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Why LinkedIn Sucks (and why I’ll keep using it)

Dear Reader,

I am addicted to LinkedIn. I tell my friends that it’s Pokemon for adults. (Gotta collect them all!) It’s fun to be able to see everyone you know and see who they know.

Here’s the problem though, it’s a freakin silo. It’s my data but I can only use it in the 3-5 ways that THEY prescribe. I’ve spent time over the past 3-4 weeks working on a little project to help me visualize my relationships via LinkedIn. The first thing I did was scour the web looking for an API, official or unofficial. No dice. I don’t mean I typed in LinkedIn and API on google and gave up after the first page. I checked every source I could find for one and came up empty handed. (There were, however, numerous posts like this one that gripe about the lack of an API.)

Next I started poking around with some code. Actually, I can now login and see pages but LinkedIn is doing some funny stuff (probably to thwart legitimate users like myself who want to eventually see value in their data) in their HTML, Cookies and JavaScript.

This sucks and I’m calling shenanigans on LinkedIn. Look guys, it’s my data. If I want to mine it for obtuse relationships, I should be able to. Honestly, you are delivering this info via HTML. It is only a matter of time before I or someone brighter than me breaks the code and starts sucking that data into a database that will let me use it instead of pay to use it.

Quit trying to sell me expensive InMail and other cruft and build an API. Don’t TELL me your service is valuable with crap like this plastered everywhere.

LinkedIn makes you 30 times more likely to get a response.

Let me figure out ways to make your service valuable to me. Then if you can figure a way to make that valuable to you, we’ve got a win-win. (Hint to LinkedIn’s CEO, the first win in win-win is the customer, not the company!)

Give us a damn API and I’m betting we find way to make the service valuable to everyone. Then, maybe I’ll pay to join. Not because you made the service valuable but because I did.

Sigh, but I know that no one from LinkedIn will read this and even if they did, they will ignore it like the 5 emails I’ve sent them asking for any hint or clue as to whether they are going to provide us with an API.

Until then, I’ll keep plugging away with my code, and I’ll keep using the service. I continue to use them in the hopes that one day I can free my data. Right now they are the best game in town for collecting professional connections. I just want to actually do something with my connections instead of just looking at them.

When I can finally get my data and start looking at it in fresh and exciting ways, maybe I’ll even tell LinkedIn about it.

Until next time,

DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are mine and mine alone. Go get your own.

11 thoughts on “Why LinkedIn Sucks (and why I’ll keep using it)

  1. Hey, Cal,
    We noticed that Alexify has stopped working on our site and on yours. Did Alexa change something again? Those darn people . . .
    Thanks. For now I’ve turned off the plugin since it only gives a small box with an X in it.


  2. Richard,

    No, I didn’t change anything. However, I am considering re-writing it to use WebThumb ( The way I see it working is the first time someone views a post, it creates thumbnails for all the links and archives them locally. Then you don’t have to rely on Alexa.

    Maybe I’ll trigger on publish instead. If you had more than a couple of links on a post, it might take a while to get them all generated.


  3. I’m bowing out of linkedin. I got scared straight reading the dr. evil interview on kawasaki’s blog. Data is property, and we’re just giving it away — like the content on our blogs. What we need is a linkedin for terrorist freaks. Now that would be some useful information.

  4. what do u wanna do with an API to linkedIN. I’m building a similar site and I’ve not yet seen the use of giving out an API. What could you possibly want out of the API?

  5. At the moment, I want to build a database of the people that I know and the people that they know so I can start seeing relationships. (people I know who know other people I know.) I’d also like to be able to communicate with the people I know. While I realize that this feature could be abused, since I have very strict rules about who I put in my network I don’t really worry about it.

    Beyond that, it boils down to it’s my data, not theirs. I should be able to do whatever I want with it. By locking it up in their silo, they are making the service less appealing to me.

  6. Yes, it is great that LinkedIn lets me replicate my MS outlook. And tries to upsell me introductions to people I already know. The site sucks, someone (who has a clue) create a MySpace for professionals please!

  7. “Sigh, but I know that no one from LinkedIn will read this and even if they did, they will ignore it like the 5 emails I’ve sent them asking for any hint or clue as to whether they are going to provide us with an API.”

    Sorry, but a bunch of us have read it! And I am responding.

    First things first: it is your data. I’m glad we basically feel the same way about that. LinkedIn hosts your data, adds it to our network engine, and tries really hard not to abuse your trust throughout the process. There is some concern in the comments here, but LinkedIn doesn’t sell your network contact information. That’s important.

    On to the APIs. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about the APIs we can provide. I’ll post some thoughts here, but was glad to read yours as well.

    Overall, I suspect that there are a great number of people and companies that want to see public profiles of people in LinkedIn who have allowed their public profile to be visible. That seems a natural place to start. For example, a blogger writing about someone can include the LinkedIn public profile of the person. It can be done today, but we can make that a lot easier.

    After that, it seems valuable to look at your network relationships and see how much of that we can open in an API. There are some important issues there, though. We already let you download your first degree contacts: as you say, its your data. But second degree and third degree contacts are not your data. Those contacts belong to the people in your first degree network, not to you. So, we will be very careful if we open an API to that information. We simply have to be careful not to violate anyone’s trust here.

    I know it seems overly careful, but its this kind of care with your relationships that has made LinkedIn a very trusted environment.

    So, we’re talking about how we can open this information up, but there are definitely some rules we won’t violate.

    What else would you like to see opened? What would you do with it? Could opening our job listings make job hunting any easier?

    Lucian Beebe
    Product management

  8. Lucian!

    Wow, first, let me say thanks to you and LinkedIn for reading my little rant. I understand you being overly careful and would expect it. Here are my thoughts on API. These are the ones I would like to see sorted by my personal order of appearance.

    1: Profiles of others. (Information they have made public)
    2: Contacts of my 2nd Degree contact when they have made them available to me. I understand and respect that it’s not my data, I’m only asking for information that is already available to me via the web site. In my profile, I have 101 contacts and 100 have allowed me to see new, shared and non-shared contact names. Since all I get is their name and LinkedIn profile ID, I can use it to start evaluating my network but can’t really use it for spamming or anything else since even in the profile, that information is not released. (and let me say that I really like how you guys protect people’s data)
    3: Send invitation. Ok, this one would require a login so you would have to create a login API. I’d love to be able to add a checkbox on some forms “Add me to your LinkedIn Network”. Now this one will be controversial because it can be abused. However, I think it opens up some interesting situations and you guys are already doing it with the Outlook toolbar.
    4: Update my information. Yes, I’m lazy. I’d like to have a single place where I can update my information and then have it notify LinkedIn that things have changed.
    5: Callbacks for events. Ok, this one is a bit esoteric and I may not have the use for it that I think I do but any event that happens on linked in (i.e. I send a message and it’s making it way through the system) it would be nice to be able to register a callback URL. The callback could provide something like a unique message ID and the new state. So if I sent a message that had to go through 3 people, each person’s decision would trigger a callback. IMHO, this would allow me to potentially tie LinkedIn into my CRM and use my network, where acceptable, for customer contact.
    6: Ok, this one isn’t an API request but a feature request. How about tying into Plaxo. I use LinkedIn for my network but Plaxo for my address book. It would be nice to have the two of you play nice together. I’m fuzzy on how this would all work but it would be nice if you guys at least opened a dialog. Bonus points if you help each other test your outlook plugins so they don’t conflict with each other. (They don’t for me at the moment but I have a small network)

    Thanks again for reading the post and bothering to post. You guys just got a couple of Karma points from me for keeping track about what is being said about you and responding kindly.


  9. Good ideas all. There’s good and interesting things to consider in all of this. Callbacks wouldn’t be at the top of my list, but I can see the opportunity to build more powerful services on top of LinkedIn with them.

    On #6, we do talk with Plaxo to make sure we resolve conflicts in our plug ins, if you choose to use them. We’ve worked positively with them in the past and will continue to. And it might be interesting to integrate our services a bit more, but we’d look to you to tell us what you need there. If you get any brilliant thoughts, certainly let us know.


  10. hey folks, nice discussion going on here. Well, personally, I think number one would be GREAT. I can see tonnes of way where innovative people can use that to make stuff that results in better buyin to both their own site and Linkedin.

  11. Linked-In is garbage.

    It is obvious that the site/company is having P.R. problems – almost every blog with any sort of negative observation by the site is garnering responses from [supposed] actual LinkedIn employees. Hell, one of the “founders”, Konstantin Guericke, even responded on That, my friends, is called “damage control”. Try posting some nasty stuff about, say, “Google” (another company with, um, “issues”) and see how necessary they feel it is to have their employees/founder(s) respond… Good luck with that.

    Before too awful long, the only revenue they’ll be pulling are auto-billed corporate subscriptions from idiotic H.R. managers too lazy/stupid to realize they’re being charged annually. You know those types of corporate tards – the ones that [still] pay money to have Microsoft regularly mail them MSDN materials on physical media because nobody ever gets around to reviewing the expenditures.

    What people don’t seem to realize [or, worse, care about?] is that the information they are giving away for FREE is quite valuable. Just watch…when LinkedIn [hopefully] goes through bankruptcy, that data will go to the highest bidder. So much for privacy.

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