A LinkedIn acquaintance of mine has posed what I believe is a very good question, and has caused me to reflect this weekend. I have responded, but am frustrated with the very short box (a few hundred letters? I’m noisier than that!!) that is allotted to respond. I will try to say here what I have said on LinkedIn, with the complete freedom to use as many characters as I please. I would appreciate your input as well, to find out why others use LinkedIn to connect.
HC’s question: Why do we connect on LinkedIn? When I log into LinkedIn, I usually see just line after line, “So-as-so is now connected to So-and-so…”. Okay, that’s great. Then I see that I have something in my Inbox, and it’s a couple of folks I’ve never met, or perhaps someone who attended a presentation, who wants to connect with me. For the past couple of months, I’ve been asking folks, “why do you want to connect with me?” What’s the value in this “relationship” to you? Most often, the response is, “oh, sorry to offend…”, and then nothing else. The thing is…I’m not offended.
I too have been asking, if I didn’t invite the link, what the nature of the request is, or how I can help them otherwise. Again, not intended to offend, I have always been somewhat selective with my Social Networking connections. I will gladly share information with others, but will try my hardest to avoid sharing others’ information. In my 5 or so years on LinkedIn I still only have 250 connections.
There are people in the “real world” that are members of my LinkedIn network. People that I have worked very closely with, care a good deal about, and respect greatly. I want to make myself avaialble to them as easily as possible, and am on the move often, have changed email addresses and phone numbers, and may only be in their thoughts occassionally (Security folks are about as popular as Auditors at parties). I use LinkedIn to serve that purpose. My info and locale may change, but you can find me there.
There are also people on my roster that I have met, worked with, attended conferences with, or had business conversations with somewhere. Acquaintances. I like to keep up with where they are working, what they are working on, and occassionally ping them to get together socially or professionally if a mutually interesting topic or activity presents itself. They also offer a symbiotic relationship; they are often a source of continued employment through contacts and contracts, and recipients of investigative efforts and intell should their need arise.
There are also people that I have never directly met. These are the few individuals that I have email-based conversations with, have authored books on subjects that I am interested in, published research or useful tools, and have impressed and/or influenced me in some positive manner. I link with these folks more selfishly than with others, as I am interested in what they are becoming interested in. They are my thought leaders, if you will. I look to see what areas they are exploring, what keeps them awake at night, what do they fear is hiding over the horizon? They provide initial links to papers about new discoveries, vulnerabilities, threats, and solutions. I hope that if they spot something new in the InfoSec or IT domains, they will share it on LinkedIn, and allow me to start looking over my own shoulder, and the shoulders of those I hold near and dear.
The value of these relationships, and my LinkedIn relationship with HC, is selfish. I work in Information Security, and often in the field of Incident Response. This is a field that is both complex and dangerous. Not dangerous like police work, I don’t anticipate being shot at every morning, but there is a hint of danger in that I am the thin pink line between some organized crime boss and the loot stored in the electronic vault. In some places, that can make you a real target. I respect the work that HC has done, have read a couple of books with his name on them, and have placed his name in my online rolodex to be pulled out if the event arises that I come across something that I and perhaps my local, trusted, CSIRT buddies can’t figure out for ourselves. I don’t solicit his opinion on things lightly, as I assume that he has bills to pay, consults on things that require his expertise, and may not appreciate every Tom Dick and Mark constantly pleading for free advice. I haven’t needed to bother him to date beyond the initial link request, as I prefer to do my own homework, until I reach my limits, then look to engage the closest allies first. It is reassuring to know that I can access HC if I need to, though.
I may never reach out to HC, and I solicited a connection to him with a selfish heart. Now I ask you all, if we are linked-in, why did you accept my request, and why do you link to others?