I’ve been using LinkedIn and Plaxo quite extensively over the last few weeks and months, and I’ve run into a limitation in both to a greater or lesser extent. An article in Fast Company discussing the question of quality vs. quantity of contacts in your professional network alludes to the problem. You can optimize your LinkedIn network for one or the other, but it doesn’t give you any help in balancing the two. If you’re like me, your contacts don’t fit strictly into one or two buckets, but live on a continuum from family through friend to remote acquaintance.
Just as I think I benefit from having contacts that are very close along with contacts that are less familiar, I think the network benefits from having a variety of networking styles in play at once. This lets me do useful things like optimize my “path” through the contact network for either speed (shortest path) or strength (highest “friend” quotient).
LinkedIn doesn’t give you any way to call someone a “friend” (like Flickr does – those guys are so smart…). Although Plaxo does let me say that someone is allowed to see my personal information along with my professional information, it doesn’t let me do anything interesting with that metadata, like query on it.
Pretty please, I want to add my own metadata to my Plaxo or LinkedIn contacts beyond just a simple note field. As a start, I want be put each of my contacts somewhere along a continuum from family/friend to acquaintance, and use that metadata to optimize my networking activity appropriately for my objectives at the time. Thanks!