LinkedIn's New App Predicts What You Need To Know Before A Meeting
LinkedIn wants to become a bigger part of its users lives by reminding them of networking details they ought to know, so they don’t have to bother remembering them.
The professional network with 300 million registered users says it’s launching a new, smarter app that uses “anticipatory computing” techniques to prompt users with tidbits of information they should know about people.
The Connected app, launching Thursday, replaces a previous app called Contacts, and uses a card-like interface to show users updates on what’s happening with people in the network. The app is also smarter than its predecessor in a few ways: it can integrate with a smartphone’s calendar to learn about forthcoming appointments.
If someone at an upcoming meeting is on LinkedIn, the app (even while off) will ping users a notification about them including their photo and recent developments they’ve posted on LinkedIn, as talking points. In the screenshot above, the app suggests, “Remember to ask about her two kids, Holly and Matt.”
Users don’t have to be connected on LinkedIn to get “pushed” these details, which could also include a recent birthday or changed locations, says David Brubacher, head of relationships products at LinkedIn: “It’s taking the work out of networking.”
The app also does more than LinkedIn’s previous efforts in mobile (it has a suite of six different apps, including its flagship app) to learn about who’s truly important in a person’s LinkedIn network, which can span well over 500 connections for many professionals.
“The other thing it’s doing behind the scenes is it’s very familiar with your network,” says Vinodh Jayaram, LinkedIn’s director of engineering. To make this happen, LinkedIn has built a contextual learning platform called Ropod. “The vision behind that is trying to learn the context of members and reacting in a way that’s helpful. Pre-meeting intelligence is a classic example. You could see this getting better and better in terms of how we can help a member proactively.”
LinkedIn is essentially taking advantage of two trends here: the explosion of data being shared between apps so that they can now talk to one another (as its Connected app will now do with iCal or Google Google Calendar) and the trend towards anticipatory computing. “Lots of apps are getting into that now,” says Vinodh.
The idea seems to be that over time, we’ll outsource more and more of the effort we’ve traditionally put into memorizing names and personal details, to the algorithms of services like LinkedIn.
Apps that are already moving deeply into that space include personal digital assistants like Siri and Google Now. Thanks to the growth of information sharing and smarter analysis, these assistants are learning more about their users without people having to proactively “teach” the programs about themselves.
This process is known as “implicit personalization.” A sophisticated program learns about a person behind the scenes, for instance by noticing how they refer to certain people in their contacts list as their “sister” or “boss,” and then making decisions about who’s most relevant.
LinkedIn seems to be taking a similar approach here to make sure its members don’t end up with a mass of connections they can’t make sense of anymore, and which lacks dynamism.
“We’ve gotten a ton smarter,” says Brubacher. The company has honed its algorithms, Vinodh says, on areas like mutual contacts, and is making more inferences about people you may know. He added that users should expect a portfolio of new features that try to make their networks more relevant.
If LinkedIn plans to draw data from services other than calendars, it’s bound to have considered tapping GPS data from other apps. That way it could ping users if someone from their network was nearby — but Neither Brubacher or Vinodh will say if that’s on the cards. For relevancy’s sake, it could also look at correlations with other networks like Twitter Twitter and Facebook.
It’s worth wondering if Facebook itself is considering ways to ping users with relevant information about their Facebook friends, just before meeting up with them in the real world. The challenge may be that push notifications like these could suddenly become irritating if they’re not useful or timed correctly.
“Our peers are making in-roads,” says Vinodh, when asked if Facebook is also looking into anticipatory computing. “We care about what professionals are doing. We’re starting with meetings, and starting to add value there.”
(Article and body image via Forbes)