The importance of profiles with user-generated content

I've been using LinkedIn for years, but i just discovered that they have a feature which allows members to do more than just update their profiles and search/message each other (that's all I've been using it for).  It's called LinkedIn Answers  (must be logged in to see this) and it allows members to ask questions and get answers from each other.  It looks pretty cool -- check it out.

i learned about this by reading an entry in Charlene Li's blog in which she points out the value of having a user's profile information displayed because it adds context to the content, which is something we firmly believe in.  There's value in reading someone's opinion or advice, but there's much greater value if you know who the author is.  And there are (at least) two ways of getting that information:  1.  Read the descriptive information in their profile (Who are they? Where do they live?  Where have they worked? Are they qualified to write about this topic?) 2.  Read the other content they've written (What other advice have they given?  Do I agree with their views?  Are they a credible source?)

As an example, i do a lot of digital photography, and i spend a lot of time on digital photo geek websites.  A lot of people throw out opinions, but they're only valuable to me if i can see something about that user's background (what kind of cameras do they own? what lenses do they use? what kinds of photos do they shoot?  Do they know Photoshop?) and what they've written elsewhere about photography. Most sites provide some of this context, but i haven't yet found one that gives a complete view.  So i'm usually left wondering if i should value the person's opinions or not.

At Awareness we've put a lot of work into our profiles to make them both custom -- they vary with each community we build, according to the sponsoring company's specifications -- and dynamic, so they can be changed over time and grow as the community grows.  And these profiles are automatically linked to a person's participation history, so you can see what they've written and how they've participated to give you a full view of who they are.

Bottom line: I agree with Charlene's view on this one.

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