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No more performative professionalism

Eight years ago when I went to work at Mozilla, I quit LinkedIn. I then rejoined it when I left. It’s a platform I love to hate, one that it feels weird even describing as a ‘social network’.

Things happen on LinkedIn that would never happen anywhere else. It is, as Fadeke Adegbuyi calls it, an ‘alternative universe’, one where those with the power to give people jobs make up or embellish stories which then go viral.

These stories are relayed dramatically in what’s now recognizable as LinkedIn-style storytelling, one spaced sentence at a time, told by job-givers with a savior complex.

On LinkedIn, jobs are not a trade between an individual and a corporation, or a way to fill the space between 9 to 5. On LinkedIn, jobs are life-affirming or life-saving opportunities, rescuing people from a life of meaningless toil or imminent ruin.

Fadeke Adegbuyi, LinkedIn’s Alternate Universe (Divinations)

I’m sure we’ve all seen these stories, probably reshared by someone you met at a conference five years ago. As a result, the number of people I’ve chosen to ‘unfollow but remain connected’ increases every week. Others might be, but I’m not on LinkedIn for professional storytime.

Reduced to its simplest form, LinkedIn is a digital resume. A profile consists of your past work experience, education, skills, and references. The posts, comments, and messages are like a cover letter. But we’ve long decided that there are better ways to showcase your ability than a list of the places you’ve worked, the school you went to, and a hastily drafted plea for work. Resumes are old scrolls of a bygone era. If LinkedIn is a site meant to demonstrate you’re an expert, it’s competing against all the places you can do this better. 

Fadeke Adegbuyi, LinkedIn’s Alternate Universe (Divinations)

I’m not sure that’s entirely true. LinkedIn remains a useful place to which people do actually pay attention, albeit often grudgingly.

Now I’m not really using Twitter, it feels like one of the only places I can connect with my existing professional networks is LinkedIn. Mastodon and the rest of the Fediverse isn’t really for that kind of stuff. Not yet, anyway.

So, like lots of people, I’m in what Adegbuyi calls a ‘hostage situation’ where we follow the work of others (and provide updates on what we’re doing) to keep ourselves in the minds of people who might be able to give us work. We’re not desperate, we’re just hedging our bets.

LinkedIn is bizarre because it tries to make this hostage situation fun. Even though it’s not. Not when you add stories, audio messages, DMs, a social feed, or anything else. The platform might be less alternate universe and more down to earth if the truth was acknowledged: performative professionalism, job hunting, and networking are extensions of work not play. As long as LinkedIn pretends otherwise, we can also pretend that we’ll never be desperate enough to use it in earnest.

Fadeke Adegbuyi, LinkedIn’s Alternate Universe (Divinations)

It would be disingenuous for me to say that I don’t find LinkedIn handy for some things. I’ve discovered opportunities through the platform, made connections with people, and found out genuinely useful information.

But what makes me a little sad inside is that the whole thing is built on the assumption that capitalist competition is a good thing. It’s predicated on celebrating spurious awards that people and organisations have (often) paid to be in the running for. And, to be honest, the performative professionalism highlighted by Adegbuyi makes the whole thing a bit cringey.

With Twitter, it got to the stage for me where the value of not using the platform outweighed the value of using it. For example, by avoiding Twitter I’m calmer, more focused, and see fewer adverts every day. With LinkedIn, I can see the day is coming when the balance tips to the negative. For now, though, I think I’ll just bring my whole self to the platform: no more performative professionalism.


This post is Day 73 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com. Oh, and please do connect with me on the Fediverse!

On the difference between people-centric and resource-centric social networks

Something Tom Murdock said recently resonated enough with me that I felt the need to write it down in a place that I can reference. Here is as good a place as any!

I’m leading Project MoodleNet, which is currently described as “a new open social media platform for educators, focused on professional development and open content”. Tom mentioned that he saw an important difference between ‘people-centric’ and ‘resource-centric’ social networks.

(Note: it’s been a couple of weeks since that conversation, so anything witty or clever I say in the next few paragraphs should be attributed to him, and anything confusing or stupid should be attributed to me)

I should also point out that I blog about things I’m thinking about here, whereas the official project blog can be found at blog.moodle.net.

What is a resource-centric social network?

A people-centric social network is something like Facebook or LinkedIn. Users have a single identity and want to follow or connect with you as a person. A resource-centric social network is something like Pinterest or Thingiverse where people interact and engage with you through the resources you’re sharing.

I think most people reading this will understand how Facebook and LinkedIn work. Imagine them towards one end of the spectrum, and Pinterest and Thingiverse towards the other. Twitter is an interesting case here, as users can have multiple accounts and follow non-human accounts. I suppose it would probably be somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

A quick tour of Thingiverse

I think Project MoodleNet is more of a resource-centric social network. To illustrate that, I want to explore Thingiverse, a wonderful site I came across recently after acquiring a 3D printer. Here’s what the About page says:

MakerBot’s Thingiverse is a thriving design community for discovering, making, and sharing 3D printable things. As the world’s largest 3D printing community, we believe that everyone should be encouraged to create and remix 3D things, no matter their technical expertise or previous experience. In the spirit of maintaining an open platform, all designs are encouraged to be licensed under a Creative Commons license, meaning that anyone can use or alter any design.

So it’s:

  1. A registered trademark
  2. Owned by a company
  3. Focused on makers
  4. Allows the sharing of open content
  5. Encourages remixing

In that sense, it’s a very interesting model for Project MoodleNet.

Let’s look a little more closely. Below you can see the home page. The site is obviously curated by real human beings, as they’ve featured particular designs, and created collections which include designs from different users. There’s a feed of latest activity, the calls to action in the top menu bar make it obvious that this is a living community full of creative people.

Thingiverse home page

The next thing you notice when you click through onto a particular design is that there’s a lot of information here to help orient you. There’s a clear call-to-action below ‘DOWNLOAD ALL FILES’ but also we can see how many times it’s been liked, watched, commented upon, and remixed.

Thingiverse design

Click on the remix button and you get to see those who have remixed the original design in some way. If the design you’re looking at is itself a remix, it also allows you to look at the original, too.

Naturally, you want to know a little bit about the person who created it. Perhaps they’ve created some other things you’d like? Clicking on the user name reveals their Thingiverse profile.

Thingiverse profile

There’s lots of information about the person here: their username, location, Twitter profile, website, short biography. However, the focus is still on their resources. What have they designed? What have they shared?

The last thing to highlight is how Thingiverse deals with openly-licensed resources. When you click to download the files, the first thing that pops up is a windows that tells you in no uncertain terms about the license under which this resource has been made available.

Thingiverse CC licensing

In addition, it encourages you to ‘show some love’ to the designer. You can tip them using money via PayPal, and you can take a photo to ‘document’ your 3D print of their design, and you.

Final thoughts

I’m very impressed with the thought that’s been put into Thingiverse. I don’t know the history of the community, but it feels like something that has responded to users. In turn, I should imagine that when those who are regular users of Thingiverse come to purchase their next 3D printer, Makerbot will be top of their list. It’s a virtuous circle.

So there’s a lot to learn from here that we can apply to Project MoodleNet. I like the way that they make it easy for people new to the community. I love the ease by which you can use the fork-remix-share approach that developers are used to on GitHub, but many educators are still yet to discover. And I adore the way that they encourage users to ‘show some love’ to original resource creators, educating them on how to use openly-licensed content appropriately.

An experiment in using LinkedIn Pulse for blogging

Last year I rather publicly deleted my LinkedIn profile and then, just before launching my consultancy business, hastily resurrected it. This was entirely for pragmatic reasons in the same way that I also using Google Apps for Work and continue to use Twitter despite their IPO-induced shenanigans.

However, since their acquisition of Lynda.com in April, I’ve actually been pretty impressed in (what seems like) the new direction LinkedIn are heading. Instead of being a glorified, shiny front end for a digital address book, they’re actually making life easier for professionals. I can honestly say it’s providing value for me that I don’t get elsewhere.

Take LinkedIn Pulse, for example. I was pretty unhappy when they pulled the previous iteration of this, as I found it a useful place to search on specific keywords. However, what they’ve replaced it with (‘up to speed in one news feed’) is a pretty decent blogging platform and discovery service. It allows you to serve up content specifically tailored for a particular audience in a place that they’re more likely to see it.

On my train journey home from London just now I wrote a post on LinkedIn entitled From Open Badges to learning pathways. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while it’s nothing earth-shatteringly new. But for those new to badges, or for those not from a learning/education/teaching background, it may be of help. Sometimes it’s explaining things that seem almost self-evident that can be most useful.

I’ll be curious to see how it goes down. LinkedIn Pulse seems like a useful tool to target a specific audience. But you needn’t worry about this blog: I certainly won’t be stopping my posts here anytime soon!

CC BY Sheila Scarborough

3 reasons I’ve decided to resurrect my LinkedIn account

In June 2014 I decided to close my LinkedIn account. The reasons I gave were threefold: the spam, the desire to own my professional identity, and the growing backlash to the service.

Why then last week did I decide to create a new account?


1. Hypocrisy – this is the main reason, actually. I realised that when I come across someone new, the first thing I do is search for their name. This almost always takes me to their LinkedIn profile, which gives me an at-a-glance of what they’re about. If I’m doing it to others, why shouldn’t others be able to do it to me?

2. Google juice – this is related to the above. Apart from Wikipedia pages, LinkedIn profiles seem to be some of the highest-ranking types of results when you search for people’s names. Instead of someone else’s page that mentions me, I might as well have something I curate in the first page of search results.

3. Contactability – I really try to keep my contact list up-to-date. But, at the end of the day, people don’t always communicate that they’ve got a new job or have moved on. The good thing about LinkedIn is that you get passive updates of these things.


Do I think LinkedIn is perfect? No. I don’t even think it’s good. But then I could say the same about Twitter, Facebook, Instagram… every social network that’s run by publicly-traded companies. Shareholder value comes before everything.

One of the ways LinkedIn creates ‘value’ is by making it a social silo. Some of the stuff in there is inaccessible without a login. You don’t even think twice about this if you’ve got an account, but it’s a constant source of frustration otherwise when you haven’t.

So there we are. I’m not proud of going back on my decision from last year but, given that so many people asked, I thought it was worth explaining. It’s all about connecting with people and adding value.

Over the course of 2015 I’ll be building out my profile and connections. My ‘sniff test’ for accepting connection requests is, as before, whether I think you’d know who I was if I bumped into you at a conference or walking along the street.

I’ll be syndicating my posts into my LinkedIn feed, so it’s also another way to keep up with this blog. 🙂

Image CC BY Nan Palermo

Why I’ve just closed my LinkedIn account

Update (February 2015): I’ve resurrected my LinkedIn account. Here’s why.

If you’ve ever read the Freakonomics book – or better yet, listened to the excellent podcast – then you’ll know about the sunk cost fallacy:

Sunk costs… influence actors’ decisions because humans are prone to loss aversion and framing effects.

I’ve had a Gmail account ever since I was able to get my hands on an invite – yet I decided to move away recently. Likewise, I’ve had a LinkedIn account since the beginning, but today I closed my account. Just because you’ve used something for a long time and become used to it doesn’t mean it’s still the best option right now.

Here’s my three main reasons for closing my LinkedIn account:

  1. Spammy emails – I’ve tried my best to stop these, but it’s almost impossible. Enough is enough.
  2. I want to own my professional identity – I’m not interested in ‘endorsements’. I’m interested in people finding out about me in spaces I fully control.
  3. The zeitgeist – there’s a growing backlash to LinkedIn. I noticed Audrey Watters deleted her account recently, and then there’s the fact that the company is being taken to court.

So it’s gone.

It’s up to you if you want to do likewise, but know that if you do decide to close your account, you’re not alone!

PS I recently replaced my about.me page at dougbelshaw.com with one created using Mozilla Thimble. You’re very welcome to hit the ‘Remix’ button on that page if you need a new profile!

Banner image CC BY Bryan Mills

How I’m organising my digital outputs in 2011

I had a fascinating Skype conversation with Amber Thomas, a JISC Programme Director. She mentioned the concept of liminality in reference to the ‘trajectory of ambiguities’ idea I’ve been writing about in my journal article. It struck me afterward that I need to firm things up a bit given that I seem to exist in somewhat of a liminal digital world.

So here’s what you’ll find me doing where in 2011:

Synechism

I’ll be writing, as usual, at dougbelshaw.com/blog about user outcomes (including: education, technology, productivity, leadership, design). I’ll be posting around 1-2 times per week and won’t be writing the ‘Things I Learned This Week’ series. It’s a shame, but it’s too much of a time-suck to justify.

Doug’s clippings

I’m going to be using dajbelshaw.amplify.com to clip things of interest I come across online, adding my thoughts as I go. These will be auto-tweeted and saved to delicious.com/dajbelshaw.

Twitter

I’ve cut back drastically on the number of people I’m following on Twitter (@dajbelshaw). It might be just me, but the signal/noise ratio seemed to decline sharply in 2010. I’ll be autoposting things from here and Amplify and using it for mainly work purposes.

Facebook

I thought I deleted my Facebook (http://facebook.com/dajbelshaw) account in mid-2008, but it turned out I simply deactivated it. It’s now re-activated and I’ve gone about removing almost all of my ‘friends’, cutting back sharply to just my immediate family and close contacts. If you’re not one of those, I’m afraid I’ll be ignoring your connection request. Sorry.

As Facebook is the most popular social network and because pretty much all my close contacts are on it, I need to know how to use it effectively. Facebook’s also a great way to organise events and get groups started (without necessarily having a direct connection to people). More on that later, although you can (and should) ‘Like’ this blog there already.

LinkedIn

My policy with LinkedIn (http://uk.linkedin.com/in/dajbelshaw) is simple: I need to know who you are, have dealt with you in a professional sense, and met you in person to connect with you. I’ll only waive the latter condition if you’re somebody I know really well online. It’s a professional, not a social, network.

Quora

I’m still experimenting with Quora (http://quora.com/Doug-Belshaw). Coming back to the notion of liminality, it’s a great example of what happens when boundaries are broken down as a result of new ways to connect to people. I really like the way it’s structured and it marries Yahoo! Answers with Digg and wiki-like functionality. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll connect with anyone on there. :-p

I’ve got more to discuss in terms of how I’m organizing things – especially related to academic stuff. This post covers just what others will see.

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