Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not A Ringing Endorsement

Several months ago, I discovered that I am using LinkedIn less and less often, and that I had more connections than I knew what to do with. So I started culling.

I started with people that I didn't recognize as anyone with which I've interacted, or with people whose interests and career paths weren't in line with my own.

The whole purpose was to focus more on the connections that I really knew or have had come conversation with in a discussion group, or one-on-one.

In the ensuing months, I culled about 140 connections.

But then I looked at LinkedIn even less often than I had when I made the decision to cull connections, and I stopped looking to shrink my network.

When a person contacts me and wants to connect, more times than not I decline. Sorry, but until I get my list paired down to a manageable number, I'm not going to take on more connections. Unless I really do know you, I'm not going to connect.

And since I started culling connections, LinkedIn has come up with a new feature: endorsements. Drawing from your list of skills, a connection can click a button and endorse you for that skill. Supposedly, it boosts your ability to be found when someone is searching for people with a desired skill set.

I have endorsed only a small number of people. To receive an endorsement from me, I must know you for that particular skill. This means that I have either worked with you and seen you use that skill in your job or I follow you on your blog or other social-media connection (or I even know you personally), and I have seen evidence of that skill (for example, writing, photography, or Web design).

By endorsing you, I am staking my reputation on you by acknowledging the fact that, yes, I know you for that skill and you are very good at that skill.

If I don't know you or I don't know you for that skill, I won't endorse you for it. I won't put my name behind your claim for that skill.

Some of my LinkedIn connections have started endorsing me, and for that I thank them. Sometimes.

I receive endorsements for my writing, and I assume that those people have read my blog or my novel, and that they like my writing. For that, I am honoured.

Some folks endorse me for my blogging. Again, I assume that these people read my blog and like it. Again, thank you.

But some of my LinkedIn connections, some with whom I have never met, never worked, have started endorsing me for technical writing. Or for FrameMaker.

Only a couple of my technical writing projects have been in the public eye. If you own a copy of WordPerfect 9 and have the user's guide, you own some of my work. But that manual is a collaboration of many writers, and so you would have to know which chapters were written by me.

I doubt any of my LinkedIn connections know which sections are mine. And yet, they endorse me for a skill that they cannot verify.

Same with my FrameMaker skills. Some LinkedIn connections have worked with me and have endorsed me for this dinosaur Adobe product. They have seen me produce documentation, despite the increasing issues I have faced with this buggy program. So to those connections, I say thank you.

But to my connections who have never worked with me, never seen me use FrameMaker, and yet who endorse me for this skill, I have to scratch my head.

I complain about FrameMaker openly, on Twitter, when the app is giving me grief. But I would think that if someone was thinking about my skill set after reading these tweets, he or she might think, "maybe he just doesn't know the program well enough."

I've used FrameMaker for about eight years or so. I know it all too well.

But unless you've worked with me, have seen me in action, producing technical documentation (and, for a while, I was using it when writing chapters of Songsaengnim, before I discovered I was causing myself too much work), you have no idea that I have any expertise in FrameMaker.

And so, if you are a connection of mine on LinkedIn and you have endorsed me for my FrameMaker skills, check again. You'll likely find that we are no longer connections. Because I've dropped you.

An endorsement has to mean something. It has to be given out because you know what you're talking about in presenting anybody with your stamp of approval. It has to say, "yes, I know that you are good at a particular skill, and I'm willing to put my reputation on the line in supporting you for that skill."

If you endorse me for a skill, be prepared to back up that endorsement. Otherwise, you're showing me that you don't know me. At all. But you will be drawing attention to yourself. You will pursuade me to look at our connection.

And I, most likely, will sever it.


  1. I'll be honest. I can't remember the last time I logged in to LinkedIn. I think it was when the two of us connected there. Not sure.

    For me LinkedIn is a way to connect to new folks. Not just the people I know or have recently met in person. I already know them. That's the great thing about social media in general. We can us it however we want.

    I do agree with your comment about endorsing though. I haven't looked at my endorsements so I think I'll go and check things out. It's been a while.

  2. Ha, too true - and what a great observation. I have industry people who don't know me/never met me (and never will) adding me as connections on LinkedIn. They're ignored. Fortunately, the only endorsements I've received are from people who know what I do (and like it) but the whole thing is so silly and base.

  3. Ross, I know what you mean, but I think that these "fringe" connections are actually very valuable to people in sales and marketing. Also, to be fair, LinkedIn's implementation of the endorsement feature leads people into these false / pseudo endorsements. I was confronted with the feature a few times, and if I allowed myself, I could have easily endorsed every one of my connections. (I stopped after 2.)
    One thing that is obvious- it's pretty easy to tell when someone is suddenly looking for work- their LinkedIn activity suddenly increases!