Did Plaxo exploit blogger Robert Scoble by cajoling him into breaking Facebook's terms of service to test a new feature, temporarily getting his account suspended? Plaxo executive John McCrea would prefer you didn't think so. "Biggest regret? A lot of folks saying/thinking we took advantage of you. Bummer," McCrea Twittered. Note that McCrea didn't say he regretted actually taking advantage of Scoble.
That's because as Plaxo's vice president of marketing, McCrea was surely aware that his company's PR agency was actively pitching reporters on the Facebook beat to cover the story. If that's not taking advantage of Scoble, I don't know what is — and if McCrea weren't taking advantage of Scoble in just this way, he wouldn't be doing his job. Here's the pitch Plaxo's agency sent.
"Alicia Mickelsen" 01/03/2008 02:10 PM
Subject: NEWS: Plaxo Pulse's upcoming feature breaks down the walls of Facebook - causes controversy
Facebook has one of the few walled gardens left in the ever-growing Open Social Web. And just today the evidence of this walled garden became apparent when a user tried to take their friend's public contact information and take it with them into another service.
Plaxo has been working on a new feature, a Facebook Import that gets the contact information of your Facebook friends - names, emails and birthdays - and pulls them into your Plaxo Pulse account. In very early stages, this feature caused famed blogger Robert Scoble to lose his Facebook account. However, the Facebook Importer behaves quite similar to other address book import that Plaxo already uses including Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.
This is an interesting time for the walled vs open debate and Plaxo has been leading the way since the beginning with their support for open standards and OpenSocial, and this step is an interesting move for the future. If you would like to learn about how the Facebook Importer works, how it's truly unique and new, and what Facebook's reaction to this first user means for future.
Let me know when you are available today, and I would be happy to put you in touch with Plaxo executives, including the lead engineer of the Facebook Import.
Breakaway Communications for Plaxo
156 Fifth Avenue, Suite 410, New York, NY 10010