“secret admirer” idea

August 24, 2007

Rose FrontA new idea popped in my head last night. Here it is:

A button labeled “[SECRET ADMIRER] : give someone a bit of love” would be on the bottom of the discussion forum pages, and also on the “acknowledge receipt of this book” page.

This button would lead to a form which says “If you think someone is really super, make them feel special and let them know they have a secret admirer! This form will sent them an anonymous “secret admirer” email with your note, and will give them 1 mooch point from you in thanks.”

The anonymous note *is* however, part of the recipient’s public record.

What made me think of this are four things I’ve observed:

1) how women anonymously give each other roses on Valentines’ day, just to be nice

2) an article I read, about a company where anyone could fill out an “appreciation” form, explaining why that coworker should be appreciated. The forms were not anonymous, but the company would give a $100 gift along with the form, and of course, the employee received a paragraph from the coworker explaining why they’re being admired. In BookMooch’s case, I didn’t want “the company” (ie, BookMooch), to give the point, because then the secret admirer thing seems insincere to me. If you say you admire someone, but you have todonate your own point.

3) My best friend in California, Bob Gable, who is a psychologist and works a lot in prison reform, has explained to me that people are much more likely to permanently behave in positive ways if the rewards for positive behavior are not expected (ie, they come erratically). In other words, if you are sometimes rewarded for pro-social behavior, but not every time, you will generally act in a pro-social way all the time, for the unexpected benefits that come from that.

4) At Lyris, we had a tech support department policy that said that each tech support employee had to receive at least 3 *unsolicited* “love” letters from a customer every quarter. This caused the employees to change their behavior and think of ways to “wow” the customers to motivate them to do the extraordinary thing of writing a letter to a company. In other words, how to “go way beyond the call of duty”

Also, I think the gift is more special if it’s anonymous, because then you don’t have to reciprocate, you really did just receive a “nothing expected in exchange” statement of generosity and appreciation.

Note that with this scheme at BookMooch you can only give a person 1 “secret admirer” letter, you can’t do it over and over to the same person.

I’m hoping this idea will lead to really positive behavior on the discussion forums, but also to reward people who go the extra step and include a postcard or personal letter with the books they send.


58 Responses to ““secret admirer” idea”

  1. Greg said

    Go for it. It sounds great. I can think of a couple of people I would send notes to.

  2. Marilyn Southmayd said

    I think it sounds great. People love to receive special gifts from secret pals and this would be along the same idea. I love it.

  3. brett said

    I think it’s a great idea as well. I’ve always thought that “random acts of kindness” are the nicest things to give. It makes the recipient feel really good and it’s not bad for the donor either!

  4. Bri said

    I like it!
    Although not sure about “secret admirer”
    Some people might get the wrong idea if you know what I mean…

  5. Mikko said

    I like the idea. I’d also like to see something like this when I’m mooching and choosing a user to mooch from:

    Feedback: +45 (5 secret admirers)

    It would add another small reward for being nice.

  6. tarsh said

    This is a really neat idea.

    I wouldn’t mind being able to give a person more than one over time, though. I can understand where you don’t want a flood going to one person from one person, but… Maybe make it one during a set time period (say, a quarter, or a year?), but after that, if they do something awesome (or just nice) for you again, it’d be nice to be able to reward them again.

    I really like the anonymous part, too – it removes any feeling of obligation to return the favour on the part of the recipient, and just leaves the ‘wow, I’m appreciated’ factor. And I know I for one will be much more likely to give points to people if I can do it anonymously.

  7. Kat (zzzkatzzzz) said

    i like the idea very much but i see 1 set back. those who are new & dont have the points to give wouldnt be able to send a “secret admirer” note. could we perhaps have the option of giving fractions of points too. say from .1 to 5 points range. this way people like myself (who dont really have alot of points normally) could participate. after all, isnt the important part that they are appreciated?

    i find it hard to get my books mooched on BookMoodh so i belong to PBS, PP, SP, TT & FR. i then ask others here at BookMooch if they are willing to trade points for BM points. personally i find more of my wishlist books here on BM but most of my books are mooched on the other sites.

    since i normally have very few points i wouldnt be able to participate in the “secret admirer” if i have to give whole points. plus there are others who have tons of points (because of bigger inventories, specials they can run, etc) & might like to give up to 5 points (the number is arbitrary).

    so i see the points range as being a better way to implement this idea. i LOVE the idea. i just would like to see it available to everyone.


  8. Mark Williams said

    The world certainly needs more ways to facilitate “random acts of kindness” (a term I would prefer to “secret admirer,” but just my own preference really).

    Great idea, and another fun way to make Bookmooch unique!

    Fractional point gifts would be helpful for newbies.

    Hard to think of any objections to this suggestion, but I suppose some might find some…

  9. Laura said

    Guess I’m the dissenter here. I don’t see this adding any benefit that’s not already in the feedback system and the charity function (although perhaps charity to another member could be renamed something other than charity). While I expect good communication, prompt shipping and good packaging, I neither want nor need a postcard or private letter, and in fact might be kinda creeped out by an unexpected one from someone I hadn’t corresponded with before. Obviously, friendships can develop when people trade mooches over a long period of time, which is only natural, but what I really want from Bookmooch is books, not friends. (Do I sound like a total Scrooge?) I guess I’m just concerned that Bookmooch would become a popularity contest.

  10. Anne said

    I think it’s really creepy.

  11. Cherylo said

    Cool idea! I like the version that reports secret admirers on the bio page as well.

    I’d like to see the button on the member bio page too…so you can share the love after the fact too, or even just because. Sometimes I have ended up after an email exchange passing on the book that was my original interest, but I can imagine still wanting to use this mechanism if someone has been very helpful in their email correspondence.

  12. A said

    That sounds really neat, although I think it would be better to enable people to give fractions of points as well as whole points. Also, people should be able to give more than one “secret admirer” note to the person, maybe quarterly?. Also, I think a better name than secret admirer should be chosen, because it makes it sound like the person has a crush instead of just being nice. Overall, it sounds awesome!

  13. I really like this idea John. I like the idea of anonymously being able to show someone appreciation. I don’t really like the term “secret admirer”. Perhaps something along the lines of “appreciate someone”, “you are appreciated”, or something like that. Great concept though!


  14. Bob Gable said

    John Buckman’s brain is getting over-heated! The ideas are popping out, and this one is a good one. I’d suggest just staring simple; expect modifications as experience dictates. “Secret admirer” does have some romantic connotations. I could go with it, but there are other combinations or permutations that might work: E.g., “Anonymous admirer,” “Secret well-wisher,” “Invisible angel,” “Secret donor,” “Anonymous donor,” “Secret fan,” “Anonymous benefactor,” etc.

  15. Hope said

    Well this is nice. I too am unsure about “secret admirer” as a phrase, at least online, rather than on the printed page – somehow it sounds creepier?

    Your smiling, waving BookMooch books in the artwork have given me an idea – especially as 1 point = 1 domestic book.

    What about something like [AWARD A BOOKMOOCH SMILE] Give this BookMooch member a point [for a book] in recognition of daring deeds beyond the call of duty.*

    Or, more simply, [BOOKMOOCH AWARD], or more zanily, [AWARD A SMILING BOOK].

    *Or some other deliberately over the top alliterative phrase.

    If it didn’t take up too much page loading time, I suppose it could be given a smaller version of the leaping/smiling/waving books from the BookMooch painting. Or, to save even more page loading time, I suppose it could have a very discreet line drawing version. Or it could have no icon at all. I suppose it depends whether it should just be like the other bits of user data on someone’s bio, or something that stands out from the page.

    Just my tuppence!

  16. What a charming idea! I quite like it, whatever name you end up using (and while I don’t personally object to the “Secret Admirer” name, I can certainly see how it could be objectionable to others, particularly those who’ve had bad experiences with online stalkers; something a bit more neutral and book-focused might be best.) But I’m with tarsh on wondering if you couldn’t perhaps make the limits on sending such appreciations more of a quarterly, yearly, etc. sort of thing rather than a one-time deal; that way if you’ve got repeat transactions over time with another Moocher who is just consistently awesome, you could have a chance to show your continued appreciation. (This reminds me a little bit of Dogster/Catster’s anonymous recognition system, where folks can leave basic “paws up” ratings or virtual treats at any time, with no limits, but more special forms of recognition like stars, rosettes, “zealies”, etc. have various restrictions attached to them.)

    As for the newbies not having enough points issues, along with the fractional-points suggestion, perhaps the note of appreciation and the point donation can be independent selections? I.E. you can send a little note to mark that someone’s been Admired, and then adding points to it is an optional bonus — folks who have a lot of points available and/or think someone’s been particularly wonderful could perhaps have the chance to give multiple points if they wish, folks with lower point balances can send just whatever fractional point they can spare, or just the mark of appreciation with no associated points? That way even newbies or folks who’ve spent all their points don’t have to wait to spread warm-and-fuzzy feelings, but the option is there for folks who are willing and able to add more of a concrete reward to their gesture of recognition.

  17. Anne said

    I think that’s what I meant, as opposed to the very iexact phrase ‘it’s really creepy.’ This feature is a cool idea for bookmooch, but you shouldn’t call it secret admirer, that’s too weird. 🙂

  18. Anne said

    INexact. You spilled champagne into your laptop keyboard: I poured a whopper size energy drink into my PC keyboard and now the keys stick. Great for a writer.

  19. Meagan said

    Sounds awesome – whatever you call it. I have had a few people who I would have done this for, and I never seem to accumulate many points….. always want new books!

  20. Zillah said

    I don’t like the term ‘secret admirer’ either- though I do really like the concept.

  21. Sophie Kennedy said

    I really like changing it to “Random acts of kindness” too. It just removes the ‘weird’ connotation.

  22. Beachcomber said

    I think it’s a good idea. When someone’s made an effort to make your Mooch good – a small note inside the package, posting first class, going out of their way and changing plans to make sure they post it asap rather than having to wait a few days… those are things that should be rewarded.

    I think the “Random Acts of Kindness” is a good title.

  23. Trevor said

    The idea’s great, I agree that “Secret admirer” just sounds like a stalkers’ charter. I’m not sure I like “Random acts of kindness” though – the “random” bit removes the idea of this being a reward for doing something special.

    How about something along the lines of “Special thanks” or “Token of appreciation”?

  24. Marina said

    Love the idea! The possibility to give fractions of point would be awesome for newbies like me, I’d also prefer something different from ‘secret admirer’ as a name (maybe ‘appreciation note’ or something) but those are really minor qualms.

  25. Kirin said

    I agree with changing the name- with dating websites out there…we need to still be associated with literature, not with finding a mate. Great idea though- I say do it!!!

  26. Kirin said

    Love the idea, hate the name. With all the dating websites out there- it is important to associate Bookmooch with literature, rather than finding a mate.

  27. Jean Bergerot said

    I prefer “secret admirer.” If the idea here is to show appreciation for someone who has done something really special, then “random acts of kindness” just doesn’t work. It’s not personal enough, it’s just, well… random. We’re not talking about clicking a button and rewarding a randomly selected member, are we?

  28. Jordan said

    I think it is a good idea. What a great way to reward people. but i agree that the name is a little creepy. I like the “random acts of kindness”

  29. Jill said

    I like the thought, but not the term ‘secret admirer’. What about some like this:

    2 – RAOK given (Random Acts of Kindness)
    4 – RAOK received

    This way you know the person passes on the praise when they feel someone deserves it. Not just receives it.

    You could also call it ‘Recognition’. I am a former ‘Bell-head’ employee (BellSouth) and this is what it was called there to recognize another employee (not anonymously) for going above and beyond – hey another acronym – GAAB – sounds like gabs! LOL

  30. Mira said

    Wow. That’s really great idea! I can’t belive no one’s thought of it before…but i suppose that’s how it usually works. ^^

    I like the RAOK idea too. “You are my ‘rock'” …Meh.

    Yeah, so, I hope that BookMooch uses this great idea!

  31. Mira said

    Oh, wow, I just realized how corny “you are my ‘rock'” sounds..

    But stuff like this usually IS corny. Right?

    Oh well.

  32. Ingrid said

    I think it’d be cute to call the note and point a “BookSmooch” … too intimate?

  33. morineko said

    It is a great idea, but I agree with other people that the “secret admirer” verbiage can and will be taken out of context. “Random act of kindness,” “appreciation” or “recognition” do sound quite a bit less potentially threatening.

  34. Marika said

    I think it’s a great idea, love it, but the term ‘secret admirer’, although I totally understand where you’re coming from, might give the whole thing a weird connotation, particularly in our times *sigh*. Call it ‘gift’, or ‘random act of kindness’ (RAK/RAOK) – this term is actually used a lot all over the ‘hobbies’ communities and it’s quite known and accepted all over the world (with its different acronyms, depending on where you’re coming from (if books, then RAOBK, if greeting cards, then RAOGK, etc).

  35. Marcie said

    I agree with the comments on not naming it secret admirer. Though it is a great idea and should be implemented. Maybe, since so many members have a comment on the name; We should run a poll and let the majority rule on the name?

  36. Mary Ann said

    I just joined — today, in fact! But I do like the idea of giving points to someone. But, as I read earlier, I have no points to give away! So, how could you do this but not have it leave someone like me in the negative?

  37. I really like “Book Smooch”, as in “give someone a Book Smooch” – yes, it’s even more intimate than Secret Admirer, but it’s funny, a pun (thus literary!) and good branding.

    “Book Smooch!”

    “Someone on BookMooch thinks you’re really fabulous, and has sent a Book *Smooch* to thank you for being you! Below, you’ll find a comment from them, about why they think you deserve such a high honor. You also have received a 1 book point donation from them.”

  38. Jean Bergerot said

    I think “BookSmooch” is perfect!

  39. Anne said

    Obviously these are my own personal issues, but *booksmooch* seems threatening to me. Distasteful. I feel like using that term opens the door for people who are off their rocker to start pelting you with booksmooches!

    Like secret admirer, the term *booksmooch* brings out the creepy stalker feeling, at least for me.

  40. Oh, I *love* Ingrid’s “BookSmooch” idea — punny and book-focused and less corporate-sounding than the acronyms.

  41. Anastasia said

    I love the ‘booksmooch’ idea but if it makes some uncomfortable how about a ‘mooch-hug’. Yes I know not much better. *g*

  42. Phyllis said

    Love the idea – but not “Admirer”. I have a couple of people I’ve mooched from who went above and beyond and would love to give them a “smooch”.

  43. Michelle said

    I LOVE the “BookSmooch” term both for branding and for being a fun way to give kudos.

  44. Michelle (AU) said

    I love the idea of BookSmooch. I know y’all probably won’t believe me but I had thought of that name too, today beore reading Ingrid’s post. Also Another idea I have had for a while is for “Friends” to be be called “MoochMates” instead. Anyone? John, what do you think?? Anyway, I love BookMooch here in Australia, I am eternally grateful to Marianne for publicising Mooch in a Sydney newspaper, which got me started. Big ‘Smooches’ to all. M

  45. Elizabeth ("fullmoonblue") said

    I agree that “BookSmooch” fits with the site name perfectly, and is pleasantly goofy as well. In my opinion, it’s perfect. (Yes, calling it a “gift” sounds more stalker-neutral… but doesn’t it seem sort of sad to have to give up the more creative name just because of the creeps of the world?)

    Oh well. Regardless of whether it’s called a booksmooch or gift or whatever, I think it’s a great idea.

  46. Michael said

    I’m with Laura. I don’t see how this feature adds much value that we don’t already have with existing functionality. I really can’t imagine how I would have a use for it.

  47. kelsey said

    i would much rather see improvement in actual site functionality, such as a mass delete function (checkmarks) for the wishlist

  48. John C. said

    I feel that this is a pretty good idea. I don’t like ‘secret admirer’ for most of the reasons stated, and ‘booksmoch’ is just WAY too cutesy, and even more open to misinterpretation.

    Why not just call them ‘recognition points’? As in “you have been awarded a point in recognition of your willingness to go above and beyond in your BookMooch activities”. Simple, to the point, pretty self-explanatory, and less open to misinterpretation.

  49. bibliophile7 said

    i think it’s fabulous. and i too agree “secret admirer” is rubbing me the wrong way. i like “random act of kindness” or maybe “pay it forward”. and yes i know that pay it forward usually is proactive instead of reactive, but it sounds nice.

  50. Denise said

    Its creepy – had a stalker who left notes and stuff as secret admirer and I’ve heard that from a couple others
    I like this gift idea for BookMooch tho – can you use a different, less creepy term please?

  51. Mr. Wordsnark said

    “Good Karma” or “Karma Points” (or simply, “Karma”) or “Tributes” might be considered unthreatening. And if you were to re-name the ‘charity’ function, it is all done in one.

  52. roserita said

    I think this is sort of a fun idea, however, I agree with those who would rather see improved functionality (ability to mass accept/send/receive being high on my list 😉 before another way to give someone points.

    If it is adopted, I’d rather see the tally of Smooches given or received be a separate page – perhaps part of the existing feedback page – for fear of receipt of smooches becoming a popularity contest and folks getting sentitive about receiving these kudos.

  53. Kim (AU) said

    How about “You have been given a round of applause”.

    It’s less up close and personal thank “smooch” and “hug” but it’s appreciative.


  54. kimmo said

    I think secret admirer is a great idea. I’d love to have a way to give an extra thanks to someone who sends me an especially nice book or has a fantastic inventory. And the term “secret admirer” doesn’t really conjure up romantic connotations for me. I admire a lot of people that I’m not in love with or want to hook up with. “Booksmooch”, in my opinion, does carry that connotation and is just plain corny besides.
    Thanks for the idea–I hope it becomes reality.

  55. Amanda said

    To those who are saying that they don’t understand how it would increase the functionality of the site for them, or that they wouldn’t use it: that’s fine, but why rain on everyone else’s parade? This idea isn’t about functionality, it’s about brightening someone else’s day and encouraging pleasant behaviors, which IMHO is “functional” in the long run if it promotes a smooth, friendly experience for everyone using the site. Technical bells and whistles are nice, but what makes a community like this work smoothly often has more to do with whether “good” people are using it.

  56. Carolyn (AU) said

    ‘Secret admirer’ definitely has too many connotations with stalking and dating sites but I also don’t like ‘random acts of kindness’ because the idea is that it won’t be random but targeted to moochers who’ve gone out of their way to help or been really nice. ‘Smooch’is cute but I could also go with something more neutral like ‘hug’ or ‘smile’. I love the idea of sending a little icon along with the recognition. Such as the siling book for ‘smile’ or also from the home page the moocher hugging the book for ‘hug’. That has a nice, warm and fuzzy feel!

  57. […] 30th, 2007 After much discussion on a previous blog entry, the “secret admirer” idea has merged on BookMooch as the “give someone an […]

  58. King Friderark said

    I certainly understand your good intentions. Encouraging someone without asking anything in return is definitely something good but I agree with the girls above that this anonimity thing can be misunderstood and be creepy. I prefer the people I admire to know who is admiring them. And some of them have turned into friendships. By the way, talking about friendships, I know this website is about books, but I don’t think a friendship earned at the side can do harm. So, in order not to be anonymous anymore, the “King Friderark” mentioned above is just a jok based on a game I play with my nephews. My name is Manos. (Greek name.)

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