A LinkedIn First – Asking for Input Before Changing a Feature/Policy

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605494_number_1_-_finger_pointing_up_with_clipping_path.jpgI hope this is the start of a trend…

One of my biggest frustrations with LinkedIn has been the fact that they have not made a practice of getting user input about new features before they’re rolled out – only after the cat’s out of the bag. This used to be just irritating, but increasingly, it has led to some near-disasters for LinkedIn, such as the launch of their really cool Answers feature, which was fraught with spam problems and other blatantly obvious shortcomings, causing them to have to make apologies and promises.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see a message from LinkedIn Business Analyst Ben Guthrie on LinkedInnovators today asking for public input regarding a possible new feature and change in LinkedIn policy:

Creating groups on LinkedIn is currently a painful process. In some
cases it takes 4-6 weeks. We are looking at ways to improve the
process for creating groups. One of the questions being debated is
whether to change the model from request a group and receive LinkedIn
approval to simply allowing anyone to create a group. Which model do
you think is superior? Should there be any limits on the creation of
groups on LinkedIn? Thanks in advance for any feedback you might have.

Ben Guthrie
Business Analyst, LinkedIn

Like I said, this is a major first, and I hope the start of a trend.

Anyway, here’s the reply I posted on this particular topic:

Thanks for asking, Ben.

I have wondered since it first came out why the creation of a LinkedIn group wasn’t automated.? It’s a nice concept to have the groups somehow vetted/validated, but I’m not sure the labor cost is really worth it.? Simply put to you… does the marginal value of having the groups validated exceed the marginal cost of not only the labor to validate them, but the poor customer experience for those people waiting weeks to have the group set up?

The coding for this is pretty much a one-time investment.

Also, how do you validate a group that doesn’t already have some other kind of online identity?? Or what if their identity is, say, membership on some private listserv?

I’m of the opinion that it would be far less costly to LinkedIn, create a far better customer experience, and therefore attract more customers, to automate group creation.? Just put controls and guidelines in place that you can then remove groups that don’t meet the guidelines.

Here’s a question for you… what percentage of group requests actually get declined?? And for what reasons?

If that’s the exception, not the rule, wouldn’t it make far more sense to automate the rule and only make exception-handling manpower intensive?

Scott Allen

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  1. One of the issues this raises is that it’s not always clear if a group is official or unofficial. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, but – to take one example – my alma mater has no alumni group on LinkedIn, but has perhaps a thousand alumni registered there individually. If I request LinkedIn to create an alumni group for my school, using a logo I grabbed from the school’s web site, would it matter? Is it the school’s “fault” for not getting there first? If I don’t claim to be an official rep, should LinkedIn care? Should the school?

    This is an interesting gray area where the real value of “user generated content” is bumping up against the potential value of official backing for an online presence.

  2. Andy has a good point. Look at what happened on MySpace with the fellow who set up a page and recruited thousands of “friends” for Barack Obama. Obama came in heavy handed demanding the page and friends be turned over to him gratis!

    If proactive alumni put the effort of forming a group when their alma mater is falling down on the job, is Linkedin going to turn over the investment of the individuals to the institution?

    I’ve read that most alumni organizations are actually separate not for profits with their own boards of directors, but there’s no level I wouldn’t expect any “institution” to sink to if they think they could get money.

  3. Interesting question, “a reader”. First of all, yes, I welcome comments, so long as they aren’t spam or terribly offensive.

    Now, you haven’t identified yourself, and your IP address shows as dial-up, so I don’t really have any way to match you against previous messages to see what might have been deleted, so I can only guess that, assuming it wasn’t something I would have deleted as spam, Akismet must have caught it and automatically flagged it as spam. With it catching several hundred a day, I’m not in the habit of going through them and trying to sift out any legitimate comments. Sometimes that means some wheat gets thrown out with the chaff — I’m truly sorry if this is what happened to you. Blame the spammers who created this situation in the first place.

    However, on seeing this, I did go through them just now and found about half a dozen comments that had been deleted that weren’t spam, and it wasn’t obvious to me why they were flagged. So hopefully yours were in that batch.

  4. Hopefully this one won’t get deleted as spam too :-).

    Anyway I found this post when I was looking up some history on changes with LinkedIn as I’m just getting into it and trying to decide whether do devote my time and effort into Linkedin or Facebook since the both provide similar features for friends wanting to keep in touch and alumni.

    However, given what you are saying here about the slow and manual process of setting up groups, they appear to have got their act together as then seem to be a lot more consumer / user focussed developments these days.


  5. To this day, I have yet to fully realize the benefits there are with LinkedIn especially after knowing that changes happen prior to being announced like it is a game of “oh, that’s how we roll”. Perhaps it is a matter of time before what it really has to offer is proven.

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