A New (Old) Social Media Rule

I’ve been following the whole Scoble / Facebook blogstorm today. As one of Scoble’s “Facebook 5000” I have to say, I’m a little miffed that he felt entitled to scrape all his contacts’ personal data out of Facebook and drop it into Plaxo.

It gets to the nature of our connection and what exactly “friending” means between people who don’t have a pre-existing offline relationship. I wouldn’t care if one of my real-life friends decided to grab my email address out of Facebook and put it into their Outlook address book, for example. So why am I annoyed that Scoble did it? Because 1) he’s not a real life friend and 2) he didn’t ask first.

Seems to me it’s time to remind folks that, just as in the real world:

Don’t take more than you’re given. And if you’re not sure what the line is, ask first.

If you give your next-door neighbor a set of keys to your home, that doesn’t give them the right to walk in unannounced any time they feel like it. They still need to ask your permission. So too in the online world. Just because someone ‘friends’ you online does not give you an unlimited right to do as you like with their contact information. Yes, it’s annoying to have to manually re-friend people if you move from one social application to another, but it’s the polite – and the right – thing to do.

Allen Stern seems to feel the same way. And of course, Loren Feldman‘s take on things is blunt and touches on another troubling aspect to this — why was Scoble doing Plaxo’s testing for them?

UPDATE: The inimitable Lisa B over at Bruce Clay did a much better job of getting the point across than I did.