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Vincent Wright says, ‘Enough is enough,’ with LinkedIn 

I was saddened to receive the following email from my friend Vincent Wright, about the experiences he’s had with LinkedIn Corporation.
   I have been a user since 2003, and was probably one of the earliest users on it. As long as I’ve known Vincent, I’ve known him to be an evangelist for the service.
   He’s set up groups championing LinkedIn, and while they do use the LinkedIn , traditionally most companies would allow that.
   It looks like it’s got nasty for no real reason on LinkedIn’s end.
   While Vincent has championed LinkedIn, it hasn’t been reciprocated. I should note that this is Vincent’s side of the story only, and I shall be interested to learn of any responses from LinkedIn.
   I know it takes a lot for Vincent to be pushed into a corner where he has no choice but to take pretty serious action. He’s a very patient guy, but when LinkedIn made its last phone call to him in March 2007, I can’t blame him for running out of patience.
   It looks like LinkedIn got involved. Lawyers who do not know all the facts, as usual.
   I wonder if any company or organization would threaten its own fans in such a way—perhaps the Obama campaign asking netizens to remove their Obama ’08 logos?
   The following has only been edited for paragraphing and a few style items (e.g. quotation marks) to match the rest of this blog.
   I welcome LinkedIn contacting me so I can blog its response, if it so wishes.

Imagine a guest in your home whom you’ve made every effort to be courteous and respectful to—watching your every move—with jaundiced eyes—for 3 years.
   Imagine that in the last year the guest continued to stay in your home but stopped communicating with you—though there is much, much, much to communicate about.
   Even if the guest in your home doesn’t think you, as host, are worthy of a conversation, such a silent guest can make your own home seem inhospitable to you, the owner. Imagine how creepy that would be and what it does to your home environment…
   Since March 16, 2005, at least 10 Linkedin employees, including Linkedin’s Founders, have voluntarily made themselves my house guests at www.MyLinkedinPowerForum.com*
   That’s 99·999% of the lifespan of MyLinkedinPowerForum.com.
   My Linkedin house guests invited themselves. None received an invitation from me.
   Over the past 3 years of developing MyLinkedinPowerForum.com, when Linkedin employees would join, I’d rapidly give them permission to post unmoderated messages to to MyLinkedinPowerForum.com and any other of my groups I was aware they’d joined. Several Linkedin employees readily availed themselves of the opportunity to post unmoderated messages to MyLinkedinPowerForum.com.
   As you might imagine, over the past 3 years, there’s been a lot of communication within the house I call MyLinkedinPowerForum.com—almost 40,000 messages—most of which were respectful of my house guests—some, of course, may have been a bit challenging for Linkedin to listen to.
   As their host on My Linkedin Power Forum, it had always been my preference and, indeed, my intention to be respectful and hospitable to the Founders and to the employees of the company on whose corporate name My Linkedin Power Forum was derivatively conceived.
   For the most part, historically, the house guests have been tolerable—especially considering that the guests once made contributions to the conversational welfare of the household—no financial contributions, no structural, or maintenance contributions, however. The guests’ contributions were exclusively conversational, informational. My Linkedin guests contributed to conversations centered on their own primary concerns. Not infrequently, Linkedin Corporation would make weekly announcements on Friday nights about upgrading its own home at Linkedin.com
   Thousands of members of MyLinkedinPowerForum.com found many of those updates informative and some would contribute their own feedback about the Linkedin upgrades. (See the 40,000 messages in the archives for MyLinkedinPowerForum.com: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/MyLinkedinPowerForum/messages**** )
   Because within the past year, Linkedin Corporation has shown itself to be completely indifferent to MyLinkedinPowerForum.com in general and to me, personally, I think it only appropriate to reciprocate in “the Linkedin manner”. Meaning: I’m clear that Linkedin’s success or failure has nothing to do with MyLinkedinPowerForum.com, in general, nor with me, personally.
   Further, Linkedin, my house guest, has taken to a vow of silence over the past year or so.
   Linkedin’s silence leads to this most fundamental question: What good is a house guest who won’t speak to you?
   Finally, Linkedin, my house guest not only has taken to its vow of silence with respect to me and my other guests, since September 27, 2007, Linkedin has been hanging the issue of its vaunted trademark and indecipherable group and photo policies over our heads like the proverbial Sword of Damocles.
   One shouldn’t feel that uneasy in ones own home.
   And, too, Linkedin has unilaterally made decisions to force me to change the group name and icon for My Linkedin Power Forum on Linkedin, though they okayed BOTH as an “official” Linkedin group on July 15, 2005. (Though it was costly to make such an inordinate amount of changes, this one I can understand.)
   Linkedin has unilaterally made a decision to take down an icon for my photo. No, “Hey, Vincent! You can’t have an icon on Linkedin!’
   Linkedin has unilaterally suspended my group called “Keep STRONG”, one of the most innocuous, non-threatening groups I’ve ever created ­
   Here’s the heart of the matter about Linkedin’s decision regarding “Keep STRONG”: its rationale for suspending the group makes NO SENSE.
   If Linkedin followed its own rules and applied them without discrimination to all other groups equally, it would have THOUSANDS FEWER GROUPS than it now has. If Linkedin followed the guidelines it used to justify suspending “Keep STRONG”, Linkedin would have to suspend other groups of mine which they formerly approved—groups such as “The Encouragement Engine” and “The Science Of Encouragement” and “Pursuing Relentless Optimism” and “Attractionese” and “Linkonomics” and “Yearnalism” and “Linking And The Secret” and “The Biggest Business In The World” and “Linking Eyes To Find Missing Children”
   Linkedin has made all its decisions without discussion, without phone calls, without advanced warning via email, without a hint, without a clue…
   All with suddenness. All with maddening inconsistency.
   Inconsistency is infectious. Those of us trying to follow Linkedin’s lead have, ourselves, seemed inconsistent.
   It is also my belief that Linkedin has sent or authorized to be sent a letter to me claiming that I am intentionally violating their trademark/brand name in using the domain GetLinkedin.info. (That letter indicated that I was abusing Linkedin’s trademark with the logo I have on the site associated with the URL for GetLinkedin.info. Apparently, the author of that letter wasn’t aware that though I conceived the logo, Linkedin Corporation rendered the logo, sent it to me, and permitted me to use it for My Linkedin Power Forum *on* Linkedin.com starting on July 15, 2005 and lasting through about September 27, 2007. Again, though I conceived the logo, Linkedin rendered the logo. To the unbiased, this should be proof positive that not only has Linkedin been aware of my using the logo for MyLinkedinPowerForum.com but, indeed, they were complicit in helping me to create and use the logo which shows at MyLinkedinPowerForum.com, GetLinkedin.info, and PromotionPromotionPromotion.com. The logo in question was used by My Linkedin Power Forum for more than 2 years in the groups section directly on Linkedin.com
   I’ve reached out.
   I’ve waited.
   I’ve been patient.
   I’ve heard nothing—for more than half a year…
   Linkedin’s last phone call to me was March 23, 2007—an impossible date to forget.
   Many others have told me that they, too, have reached out, have waited, have been patient, and have heard nothing from Linkedin. Some surprising, long-time supporters have told me that they’ve also been cut off of Linkedin’s loop.
   Certainly, Linkedin deserves to have time to make itself into whatever it’s making itself in to—I hope and pray it’s something really good—something worthy of the alienation grassroots supporters have been subjected to—but, I’m convinced that not one single Linkedin employee—Founders included—would like to be subjected to the same silence some of Linkedin’s former evangelists have been subjected to.
   I choose to no longer wait for my mute house guest(s).
   And, too, please bear in mind that there are other matters in my relationship with Linkedin coloring my decision to no longer wait for my mute house guests. They are too numerous to fully go into in this letter but, a couple of examples:
   1. Linkedin has questioned certain posts I made on MyLinkedinPowerForum.com. For example, in that MyLinkedinPowerForum.com is based on Yahoo Groups, when I made an announcement regarding a new Yahoo service, I was asked by one of the Linkedin Founders why I posted something about Yahoo on a Linkedin-centric forum. Now here’s the interesting thing about that particular question: I only found out about that Yahoo service because the very Linkedin person who questioned me about it sent me an invitation to join him ON that Yahoo service! I’d never even heard of that Yahoo service until I received an invitation from Linkedin’s Co-Founder. So, I was dumbfounded when I got his email questioning why I’d posted something about Yahoo on my Linkedin-centric group which is HOUSED ON YAHOO GROUPS! Please think about that and let it soak in for a moment.
   2. Also, I was questioned about the content of member posts on MyLinkedinPowerForum.com. For example: One person who’d been highlighted on Linkedin *by* Linkedin, joined MyLinkedinPowerForum.com and posted about enjoying Linkedin AND one of its primary competitors at the same time. Not only was I questioned about that particular post, Linkedin informed me that they were removing this person as an example of the type of person they wanted to highlight. Because this member had deigned to blog about a Linkedin competitor, that person instantly became persona non grata to Linkedin. They’d done nothing wrong, nothing egregious—other than complimenting the merits of one of Linkedin’s competitors. (I never told this person about that behind the scenes conversation.) Of course, this left me feeling constricted about what members could and could not post and what I could and could not do with my own little grassroots discussion group.
   This questioning indicated that I’d have to pay a lot more attention to member posts than I’d originally thought when I conceived of MyLinkedinPowerForum.com back in 2005. It proved to be exhaustingly time consuming. So, I balked at adhering to Linkedin’s guidelines.
   Thus, after investing thousands upon thousands upon thousands of uncompensated hours championing Linkedin and answering the questions of thousands of Linkedin users, I must say that even were every Social Network Analyst, every Ivy League School, every law firm, every Journalist in the world, every Venture Capitalist under heaven’s sun, every Fortune 500 Company, every one of Linkedin’s 21,000,000 members were to take Linkedin’s side in this matter, today, Memorial Day, May 26, 2008, I am evicting Linkedin from MyLinkedinPowerForum.com
   Some may say that this is unduly harsh and that I may be overreacting by taking such a dramatic step. But I say “enough is enough”. I’ve had more than enough to convince me that I no longer want to champion Linkedin in its current manifestation. Sometimes silence forces us to take the most dramatic actions available to us. Some of us feel compelled to take fairly strong, declarative steps to back away from Linkedin as it goes on to the next phase of its existence. But even if Linkedin were to become the greatest Internet company in the history of humanity over the next 1,000 years, I want to focus on something healthier than on a company which alienates its former grassroots evangelists the way Linkedin has chosen to do…
   Now, I have no expectation that the gesture I make today will have any measurable impact on Linkedin. My action is not meant for that. After all, they are more than Goliath and I’m less than David. Rather, my gesture this Memorial Day is intended as a personal declaration of independence. And I’m forcing the issue today because some of the recent gestures Linkedin has been making towards others and towards me, have left me feeling completely uncomfortable having Linkedin employees as my guests. And though I still have a free membership there, I’m starting to be uncomfortable being a guest in Linkedin’s home at Linkedin.com The trust is gone…and likely irreparably so…
   On a completely human level, I must tell you I feel the pain of evicting Linkedin en masse because there is one Linkedin employee who seems like a real human being—one who really seems to understand Linkedin’s purported philosophy that “Relationships Matter”.**
   While Linkedin seems to have an unhealthy distrust of some of its members, candidly, as it shifts from a small company to a potential Internet powerhouse, I no longer know how to trust Linkedin… Thus, I can no longer trust inviting my friends to join me on Linkedin—so, I don’t. And I won’t.
   Of the hundreds upon hundreds of Linkedin-centric groups I developed both on and off Linkedin.com, Linkedin Corporation knows of no group of mine set up to be anti-Linkedin. It’s never been my intention to ever work against Linkedin. It was my exclusive intent to work with those parts of Linkedin available to me and users like me. (FYI: I’ve spent almost 6 months unraveling the Linkedin-centric path of networks I built over the past 3 years. Most recently, I’ve changed LinkedinBusinessDiscussionIndex.blogspot.com to WhyKeepSTRONG.blogspot.com. This change is meant, specifically, to memorialize to me the final straw in my relationship with Linkedin.)
   Recognizing that some may have thought this day might never arrive, nonetheless, it’s here. It’s the day of “the audacity of nope” as in “Nope, I no longer want Linkedin as my house guests on MyLinkedinPowerForum.com.”
   Though I do wish to thank Linkedin for the coffee cup they sent me, after 3 years of openly marketing My Linkedin Power Forum—as Linkedin Corporation watched—I will not voluntarily change the name of MyLinkedinPowerForum.com
   Upon the publication of this letter, no known Linkedin employee, Board Member, nor internal advisor, nor consultant will be a member of MyLinkedinPowerForum.com
   Obviously, there’s more to this story. If interested, you may wish to stay tuned…
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Thanks, Jack! I look forward to Linkedin's response...
Vincent Wright  
Hi Jack,

Great post supporting our friend, Vincent Wright! We must STAND STRONG together!

Martha Sue Yeary  
Vincent Wright is quite justified in his complaints about LinkedIn's commercial behaviour. I've also been chased by LinkedIn's lawyers, demanding that I cease to use LinkedIn's Logo's in the Open Future web site. The fact that the Logo was used to promote LinkedIn wasn't relevant to them. In my case removing the logo was easy. See the "space" in the middle of the page here.
Meanwhile, LinkedIn encourages us to promote our profiles on our own sites by using a graphic that contains its logo. I don’t dare now. Just in case I am being set up for its lawyers.  
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