and Usable Social Networking Invite Systems

Upside-down Jellyfish for an upside-down invite system An apology to anyone who got an unwanted invite to social networking site Bebo.

I tend to join and try out a lot of social apps as I run into them. I was signing up for Bebo when I got to the part of the process where you add friends to your account. First I saw the section I wanted, “Friends found on Bebo who are in your address book:

Next, there’s a section, “Friends of friends on Bebo who you MAY know:” I started down this list but noticed many duplicates from the first list. Normally this kind of duplication is a minor usability issue, since it wastes some screen real estate and a small amount of user attention. But in this case the duplicates were so prevalent I scrolled back to the top and clicked the “Add Friends” button.

Had I kept scrolling, I would have seen the “Invite friends to Bebo from your address book:” section with every email address checked by default.

Every social networking site has a feature like this, and it fuels the exponential growth that some of these sites experience. But sending an in-site friend invite is very different from sending a email invite. Most of us have email contacts who fall into various categories – friends, co-workers, people we’ve bought stuff from, former bosses, friends’ parents, etc. Very few people would want to actually send out invites to every single email address in their address book, so that should never be the default behavior.

So, yeah, sorry for the Bebo invite spam.

In other news, I just sent out over 3300 emails to people who voted in the baby name poll and left their email address.