Discussion Damper!

Rick Stomphorst and I founded Silicon Halton a grassroots “unassociation” for Hitech entrepreneurs, companies and professionals in the Halton Region in Ontario, Canada. The primary tool and channel for our launch and to build the community was our Linkedin Group. If you live and/or work in Halton Region join our community.

What We Love about Linkedin

We were able to establish an online presence in the biggest social network for professionals on the web in under 30 minutes. We used it to build our membership, make connections, engage in conversation and promote and organize our monthly meetup events.

In 16 months the membership has grown to over 250 members, we’ve held sixteen meetups with an overall attendance record exceeding 500, launched a new website, met with local government officials and received publicity from the media. More importantly our members are connecting, creating opportunities and generating business together. Our use of Linkedin has helped make this happen.

Since the beginning we’ve used the Linkedin group for new member welcomes and introductions, for discussions, conversations and to make connections. These discussions have helped us refine ideas for our upcoming meetups, provide value add services such as building a Silcon Halton Twitter list and share thought leadership ideas and information.

But…Something Happened!

There are hundreds of comments and many discussions in our Linkedin group. Things were going great! Then Linkedin changed the way groups worked! My question is why? I like innovation and the desire to improve but I think Linkedin has taken a big step backwards.

What makes a Linkedin Group a success are the discussions that take place. While discussions are still the core feature of a Linkedin group a radical change has literally gagged most of them! Many discussions are now impossible to find and more importantly impossible to discover. Let me show you what I mean.

Before Groups Were Changed

Below is a screenshot we’ve used in our social media workshops to show how you could easily see all discussions in a group. As you can see you could sort the discussion by: recent activity, recent discussions and most comments.
These three methods of sorting discussions allowed you to see what discussions had fresh comments, what discussions had the most comments and which discussions had recently been added. As a group member and community manager you knew what discussions were more popular regardless of when they were posted.

After Groups Were Changed

Below is what the discussions tab looks like now. Real different!. You can click on the screenshot to enlarge it so you can see my notes.

It Gets Worse

Let’s look at a screenshot of the newest discussions stream. There are no discussions taking place here. Instead we see a bunch of RSS news feeds from members blog posts.

I can’t sort by most comments, recent activity. All we see are “new discussions”. There is no way to find discussions with most comments and recent activity. Yes, I can see my own but I’m interested in what other people are saying!

So What Should LinkedIn Do?

I think Linkedin should give group managers the option to use the old version. If not, make sure that the features that use to exist, like sorting discussions based on most comments and recent activity, are brought back. For future enhancements I suggest they do what Google does. They give you the chance to view AND use an updated version of one of their apps before they disable the older version.

Silicon Halton continues to use Linkedin to build our membership, make connections, and for event registration for our monthly meetups. But, the changes recently made, won’t help us build our community. I think they will hinder us. We may have to move to another platform and build our community elsewhere.

Chris HerbertChris Herbert is the founder of Mi6. Mi6 is a B2B (Business to Business) marketing and business development agency dedicated to helping companies build their brands and develop commercial relationships. He is the founder of ProductCamp Toronto and the Hi-tech community Silicon Halton. He tweets under the handle @B2Bspecialist

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


21 Responses to What was Linkedin Thinking?

  • Other issues:
    1. Group Discussion Search failing
    2. Discussions loosing “Managers Choice” identification

    In other LI group I manage, I was looking for a specific discussion thread. I knew the discussion title (and body) contained “charter”. Search as I may, LI discussion search could not find the discussion. But wait, as *I* started the discussion, so I scanned through “Discussions I’ve Started”. No luck. But wait, I remember marking the discussion as “Managers Choice”. No luck. All the discussions I marked as “Manager Choice” no longer showed up under the “Managers Choice” view.

    As luck should have it, outside of LI, I sent an email to the active members of the group (it’s a small group) including a short URLs to the pertinent discussion threads which I marked as “Managers Choice”. All the links worked and found the discussion. Frustrating that I can’t rely on LI to find a discussion thread. What use are discussions if they’re easily lost?

  • I so agree with you. Ever since they changed this format I have found it difficult to manage our groups discussions, and most annoying, I can’t for the life of me figure out how to set something as the “featured” discussion. The one posted on our group is several months old and I can’t seem to change it. Really annoying!! We are using Facebook now more for Groups as a result.

  • I’ve also seen a new (?) feature where a some discussion comments are truncated with “…” and I can’t find out how to see the entire comment. Clicking on the comment doesn’t open up the entire comment.

    I suspect this is done to economize on screen real-estate, but substantially detracts from the value of the discussion if you cannot read all the comments.

    • Rick, Thanks for your comment. Linkedin’s advantage right now is the number of people on it. What is lagging, in my opinion, is customer centric improvements. The changes to groups have been a step backwards. They are starting to feel and act a bit like AOL or MySpace.

  • Hi Chris,

    Please rest assured that we are reading all of this feedback. We hear from a lot of people, some in more public venues than others. We definitely appreciate your comments, and we use customer feedback as an important driver in our product development process.

  • As the manager of 2,500-member group, I have been most upset that the new version takes the ordering of discussions out of the hands on an intelligent human being and turns it over to software.

    In the real world, “moderating” a discussion means emphasizing one point over another, perhaps steering it in a particular direction, maybe even silencing ignorant loudmouths. All for the benefit of the listeners.

    That’s exactly what I used to be able to do with my group but no longer. On the discussion page an algorithm now is supposed to recognize that a three month-old discussion has not had a comment in a month. That the conversation is over. I did that; it doesn’t.

    The only moderation now goes on in Manager’s Choice. LinkedIn says everybody goes there, but I doubt it, despite being at the top of the page. It’s not the home page anymore. Instead, it seems like a small ghetto that can’t accommodate many people.

    I can understand that lightly moderated groups might prefer the new version run by software, but those of us who tried hard to anticipate the needs of our members are now completely frustrated.

    • Bill, thanks for your comment. When has a conversation ever been moderated by software in the real world? Seems bizarre that Linkedin would just arbitrarily remove a feature. Yet, this has also happened in the search people feature as well. Up until recently I could conduct a search based on role (e.g. marketing) and title. Now a role search is no longer offered.

      I continue to have high hopes that Ian and others at Linkedin will listen to our constructive criticism. Although, I don’t believe anyone from Linkedin has actually read this post. If they have, maybe they can leave a comment below and I’ll correct this assumption.

  • With regards to Crystal’s last point…
    since the change, as a group manager, I am unable to delete any thread or comment and none of the content posted onto my group disussion is included in the moderation queue. It is really annoying…is anyone else having trouble here? (I just had an email from a member of the Linkedin customer service team suggesting 4 solutions – trying a a new browser, try updated browser, delete cookies, sign out then in again – no joy so far… )

    • Thanks for your comment Steve. I think the customer support request is a stock answer that they give as the first step when a support ticket is opened. I got the same answer regarding an issue with my Linkedin inbox.

  • Crystal Ou, a Linkedin Product Manager (http://www.linkedin.com/in/crystalou) sent me this message regarding my concerns.

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for reaching out to Patrick (Chris-he’s the VP of Marketing at Linkedin) and we’ve certainly read your blog post and value your feedback. We also appreciate the opportunity to provide our perspective, which we hope can be answered below. We realize a drastic change such as this can be painful at the onset. However, user participation metrics have been very positive since the changes, but we are still taking actionable feedback and incorporating them into upcoming releases. Please feel free to let Ian and me know if you have any additional questions, and we hope some of the new features in the coming weeks will help address the issues you’ve been facing.

    Best regards,

    Q:Why did LinkedIn launch such a drastic change in the groups user interface?
    A: We designed the changes to make it easier for professionals to participate in valuable conversations with each other. We hadn’t changed the discussion system on a fundamental level in a year and a half, so there was a lot of learning from our users that got incorporated all at once. We will continue to iterate the product based on feedback from our users – especially on the need for additional tools to maintain quality even as the conversations become more lively across the vast majority of our groups. Participation is way up, with professionals joining and starting conversations in their groups every day, so we’re very pleased with the initial response to the first set of changes to LinkedIn groups.

    Q: Why are discussions and news now together?
    A: So many valuable professional conversations are sparked by shared links, and these conversations were partitioned off from the main conversation in the previous interface. Managers could not even feature a thriving discussion around a shared link or an RSS item. Now, content is just content. For those groups that had treated the News area as nothing more than a bucket for little-discussed promotional links, we will be providing more targeted solutions than a return to the partition between types of discussions based only on what started them, not on their quality.

    Q: Why has the “most popular discussions” view replaced sort by most comments or sort by recent activity?
    A: We rolled all previous categories up into the simpler view of what is actually most popular with the group right now and the list of all new items available for discussion. We also provided the option to scroll through new items – whose value to the group has not yet been decided by its membership – within the group homepage’s carousel or to see them in a list view instead.

    Q: Why are manager’s choice no longer featured prominently?
    A: There are several reasons behind our changes to Manager’s Choice (and even that name change was driven by the need to clarify for our millions of members that the management of the group, not LinkedIn, was doing featuring the specific discussions). A key set of reasons involves putting this content-programming tool where the most members will see it. That’s why we put the top Manager’s Choice on every discussion detail page for the first time – this is by far the most popular page across the group system. That’s also why we’ll be including a Manager’s Choice area in the digest email. It was also important to free the group homepage up for what the group itself is discussing – too many group homepages were unchanging lists of items featured long ago by group managers. In addition, based on clear feedback from many managers, we will be providing a separate Group Rules area to free up the Manager’s Choice for content programming.

    Q: What kind of spam controls will be introduced?
    A: In addition to the many quality control tools already available to managers – including the ability to delete any thread or comment, the ability to appoint content moderators, the ability to delete a member and all her content from the group with one click on her activity page, the ability to delete any new post or comment with one click right from email alerts about each new post or each new comment on a followed discussion – we will next week be rolling out the ability for members to flag threads or comments into a moderation queue for manager review and the option for managers to enable a custom level of member flags to delete threads or comments directly.

  • Hi Chris,

    I am entirely, completely in agreement with you on this issue. LinkedIn has deflated the ability for group members to search and interact within group discussions. Moreover, while these groups changes were being implemented the system was interrupted – and users were not given any notice of upcoming changes.

    My own experience, as a near daily LinkedIn user, was one of “technology freeze” when first coming upon the changes: what is this? how does it work? how can I access and contribute as I am used to? what did LinkedIn do to my most beloved professional networking tool????!!!!

    The net of this reaction, which I foresee as a common one by regular and infrequent users alike, was to sign out – log out – leave the website and frustration for another day when I have the time to figure it out!

    Social technologies need to be more intuitive, user friendly, usable and accessible. Unfortunately, these group changes fly in the face of these priniciples and place more control in the hands of the group managers — rather than the group members, where it should reside.

    Best, Michelle

  • As a LInkedin client for many, many years (And I manage the Fearless Competitor group), I’m shocked and appalled by what Linkedin has done to groups. To say they have mangled them beyond recognition would be an understatement. It seems that the competition from Twitter and Facebook has caused them to frantically add new features, resulting the the classic “A camel is a horse designed by a committee.”

    Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor
    President, Find New Customers

  • I manage a group on Linkedin with 13,000 + members (Sales Playbook) and we are completely against this combining of news and discussions. I believe it has the same negative fallout as allowing spam to clog the discussion threads.

    Unfortunately, we had no other choice than to ban news discussions from the group. We started 1 week ago today and haven’t lost one member. In fact we’ve grown by 130 members since we made the change.

    Group members should never have to wade through non discussions to have a discussion.

    Thank you for this post. I support you 100% and have sent it along to my network.

    Paul Castain

    PS Linkedin’s non responsiveness isn’t exactly making me feel warm and fuzzy as a group manager!