I was in sort of a smart-ass mood the other day, and I found myself thinking of something incredibly random. Do you remember that show or special called “To Catch a Predator” in which Chris Hansen and a crew of people would set up sting operations for sickos that would try to meet up with young girls? I found myself wondering, “if that crew has LinkedIn profiles, what are they getting endorsed for?” Pederast Snaring? Child Impersonation? What awful skills to have, public service notwithstanding. How might one get much better skills there?
Well, one way is simply to make them up. That would probably be effective. I’ve been endorsed for Ruby and Objective C lately, two languages in which I’ve never written a line of code. If my skills for that can get endorsed, presumably my skills for anything can get endorsed, whether or not they exist. If I wanted to be the most interesting man in the world, what skills would I have? I started a list of things I’d like to see in my profile, in no particular order, to make people say “whoa — I want to know that dude’s story!”
- Extreme Ice Fishing
- Octopus Farming
- Dark Arts
- Bear Whisperer
- Inverted Breathing
- Street Pharmacy
- NFL Quarterbacking
- 19th Century Russian Classics Author
- Gonzo Meditation
One could create a pretty bizarre and interesting composite and probably get plenty of endorsements for it. In fact, I might get more endorsements for these things than programming languages I don’t know because amused contacts would probably go out of their way to endorse me for Octopus Farming. And as I contemplated this, it occurred to me. LinkedIn is a joke.
I don’t mean that in the sense of “oh, it’s really gone downhill in quality,” but I mean that it is actually, seriously now a joke. I can’t remember the last time I heard the site mentioned in casual conversation where the conversation wasn’t about how stupid and funny the skill endorsement system is. And that’s really strange, given its history.
As far as social networks go, each one seems to kind of have its niche and feel. Twitter is sort of like a bar, where there’s rapid-fire, disjointed conversations and things often escalate quickly due to out of context remarks. Google+ is like an abstract art museum. There’s a lot to see, but it’s generally from the same few people, and the place is really weird and quiet. Facebook is like going to a children’s playground. People you don’t know very well bore you with pictures and stories of their children, and the whole world is watching, so nothing happens that isn’t completely vanilla and boring. LinkedIn’s niche has historically been to serve as office space that hosts professional conferences or associations. People meet up there to exchange contact info and have professional conversations.
But that’s all changed more recently with the asinine endorsements and the uptick in punishing recruiter spam. Now it’s like a professional conference brought to you by Amway and Satan where reality shows like “America’s Dumbest Celebrities marry America’s Fattest Ex-Ball Players” stream constantly. If you want to show up and talk about your craft, you have to hear about a super business idea for cleaning products and watch a few short episodes of utter crap before you get down to business. It feels like you’re at the midway point on a journey from professional conference to brothel, where there are just enough booth babes to make everyone uncomfortable.
So the joke must be on LinkedIn, right? They haven’t figured out just how stupid the world thinks the endorsement system is, and they’ll probably be horrified when they do? Nope. They know it, and they’re laughing all the way to the bank, because here’s how it works. Recruiters can sign up for LinkedIn to recruit people for jobs, and they pay LinkedIn for this privilege in terms of the amount of people they contact and the amount of responses they receive to their overtures. So LinkedIn is incentivized to ensure the highest volume of contact between recruiters and users of their site, and what better way to do that than a system of ‘endorsement’ that is completely trumped up and phony? LinkedIn has all the motivation in the world to create a system where every person is endorsed for every skill and every recruiter emails everyone.
So while we laugh at their joke of an endorsement system and bemoan the fact that we get endless contact requests and junk mail through their site from recruiters, they’re raking it in. And people tend to give in to the sunk cost mentality of not quitting something that they’ve spent a good bit of time over the years building up. People aren’t likely to abandon all of their contacts. But here’s the trouble, strategically. People aren’t going to rage-quit LinkedIn, but their perception of it will alter as it careens toward internet brothel. They’ll stop viewing it as the professional social network and start viewing it as a spam conduit, and they’ll just stay away. Every time they get an email that Judy has endorsed them for “Time Management” and “Multi-Tasking,” they’ll just say, “ugh” and inch ever closer to creating a filter rule in their inbox to send LinkedIn emails to their junk folders. They’ll just quietly stop coming back.
And over the course of time, Linked-In will cease to be a social network. It will instead become a stream of information from LinkedIn’s recruiters (their customers) to the rest of us non-premium users (the product). And then they’ll be no different than Career Builder, Monster, and Dice — with the difference being that those sites never pretended to be anything other than what they are. Perhaps I’m overreacting, but I just get the sense that LinkedIn has jumped the shark. It’s a silly place, and I don’t much care for going there anymore.