HerHotSpot Uses Facebook Connect to Block Boys Out

“Real life. Not sugar coated.” is the tagline for Herhotspot, an online community site aimed at 20-something women. And the company behind it, Entitled Labs, wants to keep it that way.

The site is the first property by Entitled Labs, which was co-founded in late 2008 by co- James and Brette Borrow. HerHotSpot launched in January and is dubbed a one-stop shop for information, education and entertainment, where women can read, write and discuss issues that are important to them openly and honestly.

Entitled Labs integrated Facebook Connect into HerHotSpot in late February, and with that came a fair amount guys signing up for the site, said Entitled Labs co-founder James Borow in an interview.

As of March 30, Facebook Connect is now the only way users can log in to HerHotSpot.com. Women get full access to the site. Men do not.

“If you are female, you can create account immediately and join the conversation. If you are male, then your request to create an account is automatically rejected and you are asked to apply for a limited account, which is subject to our approval,” James Borow said. “This is one of the amazing things about Facebook Connect and Facebook in general — their profile information is amazingly accurate, and we are excited that Facebook Connect allows us to use this data to keep HerHotSpot.com ladies only.”

Prior to the restricted access via Facebook Connect, the site used the honor system, asking new members if they were male or female.

James Borow said their core demographic is Gen-Y females and that Facebook is largely their homebase for social interactions. He said that by giving them easy access to HerHotSpot.com and their news feeds, they have been able to increase their rate of signups by more than 300 percent and that their average page views have nearly doubled.

“Through Facebook Connect and the Facebook API, we were able to effectively explore peoples’ profiles for data that we now use to restrict access. In this case, discovering if a new user is male or female. Through this method we are able to reliably keep HerHotSpot.com girls only, so that they can feel comfortable talking about the issues that affect them,” he said. “In fact, here at Entitled Labs we are currently working on several other properties that we will be releasing in the coming months that utilize the Facebook API in some other pretty unique ways.”

Did you have to change the terms of service on HerHotSpot?

James Borow: No, we did not mainly because the original terms of service expressed that HerHotSpot was a platform for women to say what was on their mind – this change actually helps to protect their identity and did not alter the terms of service.

What happens to those guys who already have logins via Facebook Connect and otherwise to the site? What’s in the Guys Corner section?

Brette Borow: When a male Facebook Connect user tries to sign up or login into the site we immediately identify them as a guy and redirect them to an application to be a part of our “Guys Corner”. Over the course of the next few weeks we will be extending a limited amount of restricted profiles to male applicants and allow them to take questions, give advice and lend their perspective to our community of girls. Members of the Guys Corner will not be able to see any of our users’ information or posts, they are merely there to take questions and give insight when called upon.

What has been the reaction to the new restricted access? Have you had any so far?

James Borow: So far it has been very positive. The majority of females we have heard from are excited to have a place online where they can really be themselves and feel comfortable that there really are no guys on the site. That is one of the amazing things about Facebook Connect — people trust Facebook and their profile information, and that goes a long way in fostering the type of dialogue we encourage on HerHotSpot. The majority of guys that we have heard from have either been excited about our creative implementation of Facebook Connect or have been asking me for a top spot on a the list for the Guys Corner.

Do you think this restricted access will grow your user base?

Brette Borow: Absolutely. There are few if any sites that give women the privacy and security that we do. Over time we are very confident that this will be an invaluable resource for women in and around their twenties.

If female users have male friends in their Facebook “friends” and they’re publishing your site content back to their profile page, aren’t they able to access it?

Brette Borow: No they are not. When a female on HerHotSpot elects to publish content back onto Facebook, a short preview of the content appears in their Facebook news feed. After someone clicks on the preview, they are taken to an authentication page where the user has to provide their Facebook credentials. If we identify the user as a guy, they are rejected and pushed to the application page for the Guys Corner. There are literally no pages on the site that a guy can access without our approval.

Adding another layer of privacy to this is that whenever someone posts content on HerHotSpot, they have the option to do so anonymously. No matter if it is a question, article, note, video or comment they can hide their identity, which again, is a unique feature we offer our community.

Via Facebook Connect your users’ content from Facebook doesn’t get published to your site — it’s only your site’s content that gets published to the Facebook profile, right?

Brette Borow: Correct, the only time that HerHotSpot.com content ever appears on Facebook is when a female user decides to publish their post or comment on Facebook as well. It is 100% optional. The only information that we ever take from Facebook is a user’s profile information and picture, which allows a new member to set up an account in literally less than 20 seconds.

Do you think the new Facebook Connect restriction will achieve your site’s goals? What are these goals?

James Borow: Without a doubt. When we started Entitled Labs in late 2008, we made it our mission to give the Gen Y demographic the online experience they were entitled to. We are huge fans of Facebook, but we recognize the fact that some conversations are not appropriate for everyone to see. In terms of HerHotSpot.com, we are committed to giving girls a safe and secure place to talk about anything and everything without their bosses, parents or ex’s knowing about it. By using Facebook Connect to restrict our user base to females only, we are one step closer to achieving our goal.

How do you think this move to a restricted Facebook Connect access implementation makes you different from other sites with Facebook Connect integration? And is that vision a good or bad thing?

James Borow: There are few, if any, sites that are using Facebook Connect as their exclusive login and utilizing the technology to segment their user base like we do. At the end of the day, our main motivation behind restricting access to males is to ensure that HerHotSpot.com offers girls a truly secure and private place online to read, write and discuss the issues that are important to them. Facebook Connect dramatically enhances our ability to certify the identities and the sex of our users. Facebook has the most reliable profiles on the Internet, and we are committed to doing everything in our power to keep our community “ladies only”.

This change also allows us to continue to tap into Facebook’s social graph and enables us to implement an aggressive Facebook application and iPhone application strategy moving forward. Facebook Connect is an amazing tool, and our implementation of it is only going to improve our users online experience.