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April 15, 2014

When the invitations to join LinkedIn (LI) first started to roll in we checked it out. Because we had no intention of looking for a new job and felt that we already had most of the connections that we were likely to need, we didn't join up for quite a while. But the invitations kept coming and a number of friends told us they had made some very useful contacts through LI, so we finally gave in and joined.

Here we are some two-plus years later and we're still trying to figure out if it's worth the effort. An abundance of completely overlapping public groups related to IBM i and IBM i development exist, making it difficult to even try to follow a subset of them, which requires sifting through numerous posts that are often repetitious. Some days, it seems that for every useful piece of information that filters through to us via the various groups we have joined there are at least 50 pieces of junk. Many of them don't even reach the "thinly disguised" category of advertising. Admittedly much of this appears to be due to failures on the part of the person(s) who initiated the group to moderate the posts. Another problem is that LI doesn't really seem to provide a good mechanism whereby such groups can be flagged as the spam generators they have become.

Where LI seems to work better is with private groups, such as the one we run for our own RPG & DB2 Summit Alumni. Only those who have attended a Summit are eligible to join. It allows us to give them a vehicle for asking questions of the Summit speakers post-conference. This is a big improvement over private emails for two reasons. First some attendees are reluctant to "waste the time" of speakers by sending emails. Second, the questions and answers are visible to all members, potentially creating more discussion.

Of course, it's also a vehicle for Summit alumni to discuss things with each other. We are often asked to share email addresses for Summit attendees so that they can continue the collaborations and relationships begun at the Summit. Our privacy policy doesn't allow that, so instead we send out invitations after each Summit event to join the alumni LI group. Other members often contribute to answering questions and sharing experiences. That helps build the community. Of course we could achieve all of this and more besides by simply hosting our own Q and A forums and indeed may do just that in the future.

While LI may be a reasonable vehicle for private groups, it doesn't seem to be a good solution for the kinds of technical questions typically (and more appropriately, we think) asked on forums, bulletin boards and mailing lists. The problem with using LI groups for this is that often the person with the question (or comment or article) decides to post it in several different groups. And/or a similar question gets posted by different people on different groups. This leads to repetition and inconsistency of responses. If you doubt this, try googling something that you know to be the title of a LI article and see what you get. In our experience even adding to the search doesn't help.

So do you find benefit in LI? It can be helpful to stay in touch with people who may have changed jobs. And it can be useful to learn of news in the community. But the proliferation of overlapping groups for IBM i/RPG/DB2 groups makes it a bit hit or miss as a news vehicle.

If you've found some better uses for LinkedIn, please let us know, because right now the cost-benefit ratio seems slewed to us.

P.S. Speaking of technical forums, in last week's blog we mentioned that Penton's iProDeveloper forums had gone read-only. We're glad to report that they now seem to be back on the air, but so far there has been very little traffic.

Posted April 15, 2014| Permalink

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