Archive | July 2015

Fixing LinkedIn

In 2003, a social media platform named LinkedIn emerged to meet the needs of business professionals.  Rolodexes were quickly becoming extinct.  An increasingly mobile workforce, combined with a quickly globalizing economy, made even electronic contact lists difficult to maintain.  Enter LinkedIn, your permanently current, business rolodex.  You and your contacts are free to move about the industry, and thanks to LinkedIn, you never lose touch.

Besides the obvious benefits of personal contact storage, users benefitted from secondary networking.  “Who do I know at …” or “Who can introduce me to …” are some common examples.  The recruiting community justifiably came to see it is the Garden of Eden (sans forbidden fruit). Of course, as a subset of the self-organizing glob that is the internet, LinkedIn Groups emerged, further slicing the network by industry, skills and geography.  At the time of writing, over 2 million such groups exist!

As the community grew to it’s current 300 Million+ members, something completely unsurprising happened:  it lost its original focus and intent.   Corporate accounts took to the practice of posting daily PR, encouraging (sometimes compelling) their own employees to “like” every PR blast and job posting.  Worse, the “Facebook” behavior settled in, with individuals and sneaky advertisers posting math problems, motivational posters, and other appeals for “likes” (contacts) that quickly propagate throughout the network.  Of the latter category, some are simply despicable.  Never will I believe that the only wish of a dying child is to collect a million “likes” on a business networking platform.

Frankly, the amount of usable or even interesting content has diminished greatly.

So, solve THIS if you are a genius: how do we get back from the abyss to make this platform relevant and valuable again?

My answer: self- and community-enforced organization.  If users are required to categorize their posts, and the community-at-large can keep them honest about it, then the UI can be tailored around that organization.

Step 1: Self-categorize When I’m posting, I know 100% of the time whether I am posting:

  • Corporate PR (with or without personal embellishment)
  • A job opening
  • Distraction content (the cat-hanging-from-the-tree poster)
  • Actual original content, like this blog

Therefore, as a content provider, I am in the best position to categorize my contributions.  I should be required to enter a category before my posts are accepted.  Ditto for LinkedIn itself – the content it generates (updates on job changes, work anniversaries, etc.) is all intentional and can be categorized just as easily.

Step 2: Community enforcement Mis-categorizations will happen, either by honest mistake or deliberate attempt to bleed out of a category.  So be it – the community can detect it right away, and will happily flag such mistakes.  Repeat offenders can be denied access, just to make it stick.

Look at Wikipedia – there are enough people willing to give their own time to police the submissions.  As a result, the factually inaccurate content very quickly turns into grammatically correct factually inaccurate content!

Step 3: Leave the stream Am I the only one who finds content streams to be the least intuitive development in the evolution of computing?  The concept of a content stream is this:  we have gathered all of the known information in the world, and here it is in chronological order.  It’s like asking a grade-schooler what happened in school today, and in the ensuing reply, the double-knot in Jimmy’s shoe lace is relayed on equal par with the principal’s nervous breakdown.

Humans, by nature, categorize.  It’s why we have good things like the candy section in the grocery store and bad things like racists.

The UI should give me an option to view by category.  Let me choose when I want to look at career changes / milestones and when I want to go look at corporate shills.  Let me choose to never see someone’s stupid math problem challenges.  Don’t show me in 10 different notices that 10 people “liked” or shared the same link.  Organize for me!  This is a business platform!  Time is money!  (I’m imagining wearing a monocle and smoking a big cigar as I type that.)

Now, I realize that what I’m requesting is a major overhaul of content and its relation to consumers, as well as user experience.  But hey, don’t be discouraged!  To quote this cat I just saw on a tree limb, Hang in there, baby!


Impersonal Devices

Do people get so suckered by the moniker “personal device” that they believe playing videos, music or games with the volume up, in small public places, is somehow not audible to those around them?

Airplanes, waiting rooms, and basically any other public space where annoyances already abound are now also subject to the child, or worse, adult, who has yet to grasp the dynamics of sound waves and nearby ears.  Hey look, that Candy isn’t going to Crush itself, but I know for a fact that the volume setting is optional.

Really, these folks are today’s version of those folks from yesteryear:


The personal device space has advanced so far in such a short period of time, cramming more and more functionality, speed and sophistication into smaller and smaller devices.  But what is hasn’t done is crammed more and more courtesy into the same old people.

I’d like the makers of personal devices to turn their innovation towards something of significant societal value: making their owners better participants in society.  While we are still probably years away from building a reliable “scowl detection” algorithm in every device, at least we could all be equipped with a universal kill switch that mutes the speaker volume on every device around us.  Détente would take it from there.

Phase II would advance the tech to detecting the sound of heartbeats in close proximity.  If those heartbeats start to all rise at once, it would, in order:

  1. Kill the speaker on the device
  2. Detect whether the user has been in a long-running phone conversation and kill that next
  3. Realize there’s something even worse happening and call 9-1-1.  It could put them on speaker.

Sure, users might bemoan the loss of their inalienable Right to Annoy, but the gains in the Right to Not Have Your Device Thrown into the River would likely make them soon forget.

And yes, this applies to YOU, lady who chose the closest bench in the whole empty park to sit and listen to your Calypso music…