A couple of days ago I decided to update my LinkedIn contacts and see who I might have missed. I used their handy import contacts form and without realizing it, inadvertently spammed 1500 of my contacts (I’m lucky that LinkedIn sets a max import of 1500, or this would have been much, much worse).
The problem seems to be that with the update to OS X Lion, scrollbars no longer appear… so it’s not obvious that in addition to the 8 contacts displaying on the screen, there are also 1492 selected by default, hidden below the fold.
Look at this image (click to open in a new window) and tell me how you could know that more people are hidden if you scroll in that area. Technically, LinkedIn does tell you that 1145 are selected in small unnoticeable font, but the implication from looking at this page is that only 8 are appearing on screen (and I just assumed since only 8 were showing there would be multiple pages of contacts to choose from).
So why is this bad? Well, the implications for me personally are obvious:
- I annoyed a lot of people I don’t know (since Gmail adds anyone you have ever communicated with).
- Worse, I invited some people I do know, but didn’t really want to add on LinkedIn. I try to keep LinkedIn strictly for professional relationships, preferably ones where I have actually dealt with the person directly.
Now I’m stuck in the awkward position of having to unconnect from countless people I’m going to have to bump into in the grocery store, at family events, etc… Or I could ruin the integrity of my LinkedIn network by leaving them connected. Either way, no good.
But the implications for LinkedIn are far, far worse:
- LinkedIn’s value proposition is the integrity of its network. LinkedIn knows this and seems to take this very seriously (the site is peppered with reminders not to add people you don’t know). Having a network of people who were accidentally added dilutes the power of someone’s real network and undermines the value of the system itself.
- I have a problem trusting LinkedIn with any of my data going forwards and will give the same negative recommendation to anyone I interact with on or off LinkedIn when the subject comes up. And every single one of the people I invited was given the same warning.
From talking with my friends, I quickly learned that I wasn’t the only one to make this mistake. Many of them had either this exact thing happen to them or have received LinkedIn spam from someone else. This is not the reputation a professional social network should want.
LinkedIn needs to update this major user experience flaw ASAP – I would disable the import contacts form completely until this is addressed, if I was in their shoes. The number one priority for a social network should be making it’s users feel that their data and network is safe from abuse.
When it comes to priorities: Treating customer data with integrity trumps viral growth, every time.