LinkedIn

LinkedIn annoys me.

It proliferates news aggregation features, and new apps, and all sorts of services. It recently bought an iPad news aggregator, you can use it as a publishing platform and it's spewing out money by selling CVs to recruiters. Reid Hoffman is a genius. 

But consider some of the things you can't do on LinkedIn. 

  • You cannot make a status update that your boss will not see. Want to tell your network you want a job, or you're having problems at work? You can't. 
  • Maybe that's too hard. How about seeing a list of which of your contacts have changed jobs in the last six months and might need your help? Nope. There's no way to do that. 

So, this is a social network for your professional connections, and there's no way to talk to your network with a degree of control and there's no way to see what they're doing.   

Then there's a job recommendation system. This is one role LinkedIn offered me recently.  

 

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LinkedIn KNOWS I graduated in 1998. I TOLD THEM. They have perfectly structured data, and they use it to offer a graduate job. Sadly, I didn't take a screenshot of the suggestion I apply to work as a SAP consultant in Germany, though I don't speak German or have the word 'SAP' on my profile. 

On mobile it's even worse. LinkedIn recently relaunched a completely redesigned iPhone app. It got a lot of attention for moving from hybrid HTML5 to native code, which is much faster. Here are some of the things the much faster native code can't do: 

  • Look up a contact's email address
  • Dial a phone number, reliably (if the phone number in the mobile app lacks a country code it won't dial properly: copying is disabled, so it cannot be edited)
  • Delete contacts
  • Reply to connection requests without accepting
  • Edit some of the unwanted news aggregation categories you're automatically subscribed to (and these categories are different from the ones you're forced to subscribe to on the desktop. Why?) 

LinkedIn fails to hit absolutely basic product features that should have been in there 5 years ago, both on mobile and desktop. Instead, the core features get buried under successive layers of mediocre non-core products, the latest being a flood of me-too news aggregation that's creeping through the product like ivy, and none of which can be properly configured, let alone turned off.  

This is now so bad that the company has announced a 'Contacts' app for iPhone - which as far as I can see is simply LinkedIn without all the useless junk that's been piled on top. What would we say if Google announced a new 'Search' app, or Facebook a new 'share stuff with your friends' app? Contacts is what LinkedIn IS - it shouldn't be a side-project.

It appears that LinkedIn's back-end was a horrible mess and has had to be completely rebuilt in the last couple of years. This is an excuse of sorts for the chaos that is the interaction design on the website, with half a dozen different navigation schemes and bizarre archaic time-warps, like a Groups system that looks like a message board from 2002. The new 'Contacts' is perhaps one of the fruits of that rebuilding. But that doesn't explain why the new 'LinkedIn' mobile app is such a mess.  Nor does it explain why this new service is being launched on a wait-list basis starting in the USA. Waiting lists are cute PR for lightly-capitalised startups. LinkedIn has had ten years to buy servers. 

Now, I entirely understand that the LinkedIn business model is to sell my CV to recruiters, not give me useful tools to manage my network. I also understand that all the mediocre me-too news-aggregation is a way to try to get me to spend more time on the site, rather than visiting every month or two.  But really, it needs to get the basics right. It needs to give me useful tools. Right now it's a not-very-good CV database with an interface that would be second-rate a decade ago, that I have no reason to stick with if something remotely, you know, useful  came along. 

So, Reid Hoffman is a genius, with a great vision. I just wish he'd join LinkedIn, and implement some of it.