I give you these ten, woops, six commandments!

Stowe Boyd makes a start at The Ten Commandments of Social Networking:

  1. Social networking applications [SNAs] shall provide explicit and easily used opt-out features; specifically, every message sent by a social networking application on behalf of users, as marketing, or for whatever purpose shall provide a mechanism for complete opt-out, as well as a means to opt-out by email and at the SNA website.
  2. SNAs shall not send messages to any user’s contacts without the explicit consent of the user, and without first displaying both the list of contacts to which the message is to be directed, as well as the complete content of the message.
  3. SNAs shall not expose any user’s contact information or the information associated with the user’s contacts to anyone other than the user without the explicit permission of the user.
  4. SNAs shall prohibit unsolicited commercial messages through their systems, and should bar or block users that try to send such messages.
  5. SNAs shall provide means so that users can block messages from specific users.
  6. SNAs shall provide users an “unlisted” capability, so that their use of the system can be undiscoverable if they wish.

Let’s help him come up with four more! My contribution:

7. SNAs shall not make it easy to do things that are a really bad idea — socially inept, if not downright illegal.

For example, it’s a really, really bad idea to send the exact same canned invitation to your entire contact list. SNAs think they’re making it easier on their members to invite more people, but there’s an unintended consequence of creating social ill-will both for their members who do that and for the sites themselves.

I contend it’s a really, really bad idea to send almost ANY message — commercial or otherwise — to all your friends of friends.

I know some prefer the Darwinian approach — those with poor practices will simply not succeed. The only problem is, there’s no disincentive. There’s little or no negative feedback for them, at least in most SNAs. They simply don’t get results, and you have to hope that they eventually tire of a lack of results and leave. In the meantime, the rest of us have to wade through all the noise.

I tend to take a fairly libertarian approach — let people do what they want — minimal restrictions. But you still don’t hand them a loaded shotgun (e.g., the ability to send a generic mail to everyone they’ve ever met electronically). Bad idea.