Edo the Reliable

LinkedIn Today and Tomorrow

In Social Networks on March 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Customized is OUT, News Feed is IN

The March launch of LinkedIn.com/Today is a reminder that LinkedIn is a force tyo be reckoned with, even though it has no Hollywood movie made about it or a hot pre-IPO market.

LinkedIn has correctly identified the rising interest in social news, and the accompanying look, or feed design (see social news aggregators such as PostPostZite, Flipboard, Early Edition, Flud, Pulse). The LinkedIn social news product – LinkedIn Today – leverages LinkedIn’s strength in the professional community. But how social is LinkedIn’s social news?

When LinkedIn’s blog defines LinkedIn Today as “Customized News”, allowing me to “discover the top headlines”, I cringe. “Customized” is a pre-social concept that is losing momentum (see Google Insights). Facebook only talks about “customizing” your privacy preferences. But Customization used to mean something else – like selecting items from a list of curated MSM sources, or from a very short “industry” list (an architecture once used in Yellow Pages listings). It’s a bit outdated in the context of news feeds – we have grown to expect much finer filtering.

We have also grown to be less forgiving to omissions. LinkedIn’s Today’s industry list is even shorter than its own usual list, and with no option of expanding and exploring it. I couldn’t find Legal Services – a one-time strategic industry for LinkedIn – and wonder what else is missing in the view LinkedIn is presenting to me.

Now, LinkeIn Today selects articles according to three “social views”, which I guess is better than just one. One of those considerations is what my connections and “industry peers” read; but when LinkedIn Today serves me with articles like Measuring the ROI of your social media efforts – USATODAY.com, those are coming from the parts of my industry I’m not proud of and don’t wish to follow too closely. I might appreciate the headlines – only the headlines, please – of articles read by such peers.

In other words, customizing content by industry might end up delivering less than the granulation (or long tail) that users of social services have come to expect. If the “industry” category is too broad, it might easily lead to a reading list that’s been SEO’d down to the lowest common denominator. You know, “top headlines” do not always need to be “discovered”.

Using social methodology means using contexts for better relevancy. It’s a difficult issue that the major players are struggling with (and that this blog tries to track). LinkedIn Labs’ InMaps, released six weeks ago, could be an interesting shot at that issue. In InMaps, users are invited to map their groups; the app decides on the groupings (or contexts), users decide on naming. Then they share with other users, and perhaps a common naming scheme can emerge by algorithm or negotiation. Is LinkedIn already using InMaps data to create a social graph guiding the feed selections of LinkedIn Today? Will LinkedIn – Tomorrow?

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