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Great, great idea that won't work.

As I was waiting for the bus coming back home today, I started thinking about LinkedIn, which is admittedly a strange thing to start thinking about, but I can be weird that way.

One of the site's visions is to be a "Resume 2.0": not just can you post your entire background and accomplishments, but have (trusted) people comment on it, give you recommendations, testify to your experiences etc. etc. It's a great idea, especially if you consider all the applications: for example, for business schools recommendations, for renter's background checks etc. etc. It's sort of already in place on a very one-dimensional basis on sites like eBay through user feedback mechanisms. I love the way the founder, Reid Hoffman described it: "removes the inefficiencies of the resume process", i.e. so much harder to lie, exaggerate and hide information about your experiences.

But here's why I think it won't work: more people lose from the inefficiency going away than people gain....and the concept is too prone to gaming.

  • The very top performers in a comparison group, of course, know they'll get stellar recommendations, so they're all for the system, but given an option wouldn't everyone else be keen to avoid (and hence sabotage) the system altogether, in order to deny these people this advantage?
  • Even star performers may not be sure, they are "star" performers and since most people are risk-averse, they are more likely to avoid the system.
  • Average performers (and I believe this is most people), will actually find it in their interest to avoid this information, since they are likely to have exaggerated on their resume in the first place.
  • Similarly, people will be much more hesitant to give good recommendations and validations when these are available for scrutiny to the rest of the world. E.g. I've seen tons of recommendations that basically said "This person did the work he was assigned."
I can't help thinking there are many such other situations, where there is a distinct benefit to having a more open system, but since the interest of the majority is in keeping the truth hidden it doesn't get implemented.


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