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Wiki Page about [WWW]LinkedIn

  1. Links to Comments about LinkedIn
  2. Talk about LinkedIn
    1. Feature Requests
    2. General Comments
    3. Comments from Reid

From the [WWW]Using LinkedIn page :
LinkedIn has three main parts:

LinkedIn in Action

Jennifer needs to hire a corporate communications director. Jennifer finds the ideal member in a LinkedIn search: George.

Jennifer creates a request for contact and asks Duc, her trusted connection, to forward it.

Duc forwards the request to his friend Alice, and Alice to her former employee George.

Each person along the way introduces the opportunity or project -- and the person -- to the next. George agrees to talk to Jennifer. Jennifer and George, now talking via email, discuss the communications director position.

Links to Comments about LinkedIn

Talk about LinkedIn

Feature Requests
General Comments

Comment from LizLawley, updated 2003-05-21 08:26:48 JST

danah boyd posted some interesting comments on her blog, which I've added to the links above. The part about women being "notoriously high self-monitors" rings true for me. I'd like to be able to see, for example, what path something will take before it goes out--particularly when there's more than one possible path.

I'd also like to be able to differentiate between (at the minimum) two types of contacts--those whom I'm willing to receive referrals from, and those whom I'm willing to have make referrals on my behalf. There are far more in the first category than the second. I'm more than happy, for example, to have Meg Hourihan or Anil Dash send someone to me. But since I don't have extensive working relationships with either one, I'm not sure I'd want them to be the first line of introduction for me to someone else--for that, I'd be more comfortable with someone like Joi or Clay Shirky or someone I've worked more closely with. That ties into picking the path, as well. (And I just saw Katherine's comments, below, regarding drawing finer distinctions--with which I agree wholeheartedly.)

I meet a lot of people. My full contact list has well over a thousand names. (Which makes even entering it into a tool such as LinkedIn problematic, much less maintaining it once it's there.) Obviously not all of those contacts are equally valuable or trustworthy. Nor am I equally valuable to all of them. For a networking tool to be valuable to me, it needs to be able to draw much finer distinctions than simply "in" or "out." -- KatherineDerbyshire

See my comments below about weak ties. I don't know who I would "introduce to other members of my professional network in the right circumstances" because the circumstances haven't arisen yet. Some people I would be delighted to recommend as experts on particular topics, but not as business partners (or vice versa). Some people who I would never think to recommend as business partners might actually be a perfect fit for the right opportunity. -- KD

Reid, you say that "pictures quickly tend to degrade the site to dating"--what's the evidence to support this? Doesn't Ryze allow pictures? Don't most conference sites include photos of the speakers? I suspect that "degrading to dating" is based on far more complex contextual factors. And for many people I know (particularly women, to return to my regular theme ;-), the lines between business relationships and friendly relationships (dating or otherwise) are simply not that hard and fast. If you want to build a networking system that really works, you may need to relax some of your hold over how people use it. That's what's hurt Friendster most, I think--a rigid mindset that it will be used only as a dating/mating service, despite the fact that many people have tried to use it for other purposes.

I would think there would be an easy social solution to the bottom 2% problem: tell the person who made the unwelcome connection. If Bob, a business associate, introduced me to Larry, who turned out to be a lounge lizard (or a public drunk, or a fraudulent business person, or whatever), I would certainly tell Bob about it. If Bob did that more than once or twice, he'd be dropped from my network, which should give Bob an incentive to make sure Larry behaves himself. That's how it works offline, so why couldn't it work online? -- KatherineDerbyshire

Finally, AdamGreenfield and I have both noted one serious (I would argue fatal) flaw in the current operation of the system--that you're not told before you initiate a contact that completion of the contact requires you to upgrade to paid membership. That's incredibly problematic, I think, since it's essentially blackmail--"give us your money or your targeted contact will think you're a flake." I understand the concept of not requiring the upgrade until there's a tangible promised benefit. But you MUST tell users that this will happen before they initiate the contact, not afterwards.

Reid, I'd like to echo Liz's comments regarding pictures. Having used both Friendster and LinkedIn, I would argue that the former emplys a few methods that, taken in concert, give me a far better sense of the person at whose profile I am currently looking. Pictures are one of these - not just a single, corporate-ID-style headshot, but three or five. And testimonials are the other.

I would suggest, with all due respect, that your fear of providing these modalities to your users (the slippery slope argument) is a subtle insult to your audience. You have to trust people to make decisions about what is appropriate and what is not, and of course, as a backstop you can always provide (as Friendster does) a "flag for review" link.

W/r/t Liz's assertion that, for women, "the lines between business relationships and friendly relationships (dating or otherwise) are simply not that hard and fast," the only way I disagree is in attributing this solely to women. For me as well, I neither necessarily want, nor am particularly able, to compartmentalize my life in such a manner. So far, LinkedIn has a little of that icky bus-dev feeling to it, the denatured feeling of an environment dedicated only to dealmaking. I think you'll find that some of the most interesting potential parties to deals are quite a bit more multidimensional (and publicly so) than that would imply. -- AdamGreenfield

Emphatically yes! If I meet someone socially who turns out to have similar business interests/needs, why wouldn't I want to draw on that person's knowledge? If I have a business relationship with someone who has similar personal interests, why wouldn't I want to get to know them socially as well? Just as most humans are multi-dimensional, so are most relationships between humans, whether the relationship is nominally a business or social one.

In fact, on further reflection, I would say that the most effective/helpful connections I make are between my business and social networks, or between subnetworks on either side. The people I work with know each other already, but they don't know the people at my aikido dojo unless I make the introduction. And vice versa. Useful networking software must consider the importance of WeakTies.

-- KatherineDerbyshire

The likelihood of connecting with someone on one dimension is significantly increased when you know them in another context. Fundamentally, this is what Stanley Milgram was getting at in "The Familiar Stranger." Multiple forms of connectivity are really valuable to motivate folks to overcome a hurdle in communication. This is why so many people spend the introductory ritual figuring out all of shared social connections that they have. Who do they know in common, what institutions do they have in common, what interests, etc. Without using these multiple channels, you aren't really taking into account the power of social networks. -- DanahBoyd

The privacy protection aspects are very attractive and clearly essential, but ironically, it's somewhat de-humanizing to be clicking on the anonymous "Request Contact" to ask for a contact and hoping that it gets approved by everyone in the path of the request. In real life, that's very different. I'd be sending e-mail or phoning a contact, explaining what I need, but getting immediate qualitative feedback on the request (e.g. let me check with them first, i haven't heard from them in a while, have you considered talking to X instead). I would have the opportunity to evaluate and choose between multiple paths based on that feedback. I would most likely talk to each intermediate step in the path, and again, get qualitative feedback on the effectiveness and suitability of the path. I would have an opportunity to interactively detect and resolve potential conflicts across multiple paths that I might be involved in. Part of the effectiveness in networking comes from expanding associations with the people one encounters in the path i.e. more than just means to an end. At the moment, it seems LinkedIn forces one to go outside it to manage the paths, and that risks reducing it to just a large Rolodex? - MarkMoraes 2004-10-20 06:54:07 JST

Comments from Reid

Comment from Reid Hoffman on May 9, 2003 10:19 AM | [WWW]permalink to comment

Hi all. In all of the work around the launch, I won't have as much time to cover all of the points in advance, so let me take some highlines.

What's the goal of LinkedIn? LinkedIn allows two people, who link to each other, to exchange networks for professional goals. "Exchange networks" means that you will represent this person and their network to your network (on a case by case basis); and that you will represent your network to this person and their network. It's very "web of trust." Why professional? So that the point of the interactions in this space is clear, and that everyone knows who to invite or not. (Would you introduce this person to your other trusted business contacts, at least for some good specific reason?)

Why not pictures? I agree that pictures are very humanizing. This was a tough design choice. However, pictures quickly tend to degrade the site to dating. If we can figure out a way to avoid that (and maybe an editorial process, ugh, is the way to do that, or maybe black and white, or maybe... and so it goes), then we'll add them.

Closed and open networks. This is an ultra-long and difficult discussion. I have a lot of experience with eBay and PayPal, with reputation, with identity, with fraud. A distributed "open" system of payments won't work. I'll leave room for the inevitable long argument later, but trust me -- lots and lots of smart payments people have been working on this for a while. There's a reason that the currency that works is a national one (us $ as an example), and not various invented currencies.

How does this apply to LinkedIn? LinkedIn is designed, at its core, to be intensive on the web of trust. There are many sites that promote "new" connections by allowing anyone to sign-up and try to contact each other. These sites are designed for people who want something, but not for people who have something. LinkedIn is designed for people who have something ... for example, a network of trusted connections. On LinkedIn, I can say "I invest in consumer internet companies", and I will get only reasonable things. If I say that say (here) with my eMail address, I will get deluged. And so I won't. (Liars paradoxes in language are great things.)

So, yes, it's a closed club. But it's *your* closed club. It's closed for your privacy. The general trick about then allowing other people to handle any data is how do you guarantee that the club stays closed to your circle. There are other channels for "anyone see me / contact me." LinkedIn may give that as an option in the future, if it makes sense as a service offering.

I completely agree with Marc, Pete, and others that reputation is the key. In a sense, the LinkedIn forwarding is "please give me this specific person's reputation on this specific contact request", so that I know how to handle it.

And for Katherine, I completely agree that networking is about human contact. This is a way for two people to easily represent each other to their respective networks.

Marc: I want to read your stuff more carefully before I would try to say something useful.

And, my thanks to everyone (believers and critics) for the thought and time on these issues. We're trying to do it right, although sometimes it's a little gray.

==== Comments from User (Atsushi Yoshida) 12/18/2003====

I found about LinkedIn and am excited about the possiblity of the service ! I was not sure if this was open to users as well, but hope my comment helps. I agree with the comment above that the link between you and your contact destination should be confidential for the reasons given. One additional thought is that as this network gets bigger, there could be cases that one of the links between you and the contact maybe your own boss ! So a feature request. When requesting a connection, add a feature to enter the name of the person that you want to avoid. You may have multiple ways to get to the target contact and this feature will help the user to avoid a route. For that matter, we could also add others "avoid" selections such as company name, etc. I am a member of LinkedIn so let me know if you need to contact me. Thanks /fin