BEST OF THE WEB: Just what exactly is LinkedIn doing for you?

Professionals would be well acquainted with LinkedIn. The business social networking site has grown over several years to become almost an obligation – requests in email accounts are common from people you’ve never met.

But as this piece over at The Baffler explains, it’s becoming more difficult to determine what LinkedIn is actually offering you.

As the piece points out, it’s a little hard to figure that out considering the site was always supposed to be a way of keeping track of colleagues and other networking contacts.

There’s the appearance of openness—you can “connect” with anyone!—but when users try to add a professional contact from whom they’re more than one degree removed, a warning pops up. “Connecting to someone on LinkedIn implies that you know them well,” the site chides, as though you’re a stalker in the making.

The piece delves into the site’s practice of creating “thought leaders”, hand-picked members of the LinkedIn community who share interesting material for other uses to consume.

Much of it is completely corny, often it’s just buzzwords. But as the piece suggests, it carries a specific use.

“Who’s to say whether the followers of these tirelessly flogged thought leaders—the folks eagerly inviting others to connect—find this information useful? Surely the gospel of LinkedIn life improvement isn’t dramatically enhancing their immediate job search.”

“But on the devotional level, it probably fuels their fantasies of conquering their cluttered professional playing fields in the fashion of that great business demigod Steve Jobs.”

LinkedIn’s appeal goes further, the piece argues – way back to the beginning of modern American pop culture. Americans want and have dreamed of success – and LinkedIn provides the belief that one day, they may still get there.

Hackers on the front lines

The concept of hackers working for a government is old news, given all the news about cyber attacks being used by nations.

But in this new piece at Rolling Stone, a new perspective has been given on the people who take part in these types of intelligence gathering through private security firms – and they’re not exactly who you might think they would be.

But what they’re dealing with is serious stuff. If hackers ever managed to shut off electricity for an entire region, for instance, the consequences would be crippling.

As the piece describes, there is a booming market for security advisors who are doing work that would otherwise be illegal – and there are plenty of companies cashing in on the trend. Companies like Accuvant.

“Accuvant specialises in attack and penetration, or “attack and pen” for short, infilitrating their clients’ computer systems to expose and improve weaknesses.”

“Their clients include everyone from banks and hotels to federal agencies, which can pay upward of $100,000 for a single test of their services. To maintain integrity during a penetration test, the client’s underlines aren’t told they’re being targeted.”

The security market isn’t just a matter of national defence – it’s a matter of a booming economy.

The iPhone 5c – the phone that Jony wants

Apple made headlines this week in debuting the iPhone 5c, with a plastic backing and a colourful range of options.

The phone was long-expected, with rumours of a cheaper model being published from as early as last year. But it wasn’t necessarily the phone some were hoping for- after all, it still costs only slightly less than the premium 5s model.

However, MG Seigler, writing at TechCrunch, says critics are missing the point – this is the phone that designer Jony Ive always wanted to make, and it’s not one necessarily built for the lucrative Chinese market.

Of course Apple thinks China and the rest of the world is important. Tim Cook has said that ad nauseam. But they’ll address that with what they view as the right product at what they view as the right time. Maybe that will be too late. Maybe it won’t. But again, the iPhone 5c very clearly is not that product.

This is Jony Ive’s iPhone. It’s his return to colors and “beautifully, unapologetically plastic.”

It’s an interesting take – but time will tell whether it pays off for the company or not.


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