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Linked Out

By swide ·
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Just because its a cliche doesnt mean it isnt true. Familiarity does breed contempt. It is true of human nature that the more acquainted one becomes with a person, the more one knows about his or her shortcomings; the easier it is to dislike that person.

Before we get to LinkedIn, lets make a pit stop in the 1970s. In one short period back then, Peter Frampton went from complete unknown to international magazine-cover stardom and then back to obscurity. The same happened to both the BeeGees and John Travolta, following the incredible success of their B-movie Saturday Night Fever. After a while, none of them could raise enough interest to even get arrested.

The same over-exposure and information overload that did them in can be found in the technology space as well. Yahoo once owned the search business outright. But they got greedy and packed their home search page with so many ads and images and just plain junk that people were finding it hard to wade through it all to perform a simple search. Along came the start-up boys from Google. What they did was make a conscious decision to keep their landing page free from clutter, a decision they continue to stand by today. Brilliant!

Learn from the missteps of your rivals and those who failed before you. Im sure this isnt news to anyone. We all perform better with fewer choices. If you need a table and chairs and you walk into your local furniture store that has just three options in the showroom, youll probably pick one of them. But if you walk into IKEA and see that there are 1,007 to choose from, you might find yourself leaving the store in frustration and exhaustion, unable to select one that suits your tastes. This is also true in weightier fields as well. A study in The Journal of the American Medical Association showed that when doctors were asked to make a diagnosis on a few points of information about a patients illness, they were correct 90 percent of the time. But when they were then allowed to run as many tests as they wanted and get volumes more information on the patient, the accuracy of their diagnosis slipped to 50 percent. Too much information.

The powers that be, running LinkedIn, have decided not to heed the lessons of the junk heap of companies that came before them. Instead, they've gone from the not-so-sexy but very practical approach of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite and descended into a tabloid type of Access Hollywood program anchored by a washed up former Saturday morning children's show star. This astonishes me because LinkedIn was extremely successful with the old model. Why in the world are they trying to turn themselves into Facebook while Facebook is trying to capitalize on LinkedIn's surprising success. (Facebook is making the same mistake by dragging its users into its ridiculous timeline makeover.) Do my LinkedIn connections really want to see my face 100 times a day as they get notified of how many people I now know the names of? I certainly dont think so, and I dont want to know that much about them either. Familiarity breeds contempt.

They have also removed most of the user controls for customizing what you see on their home page. Sure, you can hide the updates, but the next time you go back to your home page, there they are again or worse there are random people you never will meet, never mind want to know, telling you how to succeed in business. LinkedIn has decided they know better because isnt networking all about the numbers of people you can connect with? Oh wait, no it isnt. Networking is about how useful those connections can be to helping you grow in business or grow your career. I would love to see a Stanford study tracking how many connections would come to the aid of a LinkedIn member stuck in a snowstorm in the Rocky Mountains. Lets see: I have more than 42,000 connections in my network. If I find myself lost in the Rockies, which one should I call first? How many of them would even answer the phone?

So LinkedIn figured out that serious business people want to network with serious business people to further their careers. The knock on the site from critics was that it was boring. Guess what? Boring can also be described as simple, and as Steve Jobs proved, simple is good. How long will it take a new start-up to go back to that purity that powered LinkedIn's ascent to becoming the site of choice for the career-minded person? As LinkedIn moves its way into Yahoos neighborhood, there has to be a new Google lurking out there, working to get back to simple.

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