LinkedIn, along with Facebook, Google+, and the omni-present Twitter, is part of the daily life of many IBM i professionals, judging from the number of people posting regularly on them. But in our struggle to understand the role of so-called "social media" in a work environment we're becoming less and less clear about LinkedIn's role. Initially its purpose was to provide a vehicle whereby individuals with a shared vocation could get together with fellow professionals to exchange ideas, contacts, etc. We wanted to check our understanding against the website’s mission statement, but it doesn’t seem to have one. This may explain a lot!
As a concept that seems reasonable, and there’s certainly value is being able to communicate easily with a group of professionals in your own line of work--particularly if you are the only accountant (for example) in your shop. So far, so good. But increasingly that doesn't seem to be how it’s being used.
On the one hand it’s increasingly utilized as a marketing tool. Sometimes overtly: "Company XYZ is pleased to announce. ..." Very often covertly: "Does anyone know of a good tool that can. ..." Threads of this latter type often eventually reveal that the original poster was either an employee of a company offering tooling in this arena or is a "satisfied customer." We find these kinds of threads particularly annoying, in part because we feel we’re already subject to enough advertising without having it rammed down our throats everywhere we go. In the long run they may well have a negative effect because they can result in even users avoiding responding to the most genuine of queries.
It also seems to be being increasingly used for the pure "How do I" or the "I'm getting decimal data errors ..." type of questions that we feel are much better suited for Internet forums such as midrange.com or IBM's RPG Cafe. It just seems to us that LinkedIn really wasn't designed for these types of questions. As result, the same question is often asked in multiple groups.
Speaking of groups, LinkedIn seems to sprout new ones ad-nauseum. How many IBM i related groups do we really need? And at the risk of re-starting the whole naming war, couldn't they at least all use the same name for the system? (But then why should they be different?) At least six groups have "AS400" or "AS/400" in the name. Two use "i5" and at least one uses "iSeries." And a number of groups have "IBM i" in the name. It’s impractical to follow all of them and difficult to choose which to follow because the scope among the groups is duplicated in many cases.
At least LinkedIn avoids the constant bombardment of minutiae that comes with Facebook. We do confess that we love the stuff that folks like George Takei share. We have to believe though that Facebook is almost certainly responsible for a greater loss of productivity than any other single source. This makes it even stranger that many employers seem to have no problem allowing their staff to access Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn during office hours but actually block sites like ibmsystemsmag.com, midrange.com and many other work-related websites that could boost productivity rather than stifle it. Why is that? Any thoughts?