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Thursday March 10, 2011 10:54 pm

LinkedIn introduces social news, skills, ‘maps’ pages

Business social networking site LinkedIn launched a number of new products for its users on Thursday, including a customized news aggregation site.

In total, LinkedIn launched the LinkedIn Today news site, LinkedIn Skills, LinkedIn Maps, and updated its LinkedIn iOS app with the new news focus. The company also said that its LinkedIn Signal product would be opened up to all users.

According to Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn's chief executive, the site's historical mission has been about connecting users and new jobs, as they move down their career path. Now, he said, the site's purpose is to "connect talent and opportunity on a massive scale". LinkedIn counts 90 million members, all of which can be connected at either a primary, secondary, or tertiary level of interaction.

Weiner said that LinkedIn has three objectives: to be the professional profile of record, to ensure that users are connected to essential sources of professional insights, and to work wherever members work - reference to the company's mobile apps.

Deep Nishar, LinkedIn's senior vice president of products and user experience, related an anecdote where his teenage daughter applied to an won an internship at Johns Hopkins in 2008. Suddenly, as the opportunity approached, he was faced with checking out the program. Nishar said that he posted a message to LinkedIn, looking for responses, and found them. Searching for facts on a search engine wasn't enough.

"Suddenly it ht me that when we make important life decisions, you just don't rely on facts," he said.

 

Maps
LinkedIn's new Maps page (executives referred to them as "InMaps," somewhat confusingly) brings "science and art together in a stunning visualization," according to Ali Imam, senior data scientist at LinkedIn. The idea is to "take a lens and derive the key insights," he said.

Maps is simply a graphical representation of the connections that a user has with others on the network. Connections are typically color-coded to indicate the employer or school, and sized to indicate which contacts are of higher priority. In this way, Imam said, users can see which contacts are "gateways" to other groups of users, demonstrating that those are the gateway contacts that the user needs to keep in touch with.

In certain cases, the user itself may be the bridge between a university and professional contacts, so that he or she can notice the connections and link people that are working on similar projects, Imam said.

Skills
Certain members identify themselves by their skills, such as Java developers, or database architects. The new LinkedIn.com/Skills pages build dedicated pages by skills and present the most useful or popular people individuals or identify themselves by their skills. Skills range from "ballet" to "bodybuilding," even "weapons of mass destruction" - where President Obama ranks first, based on his previous work in the Senate, according to Pete Skomoroch, a product manager for LinkedIn.

The idea is not only to allow users to identify themselves by skill, but to also forge contacts with others in the same profession, versus others at the same company or with similar backgrounds, Skomoroch said. "LinkedIn is more than just 'technology' or 'business,'" he said.

LinkedIn Skills was a beta product, but is being opened up to all members, Skomoroch said.

LinkedIn Signal
LinkedIn started showing its Signal product in September of last year. Basically, it's a real time stream of Twitter and other social-networking updates, normally organized by the user's connections. LinkedIn.com/Signal is now open to all.

However, Signal also serves as a real-time social search as well, on a number of topics. For example, users can enter "HuffPo" or "AOL" in the search box and see what people are saying about the ongoing Huffington Post or AOL layoffs and acquisition. But users also have the ability to filter by company, for example, to see what AOL employees are saying about their own layoffs, Esteban Kozak, a principal product manager, noted.

LinkedIn Today
LinkedIn's Today site may be the most interesting addition of all: a socially-curated news page that's built from the pages that a user's connections are sharing, not from an editor. LinkedIn.com/Today is live and available to all members, executives said.

"We show you who's sharing the story, and what conversation is going on around that story," said Liz Walker, a senior product manager at LinkedIn.

The stories are culled from numerous sites and numerous publications, and users have the option to add or subtract different sources or categories from the list - the site has launched with 22, she said. LinkedIn partnered with StumbleUpon to help surface content, Walker said.

"For people who are short on time we think that this is a fantastic product," Walker said. Users can also save stories to be read later.

The "Today" headlines capability is also being added to the LinkedIn iPhone app, so that users can also read socially-curated headlines while on the go.

This article, written by Mark Hachman, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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