Maybe I’m a tad too harsh with my headline, but I’m so incredibly frustrated with LinkedIn. The end-user experience, the community within the site, the purpose of using it– I’m frustrated all-together with the network. And my frustration largely stems from my belief that the concept of a social site for professionals and networking is genius; the potential for a thriving network of professionals swapping war stories and helping each other up the career ladder seem great, so why do I really really want to like LinkedIn, but just can’t get into it? That’s not to discredit the site– there are millions of users, their traffic is up, and countless bloggers have espoused the benefits of maintaining a presence on the social network.
But for me, I’ve rarely found reasons to continue coming back to the site. I primarily log in when I find someone interesting online that I’d like to know more about. I’ll surf over to their profile, check any messages in my inbox while I’m there, log out, and spend my time sharing links and finding information through other sources like facebook, twitter, or google reader.
All this might change with a new “labs” feature launched today called “Signal.” Today on their blog, they highlight five key features to the new product:
- Filter: Browse only relevant status updates from your stream
- Search for keywords, topics, or people across your stream
- Get an auto updated real-time stream with rich content
- Find the hottest trending links across any relevant topic
- Who’s shared this link
The LinkedIn team’s five points are exactly on-topic, and go a long way in explaining the utility of the lab. I’ve found that Signal is the perfect tool to allow me the opportunity to find interesting people on the network working in fields relevant with my own work, and see what they are sharing and saying. The best part is that the stream isn’t JUST for your own connections– you already had an easy way to follow their updates from the LinkedIn homepage itself. Rather, you can determine the subset of users you’d like to find updates from based upon their degree of connectedness to you (friends of friends, 3rd connections, etc), industry, region, school, keyword, or workplace.
I believe this is the most killer-feature: I can search the connections of my connections who work in non-profit management specifically; or I can search connections of connections that also went to American University working at a certain company, and see what they are sharing and saying. These broader searches really highlight the inherent utility within LinkedIn, and since many users automatically import their twitter stream into their profile, there seems to be a healthy amount of information loading into these new filters.
Here’s a quick screencast I made for the more visual-learners among us:
This might just be the first-step LinkedIn makes in the long march back toward relevancy, and into a site that promotes a vibrant community rather than simply a repository for web-based resumes. If you’re interested in trying out Signal, click here.