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!

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About David Erickson

Software Development Technologist/Executive. In the business since 1990, focusing in the Supply Chain Execution (SCE) and Work Force Management (WFM) spaces. Nerdy by nature.

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