Oy vey - this is going to be a long post, as the more I dove into it, the more insanity I found...
I've been on LinkedIn essentially forever. It's my favorite professional networking site, and I have easily spent hundreds to thousands of hours on LinkedIn finding interesting people to connect to, or responding to inbound requests. I've slowly built up to around 1500 connections on LinkedIn, and have had some great success with the help of the LinkedIn platform.
All that said, they are by far the slowest moving/innovating platform for social networking, and to make matters worse, the time they spend planning for new features, apparently doesn't allow time to really think things through.
Witness - LinkedIn groups... it's new! and improved! or it will be! maybe...
I received an advance-warning message this week, from LinkedIn:
As an active member of LinkedIn Groups, we wanted to let you know about some changes we're putting in place in the coming weeks.
We are in the process of adding new functionality to enhance the experience of Groups, including the recent release of a searchable directory. We are also working with our development teams to bring new tools and widgets to this collaborative space throughout the rest of 2008.
We are also at this time making some changes to the user-created groups we host. These changes include adding a limit to the number of user-created groups any LinkedIn member may be part of at one time. Currently we are setting that limit at membership in 50 (fifty) user-created groups.
You are currently a member of 154 groups. Please take the time before this limit goes into place on August 14, 2008, to choose which groups you would like to maintain. To remove yourself from a group, go to the My Groups page and click the word "Settings" next to the group you wish to leave. At the bottom of the settings page click the text "Leave this group."
We would appreciate it if you would please take this action within the next 10 days. If you would prefer, after 30 days we will automatically keep the first 50 groups that you joined and remove the rest.
We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause you, but we hope you will continue to find value in LinkedIn and especially enjoy the new functionality of LinkedIn Groups that is coming soon.
The LinkedIn team
Keys to call out from the message:
Keys to call out from the message:
- New Groups functionality coming this year (they finally added the ability to search for groups - took somewhere around 3 years to add that)
- They're going to limit people to joining 50 groups maximum.
- I'm a member of 154 groups, so I'm 104 over the limit.
- I have 10-30 days to chop down to 50, or they'll chop for me.
My take on this is that they want to scale back the number of groups that people are subscribed to so that when they actually provide the ability to discuss/share (i.e., do anything USEFUL with groups) sometime this year, they don't get killed entirely by scalability problems. Makes sense, although they don't explain it that way. Transparency anyone?
However, look at their recent blog post of July 8th:
We are thrilled to announce the launch of LinkedIn’s Groups Directory on Friday, July 11! With over 90,000 groups on LinkedIn, it was about time to make the complete list easily accessible by our members. The goal with this feature is to make it easier for people to find groups to join, and we think the directory goes a long way toward achieving that goal...
They over over 90,000 groups - which might seem like a lot, but keep in mind that it was nearly impossible to find groups until they added search - it was like stumbling around in the dark and sheer magic coincidence to find a group you might be interested in. And the point of introducing search is? That's right to encourage you to JOIN MORE GROUPS!
Interesting that a month later they're encouraging people to SHED the number of groups that they've joined. Schizophrenia?
Being curious, I take a look at the FAQs for groups, and find that the FAQ still states:
(Text says: You can join as many groups as you belong to. We anticipate that the average user of LinkedIn probably belongs to at least 3 to 4 groups that are meaningful to their professional life.)
That's right folks, belong to as many groups as you like, except that we mean 50 is the limit now, or will be...
And it gets worse...
What's the process like to start bailing out of groups? Certainly not user friendly.
Look at your existing groups - I'd show a screenshot of the 154 groups I belong to, but that would be silly. Here's just the top of the page.
Note that there is no facility to bulk unsubscribe. So it's one at a time.
Jump into a group to start the process of leaving the group.
Ok, find that tiny link in the bottom right, and leave the group.
Log in to your account first
Confirm you want to leave (where is AJAX when you need it?)...
Congratulations, you're done! And where do they put you? Back at the home page, where you are another click and pageload away from getting back to your list of groups again.
I'm no math whiz, but they're expecting me to do this 104 times, and it's 5-6 steps per unsubscribe (if I'm not forced to login every time, it's one less screen and click). So I'm looking at 500+ pages to accomplish what they're asking for. Let's say it's an average of 5 seconds to load each page and click the link or login to get to the next step. That's 2500 seconds, or 41+ minutes of my life if I go non-stop.
Attention users - please do our work for us:
Now I realize I may be subscribed to more groups than most people - but that was one of the most powerful ways to zoom in on people with similar interests on LinkedIn, and given that THERE WAS NO CONVERSATIONAL CAPABILITY (and is that coming? Who knows?), the one and only value to me in being in so many groups is that it essentially bookmarked people for me that might be of interest to meet, partner with, work with, interview, etc..
Now some people have suggested that LinkedIn provide tools to merge/collapse redundant groups, because, whadda ya know, there are many cases where the purposes for groups are almost identical, again because groups where hidden away, unsearchable. Not unheard of for there to be 4-10 alumni groups for the same university for example, due to poor Findability. There's easily 100 innovation-related groups, same for sustainability/green/alternative energy.
LInkedIn's solution there? From their Customer Help area (different area than the FAQ section mind you - sensing any strategic thinking here? Me neither...):
Merging Your Groups
How do I merge my groups?Due to the member-generated content and the high priority on member's ability to choose which groups they join, we do not offer an automated process for merging groups. For managers of groups that have similar concepts, we recommend contacting the other group manager explaining your goals for combining the groups. If the other manager would like to proceed, you would then choose one group to keep open.Below you will find the step by step instructions we recommend to merge the groups.
- Identify all duplicate groups you would like to merge.
- Contact the owners of the groups and determine which group you would like to be the main group.
- Verify the group name, group logos, and group description for the main group.
- Export the current member roster of the groups you would like to close.
- Upload a correctly formatted CSV file to pre-approve members into the main group.
- Invite all of the members who have been pre-approved to join the main group.
- Delete duplicate groups by going to My Groups > Manage > Edit Group Info > Deactivate the group. Note: The "Deactivate the group" link can be found at the bottom of the "Edit Group Info" page right underneath the "Save Changes" button.
Note: If you are an official representative of an organization and believe that there are unauthorized groups using your group name or logos, please contact customer service to begin a formal review.
And people wonder why I believe usability matters, why thinking through processes matters, why social networking is a more subtle business than you might think, why search is only part of Findability, etc..
It's a miracle LinkedIn has grown to this point - this is another case where things are just broken enough to be annoying, but apparently not broken enough to cause an outright revolt. Same goes for Twitter - except in their case they can't keep the service up and fully functional for more a few days at a time.
I realize this is my Wednesday rant, but is it just me? Who is steering the ship at LinkedIn? Do they test these things with newbies and power users before deciding how to move forward with new features/functionality? What takes so bloody long to provide searchability into a database of your own design? This is just ridiculous - are ex-airline executives in charge, or why is it that the actual users don't seem to enter into the thought process?
Thoughts? I suspect there is going to be a revolt of power-users on LinkedIn, but who knows, I could be wrong. This whole process is so wrong that I can barely find ONE aspect that makes legitimate sense - but off-loading a mess with no adequate tools to make it at least palatable to help them prepare for the next wave is just crazy.