. You should be thinking of aborting, if you can. Next you get two buttons: ‘Email invitations’ and ‘Not now’. The first time around I tried ‘Not now’, thinking I might explore the program a bit more. But there’s really nothing else to explore so I went back and clicked ‘Email invitations’, thinking, like latter versions of Plaxo, you would get a chance to select who you invited. You don’t: Click that button and every contact in your address book will get spammed, sorry invited.

Of course, I only realised this after it had started doing so — and even then all you see is a bit of traffic in your firewall icon, nothing more. When my suspicions were aroused, I force-closed Outlook (no cancel button on ZeroDegrees) in the hope I had stopped the deluge of 2000 emails before it had started. No such luck.

This morning I wake up to dozens of automated responses, ‘do I know you?’ emails and quizzical missives from old contacts, flames, friends and assorted contacts politely asking me if I’m mad. Of course, it’s lovely to hear from these folk, but mortifying to have spammed them, tried to get them to sign up for something I didn’t really sign up for myself, and to have basically done all the things I’ve been preaching against. Sorry, everyone.

The lesson here: No one seems to have learned The Plaxo Lessons:

  • Tell the user what is happening;
  • Let the user choose who they spam, sorry invite;
  • Let the user stop what is happening if they don’t like it;
  • Don’t mislead the user.

Amen. Now I have to write apologies to dozens of people upset by the spamming (maybe that’s what they mean by ZeroDegrees, as in very, very frosty response from friends and contacts?) On the plus side, I can spend the rest of the morning swapping updates with some old chums I haven’t been in touch with for a while.

My advice: Don’t get ZeroDegreed.

04. August 2004 by jeremy
Categories: Privacy | Tags: , , , , | 2 comments

Comments (2)

  1. I got hit, but zerodegrees is more than a bit crumby. Doesn’t work with Safari or Firefox, only IE5.5. So, if they wanna court Mac users, they’re outta luck. IE5.2 is as high as Macs go.