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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Please Make Holes in My Buckets! [en]

[fr] Tour d'horizon de mes différents "profils" à droite et a gauche dans le paysage des outils sociaux (social tools). Il manque de la communication entre ces différents services, et mon identité en ligne s'en trouve fragmentée et lourde à gérer. Ajouter des contacts en se basant sur mon carnet d'adresses Gmail est un bon début, mais on peut aller plus loin. Importer ses livres préférés ou des éléments de CV d'un profil à l'autre, par exemple.

[Facebook]( is [Stowe](’s fault. [Twitter]( was because of [Euan]( [Anne Dominique]( is guilty of getting me on [Xing/OpenBC]( I can’t remember precisely for [Flickr]( or [LinkedIn]( or — OMG! — [orkut](, but it was certainly somebody from [#joiito]( The culprits for [](, [DailyMotion]( and [YouTube]( “Even got there early enough to grab ‘steph’ — now I get password reminders almost everyday, great…”) have disappeared into the limbo of lost memories. [Kevin]( encouraged me to [sign up for a good dozen of blogging platforms](, open a [MySpace account](, and he’s probably to blame for me being on [Upcoming]( As for [](, I’ll blame [Matt]( because he’s behind all that.

Granted, I’m probably the only one responsible for having [gotten into blogging]( “Story here, abbreviated version.”) in the first place.

Let’s get back on track. My aim here is not primarily to point an accusing finger to all my devious friends who introduced me to these fun, [addictive](, time-consuming tools (though it’s interesting to note how one forgets those things, in passing). It’s more a sort of round-up of a bunch of my “online selves”. I feel a little scattered, my friends. Here are all these buckets in which I place stuff, but there aren’t enough holes in them.

Feeds are good. Feeds allow me to have Twitter, [](, Flickr, and even stuff in my blog sidebar. It also allows me to connect my blogs to one another, and into Facebook. Here, though, we’re talking “content” much more than “self”.

One example I’ve already certainly talked about (but no courage to dig it out, my blog is starting to be a huge thing in which I can’t find stuff I know it contains) is contacts or buddies — the “Mine” in [Stowe’s analysis of social applications]( I have buddy lists on IM and Skype, contacts on Flickr and just about every service I mentioned in this post. Of *course*, I don’t want to necessarily have the same contacts everywhere. I might love your photos on Flickr and add you as a contact, but not see any interest in adding you to my business network on LinkedIn. Some people, though — my **friends** — I’ll want to have more or less everywhere.

So, here’s a hole in the buckets that I really like: I’ve seen this in many services, but the first time I saw it was on Myspace. “Let us peek in your GMail contacts, and we’ll tell you who already has an account — and let you invite the others.” When I saw that, it scared me (“OMG! Myspace sticking its nose in my e-mail!”) but I also found it really exciting. Now, it would be even better if I could say “import friends and family from Flickr” or “let me choose amongst my IM buddies”, but it’s a good start. Yes, there’s a danger: no, I don’t want to spam invitations to your service to the 450 unknown adresses you found in my contacts, thankyouverymuch. [Plaxo]( is a way to do this (I’ve seen it criticised but I can’t precisely remember why). Facebook does it, which means that within 2 minutes you can already have friends in the network. Twitter doesn’t, which means you have to painstakingly go through your friends of friends lists to get started. I think [coComment]( and any “friend-powered” service should allow us to import contacts like that by now. And yes, sure, privacy issues.

But what about all my **profile information**? I don’t want to have to dig out my favourite movies each time I sign up to a new service. Or my favourite books. Or the schools I went to. I mean, some things are reasonably stable. Why couldn’t I have all that in a central repository, once and for all, and just have all these neat social tools import the information from there? Earlier today, [David]( was telling me over IM that he’d like to have a central service to bring all our Facebook, LinkedIn, OpenBC/Xing, and MySpace stuff together. Or a way to publish his CV/résumé online and allow Facebook to access it to grab data from it. Good ideas, in my opinion.

I’ll mention [OpenID]( here, but just in passing, because although in my dreams in used to hold the promise of this centralised repository of “all things me”, I don’t think that it’s what it has been designed for (if I get it correctly, it is identity **verification** and doesn’t have much to do with the **contents** of this identity). [Microformats]( could on the other hand certainly come in handy here.

So, please, make more holes in my buckets. Importing Gmail contacts in sticking feeds here and there is nice, but not sufficient. For the moment, Facebook seems promising. But let me use Twitter for my statuses, for example, or at least include the feed somewhere (I can only include one feed, so I’ve included my [suprglu one](, but it has a huge lag and is not very satisfying). Let me put photographs in my albums directly from Flickr. Talk with the profiles I made with other similar services. Grab my school and work info from LinkedIn and OpenBC. Then make all this information you have about me available to republish how I want it (feeds, feeds, feeds! widgets! buttons! badges!) where I want it.

Also, [more granularity]( Facebook has a good helping of it: I can choose which type of information I want to see from my contacts. I can restrict certain contacts from seeing certain parts of my profile. I’d like fine control on who can see what, also by sorting my people into “buddy groups”. “Friends” and “Family” as on Flickr is just not enough. And maybe Facebook could come and present me with [Stowe-groupings]( of my contacts, based on the interactions I have with them.

Share your wild ideas here if you have any.

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