Notchup invites a cock-up?

· Social Design, The Power of Many, User Experience

I’m having second thoughts about Notchup. The other day I checked my mail in the morning, as is my wont, and found an invitation to Notchup from a friend who left Yahoo a while back to work with venture capitalists. I wondered if this was something he had had a hand in, but I didn’t ask. I went and signed up because it sounded interesting.
A few years ago I had some interviews at LinkedIn for a position that didn’t work out (didn’t work out for me, at least) and they asked me at the time for suggestions and ideas about additional businesses or products they could build on top of their existing platform. I was gung ho at the time about the idea of a reverse-auction style site for hiring. Just as Priceline reversed the polarity on hotel and plane bookings by having customers bid what they are willing to pay and having vendors match that, I figured that job searches could also work in reverse.
Instead of applying for a job, you could advertise the sort of work you are willing and qualified to take on and prospective employers could apply to *you* and try to make the case that you should “hire” them to be your new boss. The LinkedIn guys suggested that that’s what they were already doing but I thought there was still something missing from that model.
So Notchup seems to be somewhat in that same ballpark, which was why I thought I’d check it out.
Next, I saw that they had a way to import your personal info (effectively, your resume) from your LinkedIn account, if you have one. That sounded a lot better than entering all the data myself, again, so even though I had qualms about this violating LinkedIn’s terms of service, and even though it’s generally not a good idea to give your login credentials for one site to another site (even if “all it’s going to do” is scrape some data from the screeen), I went ahead and did that.
So then Notchup offered to enable me to invite my LinkedIn connections into their beta, saving those people the trouble of applying. I started that sequence and went through my list of contacts, which is long so this was tedious, unchecking the folks I figured are either definitely not looking for a job, or whom I don’t actually know that well, or whom I believed would have no interest in the latest social network thingamabob.
I assumed I would have the chance to write a personal note, something along the lines of
> Hi! I’m checking out this new site called Notchup. I don’t know much about it and I don’t necessarily endorse it, but I thought you might be interest in checking it out too.
Unfortunately, before I was given an opportunity to write a note or even review the boilerplate they were going to sign my name to, I was notified that the invitations had been sent. This is not as bad as what Tagged.com and some other sites have done, tricking people into virally inviting their entire address books, but it still rubbed me the wrong way.
All that morning and the next day I got email notifications of friends joining Notchup, and a few personal notes from people asking me if this was for real – because we’ve all gotten spammy invitations in the past. When people asked I told them the gist of what I would have written in the invitation, but many people just joined, apparently trusting me. By now I wasn’t sure what the person who had invited me was thinking.
Then, the other day I saw a message from Russell Unger on the IA Institute members mailing list establishing that he had done more (that is, some) due diligence and actually read Notchup’s terms of service, and that he had uncovered some troubling clauses in the user agreement:
> 9\. NotchUp reserves the right to offer third party services and
products to You based on the preferences that You identify in your
registration and at any time thereafter; such offers may be made by
NotchUp or by third parties.
>
> 10\. Without limiting any of the other disclaimers of warranty set
forth in these Terms, NotchUp does not provide or make any
representation as to the quality or nature of any of the third party
products or services purchased through NotchUp.com or any other NotchUp
Site, or any other representation, warranty or guaranty. Any such
undertaking, representation, warranty or guaranty would be furnished
solely by the provider of such third party products or services, under
the terms agreed to by the provider.
As Russell pointed out, this sounds a lot like signing up for Notchup means agreeing to receive spam.
He also pointed out another pair of clauses:
> 18\. You understand and acknowledge that you have no ownership rights
in your NotchUp account (“NotchUp Account”), and that if you cancel
your NotchUp Account, all your account information from NotchUp,
including resumes, profiles, cover letters, network contacts, saved
jobs, questionnaires and email mailing lists, will be marked as deleted
in NotchUp’s databases and will be removed from any public area of the
NotchUp Sites. Information may continue to be available for some period
of time because of delays in propagating such deletion through
NotchUp’s web servers. In addition, third parties may retain cached
copies of your Information.
>
> 19\. Your email and other data that you submit as part of the resume
will be made available to our recruiters and employers. NotchUp.com
doesn’t have any control over how that data would be used. If you don’t
want any such data to be displayed your only remedy is not to post any
resume.
So now I’m really concerned, particularly about seeming to vouch for a site and luring a bunch of best contacts into it. I’ll keep an eye on Notchup but so far I don’t like what I’m seeing, and to those I invited in before researching the subject further, I apologize.