Monday, February 11, 2008

"Sticky" Social Networking Profiles May Not be Just a Facebook Problem

So, in its ever up-to-the-trendy news reports meant to make us think about digital life, the New York Times had a whiny little piece on all those disgruntled Facebook users who can't fully delete their profiles from Facebook....Meanwhile, totally missing Ed Sussman's announcement of FastCompany going the social networking route, calling it some form of "social journalism" in order to try to monetize all the UGC they're going to amass in profiles and blog posts and comments....Which begs the following question:

  • Should I be worried about whether or not all those profiles--not just my Facebook profile--will be stickier than gum (or something worse) on the bottom of my favorite new sneakers?

    Now, I've been asking the "how many?" question for awhile--and I hadn't really thought much about the stickiness factor but in the ever-expanding field of social networking, this could have some long-range consequences...not to mention that we don't really know the true motives of those setting up the networks.

    Being a curious sort, I decided to check out four of my incomplete or inactive soc. networking profile--on Bloggoggle, Classmates, Gather, and Doostang-- to see if I could fully delete them. I checked my profile on a social job-seeking network Bloggoggle which has been around since '06(and I've supposedly been a member there since Feb of '06.)

    And I guess I'm still a member because I can't delete my profile from the site.

    I might be able to delete it if I emailed the Bloggoggle guys, but I shouldn't have to. I should be able to press "Delete Me" or something to that effect, and I should be vanished. Bloggoggle, however, does not appear to be desiring to use my UGC or monetize me in any way, so I consider them *relative to other social networks* as rather harmless.

    Recently on Classmates.com, I'd filled out my profile, including a rather innocuous pic--and within a week, attracted a stalker who couldn't keep himself from signing my guestbook and sending me email signed "stay sweet" and "cya!"

    Honestly. I'm 47. And so are you. So don't sign your email "cya!"

    For the first time, I got totally scared of someone online. I took down *all* my info and emailed the Classmates folks to reduce my profile from Gold to Free. Which they did within a 24 hour period (although they weren't able to refund me for the part of my Gold membership that I wouldn't be using because of jerkweed...)But I will still be checking my credit card statement to make sure that I don't get invoiced for any more Classmates charges.

    I also went over to Gather.com, where I didn't find any quick delete button for my profile--just another "customer support" email addy. Gather has lots and lots and lots of explainations of *every* *single* aspect of its site, almost ad nauseum and so much so that I gave up trying to figure out how to delete my profile pic--because I couldn't get past all the stupid-stupid (not stupid-simple) explainations about images and publishing images and why I want to publish images over there....Gather's Terms of Service were also no help when it came to figuring out how to get out of Gather....

    And then I went to Doostang--"where talent lives" (gee, I thought that was Bloggoggle...) After logging in--and I had to dig out my index card with my login information to find out what my login could be--I found that Doostang has a feature to email jobs on Facebook, and seems to be relatively active. In many ways, if I bothered to fill it out, my Doostang profile would be a lot like my LinkedIn profile, with no more of a guarantee that I'll find a job through a Doostang contact any more than I would through a LinkedIn contact....

    And while there are *plenty* of options for upgrading my Doostang membership, there's no clear and obvious way for me to delete my Doostang profile.

    Just like all my other profiles.

    So, what does all this inability to easily delete one's profile mean to me. Well, it must be just bad customer service....(Craig Newmark might think the same thing too...)

    Seriously. I'm their customer--free or not. And I should be able to delete my information without having to email someone and get my deletion approved.

    Really--it's beginning to feel like it might be easier to get divorced in here than it is to get rid of an old social networking profile.

    Is there anything we might be able to do about this? I doubt it. Not until enough of us get really peeved about it. And are we peeved about it? Not really. Not yet. Because not enough of us have suffered any consequences from it.

    Further nonsense: Bill Gates on Facebook is like a fish riding a bicycle...did anyone bother to ask Gates about his A Small World profile and if he's got a burning need to get rid of that one too? oh, come on WSJ! Gates ain't "people" like the rest of us Facebook users. Not by a long shot. So why should we care what he does with his profile?

    And because you asked, here's acct. deletion instructions from Brandee Barker @ Facebook: "There are two different ways to remove your information from Facebook. The first is to deactivate an account. Once a user deactivates the account, his or her profile becomes inaccessible on the main Facebook service, and the data is kept by Facebook only to allow easy reactivation. The second option is to delete the profile altogether. When a user deletes his or her profile, personal information -- such as name and all email addresses associated with the account -- is deleted from Facebook servers. If a user decides to join Facebook again, he or she would need to create a new profile. We are working to better explain the simple deactivation process, and to ease the deletion process for those who want their personal information removed from our servers. Additional information can be found on the Facebook help page at http://www.facebook.com/help.php?page=5"

    Also take a gander at Google's Privacy Policy (or lack thereof and what it does to your gmail (thanx, Steph)

    Meanwhile, Brian Oberkirch tells businesses Really, we don't want to join your social network... and he's right...

    And as I recall I was able to delete my MySpace account (yes, I had one) awhile back without a hitch. Guess they're overloaded with UGC over there...
  • 2 comments:

    Craig said...

    Yup, maybe they need to listen to the customers just a bit more...?

    Craig

    Tish Grier said...

    ah, but how can they listen when all they're interested in doing is telling you about how great they are (not!)

    I gotta hand it to MySpace on this--no trouble deleting. Most improved goes to Classmates, which has gone from being a customer service black hole to actually responding and making good on their word.