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Actually, I'm the CEO of FOunerDating and what's surprising is that no one has actually asked if this is what really happens. We not only state (in white writing) on black backgroud) that "a message will be sent to your chosen linkedin contact) and let you see the message but it's also completely opt-in - no tricks where you can't find the "x". People can choose to a) not send or choose who they send a message to. There is nothing sneaky about it. If someone doesn't read the line "this will send a message" there isn't much we can do about that.

Actually, I just had this happen to me today.

From my perspective, you fooled me into using my professional network to advertise your service. You sent an email which purported to be me, put words in my mouth, and made me look like an ass to my colleagues.

I had to go look in my LinkedIn inbox and send out apology emails to everyone you messaged on my behalf.

> (in white writing) on black backgroud)

In tiny text. That I didn't notice until it was too late.

> and let you see the message

I didn't see the message beforehand. It isn't visible by default. I didn't realize what you were really going to do until I Googled for "FounderDating spam", which turned up the above article. That article, by the way, was submitted by one of the people you spammed, and who I wrote an email to to apologize.

> it's also completely opt-in - no tricks where you can't find the "x".

It's actually opt-out, not opt-in. And by opt-out, I presume that means I should've marked all of your default selections as not "entrepreneurial".

> not send or choose who they send a message to

It's not clear from the UI that picking a person sends a message to them.

> There is nothing sneaky about it.

In my opinion, it's downright deceptive.

> there isn't much we can do about that.

You could try not abusing my trust.

"Hey this idiot didn't look hard enough at what we were going to do for him." isn't the best defense, and really doesn't make your company look better.

Here's what you should have said:

"It was not our intention to mislead users with the recommend feature. We felt the current wording was clear. However, apparently it is not. We will be issuing an update as soon as possible to make this feature more clear and ask the user to review and modify the message that will be sent out before we send it.

Thank you for this valuable feedback."

You'll thank me later.

Well played with that closing line.

I hate to jump on the bandwagon here, but looking at the screenshot it's very clear that this was a conscious decision and honestly your response here is inappropriate.

Here's the facts of this flow (http://imgur.com/KSsinEq):

1. EVERYTHING that indicates a message will be sent is squished into one corner in 11pt font-size - smaller than anything else in the flow. Neither the header nor the explanation indicate a message will be sent.

2. The two links that you squished into a corner do not follow standard link conventions, they are neither underlined nor in classic blue. Which is interesting because across the rest of your site I see you use the underline convention of grey links (in the "save for later' and the footer for instance).

3. It's not white on black, it's #c8c8c8 on #3a3a3a, those are both muted tones that make the contrast significantly less stark. It makes a difference (check this out: http://i.imgur.com/Pypkv3n.jpg). The header is pure white on the background, so clearly you knew the color would make less of an impact when muted.

Why not just own up to the fact you wanted to get the word out and this was a classic attempt of a company being too smart for it's own good? I'm sure this version converted way better than when you made it clear it sent a message. Instead you come in and just fan the flames.

This is one of the most informative posts in this thread. Thank you for sharing both the screen shot as well as your analysis, which I agree with.

In all sincerity, I did not even see the link text the first time I looked at the screen shot (and I was consciously aware it should be there). I'm not in the least bit surprised others "missed" it.

I emailed you on April 30th with the following:

  I recently applied to FD and it appears that you randomly 
  spammed 10 of my LinkedIn contacts. What the hell? Not cool.
That "line" definitely wasn't obvious to me. I originally dismissed the oversight as carelessness on my end, but the widespread outcry here leads me to believe the UI is likely deceiving.

I was highly embarrassed when I received a reply to one of the LinkedIn messages. And your failure to respond to my email only makes it worse.

This is exactly the problem- they choose to ignore / attempt to discredit the people giving them an early warning that this is "Not cool" / deceptive.

> If someone doesn't read the line "this will send a message" there isn't much we can do about that.

Oh that is totally untrue. There is something fairly obvious you could do: Don't attack people with viral tools in the first place.

Anything that intentionally adds overhead to the other person, without adding value to them, is an attack. How many people can you possibly think would want to advertise your service for you - and need your words to do it? You think if people really want to share your product they're going to develop a sudden writing difficulty?

You know as well as I that people don't read everything - we have finite attention, we do things in a hurry. And you exploit that as an attack vector for your nasty advertising stuff.

You're acting against the other party's interests from the off and you want to what?... Make it seem okay somehow? I suppose strictly speaking it's better if it's the way you say it is than some other way - but it's like saying: "Well, strictly speaking, I only murdered three children. Not the ten everyone said I did."

"You think if people really want to share your product they're going to develop a sudden writing difficulty?"

Checkmate. She can't worm her way out of that.

For the record, "opt in" has a specific meaning. For your spamming to be considered "opt in", a user would have to actively take an action that indicates that they want you to spam their friends. What you have described appears to be an "opt out" scenario.

>I didn’t have to do it but I thought oh well, I guess I’ll do it and see what happens.

The guy whining in the blog post exactly opted in.

He opted in for one action, and was signed up for two actions. How is the second action considered opt-in?

He clearly did not give his full consent because the UI was designed to bury the thing that he would have explicitly opted-out of.

I think we all agree that he opted in to vouching for the people. The complaint is that it wasn't clear that vouching also entailed sending a message if you didn't opt out of the message portion.

For context:

> FounderDating asked me to identify ten that I would vouch for. I didn’t have to do it but I thought oh well, I guess I’ll do it and see what happens. So all I did was click their photos. Nothing more.

Can't speak to the rest of the flow but clicking photos indeed sounds like opting in.

Yes, he opted in to "vouch for" those people. A ethical UX designer would have shown a modal showing the full message with the list of people it would go to BEFORE sending it on the user's behalf.

No, you're deliberately misunderstanding her. Here's a screenshot of the page in question: http://cl.ly/image/2V302C3j290B

I can see how it'd be easy to miss the fact that this will send an email, although it's stated unambiguously, at the top of the page, and underlined. And it's definitely opt-in. I have to select folks.

Thank you for posting the screenshot but I don't think this is the one I saw. It was a different flow. I was not applying and asking people to vouch for me. I believe I was asked who I would vouch for.

That's not the page in question.

> There is nothing sneaky about it.

There really is. The fact that you either don't realize this, or care to admit it, is cause for concern. The email being sent out to your users' contacts is highly personal, and one very few people would be comfortable with.

> If someone doesn't read the line "this will send a message" there isn't much we can do about that.

How far would you extend this logic? That is to say, how much can be justified by saying someone "missed the fine print"? In my opinion you clearly crossed a line here, just not a legal one.

Does this warning about the message include the text of the message that will be sent?

Does the warning say that the message will be signed by the person who sent the message (a message to X from FounderDating saying I clicked a thing is very different than a message to X from _me_)?

Does the warning say that you are highly recommending to the person that they join? Or does it just say you are vouching for them?

(These are all actual questions, as I haven't gone through that flow. I'm not trying to be snarky)

Rather than getting defensive in the face of what's a very valid criticism, why don't you work on improving your product?

Being more transparent about the message that you're going to send, as well as adding the ability for the user to edit that message, would help you much more than a half-assed defensive statement on Hacker News ever would.

I'm not being defensive (which I know sounds defensive) I'm just explaining how things actually work. That there is a message, but like many things on the internet people don't always read everything.

The fact that you are acknowledging that "people don't always read everything" makes it very hard to believe this is anything other than an intentionally deceptive pattern. A responsible and ethical UX designer would show the email and allow an easy path to opt-out of emailing anyone.

"but like many things on the internet people don't always read everything."

I agree that many people don't read everything they see on sites, but I believe we should optimize our sites/products for that, to help those people pay attention to the details that matter to them.

It's YOUR responsibility to make sure the user is well aware of the ramifications of what's about to happen.

Not reading the terms and conditions of Reddit when all you do is browse and read and never even log in: not too important.

Not FULLY understanding that you are going to send an email to my contacts, using wording that YOU wrote to make it appear as if I wrote it: pretty damn important.

Wow, blaming the user? That's low. Just like in customer service where the customer is always right, in web development the user is always right. It's not the users fault they didn't see some text, it's YOUR fault.

Boom. That right there pretty much ended any defense the CEO had. HN has countless submissions focusing on site layout/design/user interaction/click rate/etc

If you wanted the user to be able to see the message or cared that they did, you would have made it more obvious what was going on here.

The term Layer 8 and PEBKAC exist for a reason.

That said, she now knows that people aren't reading the instructions and should find someone to get them to.

> it's also completely opt-in - no tricks where you can't find the "x".

Opt-in means the X is not checked by default.

Opt-out would be where the X is checked, and people have to find/un-check it.

Opt-out is disallowed (ethically and/or legally) in many situations.

I don't know if you're truly doing opt-in or -out, but I wanted to point out the difference.

Opt-in is how you avoid unpleasant surprises. When it comes to email marketing, some even advocate double confirmation: You opt-in, and get an email where you have to click a link to confirm you really do want it.

I'm sure she understands. Here's a screenshot of the page in question, since nobody here can be arsed to actually check facts: http://cl.ly/image/2V302C3j290B

That's not the page I saw. I was asked who I would vouch for, not who I'd like to vouch for me.

Does anyone has a screen shot of that page?

You may want to step back, take a deep breath, and figure out a way (or someone else, if needed) to respond positively to criticism.

Right now you just look pissy.

FWIW, jmalter (FounderDating CEO) and jfarmer (who's passive-aggressively posting the same screenshot in a bunch of threads) are different accounts.

That's an unfair statement given that it's an invite only page.

It appears this is the page in question: http://imgur.com/KSsinEq

I don't think the problem is with the message, the problem is with the way it is worded as a personal email from A to B when they probably thought they were getting a generic 'A has invited you to join FounderDating!'.

Yes, we have a "see/edit message link"

You also have an incredibly bad attitude, and have a difficult time taking constructive criticism. Your default wording is ridiculous. A user wasn't able to understand the consequences of your UX. That's a failing on YOUR part. Grow up.

Woh... Grow up? All they posted was that they DID have an edit/see message button... how is that failing to take criticism?

I am not saying I disagree that this practice is shady, but I am not sure where the bad attitude and grow up part is coming from. There is a lot in between "your practices might be misleading and slightly shady" to "grow up you have an incredibly bad attitude"

See her other replies. The only correct response to this type of situation is a professionally worded apology and some soul searching to determine where the zeal for viral distribution outpaced commonly understood limits of ethical marketing.

A user was asked to endorse people, but that action ended up endorsing a product; that is the very definition of deceptive viral marketing.

Someone who is too eager to attract users and too confident to politely respond to even the most scathing criticism is clearly struggling with a lack of maturity. If this was an overly zealous employee, that would be one thing, but the founder/CEO? Giant red flag.

I would rather you show me the message up front.

(I am the original poster.)

I'm sure it's a link because more people would choose not to send it if they actually saw it first.

This is generally called "Deceptive UX" or http://darkpatterns.org/

“It’s difficult for me [or the other customers] to tell if they do this deliberatively to try to sell… or if they’re just careless with the way they’re designing things,” he said. “You need to see your product from the user’s standpoint.” http://blog.web2expo.com/2011/10/deceptive-ux-how-to-trick-p...

I can't decide what amazes me more: that you think the described behavior is acceptable, or that you think writing this comment will somehow help your case.

Wow, this overly defensive response doesn't help your situation. You don't need to insult the intelligence of a user making a valid complaint. You make it sound as if he had a different motive for writing the article ..

> Actually, I'm the CEO of FOunerDating

Um, you misspelled your company name.

Maybe there were some typos in the code too that caused this snafu.

> People can choose to a) not send or choose who they send a message to

If people have to "choose to not send", then you shouldn't claim your process is "completely opt-in", as what you're doing is the very definition of opt-out.

The OP and several other people on this thread have identified real problems with your service's integration with LinkedIn. They clearly feel a line has been crossed.

Instead of blaming users, how about stepping up to the plate, and addressing the problem?

What you are saying "and let you see the message" appears to contradict what the OP is saying. "I don’t remember being asked to approve the wording–because if I had been asked, I most certainly would not have approved the wording."

Perhaps you could post some screen shots of exactly what someone would see and apparently what someone missed?

While it seems possible that someone missed a checked box it doesn't seem possible that someone missed particular wording which is what you imply happens by "let you see the message." Can you clarify this with screen shots? (I'm just noting how people are taking you to task over this and I'd like to see exactly what someone has seen.)

Since your service is invite-only, why don't you post a screenshot of the page in question? If a significant portion of posters think the page is deceptive, maybe that's an indication that your UI is the problem, not the user.

How about not having awful, abusive "features?"

Can you or someone else post a screenshot so we can see what it actually looks like?

I got bit by your site recently too. The way that flow is designed feels like it was designed to be deceptive. I was embarassed when I found out that you'd spammed a bunch of my contacts.

It's too bad because your business seems really valuable and would have been something I would have considered using if it wasn't for this terrible experience.

I hope you take my feedback as constructive and you use it as fodder to justify for changing this UX. Good luck.

- Sef (http://sef.kloninger.com)

Wow. Making this comment and then allowing hours of responses to it to build up without a followup could be a case study in mismanaged PR.

creative use of parentheses

"We not only state (in white writing) on black backgroud)..."

Yes. In a SMALL font. INTENTIONALLY far away from the Agree button. You know damn well what you're trying to do. If you really wanted to give them the option to see the email sent out, you would have designed that to be transparent.

But you didn't. Intentionally.

In case if you are wondering what honest "opt-in" option looks like, I recommend looking at Louis CK's site - http://i.imgur.com/jJDuTeQ.gif - it actually made me want to check yes

edit: Louis not Louie

I'm in a dilemma. On the one hand it is a highly relevant response to the problem stated by the OP on the other I am absolutely not satisfied with that response. So with that in mind - up or down voting?

What makes FounderDating spammy is that the messages are opt-out, not opt-in.

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