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Content Filter Wish List

As we kick off 2017, rather than making a New Year’s Resolution focused on my own improvement, I’m here to spell out my hopes for someone else: my favorite social media frenemy, LinkedIn.

Clearly, the good folks at LinkedIn have ignored my previous suggested remedies for getting back on track, and continue to morph into “FaceBiz.”  If Facebook can tailor its “news” feed to the biases of its users, perhaps LinkedIn can help me tailor my feed to only those things that give me actual business value.

Therefore, LinkedIn, please consider my fantasy list of content filters below, and give me the option to block:

  • Any graphic illustrating the differences between a “boss” and a “leader” (am I the only one who reads those and thinks, “being the boss sounds awesome?”)
  • Any photos of a well-equipped cubicle awaiting the new employee
  • Any photos of training class attendees sitting attentively in a training room
  • Any photos of trade show attendees having discussions at a trade show booth
  • Any photos of business professionals sitting in airplane seats en route to a training class or trade show
  • Any picture of an inspirational message written on a whiteboard, easel pad or tablet
  • Any request to “like” the notice of a dying child, an aging vet, a deceased spouse, or any other deeply personal tragedy to which the word “like” should not apply and that could not possibly benefit from a random list of gullible mouse-clickers.

Perhaps, if I had these options, I would be motivated to grow my network, rather than pare it down, as I am actively doing now.

As a software developer, I know that the logic to implement the above filters is quite difficult.  Therefore, I will propose a very easy alternative.  LinkedIn offers several choices to react to content, including “like”and “share.”

  • Like:  Tell the author that you appreciated the content
  • Share:  Tell your business network that this is content worthy of consideration.

However, my feed shows both types of activity from my network – I see all of your “likes” and your “shares” equally in my content stream.

I will henceforth reduce my wish list down to one request:

  • Only show me what my network “shares” and not everything they “like”

I will gladly take it from there, using the “Unsubscribe” option on anyone in my network who actually “shares” how many pens their new intern is getting.

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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!

Worst. Alert. Ever.

LinkedIn is making me want to be a bad friend.

As a guy just starting a new job of my own (after a mere 23-year run at my original employer), I was very moved by the many notes of congratulations and “likes” my update garnered on LinkedIn, aka Facebook for Grownups. Similarly, I have a new-found joy in seeing my other friends and former colleagues announce new opportunities they have found. How exciting to be starting something new, and to share the news with your professional and personal networks! What a nice feeling when those close to you care enough to write even a one-word note of congratulations, or just give you the old thumbs up!

But now I want to stop doing that – I want to stop congratulating my friends on their updates. The reason? My daily linkedIn alerts are quickly getting cluttered up with what I can only consider to be the Worst. Update. Ever.

“2 people also congratulated Hyram Quickly on the new job.”

Really? You sent me an e-mail and flagged an alert on my home page to tell me THAT? With all the really important things going on in the world, this is “alert-worthy” in your view? What the heck do I care who else congratulated my friend?

I never opted in for this type of alert. (Actually, who would?) In my view of software development, there’s a word for “Alerts” that are neither actionable nor informative: bugs. LinkedIn, please clean it up.

You’re making me want to be a bad friend and appear to ignore my friends’ good news. Or even worse, you’re exposing me as an actual bad friend who sees good news but won’t take the time to communicate my congratulations in a more personal way. In either way, LinkedIn, I don’t need YOUR help in being a bad friend!

You know what would be a really good alert? If someone announced a new job, and NO ONE has congratulated them yet! “Luke Atme has a new job and no one has congratulated him — get on it!” Informative AND actionable, that’s worth an alert.