Life as a LinkedIn group manager isn’t much fun, given the limited control you have over your group. Now LinkedIn’s rolled out a new discussion format that makes things even worse, not to mention confuses the difference between “discussions” and “news” items. Apparently, LinkedIn has serious Digg envy. Let the spam commence.
How Things Were
Previously, LinkedIn Groups had a “discussion” area, where anyone in the group could start discussions on topics with other members. In addition, there was a separate “news” area where anyone could submit news items to share. These have now been merged — and without any heads-up that I see being given to the poor suffering LinkedIn group administrators out there.
Now, I oversee our Search Engine Land group. For about a year now, I’ve had some very strict rules in place, with the primary one being that discussions shouldn’t include links, because way too many people were starting “discussions” that were merely product pitches, attempts to get traffic to blog posts or outright spam. I also had rules that no one was supposed to submit news stories. Again, this was to fight spam submissions that added little value to the group.
Rules & Premoderation Wishes
For those who care, you can read more about these rules as they are posted in our LinkedIn Group, here and here. To ensure people saw them, I had them flagged with big “READ FIRST” headlines and tagged to be at the top of the default discussion mode. I had to do this because LinkedIn has failed to give LinkedIn group admins the ability to moderate discussions and news items submitted.
Today, I still don’t have moderation controls. To make matters worse, I can’t even feature the rules in the way that I used to. You really, really suck, LinkedIn.
Policing LinkedIn: Old School
Let me step a bit back and share what I sent LinkedIn last November, documenting what a joyful experience I had to deal with working with their terrible group system on a daily basis. My routine, as I explained to them (feel free to skip all this, if you don’t want some back history on LinkedIn problems):
Visit the Search Engine Land group in the morning.Hit discussions and sort by most recent, so that I can see what new discussions have been started.Look for spam or people who simply start a “discussion” that’s really a link drop.
Copy and paste the person who started the discussion’s name, since I can’t remove and block them from the discussion itself (FEATURE REQUEST). Delete the discussion.
Go to manage. Search for the person. Hope I can find them. Sometimes people join, post, then quit so you can’t remove and block. Well, why not preapprove? Because that’s a pain. Let me locate ANYONE in LinkedIn and proactively block (FEATURE REQUEST). Also, when I’m dealing with some names, looking them up can be hard since I have to figure out where exactly the last name begins. You get lots of people who also have “names” that are generic descriptions of what they do.
Remove and block that person, when found. Be VERY CAREFUL not to accidently hit the Change Role link that’s right above the remove and block button (at least it doesn’t say Promote To Manager” any more. Rinse and repeat this for each person who has abused the discussions feature.
Go to News. Curse again that I can’t restrict news to just come from my own feeds or whatever feeds I want to enable (FEATURE REQUEST). Instead, in order to keep people on the Search Engine Land Group updated with news from Search Engine Land, I also have to let anyone submit. Wish at least I could premoderate.
Sort by Latest News, to see if there’s any really junky submissions. Open each article to review it, which loads with that really annoying LinkedIn frame. Then open the comments for each story, in case I need the person’s name in order to remove and block them. I also leave the news tab open, so that I can delete the stories.
Curse that for the past five days now, LinkedIn has stopped pulling in our own news feed. Wonder if the support message I sent on Friday will get answered. Decide that I will just turn off the News portion and then curse that you have to have both Discussion & News together, not separately (FEATURE REQUEST).
Later in the day, a summary email will go out to all members of my group. Often, despite the fact that I’ve killed offtopic discussion and news spam, it will still be there, because it was automatically prepared at some point. Wish that I could get a preview before it went out, or I could manually trigger a send if I want (FEATURE REQUEST).
In the news area, I just want to have news from my own site or a collection of sites to go out.
In the discussion area, I want to be able to have only approved discussions go live.
These don’t seem that hard to implement. At the very least, I wish I could toggle what I want, news, discussions and/or jobs. Jobs is options, but to have news, you have to have discussions (and vice versa).
Since that time, LinkedIn made only one improvement, the ability to easily click on someone’s profile and select the “Remove, Block & Delete All Contributions” button. That wiped them out, along with all the spam they submitted.
That button is still around, but locating it is harder. More important, trying to ferret out the spam and unauthorized submissions in now an incredible nightmare.
The New Horror Show
Here’s what I see in my group right now:
Previously, what I chose to feature as a discussion was right at the top of the page. Now, my “Manager’s Choice” gets shoved into the lower right corner (marked A in the screenshot above). In place of my choices, LinkedIn decides on its own which are “popular” topics and shoves them up high.
Even further up, LinkedIn shoves an invitation for people to “Like” new “Discussions” (marked B in the screenshot above). The problem is, these aren’t discussions. These are predominantly articles that have flowed into our group from Search Engine Land’s news feed. And soon, they’re also going to be any links that anyone in the group decides to share, despite that being against our group guidelines and despite experience showing that we’ll be flooded with spam.
In particular, take a close look at the new “Start A Discussion” section:
See the “attach a link” section? That’s a big, huge fat invitation for people to start spamming us with links. It also fundamentally changes one of the unique features that LinkedIn offered over Facebook. It was more “discussion” oriented, more designed especially for business professionals to ask question of each other and get help. Worse, it’s difficult to tell when you’re going to click on a “discussion” and get sent out of LinkedIn to a news article or stay within LinkedIn where an actual discussion is taking place.
I can’t even police my group rules. Without asking me, LinkedIn just made these changes to merge news and discussions, explicitly encouraging members to share links without bothering to ask the group administrator (that’s me) if I wanted this. I can’t turn off the functionality, either. My only choice is to completely kill the new combined “Discussions” section entirely.
I don’t really want to do that, because that’s what made our group compelling — members could talk to each other and do so in a largely spam-free environment.
Policing for spam is also harder, because all the feed content gets mixed in with new submissions / discussions or whatever LinkedIn is calling them now. After finally locating the “new discussions” link that was previously easy to find:
I have to scan through all the news feed “discussions” from us to spot things that members have submitted:
Then I have to look at each submission to decide if it they violate our group guidelines — not that some of these people submitting can even find our guidelines now.
Basically, LinkedIn has shoved Digg down my throat. I don’t need that — Search Engine Land’s sister site Sphinn is already expressly designed for people to share internet marketing news stories, complete with a moderation team that fights spam.
What I asked for (such as in this LinkedIn product forum) was premoderation. What I heard back was:
Pre-moderation is definitely one of the additional moderation tools in the near-term pipeline (among which is the digest-quality-scrub option discussed in another thread in this forum)
More than a half-year later, I still don’t have it — but I do see LinkedIn found time to make my life, and probably those for many other group moderators, a hell of a lot harder.
So, here’s a request to LinkedIn. Give moderators back the “classic” look if they want it. If you can’t, then the very next thing I want to see from LinkedIn is the ability for group managers to premoderate what goes out in our groups. Because they are OUR groups, in the end. For me, if I can’t control spam, if I can’t ensure a good signal for my group, I’ll just shut it the hell down.
Are you a list admin who’s unhappy with the changes? Chime in on the discussion thread I created in the LinkedIn Groups Product Forum.