Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to make LinkedIn even better

LinkedIn has been busy in the past week, sprucing up their default members' home page, linking with Twitter, and putting together a very belated effort at opening their service to programmers.

I like LinkedIn. I am spending more of my time using it to promote myself, to connect to people that I know, and to build up value for my community and myself. With the help of the local chamber of commerce, I now manage a group called the St. Louis Job Angels, where we have listed more than 80 different jobs over the past couple of months and more than 500 job seekers and recruiters have signed up to share tips and support each other's efforts. So as a long-time frequent user, I offer some advice of where they should be going in 2010 – not that anyone will listen to my humble suggestions.

First off, they need to be more open. The add-on applications were a good first step (you can link up to your Wordpress and TypePad blog entries, publish your slide decks via Slideshare, and others). And the developer network (developer.linkedin.com) is a good second step, but I want more. I would like to use my LinkedIn connections as my main contact manager, but until I can gain more control over this information it isn't as useful as it could be. Why do I need to publish these Web Informant newsletters to a separate email listserv that I have to maintain with your current email addresses? Probably most of you subscribers also take the time and energy to maintain your current email address in LinkedIn, so why duplicate that effort? Well, because it is too hard to still setup groups and email selected contacts inside of LinkedIn.

Second, I want to be able to freely export my connections without having to resort to a third-party service. Right now, OpenXchange (ox.io) is the only way that I can extract my contacts. Yes, I can synch up my address books on any number of services (one that I have mentioned in the past is Glide, glidedigital.com) -- but these are strictly a one-way operation, pouring data into LinkedIn. I don't like using services that I can't extract my data easily.

Third, scrap InMail. We don't need another communication substitute for email or IM. Ditto for the LinkedIn toolbars for Outlook and the Web. My browser window is small enough without any more clutter.

Fourth, give me better and more discrete publishing tools for my groups, similar to the way the free Yahoo or Google Groups services operate. Right now, I can send messages to everyone, but only as the group manager. My group can't easily communicate amongst themselves, without my intervention. Subgroups are a nightmare to deal with. There is no easy way to remind people that I have invited to the group (but haven't accepted the invite). Can I get a URL that points directly to my group? Not easily. And so on. Any quick look at what Yahoo has been doing since they bought eGroups nearly ten years ago would show the way towards a truly useful service.

None of these suggestions would be difficult, or even time consuming to implement. And I am sure that there are plenty of other things that they have on their radar. Feel free to share your own on my strominator.com blog too.

No comments:

About Me

My photo
David Strom has looked at hundreds of computer products over a more than 20 year career in IT and computer journalism. He was the founding editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine, and now writes for Baseline, Information Security, Tom's Hardware, and the New York Times.