Is there any aspect of internet life that can't be hijacked?
Facebook allows us to keep in touch with friends and relatives in far-flung places in a manner that would be next to impossible otherwise. However, it comes at a cost. Along with the news come endless out-of-focus pictures, re-postings of political rants/scams/urban myths/scare-ware/etc. Not to mention many (often inappropriate) ads, several of which are, according to recent media coverage, complete scams in their own right. For example, did you know that Dr. Oz does not and has not commercially endorsed any products? You'd never know it from the ads on Facebook or, for that matter, in the aisles of your local drug store.
LinkedIn aims at providing a means of networking on a world wide scale. So far so good. However, it exercises no control over the creation of new groups. The result is that from a casual count of the groups we participate in, we now have eight groups that include "AS/400" in the name, five with "RPG" and 8 with "IBM i". Whether this is the result of laziness on the part of people creating new groups, or a desire to "own" a group, we have no idea. Of course the result is that the same question is often posted to multiple groups which, if you are interested in the answer yourself, makes it hard to follow as you have no idea where the answer might appear.
If duplication was the only problem then we could probably live with it but, the lack of moderation on most lists makes them a prime target for spam merchants. Take one RPG group as an example. Current threads are identified as:-Equivalent of SETLL using SQL
-Free Resume and Cover Letter Guides
-A "Secret Sentence" you can use to land more job interviews and job offers?
Only the first one has obvious relevance to this group, and does have folks participating. However, this is also an example of a discussion duplicated across at least four groups that we know of. There's no feasible way to keep track of discussions in all these places, much less participate in them. So we tend not to participate at all in that kind of discussion, even though the topic is something we're interested in.
The second and third are just spam and have appeared in countless groups, over and over again in various flavors. Like email spam, one has to assume that somebody is responding or they wouldn't keep doing it. When a list owner allows this kind of thing it just puts us off even bothering with the group at all.
It is also common in LinkedIn groups to find "Discussions" that are nothing of the sort. They are simply thinly veiled commercials for the company in question (Hint: You can usually identify them from the verbose subject lines). We don't have a problem with this when the poster identifies it as such - or when the list moderator correctly pushes it into the promotions area. But it seems that most group creators create a group, "play" with it for a while, and then lose interest. The group then degenerates into a haven for spammers and self-promoters.
Twitter, perhaps because the character limit render it less useful for spammers, doesn't seem to have quite so much junk. But perhaps we are just following the right people. However, we find it hard to follow conversations and, other than for the most trivial of things, the text allowance is too short for serious technical conversations. We will give a shout-out here to the tech support team at Parallels (@ParallelsCares) who have managed what we thought would be impossible and turned Twitter into a usable customer support mechanism.
For us the best place for technical discussions remain what one might think of as the traditional approach. David Gibbs' Midrange.com is a great mailing list supported by some of the best minds in the business. David's strict anti-spam, ant-commercial policies mean that for the most part the lists stay free of politics and other rants - except for the occasional, apparently inevitable, forays into IBM i naming issues. Some, including us, find web based forums a little more convenient to follow than email based and there are two main lists in this category these days. Penton's iProdeveloper.com forums and the "baby" of the bunch Code400.com. There are others but there just doesn't seem to be enough traffic most of the time to make it worthwhile.
Maybe we should start a campaign to move technical discussions to more appropriate platforms than LinkedIn. Hey! We could post our initial request in multiple groups and ...