Thursday, September 3, 2009

Spooky Spokeo

It was only a matter of time before all you had to do was know someone's email address and you could find out all about them in one click. Recently Guy Kawasaki posted a blog on a new service, Spokeo, that ostensibly does just that.

The idea is, you put in an e-mail address and the service calls up all the social networks and finds the person in those networks. You can it out (with limited info) for free here. The price for the full service is reasonable: just $2.95 a month.

Unfortunately, it works rather poorly. I don't want to be harsh on the Spokeo Folkeo, but I am totally on all the social networks and they didn't even get my name right. I mean, my e-mail adddress is rebecca@ and they still didn't get my first name right. (They got my son's name with all my info, actually.) There's no place to fix this. Even when I fixed it on the original site where I had that name listed, they didn't update. BTW, the site they are considering authority is Flickr. Not Yahoo, even. Flickr. Now on the upside, if your priority is photographs of people, maybe Flickr is a good authority. Still, I don't think that most people would associate the words "authority" with the site "Flickr".

Further, they don't check the social networks very well. They found me on 5 social networks, when I know I am registered on 15 and use 6 of them regularly. I don't have a grasp of exactly what technical challenges are involved in this implementation, but it doesn't seem too difficult to check for me in the network using my e-mail address. OTOH, if you don't actually know my name, and you are searching by name, that could be an obstacle.

I checked Spokeo for a few of my friends and colleagues, and found similarly disappointing results. For a few extremely well-networked people, the results seemed fairly good. It's hard for me to say, because one of my social-networking friends came up with participating in 9 networks. I am "friends" with him on 6 or 7, so I can't make an assessment if 9 is good coverage for him, but I suspect not.

I won't comment on the fact that Spokeo doesn't have all of the major social networks listed. This is a new product, and I'm sure with time they will get additional sites searched. However, considering they are already charging a monthly fee, I'd expect the engine to work better at least on the sites they claim to cover. Still, I think the general business model is sound and I am looking forward to seeing them with a more mature product in the future.

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