Streams: An alternate take on the newsfeed

Streams

LinkedIn sucks. You should tell me I’m wrong, but you won’t—because I’m not. Reid and the folks at LinkedIn made something useful, and growth-hacked the shit out of it. They never got the social aspect of it right, though.

The platform is the culture

LinkedIn’s business model is predicated on access. You bring your connections, but reaching out to others will cost you. This is at odds with the very notion of a professional network. The whole point of such a thing, should be to help you meet others and discover mutual opportunities. This can’t happen when a platform is comprised of gates, though.

So, when you have a networking platform that stifles meeting new people, users get desperate. This leads them to do crummy things that results in nothing more than frustration. For example:

They talk about successes, hoping others will be attracted to them. Unfortunately, it comes off as bragging:

Bragging

They try to hack the system, with post confrontational or motivational crap that lacks substance:

Motivational crap

Some even automate friendly-seeming gestures, in hopes of seeming personable. These feel disingenuous:

Automated gestures

And then there’s the recruiter spam:

Recruiter spam

What I present are bad tactics, employed by good people, because LinkedIn’s platform is broken. I suspect the folks at LinkedIn know this, and are attempting to fix the problem. That’s probably why they recently redesigned their site. Unfortunately, a new skin won’t change a toxic culture.

The whole system is out of order

Years ago, I wrote a book called Speak Human. In it, I made a few key arguments. One was that small businesses has a great—and often untapped—advantage over larger ones. Another was that business communication works best when it’s made personal. That last part is something you already know, but might not entirely believe—yet—because of a flawed narrative regarding professionalism.

There’s a vast difference between looking professional and being professional. Looking professional is bullshit. It’s how you speak in a job interview. It’s the “networking” event where people feign interest, in hopes of scoring a deal. It’s the suit you think you need to wear, but hate. It’s in those worn-out aphorisms (e.g., “The customer is always right.”) few actually believe. What most never realize is how unnecessary such traditions are. They’re phoney, and don’t work.

Opportunities come about not because of decorum, but because of what you do. When you’re nice to people, they’re more likely to want to work with you. If you do as you promise, they’ll probably return to you. By offering pertinent information, you become known for your knowledge. And, when you can do stuff others can’t, you’ll find yourself in demand.

LinkedIn’s problem isn’t only its platform. It’s found in an outdated idea of professionalism that has more to do with ego than meaningful contributions. This is changing, though, and so should our professional networks.

Categorization and culture

In the next week or two, we’ll launch something new for Officehours. It’s called Streams, and it represents a different take on the newsfeed. Our attempt at fixing this thing relies on two key elements: categorization and culture.

The LinkedIn feed is a firehose of disorganized content that lacks relevance. (E.g., If I really want to learn about growth strategies, I can’t find that specific information on LinkedIn.) Conversely, every post on Officehours must be categorized. This allows members granular control of what information they see—and what’s worth their attention. This filtering can be applied to content type, subject matter, and who posted the content.

Categorization should result in more relevant content; however, a filter is only a filter. The bigger issue is culture. That’s something we can encourage, and build mechanisms around. Ultimately, though, it remains largely in your hands.

I’m optimistic about culture on Officehours. Over the past year and a half, I’ve watched how people like you share your time, knowledge, and curiosity here. I’ve heard first-hand how you’ve built new friendships through just a few minutes of real talk. I believe you’ll do the same with Streams. This is how we’ll create a positive culture on Officehours: by appealing to each member’s generosity and desire to do meaningful work.

If we can get categories and culture right (I don’t expect it to be easy), I believe we can create something truly good. By this, I mean a community that you can give and get from, and feel better for having participated.

Get early access

We’re offering early access to Streams for a few select members. We’re asking the same of each of them: share content (your own stuff is fine) that’s useful, informative, and insightful. Don’t tell us about your raise and promotion; instead, help us learn new things and grow. These contributions will be the cornerstone of Streams. Meanwhile, help us encourage positive, constructive dialogue among members.

These first users will have full ability to post content in Streams. Others will be limited to commenting for the time being. Once we’ve worked out the kinks, we’ll expand access to all Officehours members. If you’d like to be considered for early access, email me with a few words on why you’d like to take part.

Streams is early on, and we’ll get some things wrong. That said, we’ll do our very best to make it something worthy of your attention.