Archive for the 'LinkedIn' Category

LinkedIn – another design failure

Here is yet another example of LinkedIn updating a feature that is one step forward … and two back.  They continue to use an architecture that fails its top users.  It stuns me that a billion dollar company can release code like this with insufficient testing.

Here’s the challenge.  I’m trying  to send an update to my local Dallas LinkedIn connections.  I have over 4,000.    I’d be happy to simply export my connections and send it directly via my email marketing service.  But LinkedIn hasn’t allowed top users to download their own connections for about 5 years now. The process times out.  LinkedIn has never fixed this or provided a solution.   Even if you’re a paying customer.

So I’m forced to use LinkedIn’s own messaging.  LinkedIn limits messages to 50 recipients.  You can do the math.   That’s a LOT of group sends.  Previously, unless your tag or filter results were under 50 you had to individually click each connection to add him to the recipient list.  Yes, you can see how wonderfully yummy that was.   It would take several hours to go through the forced machinations to  reach a few thousand of your own connections.

Note that one of LinkedIn’s many limitations in connection filtering is that you can only apply one at a time.  So if you have a filtered group like my Dallas connections there is no way to have Location is Dallas AND Last name is ‘R’ connections, or Location is Dallas AND Industry is Recruiting.  To message or tag connections in a filtered group,  you have to run the filter and page through it repeatedly.  This is painful if the group is large.

There’s been a recent update.  Now when LinkedIn displays a page of connection results you can click a box to select all of connections on the page.  Yippee!  No more individual clicks. …  But not so fast, buckaroo.  They also hugely reduced the number of  connections displayed in the results from 50 to 10.

So let’s say you’re contacting 1000 people.  Bear with me so you can see the insanity they force on their users.  To select the first 10 connections  is just one checkbox click. Hey, that’s much better than clicking each connection individually, right?  For a moment. It only goes downhill from here.

The next ten connections require a scroll or page down in the filtered results, click Next, click the checkbox. That’s three clicks. Repeat for five pages to select the 50 recipient max. That’s 13 clicks. Not bad. Be sure to tag that group if you may use it again in the future.

After you send your message to that group does LinkedIn return you to filter state and display you just had?  Of course not, you have to start from the beginning.

So click your filter, scroll or page down, click Next, repeat 5 times to get to the next batch.  That’s 11 clicks plus the 13 to select 50 recipients once you get on those pages for a total of 24 clicks. We’re already nearing one click per connection.

Let’s fast forward through the process to the end of 1,000 connections. You just sent your 199th message to a batch of 50 connections. You start at the beginning of the list again. There are 95 pages that you have to wade through, or 196 clicks. This batch of 50 connections requires 209 clicks, far more than one click per connection.

But it only gets worse.  LinkedIn’s filtering and connection display remains highly unstable. The display can easily freeze, time out, or quit. What’s common here is that you click Next page.  Instead of displaying a new page the connection results pane blanks and the connection detail pane displays “Quickly view and organize your connections? Select a category or individual to see contact info, send a message and more.”

When this happens you’re screwed in this AJAX display where the display state is lost and reset. There is no way to go back and redisplay the last connection page, to resume and try to go to the next page again, or otherwise recover where you were. Your only option is to start all over again. So whether you were on page 1 or 100, you have to start back on page 1.  All those clicks you spent time on to get to page 1 or 100 are totally wasted.

I tested this with about 200 searches and over a thousand Next page clicks on two different browsers. The blanking error appears to happen randomly. It has happened on the first Next click. It virtually always happened by the 15th page displayed. And to get to the 10th or 15th page means dozens of tries and hundreds of clicks in addition to the many clicks required if it worked without error.

That’s not all.  Given that the error forces a page restart, that’s a hard limit. So the discussion on the ridiculous amount of clicks to reach 1,000 connections, much less the 4,000 that was my goal, is moot. The effective capability of contacting your connections in one filter is 10-15 pages or only 100-150 connections.

You will never be able to reach the connections in a group after that, whether it’s to send a message or just to tag them.

More like one step forward and ten backward. Oops, LinkedIn reset that at seven.  Gotta start all over again.

UPDATE: 10:16 pm.  The random error where clicking Next resets the filter display and forces you to start over again is fixed.  For now.  Paging works quickly and smoothly.

On the flip side an annoying problem that’s been around for several months (a few years?) has returned – duplicate listings, apparently random,  in the filter results.  While a page may display 10 connections, only 8 or so on average are unique.  Now when you select the page LinkedIn doesn’t select the phantom dupes (which it used to do), but the dupes do require additional pages of filter results to get to the 50 maximum and they do screw up the tag counts, which are inflated.

An efficiency tip to reduce time and clicks – LinkedIn resets filter results on message sending but not tagging.  So you can avoid the annoying filter reset and paging described above.  The optimal strategy is to work your way one time through the filter results to select 50 connections, create a tag even if you’ll never use it after this, clear the selection, and then repeat so that all filtered connections are tagged.  Then click on each tag just created to send a message to that group of 50.

UPDATE: 7:30pm CT April 15. It’s baaaaaaaack.  The random error where clicking Next resets the filter display and forces you to start over again has returned.  This flavor of flakiness, where  an error happens intermittently or more typically and in this case most of the time, has been around for five years or so on LinkedIn.  It unfortunately shows both the brittle nature of its architecture and the lack of care by the company in letting such problems persist.



LinkedIn is stupid, part 265

In our last chapter our hero discovered the unknown country of tags wherein he thought “Aha!  I don’t need to click every single freaking connection to send a message to the same group.  I can just create a tag and use that in the future.”

In today’s episode he learns how naive he truly was …

It was a sunny Texas winter day, the kiss of warmth on my forearms a promise of the luxurious heat to come in a few months.  I was excited to try out my sexy new LinkedIn tags.  I’d click a tag of 50 connections, click Send message, write and send my note, repeat a few times, and be done in a few minutes.

That LinkedIn was quite the complicated lady.  You’re sailing the seas of business.  A friend charts you a new path to her moist island.  From afar she’s a goddess, easy on the eyes, mysteriously alluring.  You couldn’t keep away.  But as you sailed closer and got friendly, you knew something was up.  That sexy black dress was festooned with razor wire and spikes.  You could feel it in your bones.  She was a dangerous siren, not a plucky mermaid.   Get too personal and she slapped you back time and again with restrictions and limits.  Too many invitations.  Too many connections.  Too many messages.  You can’t download your own connections.  She was in control, not you.  You had to play by her rules.  Treat the dame right though and you can sail on by to the land of new opportunities.   Yeah, I learned the hard way.  Crashed a few times on her rocky shoals.  But I had her mapped out.  I knew her game.

And so I started with a smile.  The only happy moment of my miserable experience to come.

View connections.  Find tag.  Click Send message. See, it’s easy.

But LinkedIn says there are too many recipients.  It will take only the first 50.

But there WERE 50.  Because that’s how I created the tag. Click. Click. Click. Until Linked says 50 are selected.  Click to make tag.  Find tag. Click tag.  Click Send message.  And it worked fine.  LinkedIn wouldn’t have sent that original message when I created the tag if there were more than 50.

Not today.  So I sent the first 50, or whatever number LinkedIn thought it was.  Back to connections.  Find tag. Now it says there are 60 connections (give or take a few).  Hmm.  Click tag.  Examine tag contacts.  Several contacts were duplicated.  So the original tag of 50 unique connections had suddenly expanded to 60 connections with phantom LinkedIn-created dupes. WTF?

The irony is that when I first created the tag several days ago I clicked the same 60 or so contacts with some phantom dupes. LinkedIn ignored the dupes.  It displayed the 50 real selected contacts.  When I saved the tag there 50 contacts in the tag.  When I used the tag to send the message, it put the 50 real contacts in the recipient field.

But now LinkedIn magically added dupes back in in the tag count and connection display.  Even worse, LinkedIn went amnesiac on me.  It suddenly lost the ability to ignore the dupes in the tag member count and when Send message was clicked.   Tags and messaging have been out for years. Did ANYONE do real testing on it?

I thought I had it figured out.  But now I was back in a fairy land where unicorns kissed, pigs flew, and the acrid odor in the air was your skin being eaten alive by the acid of LinkedIn’s twisted logic.

Deep breath.  Press on, soldier.

I had sent the first “50” connections, which really were only 40 or so.  I had to determine which connections were missing.

Back to connections.  Find tag. Click tag. Click Send Message. See the message again with warning that only the first “50” were used.  Find the last name in the recipient field, right?  … Of course not.  The names are not ordered alphabetically.  It’s impossible to eyeball the last alpha name when you’re looking at 40 of them.

I refuse to quit.  Lesser mortals would have poured a tall scotch,  smoked a joint, or made love with a partner or handy pet.  Me?  LinkedIn will have to pry my frozen fingers off the keyboard. I copy all the names on the message web form.  Paste them into a spreadsheet.  Convert to columns.  Delete cells where people have middle names or use funky characters.  Finally get last names in a column.  Sort.  Now I know the last name.

Back to connections. Click on the tag.  Does LinkedIn display 50 names at a time like the regular connections pane display? … Of course not.  LinkedIn intentionally makes it hard.  Only 10 at a time are displayed.  Scroll down.  Click Next for the next page.  Scroll down.  Click Next. Scroll down.  Click Next.  Scroll down.  Click Next.

Find the last name that was sent.  Click the selection checkbox on the next name on the list.  Click the rest of the names in the window. Page down. Click more names.  Click Next. Click more names, page down, repeat to the end of the tag connection list.  Click Edit tags.  Write and save a new tag name.  So I now have a 2nd tag with a subset of connections from the first tag.  Thanks, LinkedIn.

Back to connections.  Find new tag.  Click tag.  Click Select All.  Send message. Message displays but NO addresses.  Doesn’t work.  B. U. G.

Back to connections.  Find new tag.  Click tag.  Don’t click Select All.  Just click Send message.  That works.   Create and send message.   Finally the LinkedIn fog lifts.

Now we have a process, no matter how contorted, that works.  Don’t think.  Just do.  Repeat for all tags for original mailing.

I’d accept these technical problems and dreadful customer experience from a bootstrap startup beta.  LinkedIn though is a multibillion dollar valuation mature company.

LinkedIn kills more babies

First they kill LinkedIn Events.  Now LinkedIn Answers faces the axe in a few weeks. And of course they do so with no community discussion. Members should just be happy they were given some notice, which often is not the case with LinkedIn changes.

For years I’ve argued LinkedIn has been unduly distracted by shiny new toys like these when they should have focused on core networking services that have stagnated and are little different from the early days.

Now that they’re killing their babies, I think it’s a bad move.  Today LinkedIn is certainly large enough to reasonably support secondary services like Events and Answers.  Strategically, while they’re not critical services, had their flaws, and were never going to be as robust as a Meetup or Quora, they did serve to attract new members and increase time on the site and user engagement.

The failing was not monetizing them.  If a subscription included premium features on Events and Answers, they would have had more subs and revenues. Certainly I, a currently free user, would paid it for it, much like I pay for Meetup.

Reducing ancillary services makes sense if they’re focusing on and strengthening networking.  But they’re not.  In fact they continue to REDUCE networking access (like you can’t see profiles of 3rd level connections), not increase features! LinkedIn has prevented me from downloading my own connections for over two years now.


Are LinkedIn Events eventful?

LinkedIn (LI) Events is Meetup for LinkedIn members. It’s been around for over two years now.  What do you think of it? Have you found it valuable? What tips or other uses have you found?

I’ve used LI Events a few times for DallasBlue events. I’ve found it useful for supplementary marketing and services and have added it to my regular event operations. My review and comments are below.

Weak features:

  • Primary event listing. Don’t have a web page? LI Events allows you to publish the basic facts, including a link to a web site.  The listing does not provide payment or formal registration.  It’s OK for a simple and free get-together.  It’s adequate for a secondary listing.  But it’s not a selling or registration service.  I don’t recommend it as the primary home for a professional or corporate event.
  • LinkedIn community promotion. I’ve seen little evidence that business members turn to LI Events to find a new seminar or business event.  You might attract a few people.  But don’t count on it to fill your meeting.
  • Branding. There is little you can do to brand your meeting on LI Events.  The event is associated with your personal profile. You can’t provide a logo, HTML, or otherwise format your listing and description.  Your organization is a single non-descript line in the event overview.  LI provides a custom URL with the event name.  But that is quite long.  Use or your favorite url shortener.

Recommended use:

  • Contact marketing. LinkedIn makes it easy to invite your connections. The event will also show up in LinkedIn updates on the home page and in email for your LinkedIn buddies.  LinkedIn messaging restrictions apply. You can only invite current connections and send to a maximum of 200 people at a time, which can only be filtered by metro area and industry.  Don’t rely solely on LI Events for your marketing. But it definitely should be a part of your outreach.
  • Social communications. LI Events supports comments.  It’s limited compared to LinkedIn group discussions.  Still, it’s a useful real-time and social way to publish event announcements and updates, receive and answer questions, and allow other comments and suggestions. My normal event publishing doesn’t provide this functionality.  I’ve found LI Events to be a nice supplemental resource.
  • Online event networking. I’ve been looking for several years for a free service outside Meetup that allows invitees and attendees to look up one another before an event to see who’s coming, plan personal meetings, and initiate contact, as well as to follow up afterward. Only people who RSVP in advance on LinkedIn will be listed in the LI Event, just a subset of actual attendees. So it’s far from a complete solution.  Similar to Event communications, I don’t have a solution for online event networking and so find this to be a helpful, albeit limited, feature.

Be sure to actively promote the LI Events event URL for communications and networking everywhere you list the event – your main event web page, your newsletter, all event marketing pieces, and all registrant messages.

LinkedIn culture jabs users

Jason Alba writes a nice piece detailing LinkedIn’s latest user jab in LinkedIn Free Level Losing Steam as LinkedIn Jumps The Shark. Some users no longer see the full names of 3rd degree connections and out of network LinkedIn members. It’s another in a long line of LinkedIn tactics that limit or restrict their users.

LinkedIn has been implementing this new limitation in stages or according to some magic algorithm.  I had this reported to me a few weeks ago.  But I still see full names in my own free account.

I agree with Jason that this change is important, akin to jumping the shark.  LinkedIn’s robust freemium strategy has been a key ingredient in their success, leading to a dominant market share and 75 million users.  The ability to search and view user names is an industry common feature.  Removing it places LinkedIn at a competitive disadvantage.

It will open the door wider for other networks or services that target the LinkedIn user base.  However LinkedIn’s commanding industry presence puts it in a monopoly position.  This is one area where they don’t have to worry about Facebook.  Users have no place to go.  They are not going to suddenly flee to much smaller business networks like Ecademy, Xing, or Viadeo. Lastly, there has been surprisingly little innovation in this space.

The limitation is expressly designed to motivate more users to pay for the service.  Speculation has been that squeezing users is a strategic move to dress up the income statement in preparation for an IPO.

This is likely accurate. Why else would LinkedIn intentionally downgrade their service?  However it’s certainly not necessary.  The company has claimed that’s it’s been quite profitable for the last few years.   Plus LinkedIn has been rumored to in acquisition/IPO play for at least three years now.

In the end it comes down to corporate culture.  LinkedIn is not a tech-driven company like Google.  It does not delight in new and innovative products and features.  LinkedIn has been and continues to be run by and for venture capitalists.  After several years they’re itchy (yet again) for that multi-billion dollar home run exit.  The only surprise is that they rode the free side of the wave for as long as they did.

Share This – LinkedIn continues to lust after Facebook

LinkedIn continues its derivative copycat strategy with Share This (TechCrunch article).  As a corporate strategy, LI has to be “like” Facebook to defend its turf from FB juggernaut incursion.  As a marketing strategy, deeper integration with the online world builds LI’s brand and reaches a larger audience that can be converted to users and paying subs.

But let’s be clear.  It’s NOT a product strategy.  As LI focuses on marketing and other frills, it continues to neglect the core networking product that is little changed, and in fact is continually restricted, over the years, an area where LI feels little heat from users, competitors, or investors.

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