Class 1 Spam Alert – Shelfari

Shelfari is the hottest thing in my peer group right now. And I’m not impressed.

Okay, all right – I’m as much a book-lover (perhaps more so, as Amey may know) as the guy next to you. Sure, I like the idea of sharing book-lists and collating them to find the most popular books at the moment. In fact, there’s a still-born book-list on this site too. What I don’t like about Shelfari (and which will be the reason for me not joining it) is the way they are getting new users.

By sending spam.

Just a friendly reminder that I invited you to Shelfari. Come see the books I love and see if we have any in common. Then pick my next book so I can keep on reading.

Click below to join my group of friends on Shelfari!


Shelfari is a free site that lets you share book ratings and reviews with friends and meet people who have similar tastes in books. It also lets you build an online bookshelf, join book clubs, and get good book recommendations from friends. You should check it out.

You have received this email because amey153 (amey153@*****.***) directly invited you to join his/her community on Shelfari.

It is against Shelfari’s policies to invite people who you don’t know directly. Follow this link to prevent future invitations to this address. If you believe you do not know this person, you may view his/her Shelfari page or report him/her in our feedback section.

Shelfari, 616 1st Ave #300, Seattle, WA 98104

No. Amey did not invite me. What he did was simply import his Yahoo contact book (which had my email address) into Shelfari’s email address database. Shelfari was very helpful – all he had to do was submit his Yahoo username and password. And an automated email is sent from

From Shelfari’s blog at

thousands of people started importing their contact lists to find friends on Shelfari and invite them

From Shelfari’s FAQ at, answer to question 19 – How do invite a large number or friends at one time?[sic]

You can import your email contacts from gmail, yahoo mail, or hotmail, or you can copy-and-paste a large group of contacts

Who’s going to copy-paste if you can import all your contacts directly by submitting your login credentials? Geez, its just an email account. Forget about security and shit like that.

Does it remind anyone of Meebo? I thought the first rule of the Net was to never reveal your password to a third party, even if it is backed by mega-corps. Even if (according to the footer on Meebo’s site)

Passwords encrypted with 1024-bit RSA keys

Also from Shelfari’s FAQ, answer to question 23 – How can I stop receiving Shelfari invitations?

To stop receiving invitations, go to and enter you email address.

That’s right, confirm that the email address is active and has a human respondent.

Even if Shelfari is ethical enough not to give away that email database for commercial (*cough cough*) gains, who’s to say, it won’t be compromised?

So, I have got that off my chest. Spam alert, guys!

Second, you are sending invites. Be a bit more personal; look like you mean it. Automatically firing off invites to your entire contact book? That sounds like a chore best handed off to a script (along with your login and password, of course). If you were really interested in this whole “share the book-lists” hoopla, you would have sent invites only to those of your contacts whom you know are avid book readers. In fact, I would have visited Shelfari more enthusiastically if I had received word-of-mouth publicity.

And lastly, no matter how many times shit happens, people don’t learn. Have fun creating new passwords for your GMail, Yahoo and other accounts.

5 thoughts on “Class 1 Spam Alert – Shelfari

  1. Amey A Kulkarni

    Good of you pointing out that the strategy used by shelfari is giving khat-pani to spamming.
    All of us will have to be more careful and mindful of what we do with these community sites.

    Forthe record, though I filled in the invite list with the yahoo address book, I made sure I read each and every address and made sure I wanted the invite sent to the person.
    So, you have a personal invitation coming from me and yes I thought a written invitation would have a better impact in you than an oral one.

  2. Danny

    I am an employee of Shelfari and found your blog a bit disconcerting.
    Shelfari offers its members an option to access their email account through its website solely for the purpose of making it easier for its members to share Shelfari with their friends. We do note that we do not save passwords.
    We offer two alternative options to inviting friends without importing email addresses from your contact list:
    1. Send invites individually
    2. Copy and paste the text below into an email then send the email to friends you would like to invite.

    I just joined Shelfari to connect with other book lovers. Come see the books I love and see if we have any in common. Then pick my next book so I can keep on reading.

    We also offer Members to send an invite with a personalized message.

    Per the instructions in the invitation we do not that a follow-up email will be sent out and give the option to block it.No more emails are sent to friends after the follow up email.

    I hope this helps.

    All the best,

  3. Amey A Kulkarni

    Weel, that is the exact reason I am on Shelfari, people will know there are books other than sydney sheldon and jeffery archer types.

  4. Rohit

    @Danny, I do agree that the blog post is hysterical; receiving ten invites and seven reminders does that to me.

    Shelfari is a great idea, kudos to your team for it. I believe it is always a matter trust what a web-based venture does with the data it collects. I did not imply that you are not to be trusted but expressed distress that third party login credentials were asked and given so freely.

    We do not provide our bank account’s electronic access credentials in our income tax assessment form or loan application, do we?

    I believe you should give emphasis on importing addresses through CSV format. Nearly all email service providers provide an option to export their contact books in CSV. You can have a helper script that will take what it needs from those CSV files. Never allow ease of use to provide a door for user stupidity.

    Regardless of what I have said above, I may join Shelfari – I do have a rapidly filling bookshelf after all!

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