We’ve seen countless articles on the inefficiency of LinkedIn’s recommendations engine.  I’ve even seen articles saying things like “No matter the noise in my recommendations  the trend is what matters!”.

As a data nerd, this doesn’t sit well with me.  I like valid, verified and relational data that is accurate.  This seems like such a simple one, and it probably shouldn’t bother me, but it does.  I’ve wanted to write this up for a while, but always thought: “Maybe it’s not that big of a deal. Who reads these recommendations anyway?”.  The endorsement I received today was just funny.

My second job out of college was for SAIC (www.saic.com) on a government contract.  We were working on a regulatory project with lots of document management, workflow stuff.  Tool sets were Documentum, some scanning/OCR software, Java 1.4, custom built MVC framework etc.  My toolkit consisted of Java.  I didn’t know better.. That’s the only hammer I had.

Python, is my new favorite.  I’ve been almost 100% python (and web) for the past two years.  I haven’t written more 10 lines of Java code (esper, http://esper.codehaus.org/ , complex event processing, that’s a cool tech…  think of what you can do with network security data in that space!).

Ok, back to the point.  I left that SAIC position in 2003.  Fast forward 10 years, and someone from there if recommending me for python!  Now, I know I write my python like Java code.. not very ‘pythonic’… but, it’s not nearly the same.

Crap referral on LinkedIn

Crap referral on LinkedIn

Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not their fault for recommending me and python.  LinkedIn is REALLY obtrusive when they want you to refer someone. It’s almost like a freaking popup ad.  You just click it to get it to go away.

Essentially a popup.. just click stuff to make it go away!

Essentially a popup.. just click stuff to make it go away!

Out of that list, two of the people are family members.  I have no idea how they are at work, so, in good conscious, I can’t recommend their skills.   Another one, I knew from a previous employer, but didn’t really work with them.  So, I can ignore that.  The 4th, that one was good.  I can click there and feel good about endorsing them.

How do we fix it?

My biggest complaint is people who know me, and know what I can do, but not necessarily the skills that LinkedIn shows them.  I think the easiest way to avoid this, and to really get better data, is to have each person link their skills to a specific position.  If you didn’t have it linked there, and someone wants to endorse it, ‘add it’ to that position.  The screen shot below is a new one for me, and I didn’t know they let you add new skills on the fly, but I like it!   Just take it a small step further, and relate the skill to the position.  Then, prompt people who you’ve worked with, based on the position/company you shared with them.   It’s an extra step, but, I think you can get rid of half of the crap endorsements.