Here’s what my LinkedIn profile says: “Don't ask me to join your LinkedIn network if we don't know one another or if we haven't done business together.”
But I’ll be deleting that. I don’t care who you are. Now I welcome your invitation to connect because being connected on LinkedIn is totally meaningless. It’s about as consequential as being in the old Ma Bell phone book—everybody’s already connected “because they’re in there.”
In fact, I propose that LinkedIn do away with connections altogether and just let users query the system when they want to get in touch with any other member, without pretending there’s a pre-existing relationship. Even LinkedIn seems to think there’s nothing special about our connections.
A class action lawsuit filed last week in San Jose federal court says that LinkedIn doesn’t recognize the value of contacts. The litigants claim LinkedIn hacks new members’ e-mail accounts and appropriates their contacts—to advertise LinkedIn, to get new members, and to implement the company’s mission. (LinkedIn refers to this as “new growth optimization efforts.”)
So who am I to tell you I won’t accept your link requests? I do admit to a subversive agenda. If we all connect to one another, then LinkedIn can’t block any of us from using its network the way it uses our networks: to make money. According to Bloomberg, a LinkedIn programmer, Brian Guan, has spilled the beans on his own LinkedIn profile. He describes his job as “devising hack schemes to make lots of $$$ with Java, Groovy and cunning at Team Money!”
LinkedIn used to be an important network with standards that rose above, say, those of Facebook. It was, after all, a place for business people to transact business. But LinkedIn started cashing in its chips even before it did an IPO, and now it’s just one Big Data Gang-bang. LinkedIn has signaled clearly that it’s just in it for the money—and any semblance of exclusivity, integrity about connections, or concerns about members’ welfare is gone.
Here’s what led me to my decision to open up my network:
- LinkedIn charges for Premium membership, but free users say there’s no need to pay a fee to access the most useful feature—viewing profiles.
- LinkedIn expert Jason Alba agrees: “The most important thing is to have a really solid profile. If you want, you can walk away after that. People will still find you.”
- If you haven’t noticed, all LinkedIn seems to do anymore is sell. Its sales ranks grew from 207 in 2010 to 1,822 this year. But where’s the investment in its network benefits to users?
- LinkedIn recently issued $1 billion in new stock. Some might see growth; I see somebody trying to cover the costs of an unsupportable sales operation.
- LinkedIn just opened the doors to 13-year-olds. The company says it’s “so they can make the most informed decisions and start their careers off right.” Gimme a break. I think it’s so LinkedIn can tap the teenage data set, which is now worth around $300 billion in the U.S. alone.
LinkedIn is the new TheLadders, the world’s last failed “exclusive” network of business people. Both companies have thrown the doors open to anyone and everyone, after making highfalutin representations about “networking.” Both companies are now the subject of consumer class-action suits. Both companies are manned by the same people who invented the “churn ’em and burn ’em” model of the job boards—alumni of HotJobs and Monster.com. And both companies touted the value of high-quality “connections” while devaluing those very connections. (Endorsements, anybody?)
So join my LinkedIn Big Data gang-bang! It doesn’t matter whether we know one another or have done business together. Send me your LinkedIn invitations, and I’ll accept them. No offense to you, but my standards are now down at the level of LinkedIn’s. I want to use my LinkedIn connections to make money. And, just like LinkedIn, I make no promises that I won’t sell your data to advertisers—or that being connected will be of any value to you whatsoever.
My only quandary: As a parent concerned with my own childrens’ safety, what do I do when 13-year-olds start asking me to connect?