LinkedOut | April 17, 2006

A couple of years ago when social software was all the rage, a friend recommended I joined LinkedIn. The idea was based on the concept of Six Degrees of Separation and allowed you to make new contacts through your existing group of friends and colleagues. For this to work you obviously had to sign up everybody you knew, so I spent the next couple of weeks trawling through my contacts list and growing my network. At the end of process I was pleased by the number of cool people I knew and how I was only a couple of steps away from Jeffrey Zeldman.

Every now and then somebody I knew would ask to get connected, to which I’d dutifully comply. Occasionally somebody I didn’t know asked to get connected, to which I’d politely decline. A couple of times I noticed spikes, where a bunch of people obviously just discovered LinkedIn and started adding contacts, often related to some kind of conference or event. However apart from adding the odd contact, I never actually used the service. In fact I never quite understood the usefulness of the application.

A couple of times I wanted to contact friends of friends, but rather than using LinkedIn I’d just email the friends and ask for an introduction. If I wanted to contact somebody else I’d just contact them through their blogs or company sites rather than searching for them on LinkedIn to see if there was a connection. Even if there was, I’d probably contact them directly rather than going through a two or three step process.

The only time I’ve been contacted by somebody on LinkedIn has been by friends asking if they could connect to one of my other friends. The weird thing is, most of the times these people already knew the person in quuestion, and undoubtedly had their email or could get it off their website.

Since SXSW there has been a new flurry of activity, with lots of cool people asking if I’d like to get connected. If you’re one of those people I apologize for not responding to you, but I’ve been considering unsubscribing from LinkedIn as I really just don’t see the point. However before I do unsubscribe, I was wondering if anybody has actually found any value in the service apart from generating a warm glow from how many cool people they know or how many steps away from Jeffrey Zeldman they are?

Anybody?

Posted at April 17, 2006 8:00 PM

Comments

Patrick Haney said on April 17, 2006 7:18 PM

I tend to agree with your point that LinkedIn is a bit useless, as you can pretty easily go find your friends or contacts on the web and get a hold of them that way. After SXSW, I’ve added quite a few people to my contacts in LinkedIn, though I tend to just email or IM people back and forth after getting their contact info from business cards or their websites.

However, I actually have found a use for LinkedIn recently dealing with the job market. It might actually do something useful for me in the near future, who knows.

I apologize for being cagey, but I’ll divulge more when I can.

Dan Mall said on April 17, 2006 7:23 PM

I’ve often wondered the same thing about LinkedIn. For me, it’s done absolutely nothing, and the only time I use it is when someone sends me an invitation.

And I’m only one away from Big Z. :)

Peter Parkes said on April 17, 2006 7:37 PM

As a student (and therefore not really the target market for the app at all) I’ve found LinkedIn extremely useful.

Through a handful of professional contacts I’ve been able to get introductions to many more, and as a result, I’ve been offered careers advice, internships and graduate jobs.

Sohail Mirza said on April 17, 2006 7:38 PM

I haven’t yet fully explored the LinkedIn, but I signed up because I thought the value would be in networking with associates/friends of people I know, but whom I wouldn’t necessarily meet in the real world.

If a friend, or a friend of a friend happens to be hiring and I’m interested, I may not have found out otherwise.

Konstantin Guericke said on April 17, 2006 7:39 PM

What you get out of LinkedIn pretty much depends on what you put in. LinkedIn is at its core a search engine for people, so it’s unlikely you’ll get much value from it if you don’t type things into the search box.

Our most active users tend to search for employees or closely-held information. It’s great for hiring since you are bound to discover great candidates—and, if you are linked to your real-world contacts, you may often discover candidates that some of your former co-workers/classmates know, but you had not idea they did.

Sales, marketing and investment people use LinkedIn to get access to closely-held, unpublished information. Want to find someone who recently left a competitor of yours? Want to find people to speak with about using Ajax in e-commerce? Want to talk to someone close to you who works at a company you are in the process of selling to? Want to find someone who has built a strong brand in the hispanic market? These are just some examples …

Gabriel Castro said on April 17, 2006 7:59 PM

I’ve often wondered about this too. I was introduced to it by a friend and I quickly added a few connections from university and work.

Every once in a while I’d login to browse a little and add new connections until last week, when I was contacted by a 3rd degree connection with regards to a job opportunity. Whether or not this will turn into a job offer is yet to be seen but at least I got something out of it.

Zach Inglis said on April 17, 2006 8:07 PM

I actually like it for Endorsements and it’s helpfull for job finding. It is also good for outsourcing work I guess.

Justin Perkins said on April 17, 2006 8:29 PM

I was contacted a while ago by an Austin-based company who had found me through linkedin and offered me a job (I live in Austin and was looking for a fulltime gig). It was the first time an employer had sought me out rather than the other way around, if it wasn’t for the kind words of collegues in my linkedin profile, I don’t think that would have happened.

Aaron Gustafson said on April 17, 2006 9:40 PM

I’m on LinkedIn, Plaxo and O’Rilley Connection, but have really found LinkedIn to be the best, prospecting wise. I don’t do a whole lot of tending to my connection garden, but I have gotten a lot of interest/solicitations for both full-time and consulting gigs. Few have panned out, but it’s nice to know that it might feed me a few decent projects if I ever hit a dryspell.

Ben Saunders said on April 17, 2006 10:55 PM

I haven’t found LinkedIn to be of much use, although I’m generally looking for sponsors rather than job offers!

aSmallWorld, however, has proved far more useful (but involves a) getting an invite in the first place, and b) dealing with a huge amount of inveterate snobbery)…

Dave S. said on April 17, 2006 11:46 PM

I deleted my LinkedIn account earlier this year for all the reasons you’ve listed, plus the fact that the emails were really beginning to annoy me.

I still get the emails.

Jeff L said on April 18, 2006 12:55 AM

Hey Andy,

I think it’s good you are asking for feedback rather than just deleting your account.

Personally, I have nothing but rave reviews at the moment for LinkedIn, as I just landed a great job because of it. I’d be more than happy to give you full details if you want (just shoot me an email) but the quick and dirty version is that:
Director at new employer found me on LinkedIn by doing a search on an old employer
New employer found he was connected to me through someone at his old job
Contacted me through said person to see if I was interested in position, I was, blah blah blah, now I have a good new job.

It’s just a good way to stay networked to people that you might not stay connected to otherwise - and certainly this guy at my new company never would have known offhand that our mutual connection knew someone who had the skillset they were looking for.

I’m living proof it works!
:-)

Jonathan Snook said on April 18, 2006 1:10 AM

While nothing has specifically come from it yet, I’ve kept my profile on there for the day (if/when it comes) when I’m looking for some work and need to hit up my network for something. I imagine yourself (and Dave S.) are simply too high profile and too busy to have any large need for it.

Stuart Langridge said on April 18, 2006 7:05 AM

I’ve looked for jobs there a few times, and there’ve been a couple of prospects. Other than that, not really, but the account’s not doing me any harm being there, I feel.

(Incidentally, “email address” is apparently required even though it doesn’t say so :))

Jeff L said on April 18, 2006 10:48 AM

BTW - I agree with Snook - at some point, you might just be known well enough that folks will know of you anyway, without the need for something like LinkedIn.

I’m not there yet, and I don’t have any plans to write a book, so I don’t see myself getting there anytime soon.

Also keep in mind is that the system is supposed to be trust based - you are only supposed to connect with people who you’ve worked with and can directly speak about. So connection with Joe Schmoe (or me) from SXSW, even if we had a few minutes of good conversation, doesn’t help anyone in the long run.

Luis Villa said on April 18, 2006 10:57 AM

Hi Andy. I used to work at a big IT Consulting company wich Zeldman has redesigned his site one year ago (:-)). As a User Experience consultant, I’m rara avis, so it is hard to find colleagues inside the organization since almost, all the people, are very IT oriented.

In other hand, the people finder is based on country, city and profession so it’s really impossible to find people with similar profiles, interests, blogs, communities…

Thanks to Linkedin, I could find people by profiles, interests all over the work inside my Company and I started a very nice international network wich has given me new working and learning opportunities.

In my experience:

People care much more about having his “public and portable” profile up to date, than the corporate profile, that’s being findable from the outside to the inside. This is key for the actual Knowledge Worker.

Two: the biggest problem I’m facing are what I call the “Pokemon Collector” and the “Gotta Catch Them All” effect.

That’s people inside your company collecting contacts just for the sake of it and becoming completely unuseful on the network (as they show when you ask for a contact). Reject this kind of contacts.

My opinion: is useful Linkedin? It depends on how you use the system.

Regards from Spain

Lee Wilkins said on April 18, 2006 12:27 PM

Andy

I second your opinion on LinkedIn as a service.

I had been a big fan since its incarnation, from what seemed like many many moons ago!

The turning point for me was when I was receiving dozens of invites a day.

Do you really think the guy with 93,000 connections knows 93,000 people?

Of course not. There is a little scam going on where each of the top connectors export all their contacts information as a CSV file, and share it with someone else who is highly connected. They import this CSV file, and wham, a shit load of unwanted bloody invites to connect.

The LinkedIn Privacy statement says clearly, “no information is shared with 3rd parties”. Bullshit.

What is LI doing to protect my information that users have?

Whats stopping me from exporting all my contacts information and selling those email addresses to Jigsaw? Fuck all is the honest answer.

Its only the fact that my contacts have placed a trust in me. Which I have adhered to. From the start.

LinkedIn has fastly become a network focusing on quantity, when in today’s modern world, we all live in, its about quality.

I’ll stop this rant here. I have said my piece.

Andy Hume said on April 18, 2006 12:57 PM

I’ve been contacted by recruitment personnel on two occasions. One was a very interesting position too, although not really for me at the time.

Certainly the HR departments of Yahoo for example use it when looking for prospects. However, that’s as far as it’s been useful for me (how many steps from Zeldman aside goes to check).

Drew McLellan said on April 18, 2006 4:12 PM

OK, so I’ve just been called by a recruiter who found me on LinkedIn. Wouldn’t be so bad, except he called me at the day job. Unbelievable. Like I’d turn around and say (in an office full of collegues) sure! I’m looking for work, let me send you my CV! This place sux!

I am on the lookout for new work, but certainly not from him. At the very least, I’ll be removing all detail from my LinkedIn profile.

Dimitri Glazkov said on April 18, 2006 7:39 PM

Oh, come on, you social sissies. You’re popular, alright? You’re the rock stars of the Nerd World. I know, I know, it’s not by choice. Right place, right time, lucky break, accidental awesome book, blah, blah. But dammit, you are. And we want a piece of your fame! :)

Lee said on April 18, 2006 9:21 PM

I get loads of head hunters approach me as a result of LinkedIn for both permy and cotract positions. Perhaps not quite so useful for you as a “consultant”.

goodwitch said on April 19, 2006 1:59 PM

I think of LinkedIn as my handy online business card file/resume file of folks I really enjoy working with (or would like to work with). When people ask me for recommendations…I often head to my linked in profile to look for that skill set.

Useful…for this little girl (with a strong background in Human Resources and Employment)…I love it.

Stuart said on April 19, 2006 7:36 PM

I get the impression that there are a number of people on linked that go round connecting up to as many big names they can regardless of actually having any meaning to the connection. It’s the same with flickr contacts.

Although I have an account there I personally have yet to see much benefit out of it but then I don’t really ‘use’ it.

But you never know.

Krista said on April 19, 2006 9:36 PM

I have never gotten a job offer or headhunter msg through LinkedIn. I guess I’m not very attractive onscreen — maybe I don’t have the right key words or something.

Derek Featherstone said on April 20, 2006 2:54 PM

Dave S wrote:
I deleted my LinkedIn account earlier this year for all the reasons you’ve listed, plus the fact that the emails were really beginning to annoy me.

Well, then… that explains why you didn’t accept my invitation to “Connect on LinkedIn” then… or does it? ;)

Andy - I’m curious to see how this all pans out. As with most technological phenomena, we are all likely the early adopters.

I’ve recently found that some of my colleagues from “the world outside the web” have joined LinkedIn so I’m very curious to see where it goes for them/with them. What will happen when this moves from early adopters to mainstream?

Andy Budd said on April 20, 2006 7:20 PM

I think my main issue is that I joined LinkedIn in before it had a business model/purpose. Back then it was simply a networking site, but now it is more of a networked recruiting site. If I was looking for an employee, or a job, I’m sure it would be fantastic. However I’m not looking for either, and am really not sure what, if anything I am looking for. And I guess that was my point. The most useful apps fill a need, realised or otherwise. However with LinkedIn, the only need it seems to be fulfilling is the need to be connected to other people, and I can do that without an app.

Jeff L said on April 21, 2006 1:57 AM

Andy,

I think the “need” it’s fulfilling is the need to STAY connected to other people. It gives me the ability to connect with old coworkers that I might lose track of, without feeling awkward about it.

Brian said on April 26, 2006 1:01 PM

I would have to agree with some of the others here that LinkedIn is a good service if you maintain links with people you really know. I have worked in software in the recruitment/HR space for the last 7 years.

The number of people who get hired from applying to a job on a job board is very small compared to knowing someone.

I’m not saying LinkedIn will get you a job but it won’t hurt. Since being a member I have received several offers to apply for positions and consulting offers from people who knew someone who knew me.

My last 4 jobs have all been from someone in the company having worked with someone else I have worked with. When I go to a new company I usually end up hiring 1 person minimum from my last job. Again not LinkedIn related totally but the concept of true networking.

francois said on April 27, 2006 10:39 PM

Hi Andy,

One of the reasons I stick with LinkedIn is I’m really pretty impressed with the design and usability of the site, and I’m interested in seeing it evolve.

Occasionally I use it to contact people I know, but whose email addresses I happen not to have handy. (Usually those I only distantly know.) Often for references when I’m recruiting people.

Of course while one’s in stable employment you don’t need it for that, but it makes sense to build it up for one day when you may need it. I see it as a bit like saving for a rainy day.

It’s great for keeping track of ex-colleagues and people you’ve met on conferences. I guess there are other sites for this, but you don’t want too many and this one works for me.

I get no more than 1 or 2 emails a month due to it, so even if it stagnates I wouldn’t have a reason to delete my account. (Friendster, which I signed up with on a whim a few years ago but then ignored, has recently started spamming me pretty regularly. As soon as Linkedin does this, I’m gone.)

Sean Scott said on May 1, 2006 4:39 PM

Like most folks who works within the web industry i have signed up for a number of these services. LinkedIn has by far been the most usefull of them all.

The usefullness of LinkedIn will vary based on your particular situation. Just like a steak knife may not be what you want if you just want spread some butter on that piece of toast.

But for me, someone a small group of contacts in the industry it allows me to connect to folks i would never meet because of distance for example. Allows me to search for peers with a skillset and makes lets everyone know what i am looking for.

So the service may not be usefull for your particular situation, but i wouldn’t go as far as saying as the business model as no merit.