April 14, 2011

Not updating this blog much. I've taken some time to go back to college, do art and play with a bunch of toys that I've wanted to try for a while. Frankly, my only real thinking about "Platform Wars" happens when I
read ZDNet ... so you might as well get the stories direct from them.

I did wonder whether I should retire this blog entirely. But I know that although I sometimes go on hiatus on some topics, I usually find myself getting interested in them again at some point. So consider this blog hibernating (rather than dead).

However, here's a comment I posted to a mailing list discussion a couple of weeks ago about the opportunities for LinkedIn. Nothing new to regular readers here. But I realise it deserves a permanent home here.

For years I've been asserting that the key for social networks to make
money is to enable their members to form groups that actually DO
things together. And to earn revenue as enablers of doing things.

In a sense, Groupon is a great step forward although a) it doesn't
come out of an existing social network, and b) it seems like Groupon
finds the deals itself rather than lets members find them.

If I ran a network like Facebook I'd add "one click" Kickstarter-like
functionality so that organisers of any event could instantly set up
an account to collect donations, or an escrow account to collect money
for things that only happen if a threshold is reached. In the long
run, Facebook's 500 million members are going to be more effective at
finding Groupon-like deals than Groupon's paid staff.

In the case of LinkedIn, it's slightly trickier, because the essence
of LinkedIn is to NOT be Facebook. By which I mean, LinkedIn's
strength is that it works as as low-traffic, low frequency site for
"serious" uses (as opposed to the fripperies of Facebook). You can't
expect LinkedIn users to be on the site every day (or even every

Here's a personal perspective. I'm an artist / musician and software
developer. I've been paid to write music for modern dance productions;
and I've been paid to write stock-control software to manage
warehouses. And, of course, depending on what kind of gig I'm applying
for, I may want to send a very different CV of my recent projects and
achievements. I basically keep two Word files and manually keep them
up-to-date and in sync. Now what I'd love LinkedIn to do for me would
be to let me create richer CVs with detailed *tagged* sections and let
me generate printable docs based on a selection of tags. Eg. if I'm
applying for an exhibition I want to include five recent bits of
web-art I've done and links to a YouTube channel. But won't bother
mentioning the e-commerce system I built in Perl all those years ago.
For a different potential employer, I may like to generate the

I probably wouldn't pay directly for that functionality alone. But I
would spend more time on the site if it was a full CV management
solution. And I'd accept targetted advertising. (LinkedIn would, of
course, have a lot more data about me too, that it could use for

Similarly, people aren't changing jobs every day, but freelancers
*are* pitching for jobs every month. I'm not saying that LinkedIn want
to buy oDesk or should copy it directly. But I am saying that the
growth opportunities for a "professional oriented" social utility will
include a lot more support for people doing short term contracts. And
yes, that means helping people manage outsourcing to freelancers
around the world, letting people manage more sophisticated CVs and
portfolios, keeping a reputation system, facilitating international
payments etc. etc.

LinkedIn still thinks we do a series of "one job after another" rather
than have a portfolio of different jobs, freelance contracts, non-paid
activites etc. which overlap in time. I went back to college this
year, and yet I can't tell LinkedIn that I'm in full time education
again and therefore not to show my most recent paid job as if it's my
current one. The biggest improvement they could make is to keep the
seriousness (ie. don't try to copy Facebook) but to understand that
work is evolving and to help members track and navigate their
trajectory through this increasingly complex space.