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March 12, 2007

10 More Suggestions for LinkedIn

The business contacts and networking site LinkedIn is becoming ever more integrated with the way we share information and conduct business. Earlier, I wrote that LinkedIn was leaving a lot of opportunities open without cashing in, by limiting the company's scope.

Maybe some of the reasons LinkedIn hasn't yet expanded its offerings is that they may be changing the way the site fundamentally works. If they are, then there's no better time than the present to propose further updates for the site.

1. Categories for Connections

Today, when I accept a connection with somebody, they are simply filed away in my ever-lengthening connections list. Yet, I can't designate whether this person is a colleague, a business partner, a customer, or even the competition. LinkedIn doesn't offer the designation, assuming all connections are equal. I know that LinkedIn has the capability to categorize, as when recommending a person, you can say you are a "Colleague", "Service Provider" or "Business Partner". Why not allow me to categorize my own connections in the same way, along with "Family", "Friends", "Competition" or the many other different types of relationships we have in this world? Even the most simple contact programs, like Apple's Address Book, have this option.

This distinction will become more important later in the list.

2. Selectively Allow Contacts to be Visible

Today I have only two options when it comes to sharing my list of connections with all other connections: either "On" or "Off". Either everybody sees every one of my connections, or nobody sees any of them. That clearly makes no sense. If I'm linked in to my boss, I don't necessarily want him to know I'm also linked in to a recruiter, for instance, so I may opt to "hide" a specific connection from viewing.

3. Selectively Block Contacts from Viewing Your Connections

On the flip side, there are occasions where I may not want a specific connection to view my entire list. You know that old adage about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? I may Link In to an employee of the competition, to monitor their job progression or see their activity, but I certainly don't want them looking at my connections list, finding partners, colleagues, and customers to steal away. I should be able to mark an individual connection as not having visibility into my list.

4. Assuming Categories, Allow Hidden Groups and Hiding From Groups

If LinkedIn were to offer connection categories, I should be able to have the option of hiding all "Friends" from "Colleagues" or "Prospects" and "Partners" from "Competitors", for example. Rather than going one by one, as you could in the two proposals above, I could uniformly hide groups from other groups with a single checkbox.

5. Allow Me to Export my LinkedIn Profile as PDF or Word

Today, LinkedIn, in a clear attempt to promote traffic, and therefore sell more ads, offers you the option of "forwarding" your profile via e-mail, which alerts somebody to your online profile only. You also can print your profile, but there is no option to "Export" your profile to Microsoft Word or a PDF file. It should not be too difficult to export the profile to PDF, summarizing the profile, and adding recommendations at the end of the resume, following a page break. I could then take this PDF (powered by LinkedIn) and send it via e-mail as an attachment or post to a Web site or blog.

6. Enable Profile Hiding from Site Search

For me, the real benefits of LinkedIn come from face to face meetings, not from random people searching me out and hunting me down. The search function of LinkedIn doesn't add me any value that I can think of. Why not add the option to "hide" my details from the search engine?

7. Enable Permanent Connection Blocking By Individual or Company

You can invite somebody to be a connection up to 3 times, if I remember correctly. It's not that uncommon that I'll get random invitations from people who figured out my e-mail address, or say they took some class with me in college a decade ago, or even worse, an odd subset of LinkedIn participants who measure themselves by the total number of connections. I have no interest in tagging my name onto someone who claims 500+ contacts (the maximum displayed) or highlights the number of connections in their profile as something that differentiates them. Also, if I don't want to be connected to anybody from a Hotmail address, say... ever, I should be able to block that domain.

8. Enable Deleting of Proposed Recommendations, Not Just Rewrites

In September, an otherwise good friend of mine posted a fake recommendation for me. Maybe he was drunk, or just out of his head, but it was ridiculous, and won't ever see the light of day on my profile. Yet, while I declined it and asked for a rewrite, it is still in my "Inbox" as a received recommendation. My only two options? "Show on Profile Now" or "Show on Profile Later". There is no option to "Delete Forever", and their certainly should be.

9. Expand User Profiles With an "Assets" Tab

Beyond my flat resume, my profile on LinkedIn is fairly shallow. It offers me the option to have links to my blog, Web site or RSS feed, but for many of us, it'd be much more robust and demonstrative of my abilities to add PDF or Word documents of things I'd written. Given the rich media capabilities of the Web, why couldn't LinkedIn's "assets" section offer links to product demos or video clips? The flat resume doesn't resonate in a much more rich media world.

10. Start a Corporate Blog

Who is the voice for LinkedIn, and how are they interacting with the community, if at all? Searching Google for a "LinkedIn Blog" turns up some fan collections, but nothing from the allegedly hip, leading Web 2.0 site. In fact, LinkedIn goes out of its way to hide ways to hear from the company, as its "Company Info" is in the bottom right corner, showing only "About LinkedIn" and "LinkedIn for Groups". LinkedIn is a perfect company to have a corporate blog talking about what the company represents, and where it is going.