Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I can edit your LinkedIn contact info ...

... If we're connected! I just submitted a Help request to LinkedIn because I'm puzzled as to why they would even allow this situation: can someone help me understand the benefits to this feature?

Today I noticed a small link to 'View/Edit Contact Info' at the bottom of the 'Contact Information' box on the LinkedIn Profile of one of my contacts. I clicked to see what would happen, only to discover that I can Add or Edit lots of their information. (Can't change the Primary email address, but can hack around with other email addresses, phone numbers, IM, Address, Website, Birthday, Other Info and Contact Notes).

Puzzled, I searched the LinkedIn Help files and came across this "How-to" answer on the feature which shows you how to do what I did, for your contacts, but doesn't indicate why you should be able to.

I can see that this begins to position LinkedIn against the likes of as a very powerful contact management database; and if LinkedIn can get users to crowd-source information on their contacts then it enhances the value of the LinkedIn database still further, without relying on each individual user to overcome inertia and keep their profile up to date.

I'm waiting to hear back from LinkedIn Support and will edit this post with what I find out. But, off the top of my head, it seems that this feature needs some safeguards:
  • Perhaps my edit of 'your' contact information should only affect my view of you and not be visible to anyone else? That way, LinkedIn can get me to keep returning there to get my contacts' info so that I spend my time at LinkedIn rather than Outlook, Salesforce or similar. But there are no checks on the validity of the info I store and no value to the wider community of users, or to LinkedIn's business model, if my edits remain private to me.

    [UPDATE] Working over the phone with one of my contacts, it seems that this may indeed be the way in which the feature works: I make edits to 'your' contact information in my LinkedIn database, but I'm the only person who can see those changes. This means that LinkedIn doesn't have to alert the Profile owner to changes made by others; and the feature potentially adds value to individual users who return to LinkedIn to get their contacts' info rather than using Outlook, Salesforce or a Rolodex etc. Is this all there is to it, or does LinkedIn have something else going on that adds value to their business model? (Thanks for your help, Mark!)

  • (If LinkedIn makes my edits of 'your' information visible to other users surely, as a minimum, the system should alert the profile owner that someone else has edited their contact information?)
  • (And, so I retain control of my information on my Profile, LinkedIn should email me to let me know WHO changed WHAT, and WHEN.)
What do you think? Is this feature of benefit or dis-benefit? 
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