Some people at work were talking about LinkedIn, so I decided to finally give it a try. I’d been a bit put off earlier by receiving an invitation that was trying to look like it was written by a human and failing badly (well, it was written by a human, but not the human who sent it to me), but I probably wouldn’t have signed up at the time anyways. But the site does look like it might be getting a critical mass of users, including a fair chunk of my coworkers, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I’m still not sure what I think about this whole social networking thing. On the rare occasions that I end up on a MySpace page, I don’t go very far because they want me to sign up before showing me much. And the pages there are really ugly, too – you’d think that a half-billion dollars would be enough to pay for some web designers. I’m not exactly their target audience, though. But LinkedIn’s design appeals to me more, and they seem to have taken some pains to have muted some of the potentially unpleasant aspects of a site like that. (E.g. it’s hard to contact people too far away in your network, there’s a quota on introductions, etc.) And I can imagine that it will be a good way to learn what former coworkers are up to.

There are some things I think they could do better. For example, while they normalize schools (or rather, forces you to choose from a menu), they don’t seem to do the same for companies. Given that they ask for ticker symbols, you’d think they could work harder, at least for publicly held ones. And part of my background involves GDB hacking, which doesn’t fit into their templates since it wasn’t a formal job. (Except for when I was contracting, but even so it’s a bad match.) Their use of long drop-down menus for job categories was pretty annoying, if for no other reason than that it wasn’t searchable.

I had to think a while about what I should do with my Stanford math department history – I had two separate jobs there, plus a few months in between where I was a visiting scholar but wasn’t actually getting paid. I didn’t see the point of explaining all that – that level of detail is appropriate for a resume, but probably not here, so I just told them that I was in the position “Department of Mathematics” at Stanford for five years. That’s not their fault, though.

I do wonder how this will scale as it ages. I see people with hundreds of connections listed there; is that useful? How do you decide whom to accept as a connection and whom not to? What happens as your list of jobs grows? Will it actually be useful when I’m hiring (I’ll probably open a req soon) or when I dip a toe in the job market in a couple of years? I am curious how I’ll go out finding an interesting job the next time I’m looking for one, given my relative lack of connections in the industry, but I’m not convinced that a web site is the best way for me to solve that problem.

(And another reminder that I should keep my resume up to date, even though I’m not looking for a job.)

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