Okay, so Marc Canter was kind enough to link me in to LinkedIn and I returned the favor to a few others (Mobitopians mostly) this evening. This may be the next meme to wander through blogland, but because I'm actively working on a business project AND trying to make real connections, things like this are what I want to see. I honestly haven't made enough use of Ryze yet (another Marc invite), and I really need to. But I'm heads down coding and learning mostly right now, contacts will come after I launch my project.
Anyways, I didn't really *get* Linked In at first. Since Marc was my only contact, and I couldn't see his contacts, I didn't understand what the whole point was. I mean I KNOW who Marc is, he invited me! But I figured I'd play with it some more and invite some others and that's when I realized what was going on. It's both very subtle, but obvious in a PayPal simplicity sort of way. I mean there's only so many things you can do on the site which is thankfully empty of clutter and useless links, so it didn't take me long to find the key: It's all in the "search network" feature.
The idea is that you can only see/search the people in YOUR network. This is described in the LinkedIn FAQ: "The network is the group of members who you can contact through the system. You can only contact people who are linked to you through a short chain of members." I was a bit thrown off at first about this because Marc's network is so damn huge and filled with various luminaries in the tech world. But once I got the idea, I was amazed! I'm only one or two trusted connections away from some of these people! THAT is cool!
However, there's a catch, which Liz pointed out on her blog: In order to contact someone, you need to go through the middle contacts AND pay for the privilege. You fill out a form and describe what you want, then that request goes to the connecting person (or two, or three, I assume) who must approve the communication, if the final person agrees to initiate contact with you, then you need to have an upgraded account in order to talk. It's quite the gimmick, but I like how it avoids Spam this way.
Right now, the upgrade is free, which is nice, but later they'll sock it to you, but honestly that might be worth it for the opportunities. I do get a bit concerned about literal "weak links". People who sign up for the service, and then forget about it or their Spam software throws all the emails into the trash or something...
But still, this is pretty neat. I'm going to send some more invites out now. I still have questions, like exactly How Many people is a "short chain" and I agree with Liz that we should be able to browse our contacts contacts. I want to know who I'm going through first because that'll affect how the contact perceives you quite a bit. There are contacts that I've added that I've met in person, and others who are just online pals. They're both good contacts to have, but one is going to be able to "recommend" you at a higher level... hmm. And if you think about it, now that you've added contacts, you're now the default gatekeeper for their info! Also, there's a ton of people in my "network" already... I wonder how useful this will actually be later? What's the difference between "Most Connections" and "Members in the Network?"
Finally, the fact that I had to discover all this and think about it so much means that these guys need to do A LOT more explaining. The verbage in their emails is just too filled with crap. Just put it down on the table: Connect to others through a chain of contacts beginning with yours. Period.
Anyways, this stuff is cool. Thanks Marc!