LinkedIn Apps? Try LockedIn Apps.

Folks I respect are very positive about the new LinkedIn apps.

Chris Brogan says, "Run to LinkedIn and
incorporate your stuff into your profile. Make sure it’s a great
complement to what you’re already doing, and amp up the way you promote
yourself using that service."

Pete Cashemore and the folks at Mashable put together a list of apps they want and say, "The Mashable team can’t wait to see these 5 apps coming to our
LinkedIn profiles."

I don't understand the excitement.

For me, Linkedin Apps = Facebook Aps – Vampires + Your Boss.

In all seriousness, what's the difference between the two?

LinkedIn seems to be positioning its application platform as a business-ready
version of the Facebook platform. Except Facebook's problem isn't business readiness. It's
walled garden-ness.

When I use most Facebook apps, I have to use them inside Facebook. I have to hand over my data, then manage it within their rigid constraints.

LinkedIn is no different. In fact, it creates MORE work for me since it's one more place where I have to manage my profile.

Here's what would have been (and still would be) very useful: if
LinkedIn let me get my data OUT of their site. Instead of leaving
LinkedIn, I would spend more time there. I would have more incentive to put data into the system because data inside the system would have more possible functions.

If the service was robust and flexible enough, LinkedIn would become a
hub of my activity. As it is, it will be a site I know mostly for its friend approval screen.

But then again, I'm pulling together thoughts
quickly. Am I missing something?

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What Works

Look at the things around you that are working (so many aren't).

Google. Barack Obama. Etsy.

They
all have a broader goal. They're known less for their business than for
the network of people around them empowered by their work.

In
Seth's new book, Tribes, he explains these big goals as ideas that
organize tribes (as opposed to ideas that are yelled at crowds). For
Gary Vanderchuck
they're evidence that you care.

However you
frame them, companies need to communicate big ideas. You can't talk at
your customers any more. You need to talk about something — better
yet, do something — that excites and empowers them.

Organizing the world's information is a big idea that excites people, and free tools like Docs, mail and Reader empower people.

Change excites people, and tools to organize your community and take action empower people.

Handmade is a big idea that people embrace, and a global marketplace to sell handmade goods empowers them.

HubSpot is a younger company and our big goal is just beginning to crystallize.

We want to help create a world where marketing means inbound marketing.
That means a far more efficient, authentic world where companies focus
on getting found, not finding customers.

This is a vision that is far broader than HubSpot — one that small-
and medium-sized businesses everywhere share and are beginning to
shape. Our job is simply to create tools and content that empower this
change.

Can There Be Beauty in Business Content?

One of the open secrets of HubSpot's success is its focus on content.
We create lots of blog posts, white papers, videos and webinars that
filter across the internet and drive people back to our site, building
our brand, our leads and our sales.

Radiohead

We are not alone. Businesses everywhere are beginning to create
content. They're circumventing traditional media, publishing content
that helps them get found.

This is an excellent development. It's a more efficient, democratic way
of communicating with customers. Forget advertising, forget PR.
Businesses tell their own stories now.

Yet one question knaws at me: Can there be beauty in business content?

In traditional content, beauty is excellence.

Radiohead gives beautiful live performances.  Stanley Kubrick created
beautiful movies. Paul Krugman writes beautiful columns. This is the
type of work musicians, film makers and columnists aspire to.

Should business content creators aspire to the same type of beauty?
It's hard to imagine that with a business' pressures of time, volume
and purpose it could achieve such excellence — except that if business
content doesn't aim for excellence, it is doomed to be inferior, to be
bereft of beauty.

Can this be?

I think we need to change the unit of analysis.

For traditional content creators, beauty lies in the content itself.
The beauty of Radiohead's live performance is in the departures from
the recorded music, the excellence of
execution, the scale of the work, the visual electricity and the
artistry with which it's all woven together.

Whole Foods also produces beautiful content, but the beauty isn't in
the content itself — it's in the way the content reflects the
company.

This video about a grass-fed beef farmer in Georgia is nice, but not amazing in and of itself. What is amazing is the way it
reflects Whole Foods' business — the fact that they support
independent farmers with grants, their emphasis on locally grown food
and their work to inform consumers about the origins of their food.

Whole Foods' content is beautiful becuase it authentically
captures the beauty its business. That should be the ideal for business
content.

Photo: Radiohead in Milan by redbanshee

A Pointillist Painting

Clive Thompson in the IHT (via @pgillin): This is the paradox of ambient awareness. Each little update — each
individual bit of social information — is insignificant on its own,
even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little
snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your
friends' and family members' lives, like thousands of dots making a
pointillist painting. This was never before possible, because in the
real world, no friend would bother to call you up and detail the
sandwiches she was eating.

This Election Season, One Poll Won’t Cut It

Last week I caught myself doing something I'd never done before: I turned off the television as soon as the presidential debate was over.

I usually keep the tv on to listen to the pundits, but this time they seemed absurd — not their politics, just the idea of a handful of folks in New York drawing conclusions about national candidates. It's the same type of absurdity that's driven me to remove baseball announcers from my life. I now watch Red Sox games without sound.

Commentators and pundits have always been full of hot air, but now tools we use every day demonstrate it. Our Twitter streams and Facebook feeds are full of richer, more thoughtful opinions than the stuff on tv. When I'm watching the Red Sox, I get far more entertainment from the crowd of Red Sox fans I follow on Twitter. The same goes for politics; the range of opinions, with biases that are known to me, is far more instructive than Wolf Blitzer's telepromotease.

Over the past few months I've started reading the election projection site FiveThirtyEight.com religiously. Nate Silver, the guy who runs the site, aggregates all the polls he can get his hands on, and feeds them into a model that adjusts for their historical biases, as well as other observed influences. He then runs a simulation of the election and gives you the odds of each candidate winning.

Once you spend time on Nate's site and see the range of polls, their biases and range of factors that influence them, it becomes hard to put any stock in any single poll.

Nate's poll aggregation is very similar to what we're beginning to do on our own, less scientifically or deliberately. Using tools like Twitter Search and Facebook feed, we do our own intuitive aggregation. We see lots of different opinions, many of which come from people we know and who have known biases and perspectives. We weight all of this to form our opinions.

If you're in the business of shaping opinions, this means you can't tell people what to think anymore. People think for themselves now, and they have to be convinced.

The Opportunities

Lee Oden:

Effective social advertising is less about attaching marketing messages to content and more about being the content. This isn’t new in advertising or direct marketing when you think about it. TV commercials and direct mail as entertainment and art have been popular for years. The difference is that marketing online is so ingrained with advertisers and marketers as a direct marketing channel, they don’t yet understand the opportunities from building community, creating something of value that persists and not just as a campaign,  as a way to communicate their message.