LinkedIn has a language problem that is actually meaningless. So get over it.

Folk I know, particularly I’m thinking here of folk best described as “social media types”, are a bit sniffy about LinkedIn (direct link to my profile).

I wonder if it’s stuff like this that puts them off? The capture below is a box I get when adding someone to my network on Linkedin. Before I can add someone to my contacts list, I need to tell Linkedin about how I know them, and this quickly breaks down the process because of the way language is imposed on the activity:

In this example “Kelly” can only be a “colleague”, “classmate”, someone I’ve “done business” with, a “friend” or “other” (if you select “I don’t know Kelly”, Linkedin will tick you off as the network is supposed to be about real relationships*, and not a way of meeting new people).

Do relationships work like that? Not really, people slip between categories (how about a friend who you went to Uni with and now work with? Where do they go? What box do they go into?). For many folk, these categories don’t even make sense because our world doesn’t consist of “doing business”. In my case the people I want to keep in touch with are academics, media professionals, and past, present or future students; my contacts don’t fit well in these boxes. So students become “colleagues” (which is kind of nice, as I prefer to teach in a collaborative rather than an authoritarian mode), and folk I’ve met at conferences are probably people I’ve “done business with”.

My hypothetical “social media types” are used to having more control over their data than this. They’re used to tagging objects in ways that make sense to them, and using multiple tags so that they can retrieve the right data at the right time. LinkedIn doesn’t allow this. It presents itself as  a “social” tool but speaks a language that seems asocial to those who really care about what social media is and does, and how it works.

So does that mean Linkedin isn’t for them?

Some thoughts on good meetings

I love the fact that “good meeting” is an emergent meme on Twitter: the phrase is seen by a lot of people on Twitter as an empty platitude, the twitter equivalent of saying “er”. We can see it as an example of one of the ways we just keep the conversation going. Perhaps we could even go so far as to read it as a way of putting on a brave face in these difficult economic times: after all if every one thinks you’re having a good meeting, they’ll think you’re doing well, which marketing folks suggest is a good thing if you want to keep getting work.  The interesting thing is I’ve seen the rise of the “good meeting” before.

I used to go to lots of these weird BNI meetings to win new business.  The idea was that we all passed business to one another at the end of the meeting as part of a formal agenda point. We went around the room and people were asked to make a positive contribution to the meeting (there was a big pressure to be positive).  The ultimate contribution was bringing lots of business leads for other people.  A close second was having brought a visitor to the meeting (because all your friends could tap them up for work).  Then came reporting back on a “good meeting” you’d had with someone in the group, and how you were going to do lots of great work together (but people tended to be vague on detail).  Finally, if you were desperate, you just said that thought it had been a “good meeting” that morning.  Often we found there were a lot of “good meetings”. Remind you of anything?

As a bit of fun, the other day I set up @goodmeeting to retweet from a Twitter search for “good meeting”. It rightly got closed for being a daft bot and breaching Twitter TOS.  But here’s the punchline: the majority of people who bothered to @reply, follow, and DM the account were all connected to BNI.