(Occasionally I rant. This is one such occasion.)
First, a thank you.
Thanks to all who have endorsed me on LinkedIn. Despite all I’m about to say, I do believe you endorsed me in good faith, and I sincerely appreciate that.
So why haven’t I returned the favor? And why am I asking you to stop endorsing me?
Because we shouldn’t reinforce perfunctory.
The LinkedIn endorsement feature is mindless and meaningless. I’ll even go so far as to call it cynical. It demeans the very essence of reputation on LinkedIn.
Endorsing someone on LinkedIn takes as much thought and effort as “liking” your mother-in-law’s Facebook post of an owl picture. Which is pretty much none. If there’s a difference, it’s that liking the owl picture might actually make Thanksgiving dinner a tad less awkward next year.
The biggest tell is that I’ve been endorsed by people for skills in which they are in no position to know how skilled I am. That’s nice, of course. But it gets one to wondering: how many other endorsements on LinkedIn are so thinly based in fact?
I’ve also been endorsed for skills by people who do have first-hand knowledge of my skill levels. But even these endorsements should cause some head scratching.
Here are some examples.
I’ve been endorsed for WordPress.
I use WordPress, and I pride (and market) myself as a pretty darn good WordPress developer.
Matt Mullenweg has also been endorsed for WordPress.
But Matt Mullenweg created WordPress. And last I looked, he had only five more endorsements than me.
I’ve been endorsed for jQuery.
John Resig has also been endorsed for jQuery.
John created jQuery.
I use it.
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
Eric Meyer and I have both been endorsed for CSS.
Eric wrote the book on CSS. Books. Plural. Literally. Five of them that are seminal.
If I had to toot my own horn about CSS, I’d say I’m pretty darn good. But I learned almost everything I know about CSS studying the books Eric wrote.
It’s so easy that it’s meaningless.
Preparing for this rant, I wanted to see if I could endorse someone for a skill he or she hadn’t even listed.
So I endorsed my daughter for her cartography skills.
If you don’t get the inside joke, suffice it to say that if my daughter had been Lewis & Clark’s navigator, our flag would still have only 15 stars and Bill Clinton’s political career would have topped out at governor of the Louisiana Territory. (Love you, honey!)
It’s that easy.
It reminds me of how easy it was to get Cub Scout badges when my mother was Den Mother of our troop in West Harford when I was a kid. Here’s me, eons ago, fifteen minutes before our troop meeting:
Made another popsicle stick ashtray, mommy; get out the needle and thread!
It’s a game of Whac-O-Mole, and we don’t have to play.
Consider the process.
You land on someone’s profile on LinkedIn.
You’re confronted with a call-to-action box asking you to endorse the person for skills he/she has listed. Some of those skills are displayed in the box.
If you’re new to endorsing people on LinkedIn, you might assume that clicking the Endorse button will take you to another screen from which you can selectively endorse the person for this skill or that skill — maybe even add a qualifying comment or two.
You’d be wrong.
Click the Endorse button, and you’ve endorsed the person for all the skills that showed up in that call-to-action box. (Yeah, you can un-endorse, but what a pain.)
Then, the Whac-O-Mole game begins. A new box of endorsement opportunities pops up. Four of your connections show up with individual Endorse buttons and a big Endorse All button.
Hey, I’m busy. But they’re nice people. And some of theme endorsed me. Why don’t I just click ‘Endorse All’?
And so it goes. Another four connections show up, and then another four, and so on.
We increasingly use the online world to find solutions and the experts who can deliver them. Weeding out the charlatans from the experts is already confusing and difficult enough. I cannot understand why the folks who run LinkedIn — people who want us to consider their service the preeminent professional networking property in the world — would introduce and encourage the use of a mechanism that only adds to that confusion.
What can be done?
If we really want to contribute to the enhancement of someone’s reputation on LinkedIn, why not use the instrument LinkedIn has offered since its earliest days: the Recommendation.
Sure, recommendations take thought. They take time. And they’re hard to fake.
Depending on the context of the experience you had with the person you’re recommending, you’re going to have to specify a whole lot of stuff before you even get to the narrative part: the basis of your relationship; your job title at the time; the person’s job title at the time; the person’s service category; and the year you first hired the person.
And then there’s the narrative part.
For sure: it’s a lot harder to give a recommendation than an endorsement on LinkedIn.
But isn’t that the point?
Thanks for listening.
Love your rants Jeff. I have been endorsed both on Linkedin and on Klout for bizarre things. One on Klout at the moment is for Books. Now I read books, a lot. But I have never written one nor could I advise someone how to write one. So. That is that.
I also would appreciate the hell out of getting recommendations and should ask people to write them more often, especially when they are feeling all lovey after getting their new websites or coming up number one for a pesky keyword phrase we worked on. Third party recommendations hold much more weight than the creepy little scrolling testimonials some put on their websites and possibly wrote themselves.
So Rant on Jeff. I think I will go recommend you on Linkedin for being my go-to web developer person for when I am in a quagmire of some sort. Your experience of programming, WordPress, running a business and the common sense you have from being a grown ass man is vast and much appreciated. You rock.
Jeff Cohan says
Hey, Judi –
At the risk of turning this into a meeting of the Atlanta Branch of the Mutual Admiration Society, I must say the feeling is mutual.
I love our frequent little telephone chats – most of which seem to happen around 5 pm – during which we spend the first part troubleshooting some problem and the rest philosophizing.
By the way, I was nodding my head a lot while reading your April 30 blog article about video testimonials.
“So Rant on Jeff.”
No need to worry there. Just ask my wife.
Good rant. Especially about the Whac-O-Mole pretty actuate description.
Jeff Cohan says
As you probably know by now, I need very little encouragement to rant. But thanks for it anyway.
Tom Tortorici says
Okay, so the staff at LinkedIn are sitting around the board room, asking each other, how can we get business people to engage with each other more, of course through our platform. Whenever someone makes a suggestion, somebody else says, nah, that’s too hard, nobody’ll do it.
So they came up with something that’s mind-numbingly easy, for all those short attention spans out there. They figure, if they can’t nurture meaningful engagement, at least they can make folks feel good about themselves and each other (as if one’s number of LinkedIn connections isn’t enough of a vanity game). At least people will be engaging on their platform.
You’re right of course, Jeff. But LinkedIn members didn’t come up with Endorsements. LinkedIn staff did.
Is there an endorsement for ranting?
Jeff Cohan says
Hey, Tom –
Right. Do you think I’m suggesting they did?
My point is that we don’t have to sheepishly follow. That it’s a game of Whac-O-Mole that we can choose not to play.
HehHehHeh. I don’ think so. But if you liked this article, you could click on the buttons above to share on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, or LinkedIn. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of seconds.
Mark Sand says
Great rant Jeff – I’ve been endorsed for skills from people that I’ve only “met” on an Internet karate forum – how the heck does this guy know anything about my scientific injection molding skills?? It just cheapens the whole thing.
Jeff Cohan says
I mean, if anyone is going to endorse you, it ought to be for your performances in The Good Wife, Four Brothers, and Sports Night.