Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Uproar About New LinkedIn Group Policy

The LinkedIn member uproar in response to the new group membership policy (see below) has been widespread, and reviewed widely. I frequently see twits and status updates complaining about the new policy.

As a LinkedIn member previously holding memberships in over 1300 groups, I can feel the pain expressed and well explained by Gary Pool as members are now working to comply with the new policy requirements by the deadline of September 15th. Gary's post is very informative and is a nice use of screen shots.

Chicago area estate planning attorney Laura McFarland-Taylor, Manager of the Estate Planning Lawyer Network group on LinkedIn, asks "why does LinkedIn want to limit the number of groups that you can join to 50? Will less popular groups be eliminated? Is the next step to limit the number of people you can connect with?"

Attorney McFarland-Taylor continues, "I’ve “met” a lot of interesting people through my various groups and I hated having to make the decision of which groups to leave. I created one group and manage another and I am not going to make an effort to create new groups, though I see a need in some areas, particularly in trademark and copyright law. I am definitely not spending as much time on LinkedIn – there’s no point spending time looking through people’s profiles for interesting groups or through the group directory since I can’t join additional groups."

Jason Alba blogs that he saw a huge storm brewing early. Despite the heavy handed way the policy was carried out, Alba believes "that more Group love is to come. It has to come, if you ask me, because Groups are far from functional. It’s funny to me that this has caused such a stir, considering there currently isn’t much value in joining Groups."

He of 27,000 LinkedIn connections - Super-networker Marc Freedman won the support of many when he articulated the recent outrage of many LinkedIn members with a long history of involvement on LinkedIn on Getsatisfaction.com

Marc notes that

"Respectfully this action by LinkedIn continues a long history of “improvements” that:
> remove features
> have no user input
> come with no information. There is no FAQ or forums for questions on this change.
> are poorly planned. We won’t provide your more info and you have a week to make changes or else.
> penalize innocent members
> show no respect to legitimate users’ time and energy by not grandfathering changes ..."

he continues and offers an alternative,

"I know of no established company, none as large as LinkedIn, and certainly none that are Web 2.0 and live and die based on user support that act in such a purely anti-user way.

It’s reasonable to:
> respond to user complaints
> set up a user-moderated forum for abuse
> improve your technology to set up a group application process and provide tools to group owners to facilitate better group management and reduce inappropriate memberships.

It’s poor practice to use the blunt instrument of limits that hurts users who have done nothing wrong."

Freedman further explains,

"... My world is no longer defined by real-world groups in my little town. It now includes my metro area, my country, the planet, and purely online communities. If I have an interest in 18th century coastal Chinese architecture or a specific product or web site, the Internet now enables me to find a group with like minded people. Just like this very site at getsatisfaction.com.

And many groups have several legitimate subgroups. My college has general, graduation year, and area of interest groups. Major cities have dozens of business and networking groups. I have literally hundreds of areas of interest.

There are dozens of legitimate career and job organizations, each of which offers me different programs, networkers, features, locations, discipline concentrations, etc. and so each gives me unique value."

There has been some defense of LinkedIn and even kudos to how LinkedIn has handled their response to the criticism. LinkedIn Director of Marketing Robert Leathern responds that "groups-related functionality is going to be an important part of LinkedIn's future."

Although The LinkedIn Lawyer is not pleased in a way, I have found the new policy to be an opportunity for improving my networking relationship with group members. The new policy has created the unanticipated networking activity of having to find a qualified member to pass along ownership of one or more of my 100 lawyer networking groups. Careful critics - it is really these human interactions, anticipated or not, created as a result of whatever website configurations there are that bring LinkedIn off of the laptop and into our real professional lives.