A former boss, Dinda, whom I hadn't heard from in some time, was sending me pictures through some social-networking outlet called "Tagged.
Did Dinda and I snap a photo together back in the day? I didn't think so, but I often forget if I've washed my hair two minutes after rinsing the shampoo. How could I be sure she wasn't sending me a poignant shot from four years ago? Plus, who doesn't like looking at their younger, better-looking selves? Or maybe Dinda wanted to update me on her family. In any case, I was intrigued. The message said that "Dinda sent you photos on Tagged.
Under the link it said, "Click Yes if you want to see Dinda's photos, otherwise click No. But you have to click! Below that message it said, "Please respond or Dinda may think you said no: See the five websites to avoid. I'm not going to retrace the exact steps, because to do that, I would have to click on that link again, and I'm deathly afraid of it. Basically, as I remember, I registered for the site through a Windows Live hotmail address, and very early on in the process it asked if I would like to send along a similar message to every contact in my account.
Now, why would any sane person want to invite every person in their contact list to look at photos they hadn't even uploaded? I have people in there, some who probably don't know who I am. No need to shoot them beach pics. See "10 Social Networking Apps. At no time did I intentionally click on anything that gave Tagged the right to spam my contacts. Still, unbeknownst to me, a message with the subject line "Sean sent you photos on Tagged: Again, I never put photos on Tagged.
And I don't have a "smiley-face"-style relationship with most of my old professors. Meanwhile, in my quest to see Dinda's pictures, the site asked me to upload a headshot. Then it started asking for my cell-phone number and making all these ridiculous offers for sweepstakes and other stuff no one should want.
I'd skip an offer; another would come up. It was all junk. That's when I realized this was shady. I shut it down, but it was too late.
The calls, text messages and e-mails came pouring in. I didn't want to disturb anyone else's afternoon, but I probably did. See "The Downside of Friends: Over the next few days, I heard a dozen or so complaints from people that Tagged had spammed their entire contact list. One quick sweep of the blogosphere reveals a multitude of Tagged victims, dating back to But the scam is red-hot now. The Better Business Bureau's grade for Tagged: Yes, I blame myself for being gullible.
But the site was confusing and dishonest. And it's nice to know I'm not the only sucker out there. So what is Tagged? The company calls itself a "premier social-networking destination focused on 'Social Discovery,' " whatever that means.
It claims to have 70 million registered users worldwide, though I'd imagine some of them are accidental like me. Believe it or not, Tagged is the third largest social network in the U. See the top 50 websites. I called them up, wanting to know why they're using Harvard math degrees to annoy the piss out of people. Tseng, the CEO, was unavailable, but Schleier-Smith, the chief technology officer, agreed to talk, but only over e-mail.
The pop-up warning that prevented accidental invitations in the past is not sufficient anymore. The pop-up window I saw asked, "Are you sure you want to invite all your contacts? The answer is no. Sure, it's clearer, but it wasn't the warning that caused confusion. What's irritating is that despite the warning, the message still went out to all those people.
One co-worker tells me she avoided the mass-spam mess by deselecting all of her contacts, but that's an extra step that most innocent visitors to the site will not think to take.
Schleier-Smith insists Tagged is trying to control the damage. If the mix-up was really a mistake, give Tagged credit for apologizing. But I've been burned, so here's my advice: If you get any kind of message from Tagged, delete it. Avoid the site altogether. If you want "social discovery," sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace work perfectly fine.