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I just don’t get LinkedIn, do you? (stilgherrian.com)
126 points by bigiain on March 20, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 72 comments

LinkedIn, at its core, is very simple: its a replacement for the big Rolodex you see in 80s movies. Instead of trying to keep a network together using business cards, you use LinkedIn.

You lean on your network when you need something from it: a contact, a new job, help finding people for a job you need to fill.

LinkedIn does this very well because the people using it all understand this. It's not supposed to be Facebook. It's OK to not check in on it or the people you're connected to for a year. You just have a social contract that when someone does need you, you scratch their back, and you will have you back scratched karmicly in the future.

If you don't "get it", you're expecting it to do something it doesn't. You probably expect Facebook for business.

Totally agree - that's exactly what LinkedIn is - It is a replacement for the Rolodex with a few key advantages.

1. People keep their email addresses reasonably up to date, so I can contact them if they change their info.

2. Somewhat useful - people keep their jobs/companies they are working for up to date.

3. If someone introduces themselves to me in a business context, one of the first steps we take is to establish a relationship on linked in. That immediately gives me insight into their background, and, some clues (but no guarantees) as to their legitimacy. In particular, 95% of the time we're only two-hops away, and more than 50% of the time we know somebody in common - so I can quickly drop a line to someone I trust personally and get the inside scoop on this new associate of mine.

Anybody who is trying to use Linked In for more than a Rolodex is missing the point. It really is nothing more.

Also, (And I'm not sure if this is just me) - I have about 300 or so facebook friends, and about 400 Linked-In contacts, and, with maybe a half-dozen exceptions - there is no intersection between the two sets. I don't share pictures, wall-history, or personal updates with business colleagues, and, I have no desire to pollute my linkded in rolodex with every aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, ex-girlfriend that I've acquired in the last 10 years.

Also, (And I'm not sure if this is just me) - I have about 300 or so facebook friends, and about 400 Linked-In contacts, and, with maybe a half-dozen exceptions - there is no intersection between the two sets.

Among people I know, there's much more overlap, but probably because there's much more overlap IRL as well, so it's not clear who should go in the "personal" versus "work" buckets. If your circle of friends includes a half-dozen people from the office, and you know their spouses and kids and go out together regularly, which group are they in?

If we would go out regularly regardless of the fact that we work together, then they would be the exceptions. The difference is that a lot (most?) of the "Social" engagements I have with coworkers are clearly work related. Those dinners, weekend picnics, and snowboarding weekends I have with them are business/work related, not something I would have likely done if I had never worked with them.

Ergo, they stay in my linkedin compartment.

I agree the original poster doesn't really seem to get what LinkedIn is for. It sounds like he might be looking for something like the app I just launched about an hour ago after 2 months working on getting it to MVP stage. It does have a neat way of saying that you're a freelancer, working for yourself and not a company. It also integrates with HN, Github and StackOverflow. It's really more of a résumé platform than a rolladex platform like LinkedIn. Though you can import work and education experience using the LinkedIn importer.

It's 6.54am and I haven't been to bed yet. I promised myself I'd get the first version out for private beta this weekend. Anyway check out my launch post if you are interested:


This post also includes a limited time private beta invite code. Check it out if you want a early chance to play with Mighty CV. Must sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep now......

Also notifies you when one of your former colleagues changes jobs.

We're currently looking for a junior Drupal developer and decided to leverage LinkedIn to find someone local (Geelong, VIC AUS if anyone is interested). It wasn't helpful at all, which is frustrating because I'm sure there are plenty of people on LinkedIn who'd want the job. I guess you're right that we expected it to be something that it's not.

Incredibly specific use case.

Population of Geelong = 300,000. Percentage of population who are Drupal developers = xx%. Total Linkedin users worldwide = 11 million.

It's OK to not check in on it or the people you're connected to for a year.

In the context of Facebook not being LinkedIn, you're correct. But for professional relationships, it is not okay to NOT check in on your contacts and see how their doing. Otherwise what's the point as listing them as someone you know if you're not going to bother following up on them, their company or their career? Do you even care?

These bridges are vital for every professional that cares to build them, and if you're not going to maintain it, ultimately it's your fault when a recruiter tries to cross that bridge only to fall through a weak plank when that contact goes "Who?"

It's not what you know. It's not who you know. It's who knows you.

In the context of Facebook not being LinkedIn, you're correct. But for professional relationships, it is not okay to NOT check in on your contacts and see how their doing. Otherwise what's the point as listing them as someone you know if you're not going to bother following up on them, their company or their career? Do you even care?

I think in the past, this was probably true. My Dad, who had the Rolodex, told me that once a year he would go through and try and call everyone in the Rolodex. He did this in order to:

a) Make sure he had the right contact information (and contact within a reasonable amount of time so that if they left the company, he could get the new information) b) Make sure the other party still had his contact details/didn't forget him

LinkedIn largely removes the need for both: if a contact changes his/her information, you already have access to those new details. Other parties can't really "forget" you, because the connection stays there. As mentioned elsewhere, building the network helps the mechanical filters work. Rather than trying to remember the specifics about a person "I wonder if that Jeff bloke knows this Dave guy, because I remember Jeff had dealings with Dave's company", you simply type in "Who knows Dave" and it'll tell you. The specifics you previously needed aren't needed anymore.

I've found it's OK to get introductions through people you met once at a conference for 20 minutes. They can't vouch for you, but they'll say "He was a good enough guy for me to add him to LinkedIn, so you should probably chat."

But you're right, if you want them to come to you, you'll have to work that network more aggressively and in a more timely manner. I lean on mine when I need to, which is working OK so far.

Great points.

I suppose what I did a poor job of emphasizing (after reading your comment) was that networking beyond LinkedIn and trying to establish relationships. Perhaps I'm a bit more cold about who I connect with on LinkedIn, because in a way I see it as an extension of my social consciousness when people can just reach out and ask to join that circle.

And that's not to call myself old fashioned or lash out against the worthiness of something like a digital Rolodex; what I am saying however is that if it's worth your time to go through and connect with people on LinkedIn, it should also be worth your time to find out if these are the people you can derive some sort of social bounty from as well. Needlessly padding your connections count is about as non-advantageous as needlessly padding your twitter count.

However this opinion is purely relative, and contains large amounts of imperative perspective based on a few bad experiences.

a year isnt that long in a lot of business contexts. a year is quite a while in personal contexts.

Is it considered acceptable to offer a connection to one of your employer's customers if you have spoken with them personally (but don't work in sales etc)?

In certain contexts, this happens frequently. However, I know that some firms ask their employees not to do this as it gives competitive intelligence information away. Your profile shows who you work for, and if you have it enabled, LinkedIn will announce that you just connected to someone at ... Enron ... so there is a good chance that your company has a working relationship with Enron.

Sure my colleagues and I do this all the time. We announce every new customer with a press release so we're not giving away any secrets that way.

If it were limited to being rolodex then probably I would get it. But the public resumes, the recommendations etc make the people using it look phoney somehow.

A genuine question to people here who do hiring: Do you really use the resume and referrals to shortlist a candidate? I don't.

> Do you really use the resume and referrals to shortlist a candidate? I don't.

LinkedIn is one way to build an initial list, especially if you vet folks first through your mutual contacts.

Instead of trying to ask all the folks who you trust "I'm looking for {specific}, can you help?", LinkedIn lets you mechanically look for folks who might satisfy {specific} and are connected to folks who you "trust".

The LinkedIn list is probably a bit big, but it's a mechanical filter, so you don't miss someone because you didn't contact the right people or they didn't remember someone when you did.

That's a much better starting list before you make a single contact. And, your contacts are far more focussed. Instead of "do you know?", it's "what can you tell me about {person}?"

LinkedIn is such a standard part of business that it's weird-seeming to me when I find out someone I've worked with isn't on it. I can understand why, if you're in the kind of business where your associates will tend to be Facebook friends, LinkedIn will seem superfluous. But most people aren't in businesses like that.

It is, at the very least, most people's best resume (most people don't put recommendations on their resume, for instance).

Not one of LinkedIn's extra features has ever done me any good; it's never enabled an intro for me through friends of friends, its paid messages have never garnered a response, and it has been a uniquely crappy place to run job ads (weirdly enough). But just having everyone's current up-to-date resume is actually a very useful thing. I use LinkedIn more than I "use" Facebook (mostly, Facebook just sucks time out of my day).

Agreed, especially when I can't find ex-co workers who I want to follow up.

Except my resume is better (apart from the few recommendations I have). LinkedIn format is a little stifled, but it is great for checking out other people as it is consistent.

I've been getting good contacts from recruiters, and finding jobs in the appropriate groups for my expertise. The groups generally seem best for grouping these job postings :-)

Totally agree, i just dont get it at all, then again i dont do "networking" in real life either, i'm just not wired like that at all. I find that whole ecosystem of networking, sharing contacts, phoning people to "touch base" very fake, incestuous and pretty sleazy, so i just dont take part in it at all.

I know though that people who are good at it can be extremely successful business people because they know how to work the system, its definitely a flaw of mine, but its not one i want to correct because of my general distaste for how its done. Luckily, i do ok on my own path.

I share your general distaste for this stuff, but remember that by getting out, going to events, having a lot of conversations, you will also encounter people who are not full of shit. Networking doesn't have to be all buzzwords and phony smiles. If it is, you're not networking with the right people. The term has been captured, so substitute 'talking shop', 'sharing ideas', 'finding inspiration'. Whatever you call it, it can enrich your life and it doesn't have to be shallow or unpleasant. All it really means is getting to know others in the world around you and keeping an eye out for mutually beneficial opportunities.

"you will also encounter people who are not full of shit"

I'm particularly curious about how to maximize this. Is it a fixed percentage that you have to get out more to increase the number of not full of shit people you meet?

I've long felt "there's got to be a better way". Theoretically comments on HN could be part of how you meet these people but really I like talking to people face to face and on IM. Where's the social graph of people I would think are not full of shit but I don't know already?

In the field of open source, a good indicator is whether an event costs something. The free ones are full of people interested in having beers and talking about code. The expensive ones have suits discussing leveraging strategic synergies of converging core competencies, or whatever.

In Europe this means that great events to have interesting conversations include Fosdem, the Desktop Summits, etc. I'd love to hear what events in US are like that.

Keeping in touch with business connections is neither "working the system" nor "incestuous".

I think you are seriously confusing "networking events" with the general good practice of making a good reputation in your industry and staying connected with industry leaders / good past colleagues.

Very solid long term businesses are built by people like you. With solid relationships kept alive over decades.

Companies like morgan motors, vans aircraft, Cessna and many others. Don't discount yourself just because you're not as flashy as that other guy. Many people are turned off by donald trump types.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks this.

I am very surprised that after all this time, they really don't have a way for someone to say "freelance" or "consultant" without giving yourself a company name. They literally pollute their database by forcing users to make up company names and overload the job titles. It's been this way since the early days: they must have their reasons, but its a messed up data model that doesn't really reflect they world they are trying to reflect.

I use LinkedIn like a "validated" resume -- people can see where I worked, and know I worked there, because people at those places have written recommendations and are my connections.

This is the specific part of linkedin that I don't get. Why do I have to make my resume open to the world? If I have something that I am realy proud of then I agree I will put a couple of sentences about it. But the whole resume?

I do see that people painstakingly keep it updatesd so I'm sure they get some value from it. It's just that I don't understand what.

Maybe not having to ever look for a job is the cause of it.

Why would you want to keep your resume a secret? That's like making a great website and telling Google not to index it. Do you not want to be found?

> Maybe not having to ever look for a job is the cause of it.

Then you are living the dream, my friend. :)

LinkedIn is what you make of it. And if you're saying "LinkedIn is full of fakes", or "it is for the unemployed" then I suspect that you're only looking at a small segment of it. Any community will have outliers, and the fakes and unemployed on LinkedIn, in my experience, are the outliers.

LinkedIn is a professional resume sharing service, among other things. I find some people sharing a link to their LinkedIn profile rather than sending a resume. It is great for reconnecting with ex-colleagues, seeing who is joining and who is leaving some companies, and finding contacts at potential clients and employers.

It isn't a social networking service and it isn't a service for making lunch dates for networking, though you could use it that way.

The Groups are moderately useful, though people tend to set up too many different yet related groups, diluting the value. I really hope the Twitter-like link and comment sharing does not catch on as a) I have Twitter for that and b) it pushes other useful information off the bottom too quickly.

What is this post? Is it a negative reaction on few LinkedIn posts that were published in the media recently, how they are successful etc?

Personally, I find LinkedIn one of the best tools / or probably only business tool we use in our company. What is it great for:

1/ keep in touch with former colleagues/employees and see what they are up to 2/ hiring - if your network is big - (I can reach to over 1 million people for free) - then you can search job candidates and send them offers of employment - essentially hand picking the best candidate for a job, rather than posting jobs online 3/ business development - so easy to contact your potential partners, and so easy for them to see whether you are legit by looking how connected you are in your industry. 4/ journalists / and other hard to get to people - you send them email - it won't work , it might not even deliver, but LinkedIn message gets delivered, and again, they can see your whole profile whether you are legit.

Funny -- I'm more or less anti-social, and I LOVE LinkedIn precisely because it has a narrow, well-defined use case. I don't have to update my status, or comment on your comment on your wife's update. I just have a place to go to find the people I know in a business capacity, and they can find me.

For me, the most useful case is when hiring. I usually look up a candidate on linkedin. I can see if their work history for public consumption is similar to the one which is on their resume (tailored for the position). I can also see if anyone I know has worked with them before and then get an off the record assessment of their previous work and a feel for them as a person. Neither of those directly contributes to a hire/no-hire decision but it does help with getting to know what the candidate is like. As a side note, I tried posting a job recently and was hugely underwhelmed with both the quality and quantity of applicants.

>I tried posting a job recently and was hugely underwhelmed with both the quality and quantity of applicants.

Then you are properly like the companies that gets featured in from time to time saying "we can't hire engineers" who then turn out to offer 50k/year positions in nowhere, Arizona.

Or not, but if you get neither that many or that good applicants it might be time to see why. Salary might be a good place to start (it is easier to fix than location).

Location is probably it - there is a much smaller pool to draw from where we are (Malaysia). It may get better responses in the US, Europe, etc. It was as much an experiment as it was a job ad - we also use other channels to recruit. But given linkedin is a global site, I was disappointed with the results.

50K/year might be good for Nowhere, Arizona.

I'm a big fan of the LinkedIn groups for professional discussions that just don't feel appropriate to Facebook.

I have a group of UX people that talk shop on LinkedIn, as well as finding new people to hire, new places to work, or gigs to do.

Sometimes you want a place to go for work-related things that isn't Facebook, with all its farm games, ads, spam, and photos of people's pets.

I feel in the urge of commercializing it, the builders have forgotten or wondered away from its primary goal.

So, thinking about what its goal could be (1) Connecting professionals of same interest - to some extent it has succeeded but not fully (2) Help recruiters find authentic talent - it has failed (3) Help expert employees to build credential portfolio/profile that can be trusted by future employers - It could have done a lot on that front but doesn't seem to be

Some of the feature I personally used and felt frustrated because of its incompleteness: 1) Adding professional contact - for many of us, colleagues are from different companies e.g. client side team working with us on the same project. There is no relevant option to add these contacts which would say "worked together on a project" 2) Polls - Don't know what's wrong; may be many things, but never got it working as I could liked it to be. 3) Status update - why does this site need one? Have you seen a single person posting updates regularly through this feature and telling people what he is working on? 4) Travel Info - What's the point? If you are travelling to a city, what was the site expecting? People would come receive you at the airport? Or schedule a business meeting with you without any prior talks? Or plan something like that? Would you find time, if so? 5) Misused by HR people.

My observation is it tried to do many things without having a clear goal and so haven't succeeded in any of it. I am not measuring 'success' by number of active users but how well it satisfies those users with everything they want to achieve through this platform. Whether it failed or not that's a debatable question; but some focused business goals and then technically making the site 'usable' would help it a lot.

One credit that it should definitely get is trying to do something for which there is a great real-life need and no other better alternatives.

Agreed. LinkedIn, in its current implementation, is a glorified resume database. I use it to look up people and find out their background. It's terrible at helping me make new connections.

I should know, that's partly why we founded http://letslunch.com. We felt that the LinkedIn introduction "the InMail" just didn't work. So we implemented a sort of reverse-Facebook concept: meet people who are not your friends yet. So far, it has been really successful at growing people's connections, where LinkedIn, in my opinion, failed miserably. I met people through LetsLunch who are great, cool, entrepreneurs, and I would never have met them otherwise.

I get it completely. It's Facebook for your professional life.

It's not perfect, and I'm not disagreeing with any of the criticisms people give below, nor am I on LinkedIn more than once every few weeks. But it has a clear purpose in my eyes.

LinkedIn serves as a "Someone I Know Looking For a New Job Early Warning System".

If I get an email that someone has updated their LinkedIn, then I know that they're looking for work. It's the same thing if someone I know gets their CISSP.

Point, though it produces lots of false positives... Should I "friend" my boss to get my raise in time? ;)

I've never gotten any use out of LinkedIn. Maybe my network just isn't big enough but the only messages I ever get are recruiter spam and job offers at dodgy hedge funds. I've had much more success recently by adding 'PS - I'm currently looking for work, check out my resume' at the bottom of my site. It gets much more visibility and its seen directly after reading a blog post about my work.

I deleted my account a couple of months ago. After a few years, I got nothing out of it. My gmail serves as a better contact list. My day job is research, and linkedin doesn't serve our type of networking very well. It's more business-oriented.

As for my work outside of research, I don't want to cross-advertise in one place.

LinkedIn is a service that allows recruiters from companies you want to work for to pay for the privilege of contacting you. What's not to like? You don't need to cultivate a forest of connections and recommendations and other profile doodads; just update your resume once in a while.

LinkedIn, unlike other social networks is actually useful

When job searching I use LinkedIn to see who I need to send my resume too. From there I search them and the company on facebook to see if we have any mutual contacts. Even we dont have any mutual contacts I'll send them a message to see if i can send them my resume directly. This has always been successful for me to land interviews and get job Im qualified for and want.

So, LInkedIn for me has the purpose for serving as a directory to then connect with who you need to via Facebook. Everyone visits/interacts with FB everyday, so sending them a message there, you will get you an immediate response over sending via LinkedIn.

I've been working to create a more portfolio approach with Holono (see: http://holono.com/ ).

Even if LinkedIn works for resumes, resumes just don't work well for a lot of people. They summarize huge technical projects into a few sentences.

While LinkedIn has been optimized for business professionals, I feel like a lot of other groups (Engineers, Entrepreneurs, Public Sector workers, teachers, etc) who could use better. Right now they just use LinkedIn because that's what everyone else uses, even though it's not really made for them.

For larger companies doing a fair amount of hiring, it's quite useful for trying to figure out what they're up to. Browsing to a company's page shows you the latest hires.

I also use it as a research tool if there's someone in the hierarchy I want to get in front of. As a bonus they'll often maintain a public profile describing themselves, detailing their past experience and possibly linking to their Twitter account. Now you can guess a little about what this person is about and what's on their mind.

From the revenue numbers LinkedIn generates, I gather it prequalifies people who may want to contact you for professional purposes. Kind of a better Inbox.

For example, you might try to email someone at a Uni directly, but it'll be competing for his attention in the inbox. With LinkedIn, it is clear to him you are willing to pay to contact him, so it is something you clearly place value on. In addition, it allows him to take a quick look at your professional profile.

To paraphrase somebody from the Nuclear Phynance forum (PostIDKey=147507): it's a place for unemployed people to hang out and brag about themselves.

Does HN allow downvoting because you disagree with the poster's perspective? This comment was legit. See the NP post, and senior user Cheng's comment to the computational biologist who wants to become a quant, about the market for quants nowadays and how he refers to LinkedIn in that regard.

Yep. You can apparently down vote for any reason you like. Figuring out why you were downvoted is part of the game...

Personally, LinkedIn has worked for me in allowing me to connect with a number of people working in the Education sector. (My startup targets K-12 space in India.)

This includes School Principals, Teachers, and other firms with whom I can possibly collaborate in future.

LinkedIn certainly ain't the best in many respects, but does serve a purpose at times.

I get it but I don't find it very interesting. Even their new social news features seem obvious or manually procured (it's easy to show me 5 Internet news related articles, but difficult to find me news that will improve my career).

I don't know. I log in at most once every two weeks, which is more than I can see for most sites.

I get LinkedIn, find it rather useful from time to time. What I find completely useless are LinkedIn recommendations. It's almost an inverse relationship, the more recommendations you have, the worse employee you are.

I disagree. I think it varies depending on profession. An offline analogy would be framing all the little awards and recommendation letters you ever received and hanging them on the walls of your office. If I see something like that in an engineers office, it is a bad sign, because it is not a good measure of an engineers quality of work. However, when I am in a doctors office, I expect that, because I want to see that this doctor has been certified, re-certified and recommended by a thousand other people. When I am interviewing a marketing or a PR professional, I expect them to have a baggage of flashy nominations and awards that they got for their previous jobs/clients, because that's a fair measure of the quality of their work, because I will want them to do the same for my business. Recommendations by clients is a good thing to have for direct sales reps, it shows that their clients are happy with them, are willing to spend a few extra minutes on a paragraph of good words and are likely to become clients again.

You're looking at the wrong end of the relationship: don't look at recommendations people have received, look at the ones they've written. That will really tell you something about them.

Can they recognise the skills and attributes that are important? Are they competent enough to recognise people who are better at them than they are? Or are they just flinging out recommendations in the hope that a few will bounce back? It's all there.

Could you expand on that? I haven't experienced that "inverse relationship" at all.

I'd second this. I have read recommendations for a lot of people but have never put any value to it. It's almost always You scratch my back, I scratch yours kinda thing which causes me to questio the credibility of the whole thing.

If a person needs to ask for such references and publicly use them to sell themselves that tells me that I probably don't want to hire them.

it is a self-updating address database. connect once, be sure to be able to contact those people anytime.

added benefit: work history. super useful when used in a sales context.

by now this is big problem: sales guy builds a huge network in linkedin. then leaves the company and takes all that data with him. added bonus - his network gets automatically notified, that he has left the company.

I am in sales and honestly, the most use I have had is researching (cyber-stalking) names for making sales prospecting lists.

LinkedIn is fantastic. It tells me which people already know each other. This is more useful than I would have imagined.

linkedin is for the unemployed. And as others have mentioned very fake, there is no incentive for honest reviews, everyone is too nice about everyone for fear of breaking or narrowing their network.

I've been waiting for some really useful apps to come out of linkedin platform - unlike the reading list kinda apps which are not at all making use of the real potential of the platform. I think the linkedin API is very very limited at the moment.

And as others have mentioned very fake, there is no incentive for honest reviews, everyone is too nice about everyone for fear of breaking or narrowing their network.

LinkedIn isn't a place to find negative reviews. Honestly, that network doesn't exist (at least not in a major way). It's about professional connections.

I remember looking up a former coworker who was a great coworker who I was trying to recruit.

It was so odd that he had links to people that he hated. Not only that they each had written about each other and how good the other person was. It was all made up. It was weird since I had worked there and knew the calibre of their work.

I remember asking him why. He just said that is how he and the others networked. Or maybe they all hoped that the others would get another job and leave -- you know when someone gives a stellar reference.

Linkedin is too faked.

Concluding that "Linkedin is too faked" based on what would appear to be a really small sample seems a bit rash.

If I were to quickly generalize over "my neighborhood" in the Linkedin graph, I'd say that most people I am connected to are rather careful about whom they endorse and how.

These two conflicting observations aren't really surprising. I have evaluated a lot of resumes over the years from people across the globe and how people present themselves, their skills, and their work experience seems to vary a lot.

Yes you are right. One sample is not representative.

I should have added that I also noticed - of the 35 people (that I knew very well) that I checked in LInkedin, all 35 had misrepresented themselves in Linkedin to some degree.

As a statistical analyst, I realize that a sample size of 30 or greater is actually pretty good. So... I stand with my conclusion to be weary of Linkedin profiles since they are in the end what all resumes are: marketing collateral.

I guess the issue is this marketing does not accurately represent the product or service. And in a sense this has nothing to do with Linkedin specifically. Only that they display the marketing pieces and I somehow misunderstood that what I would find there would be more realistic/truthful and match my empirical info.

Edit: My editing and typing skills suck

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