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Andrew S. Baker (ASB)

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Continuing My Quest for More LinkedIn Improvements

image It’s been almost 16 months since my last , and thankfully, the folks at have not been sitting idly by.

No, they still haven’t brought back the Personal Plus membership (or a reasonable $5-10/month alternative) to bridge the gap between the free service and the $20+/month offerings.  

And I am still awaiting – with bated breath – for a customized structure of tiered contacts that would allow us to group people in up to, say, 5 categories.  supports a static 3 groups (Family, Friend, Business) which is infinitely more useful than the flat network that LinkedIn provides, and gives tremendous freedom to create groupings of your contacts.  Either of the two options would be a huge improvement.  My earlier post was detailed enough on these items that I won’t elaborate further here.

I am happy to say that some improvements were made in the following areas:

  • LinkedIn Groups Functionality
  • Facilitating Introductions
  • Making Feature Requests
  • Searching within Content Areas 

 

The Groups feature has probably gotten the most attention, especially within the past few months.  At the time of my previous post, the area of LinkedIn that received most of my attention was Answers.  Now, it’s definitely Groups.

Unfortunately, little to no improvement was made in the following areas:

  • Tiered Contacts
  • Better UI Navigation
  • Bookmarking or Favorites
  • Contact Management Features
  • More Control of the Homepage Layout
  • Bring Back the Personal Plus Membership

 

Contact Management Features

There was a LITTLE something done in the contact management area, with the Notes functionality that can be updated on each of your contacts.   I use this feature extensively to keep track of when I accepted an invite, and by what means we have met (whether in person or via some LinkedIn group).  

I’m happy that we have at least this functionality, but more is needed. When you think about it, it’s rather silly that LinkedIn doesn’t automatically provide this info to us, since it is information that is germane to the issue of obtaining and managing contacts.

Also, being able to set a few custom responses and introductions (like you can with the Outlook integration component) would help us to move away from the generic greetings that LinkedIn provides by default.  Currently, I make use of DropBox in order to synchronize my responses across all systems that I use for accessing LinkedIn, but this would be far more convenient within the application itself.

 

Better UI Navigation

The UI still needs a lot of work to be intuitive.   Very little has changed or improved in this area.  Of critical importance is the need for a centralized configuration screen that would allow someone to make changes across a number of areas at a time.  For instance, it should be a whole lot easier to change your default email address across a dozen groups.   Another example would be the need to allow a person to accept more than one invite at a time, and possibly update the appropriate notes field in a certain way.

It almost as though the LinkedIn developers are afraid of efficiency.  Not sure what the deal is there, but technology that is cumbersome is ultimately replaced or ignored, and right now, too many parts of LinkedIn are cumbersome when trying to take action on more than one item at a time, or trying to move between certain areas of the site, or trying to get back to where you were only a few minutes prior.

As an example, just look at how many steps you have to take to leave a group.

 

More Control over Page Layout

Let’s face it.  The LinkedIn screens are cluttered.  This is somewhat true of all social networking sites (it’s enough to give you epilepsy!), but the pain of this confusion can be offset by robust controls over what shows up on your page(s) and where. Come on people, it’s really not that hard.  How many years will we have to wait to realize the full value of Web 2.0?  Technology should free us to become more organized, or, at the very least, facilitate our personal brand of disorganization, not that of the developers. 

For instance, I don’t necessarily want to see a list of all of a person’s activities when I visit their profile page.  If it has to be there, please allow me to roll up the window so that I can get to the info that I really care about on that page.  

And give me options for listing contacts, such as the following, just to name a few:

  • By # of Recommendations
  • By # of Connections
  • By Date of Connection
  • By Date of Recent Activity
  • By Region

 

Mobile Accessibility

I would be immensely grateful if LinkedIn would provide an application for the Blackberry that has similar utility to the .  While there is a , it is not nearly as cool as the FB app.

 

Discussions (and Answers)

It would be nice to have a signature block that you could configure for each Discussion or Answer.  Better yet, make it two:  A signature that gets used automatically for new messages, and a shorter one for replies.

Also, why is the default for “Discussions I’m following” in order of creation, oldest first?  And why can’t it be changed? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to consider that I would be more likely to want to follow-up on my most recent messages?

Yes, this is a derivative of my overall UI intuitiveness complaint, but it’s a perfectly good example of small changes that would lead to a vastly improved experience.

 

In Conclusion

Hopefully, we won’t have to wait for a year to see the bulk of these requested changes put into place in some shape or fashion.    This platform has so much potential, and the inclusion of different features such as Box.net, Trip-It, Events, and Blog.Link, has been incredibly useful.  But I’m looking forward to networking on steroids, and the features above have a lot to do with getting to that point.

On another note, although I am still a member of at least a half-dozen other professional networking sites (including Naymz, Twine, Visible Path, and Marzar), I don’t see enough value in them to access them more than once or twice a month.  They have lots of features, but not enough members.  LinkedIn is still the place to be for professional networking, as is Facebook for social networking.  I remain active on Plaxo as well, because of its attention to managing contact information.  These three are my primary networking vehicles, and I really don’t see that changing for quite some time, if at all.  (You never can be sure, though)

Presently, LinkedIn has the majority of the eyeballs, and trying to recreate my network on all the challenger networking sites is not for me.  But there is still a need for LinkedIn to improve in meaningful ways, or they will find that in 18-24 months, someone has cut into their market share with a better combination of pricing and functionality.  Let’s hope that they figure that out before it is too late.

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Posted: Sunday, June 28, 2009 12:30 PM by Logik!

Comments

Neal Schaffer said:

This is the best critique of LinkedIn features and issues that I have read.  You are bang on!  I have also been blogging about the many issues that I have with LinkedIn (http://linkedinquestions.wordpress.com) and I haven't found other bloggers bringing up the same issues so Thank You and looking forward to more LinkedIn-related insightful posts!  

# June 28, 2009 1:59 PM

Ronny Lam said:

I really like your article and agree with most of your remarks. I personally think that the LinkedIn interface is too bulky. My feeling is that the code can be leaner. On mobile devices like an iPhone the normal web-interface is too bulky, whereas the mobile site is faster but lacking lots of functionality.

I want to share with you that the Personal Plus account is still available, I am using it myself. LinkedIn is not promoting it in any way. It can be reached through http://www.linkedin.com/personalplus after login. I found out myself by mailing support and got a very quick response.

# June 28, 2009 2:24 PM
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About Logik!

Andrew S. Baker aka ASB aka Logik!

Andrew S. Baker is a business-savvy, hands-on IT leader with expertise in mentoring people, mitigating risk, and integrating technology to drive innovation and maximize business results. He creates competitive advantage for organizations through effective IT leadership: implementation of processes and controls, and architecture of robust business solutions.

Mr. Baker has successfully led a number of high-performance technology teams in designing, deploying and maintaining secure, cost-effective computing environments for well-known companies, including Warner Music Group, The Princeton Review, Bear Stearns, About.com, and Lewco Securities.

For over a decade, Andrew has exhibited thought leadership on technology and business topics via mailing lists, technical forums, blogs, and professional networking groups, along with contributions to podcasts, webinars, and over 20 technical/business magazine articles. He also serves on several boards and committees for non-profit organizations, and within the Seventh-day Adventist church.

His personal interests include Astronomy, Basketball, Bible Study, Chess, Comics, Computers, Family Life Ministries, Reading, Strategy/Role Playing games, and Professional Networking...

A summary of Andrew's current résumé is available here, and he can be reached on a variety of social and professional networks, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.