Tagged: linkedin

I owe LinkedIn an apology, or perhaps they owe me one

Perhaps you read my earlier post about applying for API use with LinkedIn’s developer program, or the followup post, or Ed’s erudite comment on that second post.  In any case, I decided to try it again, just in case something got lost in translation the first time.

Usually, doing the same thing and expecting different results is considered crazy, but we all push the elevator button harder if it doesn’t come, and sure enough, I got something different this time:

linkedinthankyou

So I figure there are two main possibilities:

  1. Something didn’t work right the first time – I failed to properly submit the form, LinkedIn’s database burped, the email wasn’t sent or wasn’t received, etc.
  2. LinkedIn has changed their system since I first tried it – they added the auto-responder email or changed something else, either in response to my commentary or despite it.

Either way, good on LinkedIn for sending this small bit of humanity to applicants.  This message is friendly enough, and it gives them coverage for never replying – or more to the point, never explaining their decision – to the applicant.  This is pretty standard stuff and is quite reasonable.  If they ever respond after this, only time will tell.

Are avatars authentic or effective?

I was engaging in some micronarcissism (that means looking at my Twitter page) the other day when I chanced to notice that most of the icons – or avatars if you prefer – were faces, most of those photographic.

The old New Yorker cartoon said, “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” (the cartoon showed an actual canine using a computer) yet here are some people using (I assume) their real faces for their online presence.

Before pondering the implications of that, a brief geektour of the numbers:

I classified twitter pictures into four types:

  1. Faces (photographic) – to the best of my ability to tell, photographs of one person’s face
  2. Faces (illustration) – faces but not photographic, includes illustration and overtly manipulated photos such as “obamifications” (which should be called “Faireifications” or perhaps “Obamanations”)
  3. Corporate or personal logos
  4. Other (body parts other than faces, bucolic scenes, pictures of animals, etc.)

Some Twitter avatarsOf the 36 icons pictured in my little “Following” bloc,

Faces/photo: 28 (78%)
Faces/illustration: 1 (3%)
Logo: 4 (11%)
Other: 3 (8%)

Of the top 50 Twitter Elite in the USA (via Grader)

Faces/photo: 39 (78%)
Faces/illustration: 4 (8%)
Logo: 4 (8%)
Other: 3 (6%)

The results are pretty consistent these samples.  Faces are in. Photorealistic ones, especially. I’m not sure if that has changed over time or if it’s always been the case.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but why?  I’m thinking that there’s a general movement in social media for authenticity and transparency, that you should say who you are and be real.  There’s a lot of software in our brains devoted to recognizing and understanding faces, and we seem to like to use it.  Faces humanize online experiences.

But let me take the contrary position for a moment.  Shouldn’t your online avatar or chat icon stand for you in a communication and marketing sense?  Isn’t it a small ad banner that you can use creatively?  And shouldn’t you at least attempt to stand out in the crowd or cloud?

On the one hand, if I don’t already know who you are, seeing that you’re a middle-aged white guy with unfortunate facial hair doesn’t add much to my online consumption of your updates.  On the other hand, once I start reading those things, seeing that photo might add depth or credibility to your online presence, and then I even stand a chance of recognizing you in person.

Here’s a post (that I found via a tweet from a logo avatar) about adding your photo to LinkedIn, which seems a lot more straightforward.  On LinkedIn, like Facebook, you’re definitely supposed to be you.  On Twitter or blogs, you could be a character, a brand, a team, all sorts of things.

What the duck?As a guy who uses a duck (you can sometimes still find my old icon, a rasterbated photo) for online imagery, I guess I could be accused of hiding.  But that icon serves pretty well:  it’s easy to recognize,  related to my online brand, consistent across social media sites, seldom changed so consistent across time, and pretty good at standing out in the crowd.

Five weeks after API ask, no love from LinkedIn

Five weeks ago I blogged about LinkedIn’s API policy, and I also applied to develop an application with their API.  I had no illusion that my idea was earth-shattering, but I thought it was a good one, and one that LinkedIn might even be able to monetize.  It was no iFart, that’s for sure (meaning it’s not a simple but highly appealing app that people inexplicably want)  So, what was LinkedIn’s reponse?

So far, absolutely nothing.  No acknowledgment of my submission, and no answer positive or negative.

Seems like further evidence to Tangyslice’s critque of LinkedIn as being not quite connected enough.  How likely is it that they’re so swamped with requests that they can’t even send me a “thanks but no thanks”?  Is five weeks too soon to wonder?  Is their form busted?  Did they fire the guy in charge of reveiwing these apps?  Could they be arrogant enough to think it’s not worth responding?

Perhaps it’s a cold calculation that if they sent me a rejection letter, I would post it to the blog and mock them for it.  I suppose they’d be right on that one.

I’ll submit again just to make sure there wasn’t a technical glitch, but I’m not feeling too bullish on LinkedIn apps right now.  Has anybody out there had more success in being accepted or even rejected by LinkedIn’s API Decider?

Horseshoes, hand grenades, and LinkedIn?

Not that long ago I laughed at comparisons of Facebook and LinkedIn because I didn’t see much point in using Facebook.  Now I laugh because the tools are so different, most comparisons seem silly.  Facebook is still the place where people live their online lives, and LinkedIn is still the place where people seek business advice, business partners, jobs and employees.  I was poking around LinkedIn the other day, and I saw another sign that they almost get it.  Almost.

Back in October, LinkedIn launched applications that you can add to your profile.  Sounds a bit like Facebook, doesn’t it?  Or like the iPhone or Firefox, to name a couple of common products that let people write plugins or applications for their platforms.  It seemed not so much a misguided attempt to be more like Facebook but rather, a sensible way to serve customers better while engaging the developer community to innovate in ways yet unknown.

A quick look at the LinkedIn featured applications page today shows a dozen apps from some well-known sites and services that seem reasonably useful to the LinkedIn population: WordPress and Six Apart blog apps, Huddle Workspaces,Box.net files, Amazon reading list, LinkedIn polls, Google and SlideShare presentations, TripIt and LinkedIn Company Buzz.  And there’s a link to “browse more applications” that shows the same 12 apps.  Is that all?  I guess for now, it is.

Sure, it’s perfectly reasonable to prime the pump with some sure-thing apps from major sites, but what about the vaunted long tail of odd little niche things that might or might not catch fire?  I clicked around to find out how apps are created and added to the site, and was disappointed to see this:

Get Started with the Platform

LinkedIn allows developers to build applications that run on LinkedIn user’s home and profile pages. Applications currently available can be seen and installed from the Application Directory. LinkedIn applications are developed using the OpenSocial development model.

How to develop for the Platform

The LinkedIn application platform is not publicly available for all developers. We evaluate requests to develop for the LinkedIn platform from partners who have clearly compelling value to our users and who can rigorously follow our privacy policies. We are looking for applications that provide clear business utility to LinkedIn users. LinkedIn is not a place for sheep throwing. There is equal opportunity to build applications that apply to all LinkedIn users as there is to develop applications that apply to just a targeted portion of the user base. If you think you qualify and have a compelling user value proposition, let us know using the form below.

Seems pretty standard, if a little closed and controlling (see also, Apple), but let’s re-read that line in the second paragraph: “LinkedIn is not a place for sheep throwing.“  Suffering from some kind of Facebook insecurity, are we?

I agree, LinkedIn is not where I go to join my friends’ Zombie Armies (although I bet we can all name some companies that might fit that description), but as with the iPhone fart machine, isn’t the fitness of the app really up to the community of users?  Those are extreme examples, to be sure.  You don’t have to feature these weird and edgy apps, but if you don’t let it out there, you’ll never know if it improves or degrades your product.

Do you think it bothers Facebook that somebody wrote a LinkedIn app for Facebook?  Maybe somebody should write a Facebook app for LinkedIn.  Facebook’s app directory has only 23 apps categorized as “business” which is just four more than are tagged “fart.”

So I have two seemingly conflicting bits of advice for LinkedIn: (1) don’t try to be like Facebook, and (2) don’t try too hard to be unlike Facebook when they do something right, such as opening up their API to all kinds of weirdness.  It might feel weird at first, but as long as you’ve written a good API that keeps everybody safe, the community will decide what’s good and what’s bad, and that will be a lot closer than almost getting it right.

Anybody beats the wiz

When you run a web-based business and your site is down for maintenance, you might consider not doing what Linkedin did last week.   Here’s the screen:

inwiz.png

Let’s leave aside the question of the wisdom of doing this maintenance or upgrade or whatever on a weekday evening and concentrate on the elephant in the room – there’s a big fat cartoon wizard up there.  What’s up with that?   Pointy hat, curly shoes, baseball on top of his staff?  He’s not the Linkedin mascot, at least I don’t think I’ve seen him before, although the has a big “in” on his chest.  I guess he sort of reflects Linkedin’s brand colors, but Linkedin is not in the magic business.   And I’m pretty sure that people into LARPs are more likely to use facebook.

Site maintenance is no excuse to deep six your brand. In fact, it’s just about the worst possible time to monkey with your brand, since while your site is down, that page is all there is in the world to represent you.

Take a look at Linkedin’s post-maintenance main page:

linkedinpage.png

OK, I’m not wild about the flaming lunchbox either.  But why couldn’t this basic information about the purpose and benefit of Linkedin have been included on their “back soon” page? Even if the core engine of Linkedin’s functionality is down, can’t they make some useful static pages available?  Maybe take email addresses and send a message when the site is back up?  There seems little excuse for a lame page for planned maintenance.   Everybody knows that downtime is deadly to an online business; why add more injury to this injury by putting up a lousy temporary page?