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Do we like the same toothbrush?

The title of this post is just to went out my frustration at the animatedly friendly line you see in invitation emails for Shelfari (Do we like the same books?) . Actually, I am not frustrated at the service or the way it introduces itself - my objection is to something else ... read on if you are interested.

The service is really an amazing concept - I wish I would have thought it and launched it. The way it introduces itself too is really good. Having tackled with the problem of 'introducing' websites myself - I do feel this is one of the better ways to do it. But isn't there is a limit to how many times you invite a user??

My first point is that if a user has invited me to the site and I haven't responded means that I am not interested in the service for one reason or the other. It could be pure disinterest or may be that I don't have time for it. Either way - I AM NOT INTERESTED!! Then why should the website send me a 'reminder' for the invitation??

These reminders also misuse the trust the user has put in you that the website will not misuse his/her address book. Once I invite a friend to a service, I expect the invite to be sent only once - if the site starts spamming my contacts with 'reminders' it also undermines my own credibility.

I would rather take the argument a bit further - something which no website has as of now implemented. If I invite my friend 'A' to a service and then another user 'X' also invites him to the site, it is indeed annoying to 'A' - especially if he has already signed for the service!

So what's the way out? I have a simple action plan for websites:

  1. Maintain a list of all email IDs whom invites have been sent to from your website.
  2. Whenever a new user signs in and you collect IDs from his/her address book, run them through this list and your user list-
    1. Separate those who are already your users and strike them off right away
    2. Segregate those who are not your users, but have been invited. Present them to the current user and prompt him to decide whether s/he would like to invite them again or leave them alone.
  3. Send invites only to the remaining and those whom the user has specifically decided to 're-invite'.
I guess the plan above is inline with the Clue Train Manifesto. By putting the power in the user's hands we are also respecting the rights of a user on the way his/her personal data (read: address books) will be used by the websites. Amen!

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