Linkedin Killer? I don’t think so.

Jason Alba posted that he thought examines whether the new WSJ Connect product might be a Linkedin Killer. I don’t think so.

As companies increasingly ban social networking sites in general, and as Linkedin becomes fully Facebookified, making it even more bannable, I believe social networking will become less and less work oriented. The market will see consolidation, and it will consolidate around general-purpose social networking.

People are going to want something that has some of the social aspects of Facebook, but also a small amount of business flavor – like a spot to put one’s resume, or a few tidbits about their accomplisments. Maybe an ability to identify connections as primarily social or business.

Jason points out that Linkedin has been slow to adopt new things. I believe that chasing new features has been their undoing. Linkedin was nice because you could maintain it easily and without spending a lot of time on it. As each new feature is added, more work and time can be soaked up by it, and companies see it as a distraction and ban it. Once these systems are banned, getting them unbanned is hard. How do you prove a business justification?

90% of the visible value from Linkedin seems to exist in finding freelance work or a new job – neither are viewed by empoloyers as a high priority for employees. It can be tremendously valuable for other things but it’s hard to prove well enough to get it unbanned.

So, if people are doing most of their social networking at home, on their own time, they’re not going to be focusing on business alone.

Given all this, along with the general saturation of social media sites in general, I think WSJ Connect is doomed.

My experience – open vs closed networking

One of the recurring themes on almost any networking discussion group is whether open or closed networking is really more effective. There are lots of debates already stored out there, so I won’t go through them here. Instead, I’ll explain why I’m reversing on a decision I made last fall.

Last fall I decided to dump most of my 4050 contacts on Linkedin, and focus on those people with whom I had a genuine connection. I did it because some of the features of Linkedin, namely the network updates area, were becoming somewhat useless as they were inundated by updates from folks who I ddin’t know very well. In addition, I no longer had the pressing need for a large network from a research perspective, and it seemed like a good time to experiment.

Well, the experiment is over. I’d spent lots of time on open networking, and now I’ve tried closed.

Open wins.

For several reasons:

  1. Linkedin is not just about documenting your network. It’s also a personal advertising system. More connections = more exposure.
  2. Network updates only from my closest connections = boring. What can I say? These people are mature, responsible folks who have solid careers and are busy. They’re not changing jobs every 15 minutes, or hurling sheep at each other – this isn’t Facebook.
  3. I need people I don’t know more often or at least as often as the people I do know. With a closed network it’s much harder to find them.
  4. I found Linkedin less useful. No matter what I went looking for, I was less likely to find it. I was exposed to fewer questions, so I didn’t answer as many. I felt more cutoff from the world.

I know that the open vs closed debate will probably rage forever, and this blogpost won’t shift the balance, but for those who are teetering my vote is teeter more toward open.

Linkedin no longer worth paying for

I’ve been an avid user of Linkedin.com for years now, but today I asked them to cancel my business subscription. I’m tired of paying for services not received. I’m tired of features that come and go with no notice to users. I’m tired of glitches that cannot be fixed, with no apology or explanation beyond “Gee, we don’t know what’s wrong.”

I get 2 questions per month, everyone else gets 10. They’ve taken away the stats on who is looking at my profile, which xing.com and other sites have given from the beginning without limitations. No reason why, no notice of if or when it will come back. That’s unfortunately how Linkedin operates these days – one day you have it, one day you don’t. That’s if the site is up, as they’ve had a number of outages lately as well. Assuming your account hasn’t been frozen because someone you met decided to forget about you and complained. My account was never frozen, but the threat is enough to keep me from inviting people.

I’m not even sure the features I’d get with a Personal Plus account are worth $60 a year. I really don’t want to give them any money at all.

I’ll still keep my account open because I think the service holds great promise. It can be a great resource for research. I hope that Linkedin can learn to live up to their brand and value proposition. But until they do, someone else can fund them.

In the mean time, there’s Xing.com, Facebook.com and various others I’ll be taking a look at.

Ironically, of all the requests I’ve made to Linkedin over the years, the one request that was most quickly & easily responded to was the one to cancel my subscription.

I give up: Linkedin customer (Dis)Service

I give up. I am convinced that Linkedin is losing control of their product and no longer really understands what it does. A few weeks ago I answered my 25th question on Linkedin. It was not a momentous occasion for me. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of it until one of my connections sent me an email that was a forward of an email they got from Linkedin.com:

From: LinkedIn Updates <updates@linkedin.com>
To: <Insert name of my connection here>
Subject: Steven Duncan is answering questions on LinkedIn
Date: Fri, 4 May 2007 11:24:50 -0700 (PDT)

LinkedIn LinkedIn Updates


Andrew,Steven Duncan has already answered 25 questions on LinkedIn Answers, including:

“What makes a good Competitive Intelligence model?”

View all of Steven’s answers now.

–The LinkedIn Team


This message is part of an occasional mailing to help you get the most out of LinkedIn. If you prefer not to receive these messages, click here.LinkedIn Corporation, 2029 Stierlin Ct, Mountain View, CA 94043Now, I can type, and I think I know stuff. That’s why I answer questions, but that in no way makes me unique on Linkedin. I answer far fewer questions that many people on Linkedin, and that I answer a question doesn’t mean that there is any value at all to the answer. I like to think there is, but I’m not vain enough to want to announce to all of my connections via email that I answered 25 questions. Or 50 questions. Or 75 questions. I’m pretty sure my connections would prefer to be left alone anyway.

So I fired up the customer service request form on the Linkedin.com site – one cannot email them, one must use the form – and explain my problem:

I have the setting about notifying people about updates turned off, but
I just found out that emails about what my answers are are still going
out to people. Is there any way to turn this off?

Thanks!

Granted, not the clearest message. I receive the following reply:

Hi Steven,

Go to Account & Settings and then click on the Answers Notification and
you will be able to make that change there. If you need any further
assistance certainly let us know!
Have a great weekend!
Thanks,

Angela Burleigh
Customer Support Representative

If you go to the screen she mentions, it clearly deals with setting what emails I receive, not what emails are sent out to people – like the email my connections received.

Angela,

Both options on the page you mention control how _I_ receive emails on others questions, and answers to my questions. Neither controls what emails others receive about questions I answer. A member of my network got an email because of an answer I posted for a third person’s question – that’s the email I’d like to control.

&lt;!– D([“mb“,”u003cdiv>n nu003cspan>u003cbr> nu003cbr> u003c/span>nn u003cdiv>n u003cspan classu003d”gmail_quote”>On 5/4/07, u003cb classu003d”gmail_sendername“>LinkedIn n Customer Serviceu003c/b> &lt;u003ca hrefu003d”mailto:support@linkedin.com” targetu003d”_blank” onclicku003d”return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)”>support@linkedin.comu003c/a>&gt; n wrote:u003c/span>nn u003cblockquote classu003d”gmail_quote” styleu003d”margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;margin-right:0pt;margin-left:0pt;border-left:1px solid rgb(204, 204, 204);padding-left:0pt”>n Hi Steven, nu003cbr> nu003cbr>Go to Account &amp; Settings and then click on the Answers Notification and nu003cbr>you will be able to make that change there. If you need any further nu003cbr>assistance certainly let us know! nu003cbr>Have a great weekend! nu003cbr>Thanks, nu003cbr> nu003cbr>Angela Burleigh nu003cbr>Customer Support Representative nu003cbr> nu003cbr>Original Message Follows: nu003cbr>———————— nu003cbr>I have the setting about notifying people about updates turned off, but nu003cbr>I just found out that emails about what my answers are are still going nu003cbr>out to people. Is there any way to turn this off? nu003cbr> nu003cbr>Thanks! nu003cbr> nu003cbr>Email Address: u003ca hrefu003d”mailto:steve@swduncan.com” targetu003d”_blank” onclicku003d”return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)”>steve@swduncan.com n nu003c/a>u003cbr>1702925-11783052886 nu003cbr>T nu003cbr> nu003cbr> nu003cbr>n u003c/blockquote>n u003c/div>n n”,1] ); //–>

This last message seemed to have them thinking for a while, so I sent a reminder:

It’s been 10 days since I sent this reply. Your original answer is irrelevant to my question because the notifications page under Accout & settings controls how I am notified, which is why it’s titled “Receiving Messages.”

Why are my connections getting emails announcing my answers to questions they didn’t ask?

And the reply:

Hi Steve,

In order for that connection to not receive your answers to the questions is they will have to change the setting to their own LinkedIn account. This is not an application that you can control from your end. If you need any further assistance or have any additional questions please let us know and thank you for contacting LinkedIn Customer Support!

Thanks,

Ben Guthrie

Manager, LinkedIn for Groups

&lt;!– D([“mb“,”u003cdiv>n Thanks,n u003c/div>n u003cdiv>n n u003c/div>n u003cdiv>n Ben Guthrien u003c/div>n u003cdiv>n Manager, LinkedIn for Groupsn u003c/div>n u003cp>n Original Message Follows: ————————n u003c/p>n It's been 10 days since I sent this reply. Your original n answer is irrelevant to my question because the notifications n page under Accout &amp; settings controls how I am notified, which n is why it's titled &quot;Receiving Messages.&quot; nu003cbr> nu003cbr>Why are my connections getting emails announcing my answers to questions n they didn't ask? nu003cbr> nu003cbr> nu003cbr> nu003cbr>———- Forwarded message ———- nu003cbr>u003cspan classu003d”gmail_quote”>From: u003cb classu003d”gmail_sendername“>Steve Duncan u003c/b>&lt;u003ca hrefu003d”mailto:steve@swduncan.com” targetu003d”_blank” onclicku003d”return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)”>steve@swduncan.comu003c/a>&gt; nu003cbr>Date: May 4, 2007 3:23 PM nu003cbr>Subject: Re: I have a customer service issue (KMM211174I88L0KM) nu003cbr>To: LinkedIn Customer Service &lt;u003ca hrefu003d”mailto:support@linkedin.com” targetu003d”_blank” onclicku003d”return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)”>support@linkedin.comu003c/a>&gt; nu003cbr> nu003cbr>u003c/span>Angela, nu003cbr> nu003cbr>Both options on the page you mention control how _I_ receive emails on n others questions, and answers to my questions. Neither n controls what emails others receive about questions I answer. n A member of my network got an email because of an answer I n posted for a third person's question – that's the email I'd n like to control.nn “,1] ); //–>So, in order for my connections to not receive useless emails announcing their connections have answered questions, they need to turn off settings in their account?? Even so, the email I was complaining about wasn’t about a specific question or answer, it was just an announcement about how many questions I’d answered total.

This STILL doesn’t answer the question. My connections didn’t get my answers. They got a spam email from Linkedin.com announcing I had answered 25 questions.

This is the email I would like to stop.

I think in all fairness this is the clearest message I’ve sent. In retrospect I could have been much clearer explaining the problem. Not that it did much good, because they still think I’m talking about a specific answer to a specific question:

Hi Steve,

I appreciate what you are saying however you cannot block this from being sent out. The only way you can do this is to answer your questions private and then the answer will not be viewable to anyone except the person who posted the question. Sir if you could please go to Accounts & Settings you will see what the account options are and your request is not a possibility. Each individual user must set up their account to to not participate in this process and if they choose not to then they must make that change. &lt;!– D([“mb“,”u003c/p>n u003cp>n n u003c/p>n u003c/div>n u003cdiv>n Thanks,n u003c/div>n u003cdiv>n n u003c/div>n u003cdiv>n Angela Burleighn u003c/div>n u003cdiv>n Customer Support Representativen u003c/div>n u003cp>n Original Message Follows: ————————n u003c/p>n This STILL doesn't answer the question. My connections didn't get my n answers. They got a spam email from u003ca hrefu003d”http://Linkedin.com” targetu003d”_blank” onclicku003d”return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)”>Linkedin.comu003c/a> n announcing I had answered 25 questions. nu003cbr> nu003cbr>This is the email I would like to stop. nu003cbr> nu003cbr>nn u003cdiv>n u003cspan classu003d”gmail_quote”>On 5/21/07, u003cb classu003d”gmail_sendername“>LinkedIn n Customer Serviceu003c/b> &lt;u003ca hrefu003d”mailto:support@linkedin.com” targetu003d”_blank” onclicku003d”return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)”>support@linkedin.comu003c/a>&gt; n wrote:u003c/span>nn u003cblockquote classu003d”gmail_quote” styleu003d”margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;margin-right:0pt;margin-left:0pt;border-left:1px solid rgb(204, 204, 204);padding-left:0pt”>n u003cdiv>n u003cdiv>n u003cp>n Hi Steve,n u003c/p>n u003cp>n In order for that connection to not receive your answers n to the questions is they will have to change the setting n to their own LinkedIn account. This is not an application n that you can control from your end. If you need any n further assistance or have any additional questions please n let us know and thank you for contacting LinkedIn Customer n Support!n u003c/p>n u003cp>n n u003c/p>n u003c/div>n “,1] ); //–>

Thanks,

Angela Burleigh

Customer Support Representative

So, I decided an example was what was needed:

Angela,

The email I’m talking about is not an answer. I’ve pasted the text from one of them below:

LinkedIn Updates

Andrew, Steven Duncan has already answered 25 questions on LinkedIn Answers, including:

“What makes a good Competitive Intelligence model?”

&lt;!– D([“mb“,”View n all of Steven's answers now.u003c/a>n u003c/p>n u003cp>n –The LinkedIn Teamn u003c/p>n nu003chr noshadeu003d”noshade” sizeu003d”1″> nn u003cp>n This message is part of an occasional mailing to help you get the most n out of LinkedIn. If you prefer not to receive these messages, u003ca hrefu003d”https://www.linkedin.com/e/mmo/u1NFv_7eY8PBsaAEXSR8Fs7eS334KYapaM-bbchZR4T4OX/” titleu003d”blocked::https://www.linkedin.com/e/mmo/u1NFv_7eY8PBsaAEXSR8Fs7eS334KYapaM-bbchZR4T4OX/” targetu003d”_blank” onclicku003d”return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)”>click n hereu003c/a>.n u003c/p>n u003cp>n u003cfont coloru003d”#999999″ faceu003d”arial, helvetica, sans-serif” sizeu003d”1″>LinkedIn n Corporation, 2029 Stierlin Ct, Mountain View, CA 94043u003c/font>n u003c/p>n nu003cbr> nu003cbr> As you can see, this is not an answer to a question. It's just an n announcement. nu003cbr> nu003cbr> nu003cbr>nn u003cdiv>n u003cspan classu003d”gmail_quote”>On 5/21/07, u003cb classu003d”gmail_sendername“>LinkedIn n Customer Serviceu003c/b> &lt;u003ca hrefu003d”mailto:support@linkedin.com” targetu003d”_blank” onclicku003d”return top.js.OpenExtLink(window,event,this)”>support@linkedin.comu003c/a>&gt; n wrote:u003c/span>nn u003cblockquote classu003d”gmail_quote” styleu003d”margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;margin-right:0pt;margin-left:0;border-left:1px solid rgb(204, 204, 204);padding-left:0″>n u003cdiv>n u003cdiv>n u003cp>n Hi Steve,n u003c/p>n u003cp>n I appreciate what you are saying however you cannot block this n from being sent out. The only way you can do this is to answer n your questions private and then the answer will not be viewable n to anyone except the person who posted the question. Sir if you n could please go to Accounts &amp; Settings you will see what the n account options are and your request is not a possibility. Each n individual user must set up their account to to not participate n in this process and if they choose not to then they must make n that change.n “,1] ); //–>View all of Steven’s answers now.

–The LinkedIn Team


This message is part of an occasional mailing to help you get the most out of LinkedIn. If you prefer not to receive these messages, click here. LinkedIn Corporation, 2029 Stierlin Ct, Mountain View, CA 94043As you can see, this is not an answer to a question. It’s just an announcement.

By the way, I do have the setting to email my connections profile updates is set to off. Even so, apparently now they think I’m complaining about a message I received:

Hi Steve,

Thank you for contacting LinkedIn, We do apologize for the confusion. If you wish to opt-out of receiving LinkedIn email updates you may do so via the Accounts/Settings tab, â??Receiving Messagesâ??. However you as a LinkedIn member can not “opt” out completely. When you have/set your account to opt out of advertising via your Accounts/Settings the system will no longer send “additional” advertising.
Thanks,
Angela Burleigh
Customer Support Representative

And yet again their solution addresses emails sent to me, not to my connections!

Here is my final attempt:

Linkedin, please do not send an email to my connections announcing how many questions I’ve answered, unless I ask you to. Perhaps you could add a checkbox to your site labeled “Announce to your connections via email when you’ve answered 25 more questions”. And allow me to check/uncheck it as needed.

If you are one of my connections, please forgive the email, it was not my doing. I’ll go ahead and apologize for the next one, which I expect sometime around my 50th question. That will probably be a few months from now depending on what questions people ask.

Tools

Adam over at Printmode recently wrote about the tools he uses, and invited me to do the same.

I have quite a few I guess, as a lot of the work I do is research oriented. I’m not sure I could name them all, but I can name the ones that I find especially useful:

First, I use Windows (I have to, as it’s what we use at work), Mac (bittersweet), and Ubuntu Linux (also bittersweet). I use Linux mostly because I feel I’ll end up there eventually, so I might as well start getting my feet wet. I also find a bit of delight in using very high quality software on a high quality OS, when neither has cost me anything. I do find that Open Office just doesn’t measure up to Excel, however, so I stick to MS Office for most documents.

Firefox. Without this browser I wouldn’t have had tabbed browsing for all the time it’s taken Microsoft’s geniuses to figure it out. During that time I’ve become quite hooked. I haven’t yet upgraded to 2.0, I’m still using 1.5.x on a U3 usb key. This way I have my environment on any computer I sit at, at home or at work, including the full Open Office suite, Thunderbird (if I desire), and lots of other apps.

Performancing
& Adsense Notifier are two Firefox plugins I use regularly, to write blog posts and see what my adsense ads are doing. No, adsense doesn’t do much more than defray hosting expenses, but I can dream, can’t I? I’ve used Blogjet and Ecto on Windows and Mac respectively, but most of my posts don’t have pictures so Performancing works just as well and is in the browser where it’s handy.

As for website platforms, I use WordPress for blogs (the non-hosted kind), phpBB for SpeakStrategy, soon to be upgraded to something that handles spam users better, Drupal for a work site, and SugarCRM & pmwiki for managing some personal stuff. It’s truly a pleasure to work with such high-quality, open source software and I’d recommend these packages (ok, phpBB with many caveats) to anyone.

For email, it’s gmail and fastmail.fm. Really, gmail does what I need these days. I have two accounts, one that is hooked to my email domain, which forwards to another because only non-domain accounts have real-time push to blackberry (I don’t rate a corporate blackberry, so I use my own). For encryption I use both the built-in digital-id based encryption using keys from Thawte, and PGP, although frankly neither sees a lot of use.

At work it’s the ubiquitous Outlook, with draconian quotas and attachment policies. I use Nelson Email Organizer to help maintain my sanity.

Google Calendar takes care of my non-work related events, and it’s easy enough to copy events from outlook to google calendar just by inviting myself at the appropriate email address.

Joe’s Goals lets me track a few things I’d like to control better. It allows me to put a graph here on Lornitropia to let everyone else see when I’m letting myself down ;-). Speaking of graphs, I use a neato graphing package on my run blog to track mileage, weight loss and other stuff.

Stat Counter
and Google Analytics allow me to see how my various sites are doing.

Google Reader is now my preferred RSS reader.

Linkedin, xing, Plaxo, and several other sites provide both good networking tools and good research tools, along with Zoominfo & Jigsaw. Anagram makes it easy to suck contact info out of anything and into Outlook’s contacts. The Linkedin and Plaxo toolbars for Outlook are both really handy, but are both pretty buggy.

Search engines used are Google, of course, but also Ask. Frankly, I keep hearing that one needs to use more than google, but I find it’s pretty rare that I find something that Google didn’t have. I also use Copernic, desktop for finding stuff on my machine, web for doing very thorough searches outside Google and Tracker for keeping tabs on websites I monitor.

Highbeam
is pretty useful, although they don’t have many printing industry publications. LexusNexus and Hoovers also provide some value, albeit at a very high price.

iTunes
and iPod mean the difference between listening to podcasts and not for me. Both are awesome products that just work like crazy.

As a main CI database I use Strategy Software, which is pretty darned cool.

Photos – Adobe Photoshop or The Gimp. For storing them, iPhoto is what I use now, but Picasa was very capable when I was using it.

Who’s Next?

Hmmm…

Dr. Joe Webb
Mike Rohde
Des Walsh

Will we have Chief Networking Officers?

Octavio Pitaluga is one of the folks on Yahoo Groups’ MyLinkedinPowerForum that is a bit of a mainstay. He’s an active networker, and written about the CNO – Chief Networking Officer – position. Recently he posted on an interview with Selma Prodanovic of brainswork™ on her position as CNO.

I think it’s very interesting, but I’m not sure larger companies will buy into the role. After all, Selma’s position is at a company that she started herself. Still it’s interesting and as an alternative I can see the value being split into other roles:

1. As part of an Internet Expert role – someone who’s helping the company manage it’s internet presence. This would traditionally be done by PR firms, but web 2.0 brings many things, like social networking sites and blogs, that involve personal employee involvement.  The problem with traditional PR/branding mentalities is they are used to having control that you lose on the web. A dictatorial approach here will backfire.  It’s in the company’s best interest to pursue involvement in networking sites because even though they may be other’s property, they can still impact the company.  The smart course is to put guidelines in place and encourage the kind of activity that helps both the employee and the company. The not quite as smart course is to ignore it until some sap causes a problem, and then fire him. I see the Internet Expert being the one who trains employees on how to get connected, and how to get the most of out of these systems for both the company’s and their own benefit.

2. As a new breed of resource whom I’ll refer to as The Connected One. That is, the person who’s got the responsibility for finding the help needed when it’s outside of HR’s baliwik. TCO is the person you go to when you need info or help, and you have no idea where to get it. Every company has one or more of these people, but social networking sites will comoditize and quantify this value and make it more accessible to others.  I believe that possession of a large network will become a documentable (i.e. on a resume) asset. However, I don’t think this value requires a position unto itself.

Regardless, social networking sites add an undeniable value. The quantity of that value and the nature of its use is still changing, but I believe that these systems will soon see every day use in the business world.

On Linkedin’s recent changes

Just yesterday Linkedin made a change in the way their site
operates: In the past, when you did a search or otherwise found someone’s
profile, you saw exactly how many connections they had. The number of
connections, for many (dare I say all, with varying degrees of admission) mean
something in themselves, and when Linkedin made this change it upset many
people.

Primarily the big guns – folks with 5,000, 10,000, or even
23,000+ connections. These people have put a lot of time and effort into
building such huge networks, and they feel slighted that their work is now
being hidden, in a way.

Another camp says that’s a bunch of bunk, and it’s not about
the numbers, and nobody should be complaining.

Scott Allen, of Virtual Handshake fame, recently wrote on
the MyLinkedinPowerForum:

People should â??right-sizeâ?? their network according to their business model, available time, and objectives. For some people, having several thousand contacts on LinkedIn makes reasonable sense. For others, it would be a waste of time, perhaps even a liability. What I see the removal of numbers and rankings about 500 doing is removing an artificial bias. LinkedIn isnâ??t taking away a precious feature, theyâ??re fixing a public performance metric that encouraged behavior that, on average (not in every case), is detrimental to the overall â??healthâ?? of the network and conflicts with their positioning and primary value proposition to their primary target market.

[bold added by me]

Then it occurred to me – Linkedin really has taken numbers
out of the picture.

500+ is no longer a quantity – it’s a merit badge. They’ve
just separated the population of Linkedin into two groups – the “five
hundreders” and the “others”. I don’t know if this is what Linkedin expected, but I believe that many users who would have been quite content at 200 or so connections, will now feel a certain pressure to jump to the other group. Will that not drive more of the casual mass invitations they were seeking to avoid?

If Linkedinâ??s going to do this, why stop there? Why not do
the full Monty, and instead of numbers of connections at all show â??Newâ??, â??10+â??,
â??25+â??, â??100+â??, â??500+â??, â??1000+â??, etc.?

What do you think?