I was feeling particularly ambitious this weekend. So I logged into LinkedIn to do my ‘once a month’ cleanup.
And by cleanup, I really mean: clearing the seemingly endless list of random connection requests and unsolicited emails in my “LinkedIn Inbox.”
This was the tweet that followed:
I have 296 Unread messages in my LinkedIn Inbox. #fml
— Bart Lorang (@bartlorang) November 10, 2013
The signal to noise ratio on LinkedIn has reached insane levels. It’s usefulness for me has declined and I find the service fundamentally flawed. And I’m not alone.
Over the past week or so, I’ve talked to dozens of people about LinkedIn, and I’ve come to a few conclusions. In no particular order, here is a list of the top three things that I believe are broken with LinkedIn:
It’s Just Spammy
Once you’ve been a good user and completed your profile, LinkedIn’s immediate goal is to build your network. To do this, they ask you to upload all of your email accounts and contacts.
Okay, as a user, I’ll do that.
Then, if I invite one of those users to LinkedIn, and they politely ignore it, LinkedIn KEEPS SENDING THAT PERSON EMAILS. FOREVER. As the inviter, there is no way for me to withdraw the request.
LinkedIn insists on spamming people on my behalf.
As a user of LinkedIn, I get inundated with countless emails from them.
Invitations to Connect (I don’t know you)
Endorsement Notifications (please, stop it)
Work Anniversaries (do I really care?)
I have tried, without avail, to turn these notifications off.
Finally, I just created a filter to bucket all of the LinkedIn emails into a folder and mark them as read.
To be clear: these messages used to be sorta-okay when it was your close network.
Unfortunately, LinkedIn is now full of recruiters and sales people that don’t even know me. Worse, they don’t even make an effort to get an introduction. They just go straight to “LinkedIn InMail” or “Request to Connect.”
Many of these recruiters pay LinkedIn big bucks for the ability to message me.
As one sales professional I respect told me: “LinkedIn represents the worst and laziest behavior of sales people.”
What’s more frightening? My sources tell me that LinkedIn is planning on releasing some CRM functionality in the future to compete with Salesforce.
Seriously? So the behavior that we’re already seeing and hating is only going to be compounded by keeping YET ANOTHER critical part of the sales process locked inside of LinkedIn. That doesn’t sound effective in the least. All those User Profiles will soon be treated as Leads in LinkedIn’s CRM Product and we’ll start receiving “Suggested Service / Product” emails.
I can hardly wait. More LinkedIn Spam.
It Doesn’t Use Open Communication Standards
Let’s be clear: LinkedIn wants you to be able to find and get in touch with people.
They just want you to use LinkedIn to do it. And ONLY LinkedIn. Their strategy is to be the Man in the Middle.
That’s why they built LinkedIn InMail. You can go ahead and contact a person on LinkedIn, but you have to pay LinkedIn to do it. What offends me about LinkedIn is that it’s yet another non-standards compliant email inbox. I need yet another “Inbox” like I need a hole in the head.
I’ve got Facebook Messages, Facebook Chat, Gmail, Google Apps, Twitter, Text Messages, iMessages, GroupMe, Skype, IM Accounts, Google+ Notifications, WhatsApp, Voxer, iPhone Push Notifications, iPad Push Notifications, Mac Desktop Notifications…
You get the drift.
This isn’t just a LinkedIn problem. All of these platforms want you to communicate solely within them. It’s the balkanization of communication protocols, and it’s killing the Internet.
The Internet was built on open communication protocols. TCP/IP. SMTP. POP3. IMAP. NNTP. HTTP. IRC. FTP.
Remember the days when AOL, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger were fighting about whether to let users’ accounts be interoperable?
And for a brief, fleeting moment, they sorta seemed like they were gonna get along (led by Microsoft, of all companies) and let each other into their networks?
Unfortunately, that type of cooperation simply doesn’t happen anymore.
LinkedIn’s value is tied to its ability to be a man in the middle and control the communication stream.
As we’ve seen countless times throughout history, this model eventually dies. The market almost always figures out ways to get around the middle man.
It’s a Walled Garden
As I mentioned before, when you get started with LinkedIn, you upload your email and contacts to LinkedIn.
Unfortunately, it’s a one way street.
Your contact data checks into the LinkedIn Motel, but it doesn’t check out.
Go ahead, try to export your connections and contacts from LinkedIn in CSV or vCard format. See what you get. It’s laughable.
What you’ll have returned to you is a mere shadow of the information that exists inside of the profile:
Name, Title, Company, Personal Email Address
Yep, that’s it.
I gave LinkedIn ALL of my address book details, phone numbers, notes, birthdays, home address, work address, etc.
I simply can’t get it out.
That’s offensive. I believe my address book and the contact details I’ve collected in my life are mine. I need them for the rest of my life — at least the next 50 years. As such, these contacts should be portable. I should be able to take them wherever I want.
LinkedIn doesn’t allow me to do that.
And standards-based contact syncing protocols like CardDAV so I can sync the contacts I provided LinkedIn to my mobile device? Yeah, you can forget about that.
Because LinkedIn views your data as their data. And LinkedIn believes that this data should only live inside the Walled Garden.
LinkedIn claims to put ‘Members First’ as its ‘core guiding principle’. If LinkedIn truly put ‘Members First’ they would allow users to download their information they already uploaded to the service.
LinkedIn certainly closely guards the data – YOUR data – within its walls. To the point they won’t even let you have it back!
And don’t even get me started on the LinkedIn API.
LinkedIn has an API in name only. It’s not very useful. Their “API” is simply there to ‘check the box’ for those that don’t know better. If you could write a dictionary definition of what a “Walled Garden API” looks like, the LinkedIn API would be a good place to start.
In The End
The worst part of this? Like Facebook, I’m not sure I can quit LinkedIn.
The social pressure for a professional to be on LinkedIn is enormous. It’s just…weird…if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile.
Screw it. I think I’m going to start migrating everything to my Vizify profile.
Image Credit: Nan Palmero via Flickr