Linkedin Answers: a knowledge market in a social network

Linkedin Answers is a knowledge market by Linkedin similar to ones of 3form, Naver, Yahoo, and others. However there are three things that make Linkedin Answers unique: its user base, its use of the network topology, and its ’suggest an expert’ feature.

  • Linkedin is a social network for business people and professionals, so due to its positioning many of its users are experts in their specific areas. Most experts have to specialize to get a deep knowledge in a certain area. As a result, they have to sacrifice knowledge outside of that area. This division of labor makes an ideal environment for a knowledge market.
  • Linkedin uses its social network to determine whom to ask the questions: the idea here is that you will be more willing to provide answers to the questions of people connected to you. In a sense, this is an affinity market. Relatedness to a person who is asking a question gives stronger motivation and more context to provide a better answer. Using network neighbourhood for question distribution is an interesting innovation of Linkedin.
  • “Suggest an expert” feature is another innovation of Linkedin Answers. If you don’t have any solutions to the problem posted by your neighbour, you can at least suggest someone who knows the answer. This can help resolve the problem and also provides extra information about people expertise that can later be used for better targeting of specific questions. This is a great feature that was absent in the previous implementations of knowledge markets.

Combining knowledge market and social network is not novel to Linkedin. I have an earlier blog post Wisdom of web 2.0 discussing potential evaluation problems this combination creates: subjective bias and information cascades. Linkedin, on the other hand, was quite innovative in exploring advantages of such combination.

Previously, when people asked my opinion about Linkedin network, I told them that Linkedin makes it easy to export your real-world connections, but doesn’t make it easy to discover new connections. I think Linkedin Answers adds that discovery element to Linkedin and makes it much more valuable resource by exploring the collective intelligence and creativity of its members.

If you decided to join Linkedin, Guy Kawasaki provides some good advice:

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