07 April, 2011

Why Linkedin Should Eliminate The "Open" Groups Option

Yesterday I left 4 Linkedin groups because their owners made the irreversible mistake of switching from "members only" to "open". In "members only" groups, only members can post and read discussions. In "open" groups, only members can post but anybody with an internet connection can read and follow discussions.

Being in an open group is a little like installing one way glass throughout your house so that outsiders can look in but you can't see who's looking at you.

I think open groups is one of the stupidest things Linkedin has ever done. I love the power of LInkedin. There are things you can do with Linkedin that Facebook doesn't even know you need to do but sometimes I think the suits who run Linkedin have never used it themselves. If they did, they would realize that "open" groups are an attack on group member privacy and that the only people who benefit from "open" groups are the exhibitionists who try to fill the new discussions carousels of every group they belong to and update their status every 5 minutes. (By the way, I have recently removed connections who constantly update their status and I have ejected or changed the posting permissions of group members who lack the empathy, consideration and impulse control to exercise posting restraint. I warn them first, refer them to group rules, then eject them if they persist in making a nuisance of themselves.)

When Linkedin first announced that groups could switch from "members only" to "open" I announced to my groups that I would never betray them by making my Linkedin groups "open" and that my 3 Linkedin groups would only go "open" when Linkedin pried the  "members only" option from my cold, dead hands. They thanked me for it. Except for the exhibitionists, Linkedin users don't like "open" groups.

I've done my part to prevent group owners from switching to "open". I've sent other group owners personal messages in which I predicted that switching from "members only" to "open" would have a chilling effect on discussion. Several group owners who already made the switch and regretted it have asked me how to switch back to "members only". As far as I can tell, the door from "members only" to "open" swings only one way; once you've gone open the only way to go back to "members only" is to delete the group and start a new one.

If you own a Linkedin group and you've already made the mistake of switching from "members only" to "open", I suggest you go ahead and bite the bullet and delete your group. It's easier if your group is small because you'll inconvenience fewer members. The group owners with a really big problem are the  ones with really big groups - unless those groups are full of exhibitionists who want as many people as possible to see their mug shots and read their spammy discussions.

I don't have any data to support this but I suspect there are two reasons group owners make the mistake of switching from "members only" to "open". The first reason is laziness. I suspect that some group owners, upon discovering that there's actual work involved in owning a Linkedin group, make their groups "open" because they think they'll have to act upon fewer membership requests.

The second reason some group owners switch their groups from "members only" to "open" is lack of empathy, inability to imagine how naked and invaded and betrayed members will feel when they find out anybody with an internet connection can spy on their group discussions.

It's because of these lazy and unempathetic group owners that Linkedin should do away with the "open" groups option and switch all groups back to "members only".