Good or Bad? 1 Billion+ LinkedIn Endorsements

Why LinkedIn Endorsements are a good idea, gone bad. 
  

A few months ago, LinkedIn celebrated 1 billion endorsements by releasing an infographic (see below). Considering the passage of time and the increasing velocity of endorsement giving, this number may be over 3 billion by now.

On the face of it, LinkedIn Endorsements seemed to be a good idea. Users can endorse specific skills of others, thereby helping potential employers to more easily shortlist candidates (the ‘placement’ market is after all, the main revenue stream for LinkedIn). Users will also benefit from ‘social recognition‘ of their skills and capabilities.

However, all is not well in wonderland. The manner in which the Endorsement system has been implemented is resulting in several, hopefully unforeseen, problems. Three main issues are:

1. Personal Brand Dilution:

A user does not necessarily have control over what skills are being endorsed by others. Thus a skill which one does not wish to emphasize might get ‘suggested’ by LinkedIn for endorsement by others, while the skills a user has selected as part of his/her ‘online brand’ are not always visible. While a one can opt not to display a particular endorsement, the overall result is either a wasted endorsement or dilution of the personal brand.

2. Endorsement Value Dilution:

As per the current implementation, anyone can endorse any skill for any connections on LinkedIn. As a result, one may get endorsed for a particular skill by someone who is not is a position to make a genuine evaluation of the skill. For example, a Scientist’s mathematical skills can be endorsed by his/her basketball teammate – not exactly someone who maybe in a position to make such a judgement.  Alternatively, one might get endorsed for a skill that one does not possess [In jest, I've received an endorsement for Quidditch! Unfortunately, I cannot tell a Quaffle from a Bludger]. When combined with the fact that there is no way to verify endorsements, this results in the value of a LinkedIn endorsement being zilch.

3. Unusable LinkedIn Stream:

There was a time when one could view the LinkedIn activity stream and garner the major happenings in one’s professional network. Who changed jobs, who got promoted, who started something new. Now, the stream is largely unreadable, with the majority of updates simply stating that X got endorsed by Y for a skill Z.  Which has made the LinkedIn Activity Stream unusable.

1 Billion Endorsements Given on LinkedIn

The Dunbar Number Explained

The advent of Facebook and other online social networks has made the Dunbar Number a well known concept. This article provides a nice layman’s explanation of the Dunbar number, in the words of Robin Dunbar himself. The article also points out that recent research shows that while people can have several thousand Facebook or Twitter friends, the number of people with whom they have meaningful interactions remains at around 150.

Dunbar's Number in Twitter Conversations

Dunbar’s Number in Twitter Conversations (Photo credit: Cea.)

It seems as though the concept of a ‘Technology Assisted Dunbar Number’, which I had attempted to conceptualize 5 years ago has not found empirical support – as of yet. Hope remains that technology will one day enhance the limits of human cognition and thus enable us to evolve beyond this natural barrier.

 

Key passages from the article are highlighted below:

 

 

 

Over the past two decades, he and other like-minded researchers have discovered groupings of 150 nearly everywhere they looked. Anthropologists studying the world’s remaining hunter-gatherer societies have found that clans tend to have 150 members. Throughout Western military history, the size of the company—the smallest autonomous military unit—has hovered around 150. The self-governing communes of the Hutterites, an Anabaptist sect similar to the Amish and the Mennonites, always split when they grow larger than 150. So do the offices of W.L. Gore & Associates, the materials firm famous for innovative products such as Gore-Tex and for its radically nonhierarchical management structure. When a branch exceeds 150 employees, the company breaks it in two and builds a new office.

For Dunbar, there’s a simple explanation for this: In the same way that human beings can’t breathe underwater or run the 100-meter dash in 2.5 seconds or see microwaves with the naked eye, most cannot maintain many more than 150 meaningful relationships. Cognitively, we’re just not built for it.

—–x—–

Dunbar actually describes a scale of numbers, delimiting ever-widening circles of connection. The innermost is a group of three to five, our very closest friends. Then there is a circle of 12 to 15, those whose death would be devastating to us. (This is also, Dunbar points out, the size of a jury.) Then comes 50, “the typical overnight camp size among traditional hunter-gatherers like the Australian Aboriginals or the San Bushmen of southern Africa,” Dunbar writes in his book How Many Friends Does One Person Need? Beyond 150 there are further rings: Fifteen hundred, for example, is the average tribe size in hunter-gatherer societies, the number of people who speak the same language or dialect. These numbers, which Dunbar has teased out of surveys and ethnographies, grow by a factor of roughly three. Why, he isn’t sure.

 

Another link to the article is here.

 

 

Technology Trends

Key tech trends include wearable computing, contextual apps, big data and maturation of social networks.

 

Futurologist Robert Scoble has predicted four major tech trends – wearable computing (see my previous posts here), contextual apps, Big Data (see previous posts here), and social network maturation.

future

future (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

 

While these trends will surely change commerce practice in the coming years, the nexus of these trends will be immensely disruptive. Think convergence – contextual apps on wearable computers that provide services based on real-time analysis of social and location data, delivered via omnipresent wireless internet access.

 

Wearable computing: Think Google Glasses or Motorola Solutions’ new HC1 headset computer that you attach to your head and operate with voice commands

The “open world”: Android’s relative openness has encouraged “contextual apps” to emerge from the woodwork. “Apple doesn’t let them [developers] talk to the WiFi radio or bluetooth radio,” said Scoble.

Weird databases and the rise of “big data”: “We are seeing weird databases spring up like mushrooms,” said Scoble. These include NoSQL, Firebase, and MongoDB.

The maturation of social networks: The leading social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are accumulating a massive store of user-generated data. What will they do with it?

 

Read more at http://venturebeat.com/2012/10/24/scoble-kawasaki/#B8hsX6orKpglPyWy.99

New ‘Social’ Experience at Box

Box.net start screen (iPad)

Box.net start screen (iPad) (Photo credit: Rob Enslin)

Box has just announced a series of updates that revolve around providing a more ‘social’ experience to its users.

 

 

 

These updates are clearly aimed at gaining more enterprise customers for Box by enabling more interaction and engagement and making it easier for sharing and collaboration. However, many enterprise customers will value utility over the ‘Facebookisation’ of Box. This is where the new enhanced search functionality, and the ability to edit documents from within the application are potential game-changers. Below is a video detailing these changes.

 

 

On the whole, Box needs to maintain a fine balance – by incorporating a much-needed social fabric (and the ensuing chaos, privacy concerns, information overload), it risks loosing its key differentiation factor with its main competition Dropbox – of being a no-nonsense, secure, enterprise oriented service.

 

 

 

 

Steve Jobs Memorial Video

Apple paid tribute to Steve Jobs on the one-year anniversary of his death by posted the below memorial video, titled “Remembering Steve”, on its home page.

 

 

As I wrote a year ago, very few people have had such a profound impact on the world as Steve Jobs.

 

Very few people have had such a profound impact on the world as Steve Jobs. On his passing, we have lost a champion – the Da Vinci and Edison of our times. As the creative genius behind Apple and Pixar, Steve Jobs was a pioneer of the digital age. His creations, ideas and simple elegant solutions touched the lives of millions of people. His legacy will inspire countless others to try to change the world and make it a better place.

Thank you for everything. Rest in Peace Steve.

3D Printing Primer

A collection of readings highlighting some recent developments in 3D printing.

 

3D printing (or additive manufacturing) is a process by which 3D objects are created from digital images by ‘adding’ layers of material (in comparison to traditional  subtractive manufacturing  in which objects are created by ‘removing’ material). Advances in 3D printing present opportunities in manufacturing:

Freed of the constraints of traditional factories, additive manufacturing allows designers to produce things that were previously considered far too complex to make economically.

Weight savings are part of the attraction of 3D-printed parts. With objects being built up layer by layer, it is possible to use just enough material to make the part work.

via http://www.economist.com/node/21552892

 

At present 3D printers make things one at a time or in small batches. But if they could work in a continuous process—like the pill-making machine in the Novartis-MIT laboratory—they could be used on a moving production line. The aim would be to build things faster and more flexibly rather than to achieve economies of scale. Such a line could be used to build products that are too big to fit into existing 3D printers and, because the machine is digitally controlled, a different item could be built on each platform, making mass customisation possible. That would allow the technology to take off.

via http://www.economist.com/node/21552897

 

3D Printing is also becoming cheaper – portable printers are now available for less than 1000 USD.

Introducing UP! mini 3D printer, the much anticipated follow-up of Delta Micro’s flagship 3D printer, UP! Plus. The all-new UP Mini 3D Printer, with its full metal, temperature stabilizing enclosure is available to pre-order at groundbreaking price US$899.

via pp3dp

 

 

Cheap printers, combined with better software, and portable scanners, could make Star Trek like replicators a reality. This in turn could span new businesses and business models.

The Replicator, a robotic rapid-manufacturing system made by Cybaman Technologies, a British firm, already gets close. The size of a large refrigerator, it is capable of both subtractive and additive manufacturing. It uses a laser-based deposition system to build a basic shape which is finished by machining. The Replicator, as befits its name, is also capable of reverse engineering by digitally scanning an object placed inside it to produce the data needed to build an exact replica.

The Replicator is as near as current technology can get to the teleporter of science fiction. It could scan an object in one place and tell another machine on the other side of the world how to build a copy.

Just as the emergence of e-books means books may never go out of print, components could always remain available. Service mechanics could have portable 3D printers in their vans, or hardware stores could offer part-printing services.

via http://www.economist.com/node/21552892

 

Similarly, a combination of crowdsourcing, and 3D printing can democratize the process of design and enable cheap, mass customization. See this video at http://www.economist.com/node/21553276

 

3D printing can also potentially change the way communities function:

In a farming culture like India, a 3D printer could allow small parts for broken tractors to be printed, or custom-made connectors for irrigation systems cobbled together from metre upon metre of different types of hose.

via http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120926-desktop-drugstores

 

However, the applications of 3D printing are not confined to manufacturing:

Some researchers are already using 3D printers to produce simple living tissues, such as skin, muscle and short stretches of blood vessels. There is a possibility that larger body parts, like kidneys, livers and even hearts, could one day be printed—and if the bio-printers can use the patient’s own stem cells, his body would be less likely to reject the printed organs after a transplant.

Food can be printed too. Researchers at Cornell University have already succeeded in printing cupcakes. The “killer app” with food, almost everyone agrees, will be printing chocolate

via http://www.economist.com/node/21552903

 

In this TED talk, living cells are used to print bone (at 7:20) and a currently experimental, human kidney (at 10:10):

 

There are also prototypes of 3D printers that can print parts for other 3D printers – giving life to the stories of self-spawning machines (and many potential applications).

Now Nasa has taken the RepRap concept one step further with SpiderFab, which proposes putting a large 3D-printing machine in orbit around earth and delivering to it the base materials it can use to build space-station components, satellites, modules and, eventually, entire spacecraft in space, thereby eliminating the vast cost of launching them from the ground.

via http://www.bdlive.co.za/life/gadgets/2012/09/26/3d-printing-now-out-of-this-world

State of the Social Network War

Facebook might be the biggest social network, but LinkedIn is clearly the stock market’s darling. 

 

While Facebook has been in the news recently for its dropping share price (which perhaps is not a fair reflection of future possibilities as I write in this earlier post), LinkedIn has been quietly going about its job. It has been announcing a slew of features. These include  new company pages, notifications, new mobile features, and Outlook integration.

 

Launching today is our new notifications feature, which will keep you notified in real-time when someone likes what you’ve shared on LinkedIn, views your profile, accepts your invitation, and much more.

 

 

 

 

On iPhone and Android:

  • Get notified: We will keep you notified in real-time when someone likes what you’ve shared on LinkedIn, views your profile, accepts your invitation, and much more.
  • Company pages goes mobile: Find out which connections work at the companies you care about, see recent news and updates from the company, and learn about current job openings.
  • Don’t want your employer to know you’re looking?: We’ve recently added access tojob listings and jobs you may be interested in directly within your mobile update stream.

 

 

Clearly, LinkedIn is doing better on the mobile platform (23% of LinkedIn users use its mobile apps) and on its ability to monetize its user base (for now). This is reflected in the rising share price – this wonderful chart by statista.com clearly shows that LinkedIn is thriving, while Facebook crashes (see the original chart here).

 

Image via Statista.com

 

And what about Google+? Well, this comic by xkcd says it all.

 

Google+

Image via xkcd