Since I am perhaps the world’s most vocal non-fan of Open Networking, I was surprised to have my inviting privileges suspended on LinkedIn not long ago. It wasn’t that I was barred from inviting people to connect with me (something I do seldom if ever, anyway). I was only prohibited from using the Colleagues feature of LinkedIn to invite past workmates of mine to connect with me, until I wrote to LinkedIn and confirmed that I understood their terms of service and wouldn’t abuse them. Evidently, I had used the Colleagues feature to invite some past teammates of mine from U.S. Robotics to connect; and one, or perhaps more of them, had responded with a click. The bad click.
They’d clicked the dreaded I Don’t Know Her button, familiar to avid LinkedIn users as the IDK. In other words, I’d been IDK’ed, and those IDK clicks prompted to LinkedIn to shut me down until I made it clear that I wouldn’t invitation-spam anyone, again.
Open Networking, if you’re not familiar with the term, is using LinkedIn (and undoubtedly other networking sites as well) for a purpose that their builders didn’t intend. It’s making yourself known to the networking world as a person who simply wants connections. Connect to me, tell your friends, I’ll connect to them too. Open Networkers are all over. I wish them all the best. I have nothing against them. I’m just not one of them. It’s hard enough to sustain my LinkedIn network and the obligations it brings, without inviting perfect strangers to join up, as well.
And I don’t blame LinkedIn for dinging people when the IDK bell is rung too often. They’ve got to protect their members against spam. I wasn’t upset, only surprised to be IDK’d myself, because it was past workmates I was inviting, and in every one of my customized invitations I’d say “We worked at USR together, I was in HR, and I’ve got a Yahoo!group for USR alums if you’re interested.” It would absolutely be possible, even easy, for one or more of those folks to have forgotten who I am or that they’d ever known me. There’s no way to control other people’s memories, of course. But this experience — the least-aggressive LinkedIn inviter gets dinged for over-aggressive inviting practices — made me wonder. Does the IDK logic hold up?
Now, if a person blasts LinkedIn invitatons to everyone he’s ever met and every person whose email address shows up on the yahoo!groups he frequents, and everyone whose business card he’s ever collected, he’s naturally asking for trouble. Even if he customizes those LinkedIn invitations with the details of those meetings, or groups in common, he’s running a risk. He can’t control what people remember. Theoretically, of course, you could send a LinkedIn invitation to your own spouse or sibling and get the dreaded IDK in return. So, I guess Linkedin is saying, “Don’t invite anyone whom you’re not absolutely certain will remember you.” There is a way to do that, of course — to write to the prospective invitee in advance and ask his or her permission to send an invitation.
There’s only one problem. We use the LinkedIn site to find contacts whose email addresses we don’t possess. So, very often, you won’t have a way to write to those people outside of LinkedIn and gauge their willingness to accept your invitation to connect. However, you can write to them without knowing their email address, if you use LinkedIn’s “Open Mail” feature.
That feature requires a paid membership.
Is the IDK functionality — not ‘this invitation is spam’ but simply ‘I don’t know [remember] this person’ — a device for converting free LinkedIn members to paid ones? If we care about keeping our privileges to invite people to be our connections on LinkedIn, we can’t risk being IDK’d very often. If I write to someone ‘We worked together at X building from time period A to B’ and get IDK’d, is anyone safe?
I’d love to see LinkedIn get rid of the nebulous IDK button and replace it with a set of buttons that would allow you to ask for more information (with one click), state with certainty that you’ve never heard of this person (you’d know that, if the person’s name were Flugelhorn Paternoster, e.g.); or reply ‘I know this person but I’d rather not connect.’ In that scenario, only the second option would give the errant inviter a demerit. Makes a lot more sense, in my opinion, than “I don’t know Sally,’ especially given that the button-clicker is not warned “Note: if you click ‘I don’t know Sally,’ Sally’s account privileges will be suspended.” Not that everyone would care. But some would. And the information is relevant. “I don’t know her” can be easily viewed as “Can’t quite put a finger on who she is, though the name is familiar.”
Got any Linkedin stories to share?