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.

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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

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