R2D2 on God, 42, the Universe and everything else

How would hashtags benefit LinkedIn

“it is NOT the fear of missing out, really. It’s about learning, and choice”

Yes, some would say this is  blasphemy – “LinkedIn is a social tool for professionals who want to connect – go to Facebook if you don’t like it”. Well, yes, I’d agree, but I would still argue the point : need only exemplify Twitter and, more recent and relevant, Facebook. In addition, keep dreaming on if you still think in this day and age we can still separate our personal and professional lives…

Yes, LinkedIn was designed as a social platform for professionals to maintain contact and network. Or at least this is what it has been marketed as. The key word is NETWORK: so let us examine relationships on LinkedIn in order to set context.

I signed up with Linked because I could stalk my colleagues… ah sorry, that was Facebook, so rephrasing: it was easy to use it as a centralised, automatically updating address book for people that I wanted to keep in touch with. Like any dedicated professional, I have no have life (sic!) so my friends are mostly people that I work or worked with. Or, conversely, like any dedicated professional, my work is my passion (at times wonder why they pay me as I’d do it anyway for fun), so I surround myself with like-minded people, which are also dedicated professionals, for which the main passions is their work… so you get the picture.

My friends and network on LinkedIn are either people I look up to for specific or generic motives, or experts and authorities in their field. As such, I tend to follow as closely as possible the content they share, either their own or curated from a third party source. This works well, but as any other human being, our interests and passions change, expand or conclude their useful span. And when you exceed 500 active professionals in your network.. this is where the issue begins. I follow X, who is an expert in IP networks, with a specialisation in load-balancers. He also likes since-fiction and loves skydiving. As a result, he not only posts interesting content about load-balancers, but in equal measure about science-fiction (which I coincidentally like as well) – and, wait! he ALSO posts about the latest developments in skydiving tech. Now, besides being afraid of heights and detesting the free-falling feeling and associated gut-wrench, I’m just not that  interested in the skydiving stuff.

So what are my options? Well, I can mute/ignore his updates, which almost defeats the  I linked in with him in the first time. So this is an option, but I still want to follow his load-balancer and SF-related posts. That leaves me no choice, but to manually wade through the content he posts in the main stream, OR to directly check his profile for new posts (yeah, right!).

The issue becomes even more complicated when posted content SPANS several areas of interests…. the new load balancer tech solving an application limitation that I’ve been facing for an MS product, for example… you get the picture. Worse, when this new technology directly benefits business, my customers and bottom line, like allowing me to remove the scalability cost of adding new servers, WHILE at the same time doubling the transactional capacity …

There are no other options (that I know off – if you do please enlighten me). LinkedIn had a go at it and is forcibly categorising areas of interest through LinkedIn Groups – but this is, in my opinion, an extremely dated and rigid way to organise information (i.e categories versus tags). Issues like irrelevant content and arbitrary moderation are common with LinkedIn Groups.

The other ways LinkedIn attempted to achieve delivery of ordered and relevant information to the user was through their news categorisation (by topic subscription), and through their “thought leadership elite”, which one is supposed to follow. Don’t get me wrong – the news categorisation wouldn’t be an issue IF, instead of  god-knows-who decision-maker arbitrarily selecting content to publish, we would at least have the choice of sourcing our own content independently (similar to what Feedly does with RSS, even allowing one’s own custom RSS feed, in addition to their recommended collection). and as far as the thought leaders are concerned…while I do think we’re missing dearly traditional mentorship, both from the human and professional angles… c’mon, mentorship is probably the second next most important relationship in someone’s life, besides family.

How would LinkedIn work with hashtags? Ideally ? Well, would allow me to individually subscribe to “channels” that have hashtags, thus allowing me the independence to make my own decision about what to follow, without making it impossible. It would allow me to selectively mute people per hashtag, not completely. It would allow me to have , instead of groups, streams of hashtags I can peruse via LinkedIn or an RSS reader…In the end, LinkedIn is about networking, finding more like-minded professional people that you can link with, isn’t it? Imagine the potential of the LinkedIn networking if you’d be able to make your OWN decision about sorting out the pebble from the noise, not just the limited choice and impression you can do so.

But I guess  LinkedIn has other plans, and I do understand some companies are about making a profit…even if the customer is placed second. Sad LinkedIn hasn’t yet figured out how to keep customers fully satisfied while still deriving profits from the ad and subscription business…

If I get booted from LinkedIn, for this piece, you can find me on twitter or on my own blog :o)
Just Google radudee2. Yeah, I know, slim chance …

Until next time – R2D2