Social Enterprise

LinkedIn endorsements: I'm not sure I approve

Social media can be very effective and very positive. But there's a fine line between networks moving things forward and simply devaluing the currency - or even putting your reputation at risk.

Written in Abu Dhabi airport and despatched to TechRepublic at 50Mbps via an open wi-fi service.

I have just been endorsed by the Pope. Yes, it's true. And he asked me to endorse him in return. So I not only endorsed him, I also endorsed his friend, Her Majesty the Queen. How about that?

In fact, I've been watching a tidal wave of frenetic endorsing, where people I have met only once are endorsing me. In fact I have been endorsed by a few I've never actually met - I may only have communicated with them in some fleeting electronic way.

Of course, this development is a consequence of social networking. I have no idea how it started but I have been getting endorsed up to five times a day for the past two weeks and it is showing no signs of slowing down. So far I look like a really good egg and a sure-fire bet for someone looking to hire me, but what does it really mean, and should I advertise all this support or just keep quiet about it?

What I now have is an impressive profile to add to my social presence at the click of a button - and no doubt it will continue to grow and get more impressive as the weeks go by:

Image: Peter Cochrane/TechRepublic

The most interesting feature is the yellow Add to profile button at the bottom. As soon as you click on it, you get the opportunity to endorse all your endorsees:

Image: Peter Cochrane/TechRepublic

This is the vital positive-feedback mechanism that will drive up the numbers globally and make sure the Pope and Her Majesty the Queen get their name up in lights, too.

So, to click or not to click, to endorse in return or not? That is the key question. Will a set of endorsements add to my value and perceived ability, and conversely, will the lack of endorsements be absolutely damning? Admittedly, they are not all worthless, but I detect a large number of people needing to get endorsed.

During my life I have endorsed many products, books and people. But it has always been a considered affair that I have seen as an investment in driving improvement and positive change, helping the really good and valuable come to the top.

It has also involved me in risking a percentage of my perceived value and wisdom in support, and so it hasn't been done lightly and not without some considerable care.

Fast-forward to today and that old model and set of values may well have just been blown away and the currency devalued as a result.

But in reality I suspect it is mutating into something new and global with a different value set. So for now I'm going to click, and think long and hard about those I should click back.


Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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