Is LinkedIn a site worth recommending?

(Image: Nan Palmero)

(Image: Nan Palmero)

They say that great Web 2.0 organisations understand how Data is the next ‘Intel Inside’.  On that basis, is LinkedIn a Web 2.0 site worth recommending?

Tim O’Reilly identified 8 core Web 2.0 patterns in his article “What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software”. This week, I am looking at LinkedIn in relation to O’Reilly’s pattern “Data is the next Intel Inside” . This concept is based on the idea that “Web 2.0 serves as a platform for users to accumulate content that everyone shares“.

LinkedIn has developed their application as a professional networking and recruiting platform.  Individuals and companies can add their own information which is then available to other individuals or companies. It is based on the 6-degress of separation concept which highlights the value of your network.  I have stepped through some Best Practices to see how LinkedIn applies them. So lets take a look inside.

Own a unique, hard to recreate source of data. 

The LinkedIn dataset is truly unique since it was built by the users themselves and is not available anywhere else. It could be recreated by a compilation of resumes from users and recruiters but nowhere is it found all in one place. LinkedIn has also established significant ownership driven from their default privacy settings.

Enhance the core data.

LinkedIn has made their core data better by enhancing it. Explicitly, they enhance through user recommendations and skills endorsements. Implicitly, they track and report usage (e.g. how often a user has come up in searches, how often a user is viewed).

Allow users to control their own data.

LinkedIn does allow users to control their own data and their are plenty of sites with advice on how to do this. They also allow users to view and export their data. Despite how counter intuitive this seems, it gives the user more control and more confidence in the site.

Make some rights reserved, but not all.

LinkedIn has walked a fine line between giving users all data rights and giving users no data rights. There is plenty of advice from LinkedIn on what you own and what they own – if you can wade through the User Agreement.

Linkedin imageDefine a data strategy.

I believe LinkedIn is very aware of the value of their data – and has grown a very successful business from it. They got negative feedback from their user data changes in 2011 and had a more user-friendly attempt in 2012.

Own the index, namespace or format.

This Best Practice is worth considering if you can’t or don’t own the underlying data, but this is not a big issue for LinkedIn since they significant data ownership.

Design data for reuse.

O’Reilly says not to overlook the value in operational or organisational data. One great example is Coke using their stock control data . There seems to be no public information about this in relation to LinkedIn.

Outsource or supply data access management.

Again, there is not much public information about this in relation to LinkedIn.

You would think that any organisation that follows Best Practices, would have solved all of their problems.

Unfortunately there are some data issues and debates that every organisation, including LinkedIn, needs to consider.

I think LinkedIn has clear data ownership based on their strong User Agreements, refined over their 10 years in business, so this is not a problem for them.

LinkedIn has now overcome the start-up challenge of getting enough data to get started.  With over 200 million users world-wide, they have plenty of users to provide user content.

The Open Data Movement is something LinkedIn should watch since their business model relies on data ownership. However, since they have enhanced their core data with new features (events, groups etc) they are less susceptible due to this data diversification.

The Concerns with Copyright is less of a issue for LinkedIn since most of the content is user created and they have User Agreements clarifying ownership. 

So, is LinkedIn a Web 2.0 site worth recommending? 

I believe LinkedIn has clearly focused on this pattern for successful Web 2.0 applications.

Their data is core to their business and they seem to have addressed most areas of Best Practice quite strongly. They have not avoided issues around user data privacy, but based on the large number of users and small amount of bad press they seem to be managing this quite well.

My advice to a business looking to succeed like LinkedIn in the Web 2.0 arena is – take a good look at how LinkedIn has implemented “Data is the next Intel Inside”.

My advice to users of the LinkedIn application is – take some professional advice from LinkedIn’s founder… and be aware of your LinkedIn privacy settings.

If you want a quick personalised tour, take a look at this video to see how your content is of value to you and your network based on the ‘6 degrees of separation‘ concept.


Related sites:

“I can’t get this data out of my mind” about LinkedIn – blog by Matt Low

“Harnessing Collective Intelligence” with LinkedIn – blog by Eman Alsheheri


17 thoughts on “Is LinkedIn a site worth recommending?

  1. Very good post.

    As you mentioned above LinkedIn has gained its notoriety through its very unique data content that is not available anywhere else. As a professional networking and recruiting platform it is only really challenged by online recruiting job sites however they do not provide the extra functionality LinkedIn does.

  2. Hi Brownwyn,

    I enjoyed reading your post.

    I like the fact that Linkedin is able to aggregate data in an extremely effective way for business. It is often the first port of call for employers around the world looking for human resources for their organisations. Your point about 200 million users, I agree that Linkedin definitely have a user base big enough to provide user content and dispense with start up worries. How much of this is volume related do you think? I think the way Linkedin actually harness, aggregate, collate and distribute their data is what makes them the success that they are. Do you think they could be as successful with 100 million users if they improved the way they shared data and addressed the concerns people have over their privacy policy? How do you think data volume vs data handling measures up for a site like Linkedin.

    I am not yet a member of linked in, I figure I will wait until I am no longer a student and am actually employed full time. I do like the fact that it separates your professional world and personal worlds. Do you think a business based extension to Facebook could ever compete with linked in ?

    Please check out my blog at I hope you enjoy the read 🙂



    • Hi Adam, thanks for the comment. I agree with you that LinkedIn has got past any start up worries around data volumes, but I don’t know what the tipping point would have been. I guess that is when a company would be closely watching their traffic. I also don’t know if they would be more successful with 100 million users than 200 million, but I think someone said ‘the person with the most data wins’, so the more users the better. I know they have been revising their privacy policy and they did reconsider one of their changes so I think they are listening to their users. Finally, I don’t think you need to wait until you finish your studies to join LinkedIn – it is a way to promote your personal brand (and blog), build networks, comment on professional topics, join professional groups and attend networking events – all still valid for an emerging professional. Good luck on your journey! Bronwyn

  3. Hi Bronwyn,

    I liked your post, very well written article about LinkedIn. I agree with you that LinkedIn is an excellent web 2.0 application that is worth to try for everyone. However as many other social networks we have to be aware of the risk side of it which is the privacy issue.

    If any one wonders how LinkedIn harness the collective intelligence? Read my post on it.

    • Hi Eman, thanks for your comment about privacy. It is one topic which has 2 sides to it: users want to protect privacy but companies want the data to gain value. It is a fine line to walk and get right, you’re right.

      I also added your site on my post as a ‘related site’ so maybe readers can see LinkedIn from a few different angles.

  4. Hi Bronwyn,

    It was interesting to read your article about Linkedin, thanks. To add to it, I think “Design data for reuse” is a really key feature in Linkedin’s success. Profile data is structured to be searchable, so every time your profile shows up in someone’s search results you know your data has been reused. 🙂

    I still can’t get into using Linkedin, though. Linkedin is like another Facebook, but for your “business persona” rather than your “private persona”. I prefer to do all my social networking in one place, where all my friends and contacts are, which is why I don’t user either Google+ or Linkedin. Maintaining multiple separate profiles seems like a lot of work; anything we do in public or online should be suitable for an employer to see, anyway. Is there anything you can say to win over fence-sitters like me?

    I also had an interesting thought, though maybe it’s outside the scope of this discussion. Linkedin has its own niche, but Facebook is surely Linkedin’s biggest challenger. If Facebook introduced a feature for incorporating your CV and flagging contacts as “business” or “personal”, do you think Linkedin would survive?

    • Yes – when others search for your profile this search information is added to the dataset too. I thought this was more like ‘enhance the core data’ rather then ‘design data for reuse’. I loved what Coke was doing (see my link in the post) but didn’t have the inside info on LinkedIn.

      Interesting about multiple profiles/personas. I think it is getting a bit like phone numbers – you might have home, work and mobile and though it’s annoying you just put up with it…and look for innovative products to take the hassle out of it all.

      My thoughts on Facebook challenging LinkedIn: I think LinkedIn has differentiated themselves on the professional features (resumes, skills, events, groups etc) and after 10 years is now holding their own. I think Facebook should be looking out for challenges from like products (eg Google+) remembering Facebook was the upstart who replaced MySpace. They should watch their back for the next upstart.

      I think anyone who can help you export your Facebook data to a new platform would have a chance to beat Facebook. It is the data that people don’t want to lose, the real “Intel Inside”.

  5. It was good to read from someone who uses the site. I don’t use linkedIn however after reading about it I am giving it some serious thought. I’m not a massive social network ‘junkie’ I purely use Facebook for business & the odd status update when overseas. Im one of those loser ‘show-offs’! Don’t be offended if this is you but I find there is a significant amount of time wasting or perhaps life wasting spent on social network sites. LinkedIn sounds like my type of site.
    In your opinion how do you think a small business would truly benefit from having a LinkedIn site? Would the basic free subscription be enough?

    • Hi Matt, thanks for your comments. I use LinkedIn and I think you could get in for free eg you can create an account and then create an entry for your own small business (with you as number 1 employee). I suggest you give it a go….maybe use it for some O’Reilly pattern reflection over the next 6 weeks. As to what you get out of it, it depends on what you are looking for: profile your career (ie manage your brand), profile your company, post events, join or start groups etc. It depends on what you are looking for. Sorry to be vague but hope this helps.

  6. Hi Bronwyn

    LinkedIn is a great tool for professional branding whether you want to find a job or just want to establish your own brand as professional. You should connect to as many people as you can to get more out of LinkedIn. However, you shouldn’t connect with the people you barely know. This will allow them to have access to all your connection. Do you agree with me? because people also want some privacy even in LinkedIn.

    Prapat W.

    • Hi Pratap. You raise a couple of questions/points. Technically, LinkedIn allows you to chose who sees your connections so this should be within your control. Individually, everyone can make their own choice about how much sharing they want to do. Some might show only the number of connections and may only connect on specific criteria (eg people they have met) – this is what works for me. Others are keen to network with as many people as possible (eg LION stands for Linked In Open Networker which says they will connect with anyone). And there are many options in between. The only problem with all these options is how to set them all up – it is a bit confusing. Hope this helps.

  7. Great post! LinkedIn is an excellent example of a data-driven website. At first I was cautious about LinkedIn, wondering it’s value, but after joining the site I can definitely see it’s worth in the social-networking sphere, as a purely professional network. I think it’s very clever how the site makes recommendations based on your profile, user-activity and external data, such as from a connected email address.

    • Thanks, Monique. I think you can judge their success from the value of the company (huge) and the wealth of the creator (motza). My goal was to understand what they had done right and be able to emulate. I like your comments on their integration with other applications – good point.

  8. Good informative links you have in this post! LinkedIn’s data are probably all about professional data. Privacy settings are fully base on user’s ability to set to their own like facebook where it states only friends can see them, or friends of friends, or public.

    • Your right, Jerfen. The content leans towards professional data (resumes and networks) as well as groups and events. The privacy settings are available but not so easy to untangle. Still, they have the plenty of members so the users must be satisfied.

  9. Excellent blog. I like to use LinkedIn to maintain my professional on-line persona. I will think differently about the site now and will definitely check my privacy settings.

    • Thanks for dropping by. Interesting you use the term “persona”. Since it is all user-built content it may or may not be true. I guess that is why LinkedIn is using the Recommendations and Skills Endorsements – to improve the quality and value of their dataset!

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