LinkedIn Appreciation [en]

It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of LinkedIn. And recently, I’ve been thinking about why that is the case.

When LinkedIn started out, it was really not much more than a glorified online resumé. Facebook and Twitter and blogs were much more alive, and I pretty much wrote it off (specially when French speakers were discovering it and pronouncing it leenk-euh-deen).

Since then, LinkedIn has evolved tremendously. I’ve spent some time on it recently, and I have to say the user experience has improved tremendously, the news feed is alive, and I really like the new “skill endorsements” (as opposed to “recommendations”, which usually serve to show how good you are at getting others to write nice things about you, rather than properly reflect your professional value).

LinkedIn actually managed to make these skill endorsements fun and pretty addictive. Go to a connection’s profile (here’s mine ;-)) and endorse any skill. You’ll find yourself with a box such as the ones below at the top of the page when you scroll back up.



I think this works because:

  • You are asked a very simple question: “Does Kevin know about blogging?” — yeah of course he does. Endorse.
  • Don’t know? Just hit the little cross and the problematic case (!) is replaced with a new one which you may be able to answer more easily. You don’t get stuck.
  • There is an element of “intermittent rewards” here: clicking “endorse” is satisfying, and you never know if the next question you’re going to be asked will be easy to deal with or not.
  • The skills and people you are asked to endorse are “random”, so there is little pressure to endorse all the skills of a connection, or any skill — the system gives you plausible deniability (your contact or that specific skill you didn’t endorse can simply not have showed up)
  • You are asked to endorse only a small aspect of a person’s skillset, participating in some kind of crowdsourced recommendation. It’s much less “costly” socially than a proper recommendation (not to mention cognitively lighter by a few factors of ten).

Back to why I’ve shown little interest in LinkedIn so far: I think a lot of it has to do with my status as a freelancer who

  • works a bit on the fringe of big business
  • has a very strong online presence (blog, Twitter, and Facebook, mainly)
  • has very intertwined personal and professional lives.

One of the characteristics of LinkedIn is that it is “100% professional” (quotes because, as I responded to a student yesterday, I don’t believe we are ever 100% professional; we are whole human beings who behave differently in different settings, but it’s only a matter of time until a cat photo finds its way into LinkedIn).

The “professional network” brand is reassuring for those who like to keep business and personal separate, but for those like me who don’t, it’s kind of boring. Facebook is way more fun. People are on Facebook anyway to share their cat photos, and in between a status update and a funny video, there are plenty of opportunities to bring up business. It’s part of our lives, after all.

However, this means that there is a pretty different population on LinkedIn than on Facebook. Who is your audience? Who are the people you are trying to connect to or be noticed by? Go where they are.

And even for me, I have to say it’s nice to have a chance to discover more about the professional lives of those I hang out with on Facebook. But that brings us back to the online resumé, which in itself is a pretty important thing: it means that in the age of LinkedIn, we can all be on the job market without being in job hunting mode. Before, we would polish up our CV when we felt the wind turn. Now, our LinkedIn profile is part of our online identity.

If you want to share what usefulness LinkedIn has had (or has!) for you personally, I’m interested in hearing about it — specially (but not only) if you’re a freelancer.

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Triggers and Dopamine [en]

[fr] Deux idées importantes concernant la façon dont on fonctionne, particulièrement pour ce qui est de nos habitudes: les déclencheurs, qui appellent un comportement stéréotypé ou enregistré (une bonne ou mauvaise habitude), et la dopamine, qui lance plutôt l'appel du "reviens-y" que du plaisir, et qui s'active face à la nouveauté (ce qui explique que nos comportements un peu obsessionnels ou addictifs ne se soldent pas forcément par plus de plaisir).

As I have slowed down my work life for the end-of-year celebrations, I’m taking more time to read and write, something I want to keep going throughout 2010 and beyond.

These last days I’ve stumbled upon two interesting ideas that I’m adding to my understanding of how we change and why we do what we do — a subject of endless fascination for me.

The first is triggers and their importance in forming habits. I had never really thought of this until I looked at the new website 6 Changes. The idea here is that a habit is linked to something that triggers it. For example, feeling down and reaching for the fridge or the remote. Or putting your pyjamas on and brushing your teeth. Or getting up from a meal and doing the dishes.

In a way, this is something that FlyLady teaches you to put in practice by establishing morning and evening routines. (See the “Baby Steps” page on FlyLady for more similarity with what Leo explains in 6 Changes.) Creating routines is a way to have a series of habits where each one triggers the next.

I’m now keeping an eye open for triggers (think “API hooks” or “CSS classes” for the geeks out there) that I can build on to put in place new habits or replace undesirable ones.

I have a (minor) problem when I watch TV series, for example: I tend to watch one episode after the next more or less until I drop — I find it very hard to just watch one or two and be done with it. So I thought: “what could be the trigger here?” Obviously, the end credits of an episode. So, what I’ve decided to do now is pause the DVD, remove my headphones, get up and go to the kitchen or the bathroom when the end credits roll. Then I can go and watch the next episode if I want. See the idea? Clearly, I’m not building a new daily habit here, but using the idea of the trigger, a small first step, and incremental change to modify an undesired behaviour. Next step will be adding something more to “pause the DVD, remove headphones, get up” once that habit is established, which goes in the direction of helping me not dive mechanically back into my season, however fascinating it may be.

The second is the role of dopamine in relation to novelty. Dopamine is in fact not the “pleasure” drug, but more the “gimme more” one — it’s activated when we’re faced with novelty, and encourages us to come seeking it again. I’m not sure how I’m going to apply this to my daily life, but for me it’s important to understand that craving for something is not necessarily linked to pleasure in getting the something in question. In my opinion it explains why we can get stuck in compulsive behaviours (checking e-mail or iPhone being the most obvious) which do not make us really happy when we indulge in them — on the contrary, I know that I often end up feeling a bit empty when I’m stuck in a compulsion circle.

I find the last paragraph of the HuffPost article linked above very wise:

Given all of this, what can we do to prevent ourselves from becoming novelty-seeking zombies? The first thing is to simply become mindful of one’s use of media and devices. I find that one of the best things to do is to institute regular vacations from email. It usually takes a couple of days for the itch to check my email every five minutes to go away, and watching it happen reminds me just how obsessed I can become, but it also shows that it’s possible to lead a perfectly normal and fulfilling life without constant email access. Once we see that we can live without constant access to our devices, we can start trying to exert some control over device use in our daily lives. Evolution gave us the ability to overcome our urges, but we have to have the will to employ this control. One bit of good news is that we can improve our self-control with practice […].

Russell Poldrack

I think the most important thing that Russell says here is that technology is basically putting us in a position where we have to grow as human beings if we do not want to be slaves to our impulses. This is true in general, but once more, technology is magnifying and making apparent issues which are already there, but which might not have been that visible until now.

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