On (B)Endorsements

Endorsements are a relatively new thing (at least on LinkedIn). There have been out there for people to prove the possession of a particular skill verified by a third person. In the past, this was done by a letter of recommendation. Now, it is a button that says “ENDORSE”. One-click it and you are done.

Yesterday, I gave my professor from school @elreiss a +Klout on “Pole Dancing”. Two weeks ago I endorsed @muiiio for “Chocolate”. And a week before that I verified @cipisec skill “Beer”. All these lads are Internet Marketing professionals. None of them is a recreational stripper, chocolate chef or a brewer. They are just guys with a sense of humour pinpointing an issue.

Ever since LinkedIn introduced endorsements, writing recommendations started fading away. In my humble opinion, they are already dead. The damage is done. This is one of the dark sides of making things easy – you generalize, you put things in boxes – all having the same size and shape, and there is no room for elaboration – “It is what it is. Deal with it!” kind of thing.

On a few occasions, I asked people I have worked with, my current manager and others that I helped out to get their digital presence going, to write me a recommendation on LinkedIn. None of them actually did come up one. But they sure endorsed me for a skill by clicking a button. This could be since recommendation writing function is at the back seats on LinkedIn, whereas the Skills endorsements occupy the front rows.  One has to be pretty well familiar with the user interface and functionalities of this particular social network.

I am sure that I am not the only one whose connections are endorsing him for skills that I never exhibited in front of them. Well, there is reciprocity and flattery that come into play here. You endorsed me, so now I will endorse you back. I want something from you, so let me grease you up first by giving a +1.

There is also the other side of the model when you help people, and instead of showing appreciation, they start trashing you on other social networks. It happens. It is part of human nature. But this is a blog post on its own.

We bend the rules of endorsement. We strike each other’s egos. We marginalize its value in front of future employers and business partners. And my question to you is WHY? Why do we do that to our professional profiles online? What is our end game here?

How do you feel about LinkedIn’s and Klout’s endorsements? Will you put a funny skill on your profile? What would it be? Should I put one? In your mind and if you know me, what should that skill be?

UPDATE: On October 14, 2014, Ilia Markov (@gospodin_i) shared his opinion on Medium with his post “LinkedIn endorsements work – And it is up to you to make sense of them“. In it, he makes some interesting observations are actually pretty plausible. Be sure to check it out!

Feel free to share your opinion in the comments and get this discussion on!

Copyright © 2013 Borislav Kiprin. All Rights Reserved.


  1. kalin333 October 3, 2013 at 12:19 am

    you are like a hornet, right into the target. I
    would say that this system with clicking (+) & (-) next to skills
    listed on a personal profile is rather like a points game for kids who
    are pre-teenagers. some of the fake book & electronic products
    personal reviews on Amazon.com are better and more creative, than those
    (+) & (-) signs. In China nowadays there computer (robot) generated
    product reviews on some B2C systems and some of those are even more
    creative than that system. Look original in a way and you have to read
    at least 10 or 20 of them to unveil the robot … but how would you spot
    the robotic ( maniac ) clicking on the track-ball pointer to certify
    some ones unique skills ? i agree with you … so far even doctor
    Watson’s presence will not be helpful at all. for the moment i would
    only suggest to the Linkedin moderator (system administrator) to
    consider the option for skills written by the reviewer her (him) -self.
    …. and than possibly approved (authorized for public show) by the
    profile owner.

    1. Borislav Kiprin October 7, 2013 at 10:00 am

      Good point! It is interesting to see how product reviews are automated and included into the marketing tactics of the publishers or product/services providers.

  2. vanderwal October 5, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    LinkedIn had a rather large problem with recommendations in that many were ambiguous with no skills or any domain relevance. The endorsements were aimed at fixing that, but it is an utter mess as the model really gives no understanding of any value behind the terms in endorsements. The way endorsements are offered up, even if not in the suggestion box (a rather poor way of encouraging optimal labeling (may of the things I am listed for in endorsements are things I do rarely and not the things where I stand out or the roles / disciplines that are not heavily populated). The LinkedIn model suggests things that others have clicked as endorsements is seriously problematic, in the same way that “Most picked” recommendation systems are deeply flawed.

    I get what LinkedIn was trying to fix and the problem set they were aiming to augment, but it has made another mess, with out really addressing the initial problem set.

    1. Borislav Kiprin October 7, 2013 at 10:04 am

      Great observation! To it I can only add that taxonomy differs by user. In that sense it is hard to feed suggestions based on historical data input and not even remotely including the stated in the profile positions or responsibilities. However, this is going straight to the artificial intelligence that the algorithm behind the endorsement must have. And to be perfectly honest, I am not sure we are there yet.

      1. vanderwal October 7, 2013 at 4:30 pm

        Yes ,the vocabulary used by people in LinkedIn gets to be entertaining to watch. People endorsing for terms outside their domain. The one that for me that has been wild to watch is Personas as it has one meaning in UX (a really poorly chosen term to tie to “audience composites” (the name long used in advertising before introduced to UX), computing around identity and social sciences use it for understand the multiple facets of an individual, and business use it as well known person in an expertise domain. I’ve been tagged by each of the communities for persona. Each endorsement brings that term to the surface again for others to use so perpetuates the cycle.

        Endorsements are triggered from terms one’s own profile (including synonyms), terms in profiles of people you are connected to, and terms often used on others who are endorsing you.

        1. Borislav Kiprin October 8, 2013 at 9:36 am

          Actually, various perceptions are also a cultural thing. Through my life abroad and the multicultural exchange of thoughts, I have been observing many different interpretation of what one would thing is a common knowledge/understanding.

          1. vanderwal October 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm

            Culture is huge! I grew up moving up and down the West Coast of the US and the slight differences could really make a mess of things. Seattle and Portland were similar, but Los Angeles was a whole different world, then moving from a beach community there in a massive city to a then agricultural town of less than 100k people 70 miles East of San Francisco (and culturally more similar to Nebraska or Kansas than LA or SF) was a massive shift.

            Language, dress, mores, and norms were deeply different. Then living in UK and for a month in France, followed by back living and working in SF the shifts in culture and sub-cultures stood out clearly. Language nuances really stand out, as they always trip me up. The dimensions of a person’s cultural influences is a really wild maze at times with region (current location(s) and historical), organization(s), knowledge domain(s), role(s), and academic disciplines all influence use of vocabulary. Also whom the person is interacting with shades their term use. Whee!

  3. vanderwal October 5, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    By the way, Klout is a giant stack of B.S. It claims to do something that is nearly impossible (they didn’t do a decent attempt at what was possible 10 to 15 years ago). Klout is marketing something that their underlying tool can not remotely do and they have fabricated a story about what their service is and does that is all B.S. with many people in a field with no depth of understanding what Klout was up to deciding to echo the B.S. fabrications Klout puts out there. There is nothing of any remote value in what Klout does and is a pretty good test of who has no clue in understanding reputation or social platforms by seeing who says there is something there. If somebody thinks there is something to Klout it is good to keep your money far away from them as they have self identified as having no remote depth or basic understanding.

    1. Borislav Kiprin October 7, 2013 at 10:15 am

      I think that the title of the email notification “You have a new Klout moment” says it all. As far as I understand Klout, it is trying to establish itself as a social influence metric on its own misconstructed approach. I have been using it for a while and I can only say that the interpretation of social influence is extremely biased and and quite inaccurate, if I may add. I am not even going to take on the privacy settings users have on their social profiles. But it is rather clear to me that the feed from Twitter and Facebook alone is well established in the algorithm. And I clearly do not understand social media professionals putting Klout score benchmark in their monthly reports. It is just a shaky tool.

      Another interesting observation from this weekend – Vizify. They launched a new feature last week – your Inner Circle. It is supposed to analyze you most interacted with Twitter behavior and offer it in a tweet seeking scalability. The problem is that I was included in such a tweet without even being followed by the person that was reviewing this feature. Now, is this a problem of the algorithm or a problem of labeling the feature? How can one be part of an Inner Circle without even being in the circle?

      1. vanderwal October 7, 2013 at 4:19 pm

        Klout initially touted they were providing an understanding of “influence”, which is insanely hard to quantify as it takes a lot variables that are not quantified and not seen so can’t be quantified. When they launched I was excited as somebody had cracked it, but that lasted about an hour and realized they didn’t even grasp the basics of influence and had no understanding of 15 year old data models that were about 40% of the way there. Klout was built on ignorance and marketing of cool term with nothing under it.

        I kept a Klout account to watch what they were doing and see how they shifted. After about 18 months I shut my account and blocked Klout from access to my accounts, which didn’t stop them from lying in their email that they were still tracking me and I had new “influence”. Klout changed their product a bit to include giving points with a gamification model, which made their relatively useless “metrix” even more unreliable.

        The social media people often don’t have the depth of understanding to examine what they are looking at. Klout still being included is not surprising. The depth of understanding that most of them have about how much of the social interactions and platforms and services is incredibly shallow.

        Vizify does some interesting things, but at a high level. I haven’t looked recently. I should give the Inner Circle a go as I have yet to find anything to get remotely close to an Inner Circle. But, inner circles are contextual and subject based. They are often diverse and nuanced, which makes things difficult.

        When tracking inner circles and close contacts, the communication is often held in networks / services that are relatively small and often closed groups. Talking to high school students and college students these days, few are on Facebook nor Twitter (Twitter has nearly always been a 27+ age service). Most of the students are in small group services and quite diverse. Instagram and Tumblr seem to be the two exceptions.

        1. Borislav Kiprin October 8, 2013 at 8:36 am

          I really have nothing to add to your observations on Klout and Vizify. Dead on target, Thomas!

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