Social Web Apps Design
Online Community Development Cons Me

by Saul Fleischman on November 15, 2011

Thanks for the vouch. Did you look at the platform on which you are recommending me?

Or did you do it on BranchOut, or – simply because they lead you to do it, and make it a seconds-per-rope-in-each-friend operation, rather than, say, a LinkedIn recommendation which should require much more thought…? just 3 clicks per friend to “endorse

(and perhaps that’s not a good thing)

Hey, Apps, leave my friends alone!

Scam applications may tell you that you can find out who your top 10 stalkers are on Facebook and how many hours you’ve spent on Twitter. The intention is to gain access to your social networking account, so that internet marketers can the can spread their links virally, and drive traffic to their money-making schemes. Via you.

You would think people would be wary of allowing a third-party app, which doesn’t explain its intentions and doesn’t explain who’s behind it, from gaining access to their Facebook or Twitter account. (Credit: Graham Cluley – sign-up rush exposes risky behaviour of social networkers )

But that’s exactly what hoards of people seem to be doing right now with

They got me! spam invites suggested I vouch for people, and I did. It never told me they'd LinkedIn message them, though.

Wont you vouch for your friends? Well, why wouldn’t you? As you can see from the screenshot to the left, right out of my LinkedIn “sent messages” tab, though did not tell me that they would inform those I recommended via a LinkedIn message – that’s just what they did.

Just as I recently cried foul in regards to Facebook group invites (group inflictions, I called them, since you don’t actually invite to groups in Facebook – but force people into them), and contrasted with LinkedIn group invites, sites need to get called out for using our application authorization – to spam our friends.

If you follow the link and reserve your name, you are led to link the site with your Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account. You are reading the blog of the sucker who went fell for the LinkedIn connection route. In my own defense, similar to Branchout, and CommonRed, I expected this “professional networking site” to draw profile data from LinkedIn to flesh out my profile.

What’s more, several close friends of mine had “vouched for me” – and I had a slew of Twiter DMs, emails, and Facebook messages backed up, all informing me that so-and-so had vouched for me “to get me early access to” How could I go wrong…? I wanted that early access, right, and if they thought it was a thing to dive into…? And I did like those warm DMs, Facebook messages and LinkedIn messages, along with a few emails, letting me know that friends vouched for me. is declining to give away any information about what they mean to become, describing themselves as “a better way to manage your social connections” but candidly noting that they’re unwilling to tell you a damn thing about themselves or what intends to become, when finished. In fact, they flat out tell us that it’s currently “in ninja stealth mode“: is crafty, lures us with vouching

Ninja Stealth Mode (read: don't even ask us who we are or what we're up to)

I got conned, but must say that I am more than a little uncomfortable with our willingness to join a service which potentially exposes our social networking accounts – while we have no idea what it is we’re signing up for. It was this Twitter conversation that got me thinking (and then later, a LinkedIn connection letting me know that I had just allowed LinkedIn to message him automatically – scary): vouches gone viral vouching: "...but I did it anyway"

About Saul Fleischman

Founder of emerging social media tool sites. Bootstrapping innovation with lean startup development teams. I do project management, user experience, PR, marketing and community development. size it!

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  • Alan

    so true, i’ve been guilty of doing that sort of sign up and check out thing. luckily i haven’t dragged too many friends into it :) great post – cheers alan

    • Saul Fleischman

      Thank you, Alan. I fear I did my share, and then some. Generally, I do love to recommend people. Safer to do it in LinkedIn, right?

  • Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    Thanks for telling it like it is, Saul. With all of the new social media sites erupting, it’s hard to know which to trust, which will be hits and which will bomb. In the meantime, we are sharing our personal information with these sites when we sign up. I appreciate you being the watchdog and spreading the word.

    • Saul Fleischman

      Thanks, Carolyn, and yes, certainly hard to know which to trust. But then, “my friends did, so…?” People I trust, look up to, all vouching for me; its powerful suck-in material…

  • Laura E. Pence

    Wow. I hate to say it, but I’m going to say it: better you than me. Thank God for you! I’m so glad that you shared this with us! As an early adopter- just like you- I am more open to trying new apps and programs. I have to know what’s up so that I can tell my clients when they ask. I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen this one (the ninja stealth mode photo looks oh-so-familiar), but luckily I didn’t get suckered in- this time. I’m sure it was only a matter of time before someone I respect “vouched” for me. So again, thank you for warning us. :)

    • Saul Fleischman

      Thanks, Laura, and with comments from the founders telling us that the “ninja Stealth” days are over, I probably over-did it with that screen shot. Should have been up to date. At least the guys are on my blog to clear things up. All that is welcome, naturally.

  • Janet Callaway

    Saul, aloha. Thanks so much for this post. While many, many people have “vouched” for me, I simply did not make the time to look at it. After reading this post, I am going to be even more conscious of what I am doing because many of the people who “vouched” for me are experienced in the social media world.

    Saul, I so appreciate that I can count on you to say it like it is. Wishing you a great day. Aloha. Janet

    • Saul Fleischman

      Thanks, Janet, and I see in other comments, both founders of have chimed in, defending their product. Naturally, I welcome the positive, the negative, the informative… learning always. Se what they said yet…?

  • Drummond Reed

    Saul, this is Drummond Reed, one of the founders of Connect.Me. We’re not sure why you decided to post images from our beta signup program in March — which indeed caused a scam scare when it attracted 50K users in one day — instead of any of dozens of posts from the Connect.Me blog ( in the 8 months since then explaining what Connect.Me is doing in great depth, including the fact that Connect.Me won the Privacy Award at the European Identity Conference in May because of the Respect Trust Framework that Connect.Me is based on. (Just Google “Connect.Me privacy award” for the link.) We’d appreciate it if you’d share that with your readers. We really are trying to do the right thing building a peer-to-peer online trust network, and so are your readers who are vouching for you. Thanks, =Drummond

    • Saul Fleischman

      Thanks so much for giving us more to go on. In fact, I came upon just recently -due to the flood of “vouches,” which inexplicably suggested that a friend was good enough to help me out with a beta-invite (but, to a network I had already joined… “Hmm…)
      Perhaps if that informative blog of yours would be as easy to find – on – as the massive lists of friends we are prompted to vouch for, we’d know your network (and what to do with it) better?
      What’s more, you might look at how cumbersome it is – once inside – to vouch for specific skills of our contacts.

      • Drummond Reed

        Saul, you are right about several areas where we need to improve. We have added more controls and limits on vouch notifications — in fact you can turn notifications off on your Settings page. We are also adding more information about how to use Connect.Me — this will get easier as we add more features for using your reputation card. And your last point – about how to make it easier and faster to vouch for specific skills across a group of contacts – is one we are especially focused on.

        Did you see our short paper about trust levels and trust anchors ( I’d be happy to talk more with you about it if you’re interested. Thanks, =Drummond (

        • Saul Fleischman

          I am very interested, and hope to be able to expose the highlights of Connect.Me next time – rather than complaints or warnings. SKYPE osakasaul?

  • Saul Fleischman

    Thanks, Marc, and I would agree that, while I did not specifically point fingers at your company/product in regards to the spammy use of user details for the sale of data to marketers, I shoul have been kind enough to note that I have no… evidence… of you doing this (yet). Thanks for the comment, your details and advice on how to actually USE your network would be most welcome.

    • Marc Coluccio

      Hi Saul, thanks for the feedback. We appreciate your comments and agree that we need to message people better as to how they will be able to use Connect.Me and their reputation network. Our goal is to build a p2p reputation system that users can trust and keeps them in complete control. We have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes in the identity and privacy circles to get this done with a high degree of credibility and are building out the product as fast as we can. As we are in private beta, there are still some bugs, and many features that are turned off. We’d love to jump on a call and give you a sneak preview of what’s coming…let me know when might be a good time. Thanks, Marc

      • Saul Fleischman

        Thank you again, Marc. We can do that, and I would love to learn more. With SKYPE, you can even screen-share, show me around a little (without having to give me access to the features that are not yet publicly available). Probably the easiest way to go. Today’s bad, the end of the week is good, and you’ll find me with SKYPE open often.

  • Stan Faryna

    I tend to avoid the bleeding edge of online technologies. Online reputation, of course, is a hot bed for competition and contention. The question I would want to know is how does this service make everything better?

    • Saul Fleischman

      I engage the bleeding edge, Stan, and pay the price at times. In this case, having just spoken w/ @twitter-12480212:disqus I understand – with profundity – that I really jumped the gun with my stance. Connect.Me is a great thing and getting better. Please see what I wrote on it – in Quora >>

  • Saul Fleischman

    Yes, @mikelking:twitter , the engagement of @twitter-12480212:disqus was fast and courteous and patient and… WOW, did I learn. This is evidenced right here, where I hope you’ll connect with me >>

  • Samantha Gluck

    Like a ninja — playin’ kung fu on your prior success with social media platforms and like the siamese cat of that kid cartoon thingy — sleek fur, sweet purr, burning scratch.

  • FOUNDUPS® Michael J Trout, CEO

    IMO the platform is well coded and It provides a way to see who is following me. I get a nice easy snap shot and it allows me the CROWDSOURCE (I know you love that term) Who I am to folks. It’s just a nother way to touch someone :)

  • Alison

    Hi OsakaSaul,

    My name is Ali and I am BranchOut’s Community Manager. I also wanted to correct your article, I cannot speak for CommonRed (never heard of them to be honest), but BranchOut not longer imports your LinkedIn profile. Instead, we made it even easier by allowing you to either edit your BranchOut profile manually OR upload a resume via a .doc or .pdf.

    Even easier!

    Please feel free to connect with me on BranchOut if you have additional questions, I’d love to be a resource for you and stay in touch.



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