Shelfari vs. Blogosphere: The Perils of Book Social Networking

There was audible gnashing of teeth in the book-social-networking scene last week. Shelfari, a reasonably well-traffick’d tell-your-friends-what-you-read-and-find-out-what-they-read-too! site, stands accused of astroturfing (posting on blogs as if you were a user but where you are really acting as an employee) and spamming every address in a user’s Gmail account through an unclear (some might say misleading) user interface.

The LibraryThing blog (a competitor, to be sure) has the best chronology of events. This certainly highlights the perils of poorly executed social networking: one wrong move can turn hundreds of thousands of “friends” into hundreds of thousands of virulent, highly vocal, blog-savvy enemies. It’s this kind of thing you hope never to see:

“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.”

As an aside, what I found surprising while digging into this was just how crowded the book social networking space has become. Most have the obligatory Web 2.0 “beta” tag. Some examples:

LibraryThing . BookJetty . GoodReads . aNobii . AllConsuming (music, books, movies, et al) . . ConnectViaBooks . bookwormr . Crimespace (mystery only) . The Sword and the Laser (SciFi / Fantasy only)

Plus a host of Facebook widgets, the largest of which, Visual Bookshelf, has about 43,000 active users.