Linked in by LinkedIn -- 05/01/09

LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site that was set up about six years ago for professional networking (as opposed to the more "friend" oriented sites such as MySpace (designed for teens and adults) and Facebook(which began as a site for college students).

I had joined LinkedIn not too long after it first started. I wasn't seeking to network, but someone I knew in Oslo had joined and he sent me an invitation so I signed up. Having signed up, I then ignored the site for several years. A few months ago I checked to see if I still belonged or if my profile had been purged for inactivity. Nope, I was still there. I looked around a bit, then logged off and didn't think about it again until last night.

When I had signed up with LinkedIn, I had used my Hotmail account. Although I don't use that account much anymore, I do check it once every week or two (when I remember) and last night I found an e-mail from LinkedIn saying that someone wanted to link to me in LinkedIn (sort of like a Friend request in Facebook). It wasn't anyone I knew -- and I may not even be who they think I am (my name is not uncommon) -- but I approved the link. And then, since I was there, I spent a few minutes adding in my work history -- not any details, just company name, job title, and dates -- plus my M.S. degree.

Then I noticed that there was a place to check for possible connections. I selected it and they presented me with three possible people I might know and want to connect with. One was my brother. Another was Adam, my eldest. Wow, what are the odds on that? I mean, I am certain that they must have multiple people with the same names that we have -- how did they come to identify us as potential connections?

There was also an option to list more possible connections. I clicked it and was presented with a list of ten names.

I knew nine of those ten people!

In addition to my son and my brother, the list included the instructor for the Flash course that Jill and I took at RISD in the fall, plus a young woman who used to date one of my nephews, plus people I know via the Internet and who are reading this entry (Hi Lou and Bev and Eric and Wendy!) -- okay, that's eight of the ten. One was someone I didn't know and plus there was another person I knew but I can't remember who. I did not take notes because I figured I would check it out again today and write an entry about it, but when I tried it today, it gave me a slightly different list with some of those names replaced by other familiar names.

This new batch of names included a former colleague who has published two volumes of a fantasy saga and is busy writing the third (his LinkedIn profile was under the name of his saga, not his actual name). Another was in the real name of an online blogger that took me a moment to recognize because I think of her by blog name rather than her real name. And another was of someone who I read regularly from 1996 until about three or four years ago when they stopped posting online.

(Okay, I just reshuffled the cards over there and this time the list included you, John).

I have not at any time connected the Yahoo e-mail address I use to sent notify messages for this site with my LinkedIn account, nor have I connected this Web site with LinkedIn (other than by writing this particular entry). So, I don't know if I should be totally in awe of their data mining prowess to come up with these connections or if I should be a bit freaked out by it.

An experiment: Those of you who read this and who were suggested by LinkedIn as possible connections for me... what would happen if you were to ask LinkedIn for possible connections. Do I turn up in the list?

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