Also a Suggestion to Bring Employees to Your Parents’ LinkedIn

2 cents worthThe New LinkedIn Connections Area – Fewer Features But No Fixes!

LinkedIn is famous for making unannounced changes to its interface, but it’s rare that you actually see the change happen before your eyes.

This past Monday, the LinkedIn Curmudgeon was exploring the Contacts area of LinkedIn and experimenting with ways to sort and use his Contacts, all in preparation for a presentation this week to the Professional Support Group of Morris County, here in New Jersey. All of a sudden, the screen refreshed and a new interface appeared in the blink of an eye!

The changes were not just cosmetic. Menus were moved around and contacts’ birthdays and anniversaries were added in a sliding photo panel on top of the page. Unfortunately, they took away a useful sort feature – and some of the rest doesn’t work! Here are the three biggest problems.

The Alphabetization Problem

First, LinkedIn did not repair a months-long problem with sorting contacts. You can sort your connections alphabetically, but by first name instead of last. I think members would prefer features that work properly to changes in the aesthetic design. Until they do fix the sorting, a wonky work-around is to download the list in “Outlook” format, import it into a spreadsheet (using the comma as the delimiter), and then sort in your spreadsheet by last name.

The “New” Sort

Second, when they first made the changes (on Monday) and you sorted by “New” (which used to be called “Newly Added”), the sort didn’t work. By Wednesday, this appeared to be corrected but today, Thursday, it’s not sorting properly and sometimes lists the date of last contact, not the date we connected. Quite odd!

The Lost Lost Touch

Third, we lost the ability to use the “Lost Touch” sort. This would logically be the reverse sort for “New” (when it works). If we could reverse the direction of the “New” sort, that would be fine, but we can’t. Now, we can do the “New” sort and scroll to the end of the list, but that takes a long time if you have more than 500 contacts because LinkedIn has to refresh the list every couple of screens.

Why would you want to sort by “Lost Touch”? It was a useful tool for trying to reestablish communication with the people who you hadn’t contacted for a long time. Once again, LinkedIn took a useful feature (introduced in their last major interface update), and discarded it. So far, not a word about the change or why.

When Can we Consolidate Contact Information?

Earlier this year, in their update to the design of Profiles, LinkedIn gave us the wonderful ability to keep notes and enter reminders for each of our contacts. You can keep track of when and where you met, what you discussed, projects you worked on, and even schedule reminders of when to get back to that member. Unfortunately, even with this week’s upgrade, we still can’t view or edit that info in the Contacts area, where it really belongs. Instead you have go to each individual’s profile page, click on the right tabs, and read and enter info there. Including some CRM-like tools within LinkedIn is a terrific idea, but you have to enter and use the info outside the CRM-like area of LinkedIn. Another good idea poorly implemented.

Recent Conversations

Not new, but when you view your contacts with the “Sort by Recent Conversation” option, LinkedIn does, indeed, try to sort by the last known contact you had with them. If you’ve linked your Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo!, Evernote or other account with LinkedIn, you might be surprised that LinkedIn, apparently, tracks your email back and forth with each contact. So, if I get my weekly newsy email from “Fred” in Gmail, LinkedIn knows that and sorts my contacts accordingly. This was disconcerting, at first, because I knew I hadn’t heard from Fred on LinkedIn in ages and couldn’t immediately figure out why LinkedIn thought I had.

Some people might find LinkedIn’s monitoring of their email a bit creepy. If so, you can go to the Menu bar for Contacts Screenshot of Contact's Gearand click or tap on the gear icon.

From there you can disconnect any of the services that are connected to LinkedIn’s Contacts. Note that you do lose the advantages of having all your contacts in one location, since LinkedIn won’t be able to add any new contacts with your email or other service.

Bring Your Parents to LinkedIn and A Modest Proposal

In the past, the LinkedIn Curmudgeon, has mentioned (made sport of, truth be told) the generational disconnect on LinkedIn between its more mature members (many of whom are business leaders, job hunters, and successful business entrepreneurs) and the young technicians who design social media features for LinkedIn without, apparently, really understanding most of the business people that they serve. (See Endorsements, for example.)

So, the Curmudgeon was amused and bemused, when the LinkedIn blog announced a “Bring Your Parents Day” when LinkedIn employees can bring in their, apparently, befuddled parents to the office for meetings where they try to learn what their kids are doing. The Irish offices of LinkedIn did a test run and created a video about the project. The event goes worldwide on November 7th.

Seeing the video, even this hard-hearted Curmudgeon was charmed by the Irish accents of the fresh-faced new LinkedIn employees and their (still much younger than he) parents who were trying to understand the social media environment and the new workplace their kids were busy in.

Surprisingly (maybe it was the Irish lilt), the Curmudgeon has no complaint with the program. In fact, he extends an invitation for LinkedIn to continue the process (a bit in reverse) by allowing their employees to meet the older businesspeople who use LinkedIn day-to-day and learn how they work and use LinkedIn — and bridge the information gap between the techies and businesspeople. It could be an enlightening process for all.

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