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.

5 thoughts on “How to make LinkedIn even better

  1. Hi David,

    Great ideas about improving LinkedIn.

    I have another suggestion — I wish LinkedIn would provide an option to easily list Twitter accounts but not automatically publish the tweet streams. I don’t want to read tweets within LinkedIn, and prefer others follow me rather than read my tweets in LinkedIn.

  2. One reader writes:
    These are all good points — and like you, I really like LinkedIn. However I’d add one more thing to your wish list: a cheaper, “personal” subscription that offers most of the features of LinkedIn’s $24.95/month “Business” subscription. For me (and many others, I suspect), $24.95 is just too much to pay for the value on offer. But if LinkedIn offered, say, a $9.95 a month subscription for individuals, I’m guessing it would get killed in the rush…

  3. I like the article.

    Not sure what you mean about being able to freely export connections. You can do this by going to Connections, and then at the bottom of the page, clicking Export Connections. Details can be seen at my blog at http://www.the-linkedin-speaker.com/blog/2009/05/12/linkedin-training-tip-exporting-your-connections-or-how-do-i-send-a-bulk-email-to-my-connections-mass/

    It has some major problems (that would be easy to fix), like the fact that it doesn’t export all fields. In fact, it exports blank fields for things you’d love to have, like City, because it would be useful to just send emails to your 30 contacts in Atlanta if you were going there on a trip. The most annoying omission from my point of view is the phone number and personal notes, since those are pieces that everyone needs, but LinkedIn won’t export.

    When you’re submitting your Christmas list, please add that😉

    In terms of new features, the new Twitter feature adds more problems than solutions. People who tweet and always use the #in feature will always show up on the top of my “Status updates”, and there’s no way to filter them out. More at my blog at http://www.the-linkedin-speaker.com/blog/2009/11/11/linkedin-and-twitter-now-cross-post-status-updates/

  4. Another reader writes:

    My Palm Pre with WebOS integrates my contact lists from Facebook, LinkedIn and Outlook without mixing them on the disparate “communities” saving them in the Palm cloud. It’s very slick and something you should look into.

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