From my perspective LinkedIn, the social networking site for professionals, has always had a bit of a problem. On the one hand, the media (both the mainstream media and the more specialised tech media) seem to adore LinkedIn. I do not know how many articles I have seen on how important it is for professionals to be on LinkedIn, on how one can find a job through LinkedIn, on how important LinkedIn is to sharing information among professionals, and so on. On the other hand, it seems to me that the average person, even professionals, is largely indifferent to LinkedIn. They use LinkedIn as little more than a place to put their résumé online. They create a profile and then may not visit the site again until they need to update their profile (which may literally be months, if not longer). I am more active than most people I know on LinkedIn, and I only make an update there only every few days, much less than on Google+, Twitter, or even Facebook.
Despite the media's love affair with LinkedIn, it seems clear to me that the site really needs to encourage individuals to be more active on the site. Unfortunately on 16 December LinkedIn did something that I believe will do the exact opposite. Quite simply, they removed the activity feed from individuals' profiles. According to the help page on LinkedIn, this was "...so we can better invest those resources in building new and better LinkedIn products." Unfortunately, from what I have seen on both Twitter and LinkedIn itself, it seems a good many users disagree with the site's decision. I know I am one of them.
Indeed, on the surface LinkedIn's decision seems to make little sense. Nearly every other major social network includes a feed of one's own posts on one's profile. This is true of Twitter. It is true of Google+. It is true of Facebook. And I personally believe there are very good reasons for this beyond simply being able to see all of one's own posts in one place, reasons that for some odd reason LinkedIn has chosen to ignore.
First, having the activity feed on one's profile encouraged others to visit one's profile to see whatever updates one has made. I know that there were people who visited my profile regularly to see my updates. Now they have little reason to do so. This brings me to the second reason for having the activity feed on one's own profile. Quite simply, it insures that one's updates will be seen, at least if people visits his or her profile. Without an activity feed on profiles, chances are good that one's updates will be lost among the "noise" on the activity feed on LinkedIn's main page.
Indeed, the sad fact is that the activity feed on LinkedIn's main page is a hot mess, much worse than even Facebook's news feed. Worse yet, one has little control over what appears in the activity feed on the main page. One cannot set the activity feed so that one will not see "such and such liked such and such update" or "such and such has a new photo", or "say happy work anniversary". And while one can hide updates from specific individuals on the activity feed, one cannot hide updates from LinkedIn itself or, a feature I find particularly annoying, "Your network's talking about" (essentially topics LinkedIn thinks one's network is discussing). Now there are individual feeds for "Connections (new connections people have made)", "Shares (links one have shared, whether they're blog posts, news articles, videos, or so on), and Profiles (essentially profile updates), but they are little help. Indeed, the Shares feed has the same noise problem as the "All Updates" activity feed. On the Shares feed one will still see updates from LinkedIn, sponsored updates, and "Your network is talking about". On the "All Updates" activity feed and even on the "Shares" feed, then, it seems to me that the chance of one's updates getting lost in the noise is very, very good.
A third problem with eliminating the activity feed from individual profiles is that it is now much more difficult to tell if someone is actually active on LinkedIn. For instance, someone visiting my profile would have been able to tell that I make updates every so many days. By the same token, someone visiting my brother's LinkedIn profile would see that he has not updated in quite sometime. While it doesn't matter to me, I rather suspect many professionals on LinkedIn would prefer to be connected to people who are actually active on the site. This brings me to a fourth problem with eliminating the activity feed on LinkedIn. It was a good way of weeding out spammers. If one visits the profile of someone and his or her activity feed is filled with links to nothing but pages promoting "male enhancement products", it is fairly certain that he or she is a spammer!
In the end I have to say that in eliminating the activity feed LinkedIn has made a very serious mistake. They have taken away the primary reason for people to visit other's profiles and also made it more difficult for individuals' updates to be seen. They have also removed a useful tool for telling if someone is active on the site or if they are a spammer. What LinkedIn has apparently failed to realise is that while there may be newer LinkedIn products than the activity feed on profiles, there are and can be none better. I have to wonder that ultimately LinkedIn's removal of activity feeds won't result in people updating much less often, if at all. Indeed, I have to wonder that it won't result in some people leaving the site entirely. Either way I have to wonder that in eliminating the activity feed from profiles LinkedIn has not effectively consigned itself to oblivion.