Archive for the ‘shelfari’ Category

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Shelfari astroturfing: The evidence

UPDATE: CEO Josh Hug left a omment on a piece by Seattle bookseller Michael Lieberman (also in the spamming charge, I’ve come up with over 50 examples.

The offender I found has the ID “schaufferwaffer.” The ID is the give-away. It’s really easy to Google something like that, and turn up this same evidence.

The posts below make it clear this was no slip of the keyboard. Deceiving people was the whole point. It’s icky to don’t go on and on about how much you “love” Shelfari without mentioning you’re paid by them, and worse to call yourself a “user” and wax rhapsodic about how you’re going to win a site contest for which employees are ineligible. But the low point is surely the blog post with the woman who just found out her mother-in-law had brain and lung cancer. On the plus side, Danny wished her well. On the down side, he still took the opportunity to lie about who he was and shill for his employer.

Again, I want to make myself clear. We have lots of honorable competitors (listed here and here). Shelfari is a bad actor. Considering that they’re the only well-funded site, with a reported $1 million from Amazon, their spamming and astroturfing is particularly despicable.

In fairness, “Danny” now comments mentioning that he works for Shelfari. Meanwhile the ID has been deleted. Nobody at Shelfari has ever mentioned or apologized for this. I triple-dog dare you to post about it on the site and see what they say.

“I have been on Shelfari for a couple of months now and absolutely love it.
Any good books you could recommend to me?

P.S. Check out the blog widget 🙂 Its pretty cool”

“Shelfari is such a great site. I joined a couple of months ago and I have been hooked on it ever since. All readers are welcome and everyones opinion is listened to.
Add me as a friend 🙂

“Thats the funniest thing I have read all day. I am adding you as a friend right now on Shelfari. I am still trying to convince all my friends to join. Any tips?”

“friend me
I dont know if i can compete with 300 books…but hey its all about rediscovering right?”

“Its my favorite website! Add me as well.

“Cool blog. Another Shelfari user! Great to see you joined the site. Any books you could recommend me? My username is schaufferwaffer”

“I am also a huge Shelfari fan! I am looking for a new good read. Can you recommend me a book?

“Cool widget! I have been on Shelfari for a couple months now and LOVE IT! I like the books on your shelf. Which ones could you recommend me?
-schaufferwaffer (username on Shelfari)”—virt.html

“I am a big Shelfari user. What are you waiting for? Sign up and add me as a friend (schaufferwaffer). Recommend a good book to me!”

“Ohhh also on Shelfari. Also a big fan. I love the mystery genre! Recommend me some good books….schaufferwaffer is my id.”

“Shelfari is a great site. I have discovered so many new books there! Have you read my new favorite “A Thousand Splendid Suns”.
Add me as a friend. My username is schaufferwaffer.”

“Hey, I just stumbled upon your blog. I am also a Shelfari member and I am totally hooked. Could you recommend me any good mystery books?


“I like Shelfari because of the social interaction. I met a lot of new “friends” who have recommended some great books. Add me “schaufferwaffer”. Also, check out the new Harry Potter contest”

“Hey, I just came across your blog. I am also a Shelfari member, and i must say…I am completely obsessed! Do you know of any good fiction novels you could recommend me?
Add me as a friend! My username is schaufferwaffer 🙂


“Hey, I just stumbled upon your blog. I am also hooked on Shelfari. I just added “How I Live Now” to my reading list!
Add me as a friend. My username is schaufferwaffer. It looks like you have some great books you could recommend me.”

“I am a huge Shelfari fan! Add me as a friend. My username is schaufferwaffer. Any good book recommendations?”

“Hey, I am on Shelfari, but have not heard about RIT. I do enjoy reading, but don’t know if I have enough time with the school year starting up to join a book challenge.
Any books you could recommend me? My username is schaufferwaffer.

P.S. Cool Widget”

“Hey, I just stumbled across your blog. I found it pretty interesting b/c I love Shelfari and the Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books. I was required to read it through high school and was blown away. Any books you could recommend me?
Add me as a friend on Shelfari. My username is schaufferwaffer.”

“Shelfari is definitely my favorite book social networking site. I think its easy to use and has a nice looking interface.
Add me as a friend! My username is schaufferwaffer”

“Add me as a friend! schaufferwaffer
Any good reads to recommend?”

“Add me as a friend! schaufferwaffer
Any good reads to recommend?” (yes, same text)

“The best part of Shelfari is the new facebook application. It links with and now i can access my books on facebook. Recommend a good read to me at schaufferwaffer”

“Add me as a friend! schaufferwaffer
Any good books i should read?”

“Your book sounds really interesting. I’ll check it out! I am also on Shelfari. Add me – schaufferwaffer”

“Wow what a turnaround! Add me as a friend. My username is schaufferwaffer.
Any good books you can recommend me?”

“I like your bookshelf. I’m also on Shelfari. Friend me “schaufferwaffer”.
Any good books you recommend?”

“I like the blog 🙂 I also like Shelfari! Add me as a friend. My username is schaufferwaffer. Any good books you can recommend me???? To respond to the comment above me, the best part of Shelfari is that its FREE”

“Checkout my shelf… I am looking for a good mystery book to read. Any suggestions?”

“Thanks for mentioning Shelfari in your post. I am also a pretty big fan of fiction, specifically historical fiction. My [sic] Schaufferwaffer, maybe you can recommend me some good books.
All the best,

“I love Shelfari!
Add me as a friend “schaufferwaffer””

“I am also familiar with Shelfari. Add me as a friend! Do you know of any good books you an recommend me?


“Great Blog! Good luck with the job.
I am also on Shelfari. Add me as a friend. My username is schaufferwaffer.
Have you seen the blog widget? Are you going to add it to your blog?”

This is followed by a post from Dave, and is proof the company knew what Danny was doing. He pretends that the Danny’s comment was from a real user.

“Thanks for mentioning Shelfari 🙂 It looks like I was already beaten to the punchline….but the blog widget mentioned 2 comments above has just been completely redesigned with some cool new features. I’d love to hear your opinion on it. Give it a try and tell me what you think.
Happy Reading,

“I hope your mom is alright. I found this blog through google blogs. I am also a user of Shelfari and love it. Checkout my shelf at schaufferwaffer.
DO u have a facebook account? They now have an APP on facebook and its pretty cool!”

“I think Shelfari is also great! Checkout my bookshelf, my name is schaufferwaffer.
Also, did u know that there is also a facebook App that links to your shelfari account? Its pretty cool!”

“I like the blog! I am also a Shelfari member. What do u think of the new contest
I think i can win it! [No, he can’t. People who work or the company are not eligible.]
Add me as a friend “schaufferwaffer”

“Shelfari is my obsession. I spend way too much time on there, which is not a bad thing i guess
Add me as a friend!

“Shelfari is a great site. I have been hooked on it since the beginning of the summer. Have you see the blog widget yet?
Add me as a friend. My username is schaufferwaffer. Do you know of any good books you could recommend me?”

“I joined Shelfari a couple months ago. What a great site! Add me as a friend!


“I’m liking the blog. I am also a huge fan of Shelfari. Add me as a friend! My username is schaufferwaffer.
Any good books you could recommend me?

Also, have you seen the blog widget?”

“Cool Blog Widget! I have been on Shelfari for a couple of months now and just absolutley love it.
Do you know of any good books you can recommend me? How about “Life on the Run”. I have heard some good things.
Add me as a friend!

“Shelfari is a great site! I am completely addicted right now. Could you recommend me any good books? Add me as a friend! My username is schaufferwaffer.”

“I am also a Shelfari member and was wondering if you are participating in the Harry Potter contest?
Grand Prize looks really tempting. Add me as a friend “schaufferwaffer”. Any good book recommendations?”

“Thanks for mentioning Shelfari. I work there, add me as a friend “schaufferwaffer”. Do you
have any good book recommendations?
Have you seen our Harry Potter contest?

“I like your list of books. I am also working on a list of books to read, however i am still compiling it. It can be seen on my account at……My username is schaufferwaffer
Apparently Shelfari is coming out with a new blog widget that is supposed to be released in the next couple weeks. [Apparently indeed—You work for the company!]

“I am a Shelfarian! Add me “schaufferwaffer”

You should add the blog widget. Its a pretty cool way to show off your books”

I really like the widget in your blog! I have read Jane Eyre and really liked it. Any books you can recommend to me? My username on Shelfari is schaufferwaffer…Send me a note!

“I like your shelf! Add me on Shelfari


“Hey, I just stumbled upon your blog. Whats happening in San Paulo is really fascinating. I have a few friends down there and I have to ask them what life is like without advertisements everywhere. Also, I am on Shelfari too. Add me as a friend! Recommend me a book 🙂


“Sounds like you are a true bookworm
I am also on Shelfari. Add me as a friend! My username is schaufferwaffer
Any good books you can recommend to me?”

“Shelfari is a great site. I discovered it a at the beginning of the summer. It’s pretty easy to use and the widget looks great on blogs.

Add me as a friend! Any good books you can recommend me?


“I just stumbled across your blog and I really like it! I signed up on Shelfari a few months ago and love it .
Add me as a friend, my username is schaufferwaffer.
Any good books you can recommend me?”

“Jusy Saw “Knocked up”. I couldn’t stop laughing. [Nice touch.]
Also a huge Shelfari fan! Add me as a member. schaufferwaffer”

The prosecution rests.

Labels: astroturfing, schaufferwaffer, shelfari

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Want out? Click the small, gray, non-underlined text in the corner.

Here’s the denument of this affair, which I shall follow-up with my evidence that Shelfari also “astroturfed.”

Last week, one of our competitors, Shelfari, received a sound and very well-deserved drubbing for their deceptive invite-spamming. (Best title: Where’s my shelefant gun?)

Although a far more popular blog, Gagetopia, was the leader of the attack, we are proud to have supplied much of the ammo–more than fifty angry and embarrassed blog posts from people who learned that Shelfari had sent hundreds or thousands of emails in their name. The emails went out to anyone they had ever emailed, been emailed by or appeared alongside in a CC or on a listserv.

To repeat, we are NOT against competition, just against one site’s underhanded tactics. We often praise our competition, from BookJetty to GoodReads, Babelio to Reliwa (and some 40 others). Post about LibraryThing on some sites and you’ll find the message gone the next day. We don’t work like that. In fact, in one thread we even posted a long list of competitors (now outdated) and asked users to sign up for as many as they could, figure out what they liked, and come back with suggestions for improvements.

Anyway, after the drugging the site “relented,” and changed the sign-up process somewhat. The CEO explained that they never had any intention to deceive and that it was a side effect of growth.

I’m unmoved. As Gadgetopia put it, albeit before the final post:

“Just do us all a favor and admit it — admit that you were over-zealous and getting new members was more important to you than the personal pain of your current members. You trampled all over them to make your investors happy with your growth numbers.

“Come on, Josh, admit what you did. At least be that much of a man about it. Is there anything below the PR facade? Or are you unable to turn that off and just level with us?”

Then again, the newest post does say they “deeply apologize to all of our users who mistakenly emailed unwanted contacts.” It’s not everything, but it’s certainly something.

The new method is certainly a lot better, but it’s still icky in my book. It’s automatic on sign-up, and at every turn the invasive option is in the center of the screen, with a big blue-green “continue” button. The only way “out,” other than doing as the site demands, is to click the words “Skip making friends for now,” which is small, grey, out-of-the-way, and not underlined. It stands alongside other text of the same size, color and non-underlinedness, except that text isn’t a link. As one blogger put it:

“And voila, if … [you’d move] your mouse over each line, you’d find that one of these two pieces of text is actually a link! How sneaky is that!”

And they still pre-select every contact, something very few people want.

At LibraryThing our invites are unforced and voluntary. You don’t go through the page automatically. The interface is clear. And we not only don’t preselect all your contacts, we even removed the “select all” link. Want to send it to a thousand friends? Better warm up your clicking finger…

*I claim hundreds because I found 51 blog posts as of last week, many of which have comments by other non-bloggers. This week produced another dozen or so, and one can safely assume that most people do not have blogs.

Labels: shelfari, spam

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Shelfari spam: “basically social networking rapists”

LibraryThing’s success—we recently hit three-hundred thousand members and twenty million books—has spawned competitors, more than forty at last count. We respect them. Some of the best include BookJetty (gorgeous), Anobii (simple and big in China), Socialogue (does CDs) and GoodReads (friendly and not small; they just hit 5 million books). We think we do it better—for example taking from more than 75 soures other than Amazon–but we also know we aren’t perfect. To stay on top we have to work hard, and to be true to ourselves—loving books and being more open and collaborative than anyone else.

We respect our competitors with one exception: the site “” We have always spoken our mind, so here’s a piece of it: Shelfari has gained traction by engaging in unethical practices, including astroturfing (posting on blogs pretending to be users, not employees*) and putting out press releases about how they invented the idea. But the worst has been their spamming campaign.

These are strong accusations, but provable. This post lays out fifty-one posts that show they are, in the words of the well-known blog Gawker, “basically social networking rapists.”

Yesterday the popular Gadgetopia went on the attack, after Shelfari sent out thousands of invites in one author’s name. After getting the usual cut-and-paste non-apology, he pressed the point. I’d had my fill too, so I posted a comment with some of the evidence. Things built from there. And to my delight, Otis, the Goodreads guy, joined me, adding:

“I have two points in writing this: number one is to encourage people to keep blogging about Shelfari’s trickyness as long as they keep doing it. So far, people are having no problems doing that. However the saying ‘all press is good press’ is mostly true, so my second point is to encourage people to also mention that there are a number of other sites for book lovers that are well designed: notably, Goodreads and LibraryThing.”

The Spamming Campaign

Jesse Wegman of the New York Observer wrote the best accounts so far. Shelfari spammed “every single person with whom I have exchanged an e-mail in the past three years, in addition to every single person who has ever been on the same cc list as I have, regardless of whether we have ever met, in addition to every single listserv I have ever joined and every single Web site from which I have ever ordered anything.”

The method is simple. When you sign up for Shelfari you are dumped into a screen that offers to send out check-out-my-books invitations to friends. The user interface is confusing and deceptive, and what seems like an attempt to continue into the site really sends out hundreds or thousands of letters to everyone you’ve ever known by email. Reminder-letters follow. Skipping this step requires clicking out-of-the-way, gray non-underlined text.

Bloggers want to hide under their desks, ponder “moving to Tahiti” and beg God to “make [me] a bird so I may fly far far away.” They spit anger and frustration. The blog posts started months ago, and Shelfari has done nothing because a small percentage of recipients end up signing up, and this has driven their growth. They know perfectly well what they’re doing.

Below are 51 posts of bloggers and journalists livid or shame-faced at what Shelfari did to them.

Silly Shelfari Spam Shit

Startling Banals: Shelfari – horrible!!! Stay away from it!

Tess Harrison: An Apology…Please Don’t Hate Me!

Apologizing to my network for Shelfari Spam

Gadgetopia: Shelfari Has Pissed Me Off

Mohtashims IT Tazee: Avoid #@$#! Shelfari like the plague!

“I dont like to use any service that breaches my trust in the first 5 minutes…”

nm_eviled: Freaking Shelfari

“I don’t know about the rest of you out there, but I’m about ready to commission a voodoo doll directed at the people who run Shelfari”

Shelfari SUCKS, the evil spamming bastiches

“If you get an invitation to Shelfari, from me or anyone, DELETE IT immediately. … It’s a big, huge, scam. Torches and pitchforks, anyone?”

The Journey: Got your invitation?

“After Shelfari sent out another round of emails, which I specifically asked them not to, and failed to respond to the email I sent them, I have deleted my account. I refuse to deal with a company that has no regard for its users.”

Insights into Air and shadow: PSA and Apologies….

“It is evil, evil, evil. It should die, die die!”

InsideView of Shelfari

“One hour after I pressed the button, Shelfari invited two dead people, one prisoner (he should probably read books but his warden is reading his mail), the CNN news desk, four European editors–and potentially a boatload of others who I hope I never meet.”

ShelfSpam! A Story of Books, Trickery & Embarrassment

Prateek Dayal: Why sucks so much!

[rough draft]: O, fie upon thee, Shelfari

Scarlet Letters from the Literary Underworld: I am spam!

Sending Me Spam Makes Us Friends, Right?

What do Squid Read?

“After it sent out a second email today, I dove right back under the rock of humiliation, sank into the moat of despair and basically thought about changing my name and moving to Tahiti.”

In Rare Form: Myrt’s Blurts. Embarrassing Moments: The Catalog’s-blurts-embarrassing-moments-the-catalog/

“Shelfari sent a bloomin’ email to every person I have ever emailed. Ex-boyfriends, people I hoped would never contact me again, coworkers, my vice-president, my CFO, my old boss, potential employers, my bishop, the entire Sunday school and relief society. EVERYONE. All now invited by spam to join my on-line book club. “

Dogster/Catster: Auto-Spamming of Contacts Has to Stop

“[A] coworker had a ‘sitedown’ email contact which redirects to our pagers which made us think there was a site issue at midnight only to read some slimy Shelfari marketing blather”

Class 1 Spam Alert – Shelfari

“Have fun creating new passwords for your GMail, Yahoo and other accounts.”

V. Raghunathan warns us about Shelfari’s shenanigans

“This is evil. Pure evil.”

knitgrrl: Mea culpa — actually, no: Shelfari culpa

Comment: “All my personal and business contacts (including a couple CEOs) just got the invite.”


“Please don’t sign up for Shelfari since they try to gain members through spam!”

Caught in Shelfari’s Sticky Web: No More Friends, Please! (Jesse Wegman, New York Observer)

“Rather than reply individually to the hundreds of e-mails I have received, and continue to receive, since I signed up—a process during which I accidentally failed to uncheck the approximately 1,500 names in my Gmail address book that Shelfari had helpfully pre-checked for me, thereby inviting to join Shelfari, under my name (and ostensibly from my e-mail account), every single person with whom I have exchanged an e-mail in the past three years, in addition to every single person who has ever been on the same cc list as I have, regardless of whether we have ever met, in addition to every single listserv I have ever joined and every single Web site from which I have ever ordered anything (Amazon, Circuit City, and Law Students Against the Death Penalty have all, sadly, declined my invitation)—I thought I would write to you all here instead.” Spam

Dear Author: Suffering Shelfari Spam? Opt Out

Brianna’s Mommy: Freaking Shelfari

This Is My Truth: Major Ranting

Galleycat: Do We Like The Same Books? Go Away! do_we_like_the_same_books_go_away_69683.asp?c=rss

Dogs Steal Yarn, Apparently: I am a spammer, apparently.

“And so then I got the bright idea to email an apology for the spam to my entire address book and Gmail decided that I’m a spammer and shut me down for 24 hours. But I only got to send that email to the first 500 people in my 837 contact address book. So I’m shut out of sending email AND I’ve now spammed people twice in a one-hour period.”

Beth’s Blog: Don’t Register for Shelfari: It Spams Your Address Book

“So, don’t install Shelfari or you will be apologizing to your friends.”

PerthNorg: Got Your Shelfari Invite Yet?

Will Porter: OOC – to anyone who got a Shelfari invitation from mun

“I wish I’d never even heard of Shelfari. I think I’m going to delete my entire fucking account.”

Autumn Crumbs

“At any rate, if you got one of these, and if you decide to join, please read that article before you start inviting folks to join you. A very poorly designed website.”

“In Spamalot: The Shelfari Chronicles” by Bethanne Patrick, Publisher’s Weekly

Gawker: The Internet Sucks

“Finally someone takes on the great evil of our time: SHELFARI, the stupid book-centered stupidly-named social networking site that auto-sends an invite to everyone in your address book when you’re dingbat enough to sign up. I hate them so much and I scream a little inside every time one of these damned “DO WE LIKE THE SAME BOOKS?” emails arrives. They are basically social networking rapists.”

Sniff What I’m Steppin’ In: help

“Dear God, make [me] a bird so I may fly far far away. I just accidentally sent a Shelfari invite to my entire Gmail address book, which includes business folks, like, oh, my HR rep at the 7,000-person organization for which I now work. Help.”

SENSE N NONSENSE: Shelfari spam

With great reply from Shelfari: “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.”

Blog comment: “That email went out to ex-boyfriends from ten years ago, their parents, high profile business professionals that I sent my resume to five years ago”

Deb on the Web: So Sorry!!

jessie’s lament, and then some: shelfari fiasco

deponti to the world: What someone said about Shelfari

superstarksa: Shelfari – A PSA

James Galvin: Mass Invitation Spam Becoming the Default

“Anyone who is thinking “it’s your fault for not reading the whole page before clicking ‘continue’”, has probably never worked in IT. You don’t log in to a server as root for the same reason the fabled “big red button” has a plastic cover over it. When you’re dealing with large amounts of contact data, you are required to take extra precautions to maintain privacy.”

coniecto: About privacy, user options and spam

The Boar’s Head Tavern: Shelfari = spam?

The Credence Dot Com: and Are Spammers too !

PAgent’s Progress: Shelfari — A Poor Start

Snap Judgment: Shelfari Spam (Tamil?)

Mammaloves: Shelfari Is Not My Friend–Yet

Daring Young Mom: Shelfari is LIKE a Virus

Erotic Romance: Shelfari My Arse…

We rest our case.

*I’ll post the URLs for this if anyone is interested.

Labels: shelfari, spam