Social Networking Gone Bad.

Totally Clueless
Totally Clueless

I’m a fan of social networking sites. I’m not big on Facebook and Twitter and MySpace – but I have a presence there, largely because they’ve each reached critical mass. They are useful for keeping track of old friends. That’s all well and good, but I’m far more interested in business-oriented sites. Keeping in touch with business contacts and former co-workers is a networker’s dream. It’s something that’s really useful, especially when you’re looking for a job, or seeking a way into a company to grab and account.

Of course, the problem with ALL the social networking sites is a little thing called monetization, a.k.a. “How in the HELL do we make money off this thing?” Virtually all of the social-oriented sites (see above) rely on selling advertising on the pages. Nothing wrong with that. The business-oriented sites, however, have come up with a tiered approach – ads plus pay-for-premium-access.

When I first discovered LinkedIn, I immediately realized the potential of the site. Of course, like any network, it falls under the thrall of Metcalfe’s Law – the the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2). In plain English this means that the value of a network doubles with the addtion of each user. But LinkedIn is…quirky. You can’t just email everyone you know and sign ’em up as friends. LinkedIn is the Six Degrees of Separation of the online world. You have to have an existing contact vouch for you, even if you’ve known the person you’re contacting for most of your life. Unless, of course, you wanna pony up some serious coin, in which case you can send all the invitations you like. Sadly, I’ve never felt the need (or seen the value proposition) in giving LinkedIn about 20 Simoleans each lunar cycle, just to be able to contact other people without interference from LinkedIn. Seems too much like extortion.

So when Plaxo came along, I was thrilled. This looked like Business Networking done Right. I spent over a month working on my profile – filling in details, adding friends and former associates. Seemed like a good fit. It was a useful tool. Had a couple of quirks itself – there was a limit to how many friends you could have, as having too many would crash the system. But it seemed like a pretty good deal, all in all.

That was before they arbitrarily and capriciously deleted my entire account.

Took me a day or so to realize it – I don’t check the services on a daily basis. But when I realized I couldn’t get in, I emailed their tech suppport team. Their reply? They insisted that the only way this could happen would have been for me to have deleted my account on my own. When I assured them that this was not the case, an email tug-o-war ensued, where they kept asking for permission to reinstate my account, followed by my replies granting them explicit, unilateral, and unconditional permission to do so.

A month passed with no progress.

Yesterday, I emailed them, threatening to expose their incompetence online, should they not restore my account post haste, hasty post, parcel post or Post Toasties.

Today, I received two emails. One, from an appologetic tech support guy, saying that he couldn’t help, but the problem had (once again) been kicked upstairs. And a second one, stating that my account had been restored.

I immediately logged on. Guess what? I could get in, but the “restoration” ran, shall we say, just a little shy of complete. I had no contacts. No profile. No resume. No work history. No nuthin’.

So I’m faced with a quandry…do I blow off Plaxo as a bunch of incompetent, mismanaged morons and tell my friends and former coworkers to catch me on another service, or do I spend months restoring all my contacts and profiles.

Frankly, I don’t have the time to do the later, so I’m taking my case to the people. Sort of a vox populi, “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not gonna take it any more” play.

So consider yourself warned. Plaxo is completely unreliable, poorly run company, with abysmal technical support and a badly-engineeered system that is a complete waste of your time.

Your results may vary. (But probably not by much.)

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