Friday, July 14, 2006

LinkedIn: good thing? Bad thing?

I’ve got an account on LinkedIn, and I’ve got a whole bunch of connections. If you don’t know LinkedIn it is a social network site with a work focus - believe the hype and you’ll find your next job through it. Once you’ve signed up you can add your “connections” and see who links to who, kind of. (I'm also on OpenBC but I've not spent so much time developing my profile and connections there.)

Based on the old theory that you find jobs and opportunities through who-you-know and who-knows-you then this should be a great success. In reality I don’t think it is ever going to substitute for real networking - and real networking is something I should do more of but is so time consuming.

Yes I’ve had a couple of enquiries through LinkedIn, more often to do with whether I can help someone else rather than if they can help me. There are jobs listed but as usual they are mostly fronted by recruiters/agents so they are as useless as any others.

If your interested here is my link
View allan kelly's profile on LinkedIn

So, why do I play with it? Why do I keep adding contacts? In part, despite my rational above I still imagine it could put me in contact with someone useful.

Part of it is also slightly narcissistic - my network is bigger than your network.

Some of it is also to do with tracking people, although I suppose I should use Plaxo for that. It is supposed to be an online address book but allowing you to update people’s contacts books automatically when you change address. Plaxo’s never really grabbed my interest, and for a while it was Microsoft centric so it wouldn’t interface to my Thunderbird mail.

Also, I don't know if LinkedIn (and similar) will change our world but they might. I would like to understand how this stuff works and the consequences so I think its worth using . Just the same reason as I blog, to understand this stuff it helps to be involved with it.

But I think most of my LinkedIn interest is down right curiosity: Who connects with who? Who else is out there? What are these people doing?

What’s interesting is that something has changed recently. Not with LinkedIn but in people’s perception of this site. I don’t use it much but every so often I invite a bunch of people to connect. People who are already on LinkedIn usually say “Yes” quickly, those who aren’t might join but most just let it pass, I respect that and don’t bug them.

But, last time I sent out some invites, two months ago I think, people started to say: “Why are you asking me?” One friend at Microsoft told me it’s against company policy. Other people queried the nature of the system. I’ve just done another round of invites and I’ve got one or two similar responses. Is this some kind of mock-friendship? Asking people you don’t know that well to “connect” to you?

Could it be that LinkedIn is maxed out? Those who will join have joined, those who haven’t won’t. Are people fed up with social-networking? Or just more protective of their privacy?

Where is the line between people you know and will recommend to others and people you won’t? LinkedIn allows you to “endorse” other people but what happens when you don’t feel you can endorse someone? You risk upsetting them, a new and novel way to loose friends.

So far LinkedIn has been a bit of fun but it raising more and more questions for me.

Maybe thats just the engineer in me, engineers don't like networking; asking someone for a job is embarrassing, little do they know this is how the rest of the business world works.