Allthis: Fraud? Or Just More Lame Than Others Like Them?

by Julie Gomoll on December 20, 2011

Allthis logoI’ve long been intrigued with the idea of selling or trading small bits of time. Back when I was doing LaunchPad Coworking, I wanted to have a BrainBank for members. The idea was you could deposit x of your own hours, and withdraw hours to get time with people with whom you wanted time.

And after running the hugely successful Room For Improvement at BlogathonATX, I’ve been thinking more and more about how to monetize brief, info-packed consulting sessions that lots of people hope they can get for free over lunch. In fact, I’m about to launch a “Pick My Brain” experiment to do just that.

When a friend introduced me to Allthis a few weeks ago, I thought “Cool! Someone’s figured out how to do this on a grand scale!” They were boasting something like 600,000,000 “members,” whose time you could buy, and I wondered just how this site had managed to escape my notice. Mashable gave Allthis a nice writeup in October, and seemed quite oblivious to the sleaze factor.

Back then, you could look around at profiles to see how much their time was going for. There were all sorts of luminaries listed — Mark Zuckerberg, Esther Dyson, Larry Ellison, Kathy Sierra… Right then, something felt wrong about the site. I read the “how it works” section, but couldn’t find anything that explained how or why any of these people would agree to chat with some random person for 10 minutes.

Well, it turns out they wouldn’t. And some of them are pissed off.

Rob Beschizza of BoingBoing posted a short, indignant post telling Allthis to knock it off. He explains exactly what his experience was in the comments.

screen shot of Rob Beschizza's comment on BoingBoing

Amy Hoy of Unicorn Free is says Allthis is “at best, copyright infringement, and at worse, fraud.” And Joel Houseman focuses on the copyright issues surrounding scraping public info in his post, “This Week in Douchbaggery: Allthis“.

Is fraud really what’s going on here? Is what they’re doing all that much different than other sites? There are all sorts of “profile” sites I seem to be listed on that I never signed up for — Intellius, PeekYou, BusinessCard2 seem to have found their way onto the first couple pages of search results for my name. And there are new ones sprouting up all the time.

Hell, Facebook pushes the privacy and copyright envelopes all the time. The unveiling of Seamless Sharing (or Frictionless Sharing) has all sorts of unpleasant ramifications. And we all know how easy it is to inadvertently opt-in to oversharing. Personally, I won’t use Facebook as an OAuth login, because I simply don’t trust them.

So why is Allthis inspiring all this acrimony? Because they imply that all these people have opted in when they haven’t. Mike Monteiro’s succinct Tweet sums it up nicely:

Does @allthis realize the hostile interaction they set up between me and someone who “bought my time” feeling I owe it to them?

Allthis vision slide, from the faq

Does Allthis really think "Literally Anyone" will appreciate unsolicited bids on their time?

It’s entirely unacceptable IMO. But is it fraud? Or is it just a clueless group of people making some really, really bad business and product decisions? Personally, I have a hard time believing they don’t know exactly what they’re doing. I think they’re being intentionally deceptive, and trying to grow a community without doing the hard work of actually building that community.

But I’m willing to be proven wrong. Anyone out there willing to try to convince me that Allthis is a good idea?