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The Internet has made the world a global village. One where it matters no more where you live to be connected with people.  It takes less time to share your thoughts with people that are with you digitally than those that you may run into physically. Location based personalization aside, everyone around the world can read the same news, get the same results when they search on a topic, see the same updates on Facebook and so on.  What exactly is this doing to our diversity?

Eli Parser discusses Filter Bubbles in his TED Talk and discusses how the Internet may be killing our diversity in opinions. The more a page gets viewed, the higher its rank gets; the higher its rank, the earlier it appears in search results; the earlier it appears, the more it gets viewed – this certainly can be a diversity killer.  This is more of an issue with social opinions and content – nobody wants to be that guy (gal) that stands out with a controversial opinion.  I do wonder about just how much Quora’s algorithms are able to extract and get visibility to the under-viewed and yet good content.  The reality is that the more upvotes an answer gets, it is likely to continue getting more upvotes in future.  Facebook and G+ are no exceptions. Our friends’ likes on a picture make us want to stop and look at it – and more often than not, we may end up liking it too.

Let’s look at the physical world here.  This phenomenon was certainly always present, but it was localized.  The Internet has taken a local phenomenon and made it global.  Is this a problem?  In more dimensions that we can imagine, this is generally a good thing.  It has reconnected us with lost friends and has made the world a smaller place.  But the culprit here seems to be the increasing consumption of content online.  We used to have several sources of content in the past – newspapers, magazines, television, etc. Increasingly, it is all converging to be online.  Our ranking algorithm was previously via word-of-mouth recommendations.  A friend asked us to check something out – in the process, we found something else and asked someone to check that out.  There was scope for interesting discovery.  We talked about opinions in smaller circles – there was room for potentially having varied opinions and not being the loner.

Now we are online and our opinions are too. When we say something, it is visible to a large audience, all at once (unless you have extraordinary patience to compartmentalize your audience).

Are we slowly killing the power of having different points of view?  If we are, that would also kill creativity and it will become a threat to innovation. Before that happens, our algorithms need to start having a measure of interesting and good that is independent of likes/views/votes so that we can take the road less traveled sometimes.

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boss vs leader

Over the years, I’ve had the chance to observe several mid, high and executive level leaders in action, in very close quarters.  I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with several of them as well as observe many more in their journey to deliver strategies and results. Those of us that have attempted leadership know that leadership is hard and involves much more beyond technical expertise. Every now and then, we run into leaders that are not great at what they do. After observing several managers and leaders, I’ve realized that there is one cardinal quality that makes or breaks a leader – and that is the ability to motivate people.

Especially for engineers, the ability to motivate is inherently hard.  This is because in order to motivate, they need to focus on the positives.  And as engineers, we’ve been trained to identify problems and continuously strive to optimize further.  A good engineer is able to identify problems, solve them and optimize the solutions until it is nearly perfect.  A less than perfect solution is not satisfactory. And this attitude poses a huge challenge as engineers grow to be leaders of other engineers.

Being an engineer as well as an Indian is a double whammy, speaking for myself. Indians are trained for competitive spirit with the mantra of being first and the best in everything we do. I am quite sure there are other cultures that fall into this category, but I cannot speak with confidence about that.

As I sat through all-hands meetings at various levels of leadership along the years, in successful companies nonetheless, I’ve seen some leaders that are able to instill an enthusiasm to deliver even more amazing things and some that are downright awful at inspiring.  For some, even as they talk about the wonderful accomplishments of teams, it is difficult not to follow that up with “but, we have big challenges ahead of us”.  This shows they never dwell in their glory and keep their eyes on the future (which is good for a leader), but, it also shows that they don’t quite understand what drives people.

This morning, as I fought one of my son’s worst tantrums as I got him ready to school, I gave in to my anger and frustration. Ultimately, I managed to get him in the car – but, it made me reflect on just how I failed on infusing the motivation of going to school (to be sure, I broke down after several attempts of motivation failed, but that is only incidental in the big picture). Engineering leadership is not unlike that.  We will run into people of varying capabilities and drives that makes motivating all of them a tough job.

Motivational ability is hardly a singleton quality in engineering leadership.  It is often the confluence of several other qualities.  Leaders that inspire must be capable enough in the eyes of the teams they lead or their words will not be construed as inspiration.  This does not mean that they know all the details of the team’s work, but it does mean that they can understand the details when they need to, connect the dots and provide guidance at just the right level.

Great leaders are those that junior members aspire to be someday.  They show by gestures that they care and want the best for their people.  Some of the qualities they possess are worth highlighting.

  • They take the time often to reflect on the team’s accomplishments and truly recognize them, in words and gestures.  Their voice shows they mean it when they publicly recognize the greatness of the team.  They say it multiple times to be sure beyond a doubt that the team understands how much their efforts are appreciated.
  • They take the time to learn how to say people’s names (they can never be caught pronouncing your name incorrectly).
  • They ask often how they can do better on ensuring a job match for you.
  • They don’t try to do your job for you. Engineers have a hard time with this, as they have this urge to do better and feel they can do better than others.  As they get less time for detailed analysis, this leads to frustrations on both sides.
  • They don’t wait to have tough conversations. They have it early so they can provide the opportunity to course correct where needed.

But, above everything, great leaders can motivate.  All else is secondary as they march their teams forward!

Twitter brings curation and quick summaries together.  In an information overloaded world, that is powerful.  But until they can prove they understand user experience, it is hard for me to take them seriously.  

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Twitter’s IPO has been big news.  After all the speculation on their valuation and the criticism of not having that critical woman board member, a 63% spike on their opening price was not a bad show!  26% of teenagers think Twitter is an important social network.  Evidence suggests that people are more likely to follow influencers on Twitter than on blogs or any other places.  Snapchat, the ephemeral photo exchange app, is valued at least at $3B.  The average age of Facebook users is going up and the younger generation is migrating to the cooler places – Twitter, Vine, Snapchat, etc.

Twitter has taken short communications to the mainstream in a massive way.  SMS was always fairly popular – but, Twitter took it to new levels of popularity by providing equivalent functionality, only richer in content!  Other apps such as Whatsapp and Snapchat have followed suit in a similar vision of short messages, but branching in the type and mode of content exchanged – and in Snapchat’s case – limiting the time to live for a piece of content.

While there are a number of possible explanations for the wildly growing popularity of this style of messaging, one that I think is a major contributor is human attention span.  Variety is interesting.  Holding our attention span for long on one topic is hard.  Topics get boring.  Just as the tide was turning from theres-a-lot-of-information-to-catch-up-on to struggling-to-keep-up-with-the-information-pace-and-volume, these short messaging innovations caught up with us.  The illusion of being able to catch up with information quickly is attractive.  Being able to quickly produce content also helps – a single picture or a few words can get it out there.

Curation combined with short messages surely allow us to see a preview of information, leaving it for us to decide whether we want to consume more.  Of course, this is simply hiding information behind yet another level of indirection – a typical computer science solution to problems.  The real content is buried in links that are increasingly shared as these short messages.  These links often lead us to more old style “blogs” (I’m guilty as charged!).

Bringing curation and quick summaries together is clearly the strength of the Twitter class of platforms.

Yet, taking Twitter seriously is tough for me.  Why so?  Fundamentally because they are yet to prove they understand user experience. Reading the Twitter stream on the Twitter app on the phone is painful.  There is nothing that screams “come spend time on me” on this interface!  If you want to see a worse design of a new generation app, you can take a look at Quora, but, we’ll stay on Twitter for now.

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The highlighted stuff provides zero semantically useful information. The user name gets a bold typeface, but then, the picture already tells me who the user is!  The rest of the text is all uniform, resulting in a massive stream of text on the screen!

This is why it is hard for me to take Twitter seriously.  The real brilliance in next generation content sharing is going to be two-fold – semantic information extraction and presentation.  At one glance, I should be able to extract the most meaningful summary of the content I’m trying to consume.  Once this happens, the need for platform level indirection (i.e., Twitter leading to TechCrunch) decreases – rather, the summary can come directly from the content provider.  Although, as innovation goes, it is unlikely that it will come from the content provider and hence, some platform that summarizes and presents (note that it doesn’t have to be the same one doing both) will likely evolve.

Could that be Twitter in the future? It will certainly be great shareholder value if Twitter can figure that out!  But until then, I will continue reading my tweets on Flipboard, ignoring the full page Twitter app ad that now regularly appears in my Flipboard stream.  After all, flipping over it only takes a second!

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For centuries, we human beings are used to having separate worlds in our lives.  Our parents, our friends, our managers, our peers, our teachers, our children – the list goes on.  We often maintain different personalities with the different worlds and rarely are we comfortable with details about who we are in one world leaking into one of the other worlds.  As a diehard Seinfeld fan, this brings to mind George’s fear of colliding of worlds (Independent George, Relationship George) as Jerry happily hooks up Elaine and Susan!

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When I read articles such as the NYTimes one on “They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets“, I always come away with mixed feelings about what role the social networking landscape should play on one’s life – in this case, education, perhaps something else in another case.  This is certainly not the first article written about the reality of colliding worlds and it won’t be the last.  As we become more trackable via sensors, the problem of collisions is going to be huge.  As a society, are we really prepared for it?

Before we answer that question, let’s recall the role that man’s inventions have played on evolving our societal norms over the years.  From the evolution of commerce to banking to recent techniques of sending money via email, one of communication from pigeon carriers to snail mail to all kinds of electronic modes available now, etc., our society has evolved and adapted to inventions (technological and other) that have woven into people’s lives as an integral part.

Along the same lines, there is a massive force on social behavior at the moment, brought upon by all the myriad of information that is available about us online.  I wrote on Quora about the different ways in which one can lose privacy today – for all those reasons and more, evidence of our behavior is smeared in bits of information all over the place.  It is futile to fight it or try to revert or delete it all.  And yet, I believe this is the among the most difficult changes inflicted on society by human inventions.

Despite all the changes that have come about, the notion of a relationship role is one that has undergone little to no change from times immemorial.  And I mean relationship in the broadest of senses – what a student is to a teacher, what a child is to a parent, what friends are to each other, etc.  And despite the huge changes that have happened in the ways we communicate, how we handle these different personas have more or less remained the same.

And today, this is all in jeopardy.  Not only that, but it is rapidly changing – before we are ready for it.  Previously, to impress a potential employer, we could put our best foot forward and know that that is going to be what counts for the most part.  The equivalent of information leaks in that world would have been things like knowing a common intersection of people from one of your different worlds that may divulge undesirable information about you.  This was not a common occurrence in the big scheme of things.

Today, it is a reality everywhere. There is no place to hide.  And this makes all the difference.  Unfortunately, just as in any other case, technology will end up influencing human social behavior more so than accepted societal norms defining the future of technology in this space. We have to be more cognizant about this in our actions.  Be it an educational institution that figures out just how much your tweets count towards your admissions or a student that figures out how to develop a social profile that augments their admissions – we will eventually reach equilibrium. Until then, it’s a rocky road ahead and we have to ride along!

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Do I belong to a minority in that I often find myself in situations where I cannot quite watch a video, but am looking to catch up on something?  With content increasingly migrating to video online, this is proving to be a hindrance to me.  There are many situations – I’m on public transport or trying to put my kids to bed – when I have the time to catch up on something, but cannot quite watch a video.  Are we always expected to have access to headphones and be ready to consume video/audio?

Surely, interactive content can be more engaging.  But, if you are anything like me, you have no special “catching up” or “recreational” time.  This is time that comes out of multi tasking – when I’m doing something else as my primary task and decide to catch up on news or other content as a secondary activity.  If I couldn’t do that, I’d never catch up.  But, this also means that more often than not, I’m looking for written content.  Something I can switch tasks with more easily.  Something that is unobtrusive to my environments, whatever I may be doing.

I must also admit that I find some videos excruciatingly slow in terms of “getting to the point”.  Print allows me to scan and find the most relevant things at my own pace, which I cannot do with video – I am stuck to the pace of the speaker or the content progression, which I usually find slows me down.

There are obviously exceptions to this, where a video on a topic may in fact be the quickest way to consume the content.  Of course, the preference of video vs print is also likely to vary across individuals and I’m sure there are many people who prefer consuming video.

But, my rule of thumb is this – if you need to take more than 30 seconds of my time, give me the text version and let me do it at my pace.

I wonder if automatic transcription of video/audio into text is the next thing that must happen at scale to handle this.  Know the user’s situation and render content in the right medium!

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The tech community has demonstrated that it is at best confused about what type of diversity businesses should aim for, in order to advance well.  It is one thing to curb discrimination, but on the topic of diversity, I think we should be looking for “diversity in perspectives”.  

Diversity has hardly been an easy topic to understand.  For centuries, the human civilization has been trying to deal with just what diversity is and how best to handle it.  So, it is no surprise that it leads to exhaustion as Dick Costolo gets hammered on the lack of women on the Twitter board.  Those who followed the NYTimes article and the less than ideal exchange that happened on Twitter following a harsh comment by @dickc know that the situation is getting so much attention.

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On the topic of “women as minority”, I have very conflicted views.  I’ve written earlier on this topic, advocating that women need to be confident and trust in their abilities to be as good or better as their male counterparts.  So, this question of “should an organization be compelled to have a woman on their board” makes me very uncomfortable.  If you are a woman, would you like to be hired because you are a woman (of course you’d be subject to a minimum bar) or would you like to be hired because there isn’t a better candidate than you for the job?  I’d prefer the latter myself.

For what it’s worth, I think we are hung up on the wrong question!  We are implicitly making this be about discrimination rather than diversity in a meaningful sense.  Have you hired the best candidate you could find for the job?  Of course, there are all kinds of other factors – a reasonable timeline for one – but, in general, if you answered yes to that question, you are done!

Diversity In Perspectives

Now, diversity in perspectives, however, is a completely different thing.  A company like Twitter needs creativity in multiple dimensions.  Arguably, understanding female users is one area.  But, I have a hard time professing that you need a woman to understand female users.  Would you hire a teenager to the board so you can understand teenage users?  Not necessarily.  In a similar manner, the key is that you have a board that can bring in diverse perspectives that are important to your business.  The real problem lies in the fact that most leaders are not necessarily excellent judges of other people’s strengths.  So, it is generally hard for someone to understand who is bringing the right set of perspectives in which area.  How do you know that a male director you just hired understands female users?  It is much easier to believe that hiring a woman will bring that perspective.  All the noise about how Twitter has so many female users and hence desperately needs a woman on the board relate to exactly that!

It is true that it is often difficult for people to understand how their real users behave and what they need.  The solution to this is not that they go find themselves a representative from each segment of their user population.  First of all, there is no guarantee that a 40-year old woman can bring the perspective of a teenage girl.  So, unless you got your segments exactly right, that would not be an ideal fit.  Second, not only do you need the right perspectives from different user segments, you also need these people to be able to connect the dots together and create a cohesive strategy.  Not to mention be able to identify user segments of future relevance.

The bottomline is that diversity in perspectives is what is most important and you need creative people who can understand that they are not necessarily the representative user, can understand the actual users and project their future wants and needs and equally critically, can work together!

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It used to be that the primary medium of advertising were billboards, televisions and newspapers.  As more and more audience shifted to the Internet as the medium of receiving content that used to be served by print and TV, advertising gained momentum on the Internet.  First popularized using the “clicks” model, it continues to evolve and is the dominant source of revenue for most of the Internet stakeholders.  The social media frenzy now cannot be overstated – there are numerous sources of buying “likes” and “followers” that we have heard of.  Alex Rampell wrote about the danger of the intermediate metric on TechCrunch and highlighted that while marketing folks are busy setting milestones based on the number of likes and followers they can accumulate for their brands on social media, this may not in fact be translating into actual sales.  

This is obviously true.  What is a “like” worth?  Especially in light of fake or paid likes?  It is not a directly measurable metric and it can be quite fuzzy as to whether it translates to any direct sales at all.  There are conflicting theories on this, even though brands continue to pour money into social media, accumulating followers, likes, repins and what not.  

But I contend that the situation with social media metrics is no different than with any other metric the advertising world has ever known.  Without going to the beginning of time here, let’s start with newspapers and televisions.  What decided the net worth of an ad on such media?  The number of potential viewers more or less decided why Superbowl ads were worth a lot more than ads on any other day.  Or why a popular newspaper’s front page was worth more than something else.  Was there a direct conversion between sales and a viewed imprint? No!  

Of course, direct conversions are slightly more measurable when a promotion from an ad makes its way into a sale (say, using a coupon in a store or a code in an online purchase).  Then again, this situation is no different from any online intermediate metric we have today.  

Let’s take another widely used marketing channel – email.  What is an email address worth to marketers?  It is as debatable as anything else – but it is common to see offers for simply signing up to receive email.  Each brand has an indirect conversion mechanism that tells them approximately how much an email is worth.  Here is one example – but it is only a small representative of what can be done.  

About the only aspect that makes social media metrics a bit more challenging than any other metric the advertising world has dealt with before is the thriving underground economy that allows social media interactions to be traded.  But, that is to be absorbed as a cost for now, while algorithms get the better of it.  Trolls on the Internet aren’t new.  From fake reviews on Yelp (did you know 20% of Yelp reviews are potentially paid reviews?) to cheap social media interactions (see what a search on “buy social media likes” yields), this is an obvious problem. But, just like email fueled technologies in spam detection (and Yelp’s algorithms filter out what are possibly fake reviews), technology will catch up to extracting the signal from social media interactions.  

The bottomline is that the advertising world is no doubt being morphed by the introduction of new metrics and the shift to online media and sales. But, the philosophy behind computing the net worth of an advertisement is not quite changing – it has always been about “potential impressions” or “potential views” and it still is! 

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Huffington Post published this theory about why Generation Y people are largely unhappy.  First of all, there is a little debate about what really is Gen X and Gen Y.  The timelines that Huff Post talks about don’t tally with what Wikipedia thinks.  But, I digress.  Really, it talks about two related concepts.  That the relationship between happiness and reality is governed by expectations.

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This is somewhat logical and I can get behind it.  So far, it’s alright.  The second part is that the expectations of Gen Y people are unrealistic!

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So, this is where the problem starts.  It talks about how Gen Y people feel special and want to cut short the hardworking process of progressing in your career and how that’s all messed up.  At the surface, it seems like there is a logic here.  But, when you scratch the surface a little, you realize this is total bullshit.  This writeup went on to invoke reactions such as this one. Okay, that’s one aspect of it – that Gen Y people are left to deal with student loans and insufficient jobs.  While I sympathize with that, that’s not what I’m going to focus on here.

Careers are no longer built in sequential progressions that cause years of hard work to eventually pay off.  That’s one way of looking at it and frankly, that’s a broken way of looking at it any more.  Places that reward just the sheer number of years one has been working hard at a particular level are likely not innovating aggressively.  It is the era where the smarter one and the one that can deliver takes all.  This is why it is not at all uncommon for one to be reporting to a past report of theirs, where someone who is younger had an impact that earned them a faster progression than their older boss has had.

Any more, progression is about impact.  True, it is conceivable that you might have impact early and might end up with a lot of responsibility when you are not ready for it.  That surely happens.  However, it cannot be true any more that you keep progressing just because you are working hard.  The working hard must absolutely translate into impact or it’s of no value.  And not all organizations and managers are good at seeing those two as distinct things.  It takes skill to separate the two.  Hard work can often be misinterpreted for eventual impact and that’s a problem.

Chamath Palihapitiya perfectly articulates this notion in this video.  As he notes, the pedigree you collect via traditional education and methods matters less and less.  What you know and what you can cause to happen matter a lot more.  Some people have a hard time separating experience and maturity from age and impact.  It’s never too early to recognize impact.  If you can sense when impact and maturity go hand in hand and capitalize on that talent, you’ll do well.  That’s what separates the ones that keep innovating from the ones that stagnate.

No, careers are not built with progressive linearity.  Careers are a function of impact and maturity.  And it doesn’t matter what generation you are from.  It only matters that you can think big and deliver big.

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I finally have a working phone and it’s not the HTC One!  Even though I badly wanted the One and I still think it is the best-looking Android out there, I went with the Moto X.  After all, I had to get a feel for the first real phone from Google!

First Impressions

The unpacking left me with an Apple-like experience – I had to check to make sure I didn’t mistakenly order the iPhone!  White everything (except for the phone itself) meticulously tucked in layers – well, it’s become a norm these days, but this felt a little more Apple-like than other non-Apple gadgets.  Taking the device out of the box was a ‘meh’ moment.  Really?  It looks no different from my phone that just died – the Galaxy Nexus!  Okay, the back of the phone has a better feel to it, but, whatever!

I had already braced myself for an unimpressive first impression, but the reality reinforced that.  Small screen (I had been using the LG Optimus briefly before this and yeah, the screen size suddenly looks a lot smaller!). The same boring form factor and look.  Oh, and the not so good camera (I had made up my mind on this before taking a single picture, given all the reviews!).

Beyond First Impressions

Just a few days later, I have to admit I’m liking the device!  I won’t go into all the details, as there are many reviews that cover everything in great detail.  But, the most important thing this phone provides me that is invaluable is the hint of context aware personalization in its very basic form.  We can talk about many things that can be done here, but the few features that this device supports are really fundamental and in many ways, this is the best starting point for personalization.

Active Display

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The active display is brilliant!  It is a means by which a small area of the screen is lit up at low power and the Moto X uses this to display the time and pending notifications when you pick up the phone.  Most of the times, you pick up the phone just to turn the display on and check the time or see what notifications are pending.  You don’t even bother unlocking the phone!  Now, the phone does it for you – both at some regular intervals as well as upon sensing the device being picked up.  Combined with low power inertial sensing and low power display, this helps with extended battery life while giving us exactly what we need!

Always On Voice

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Granted I haven’t quite tested this feature for false positives, but, so far, I’m impressed.  Training my voice was simple and the response is flawless!  The credit for the fundamental technology in this case goes to TI (the DSP that supports always-on-voice with keyword recognition comes from them).  But, the software integration with Google Now and the rest of the platform has also been nicely done!  There is room for improvement on the latency front (from the voice sensing to invoking Google Now to execution of the command itself is in the several seconds – maybe even in the small two digit number of seconds – range).  But, we have to remember that this is first generation and it will only improve.

Drive Mode

There are a bunch of things under the Motorola Assist umbrella, but I find most of it rather useless (no, just because I have a meeting on my calendar does not mean I’m always in it!).  But, the “talk to me when I’m driving” mode is quite useful.  A use case that has been beaten to death in the contextual world, but useful nonetheless.  Drive detection is fairly good, although coming out of drive mode takes too long.  Obviously, lots of caveats here with respect to whether you are the driver or the passenger (presumably you don’t want the device talking to you when you are not the one driving).  But, that’s a tough problem to solve – so, we should not hold it against them!

Trusted Devices

It is nice to not have to unlock the device with a PIN when it senses being close to a trusted device.  At the moment, I think this feature is too broadly set up in allowing an unlock in the presence of any paired Bluetooth device.  Being close to my headset cannot be strong enough authentication – losing the phone and headset together is hardly a difficult thing.  But, sensing my car and allowing the phone to be unlocked is more reasonable.  I suspect users will opt for convenience here – I don’t allow unlocked mode unless I’m in the car, but I can see some people taking every opportunity to keep the device unlocked!

In short, this device is showing us snippets of real personalization and the value is tremendous!  For all those trying to solve the ultimate in personalization, this is an example of starting small, but in the right way.  There is no overwhelming the user and the interface is clean.  I’m sold! 

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I’m a fan of LinkedIn.  I have watched that business grow and what they’ve accomplished is nothing short of amazing.  When they first came out, you thought “hmmm.. online resumes, cool!”.  Now it is the place for anything remotely related to professional activities.  It is where employers go to find potential candidates, entrepreneurs connect with each other, people increasingly go to get anything about their professional lives – from news about other professionals to general water-cooler-discussion-worthy news.

I often use LinkedIn as an example for how to successfully introduce the user to simple functionality and add functionality in bite sizes.  Once users get used to what they have, they’ve slowly and steadily added other things and educated the user on how to use new functionality.  It has worked rather well – okay, they’ve had to roll back on some stuff and double down on some other stuff.  They’ve had their own series of features they’ve phased out (the answer forum or publisher pages come to mind from recent days).  But, let’s talk about what appears to have worked out.

First you put your resume on LinkedIn.  Next, you connected with people you know.  Then you got introduced to people you want to know.  LinkedIn introduced jobs and subscriptions and got stronger ties between recruiters and possible candidates.  You got your next job because someone on LinkedIn saw your profile and contacted you.  LinkedIn pushed the privacy limits with public profiles and got you more visibility.  You got to see who’s interested in your profiles and it got addictive.  Recommendations were introduced to fuel professional introductions.  Fast forward to the current state and we now have endorsements, where we can proactively certify someone to be knowledgeable in something.  Here is an interesting visual history of LinkedIn.  This is all great – 225 million users in 200 countries is worth talking about!

LinkedIn has made it into my frequently visited sites and it is almost the only network, where I choose to receive updates on my primary email address.  By comparison, my Facebook, Twitter and other network emails go to an address I almost never check – I don’t get those emails on my phone and I rarely ever login to those accounts even on a laptop.  I go to them when I feel like it – at a pace that I feel is sufficient to keep up.

Lately, LinkedIn has been pushing its luck a bit too far.  First, the number of emails I get from LinkedIn has exploded.  I started having filters, but thanks to GMail’s new “social” classification, my Inbox is back to being sane!

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But, more importantly, I’m bothered by the amount of real estate that LinkedIn thinks I should get on my screen for something I’m explicitly looking for.  The screenshot above probably explains itself.  I think LinkedIn endorsements is a great idea.  It is not mature right now and in order for this feature to bring value to employers, it has ways to go.  But, it is definitely in the right direction.  That said though, does it have to be in my face every time I try to look up someone’s profile?

That screenshot is the profile page of someone I pulled up – when it comes up, the actual information I sought has the least real estate on that screen!  Seriously?  Between endorsements, ads and other recommendations that LinkedIn wants to throw at me, the profile I actively sought out gets a fourth or less of the available real estate! Thankfully, it doesn’t do that on the phone yet – but, where is this going?

I find this extremely annoying and if this continues, pretty soon, I’ll be looking up less people on their site.  I’m very curious to know if data points to this strategy being useful in terms of user experience as well as user actions (do more users provide endorsements because it’s in the face like this?).

This is the age of continuous experimentation.  But, I wonder, just how much it is okay to push the users?  I think there is a point in user acquisition where the barrier to entry for a new comer as well as the cost of quitting for the user are both rather high.  And for the most part, this is what brings complacence to LinkedIn or Facebook or anyone else in that state.

But, I’d have to imagine that user experience is still the top priority for these companies.  So, I have to believe that either data points to these abominations still producing good user experiences or that the metrics by which user experience is measured are all messed up.  But, more on that later.  For now, I’m not really sure how long I will still visit LinkedIn “frequently”.  My use of Pulse (now part of LinkedIn) rapidly declined after they shoved the Highlight feature on me, forcing me to highlight every time I wanted to share something.  My tolerance for such unwanted stuff is low – especially when the service isn’t indispensable to me… So, I guess we’ll see if I do really feel LinkedIn is indispensable!