LinkedIn has always been brilliant at data, good at utility, poor at insight. But today the company announced a cluster of new products that begin to tap the immense power of the data they collect and–finally–make us smarter about ourselves and the people in our professional network.
InMaps: Visualizing Your “Professional Graph”
InMaps is a data visualization tool that maps your LinkedIn network to create your “professional graph.” Like the social graph, the professional graph aggregates and displays the various networks to which you belong–current employer, past employers, universities–and the relationships among the individuals within them. It’s a perfect example of “a picture’s worth 500+ words;” in the past, you’d have to drill down to realize that your former colleague works at the company you’re currently applying to.
Skills: Building a “Talent Graph”
Anyone who has tried to hire an employee using LinkedIn knows that one of its greatest drawbacks has been its focus on companies and industries at the expense of actual skills. LinkedIn Skills is a step in the right direction, enabling anyone to query LinkedIn to learn about and find people who possess a particular type of expertise.
Where this gets really interesting is in the context. From the graphic above, we can see the skills associated with bodybuilding, a list of the bodybuilders with the highest page rank within the data set and the relative growth or contraction in demand for this and related skills. (Clearly, if you’re a bodybuilder, you need to learn how to use the kettlebells). LinkedIn also enables you to build a talent graph that displays the relationships between skills; incredibly useful for employer and job-seeker alike.
Signal: The Wisdom of the Crowd
Like Twitter, one of the most frustrating aspects of LinkedIn is that it’s timely (what people are posting right now) but not contextual (what it could mean). Yet with a million updates per day from 90 million people, LinkedIn has the potential to offer a lens not only into what people are talking about en masse (Charlie Sheen and Justin Beiber) but at a level of relevance for you.
Say you own a car dealership, and you’re interested in whether it might be worth investing in the iPad2 for your floor salespeople. Signal enables you to look at iPad 2 stories as a whole, or filter them to show only stories posted by people in the automotive industry. This provides a much more relevant view; both of what your industry is talking about, and what they think about it. Signal also enables you to see the top keywords people use when talking about the iPad 2. True, it’s a pick list, but the foundation now exists for a richer visual experience down the line.
LinkedIn Today: A Custom News Magazine
LinkedIn Today is essentially an online magazine, personalized based on your job, industry, connections and other parameters that you define. There’s a definite whiff of Flipboard in the way LinkedIn has used their data set to create a custom reading experience, but the similarities end there.
Both to its credit and its detriment, LinkedIn has focused on what it does best and enabled readers to filter content based on industry and news sources. On the flip side, the user experience is still pedestrian, although it’s an improvement. With enough time and creativity, however, LinkedIn Today could become a compelling prototype for a customizable and dynamic professional news magazine.
LinkedIn’s press announcement this morning focused exclusively on LinkedIn Today, perhaps because they thought it was the sexiest of the products. The real news in my view is that the company is finally waking up to the possibilities of the data it has collected and the importance of making us all smarter about ourselves, the people we know, and the world outside our doors.