For those of you regular on LinkedIn, here’s a mail you could well see in your mailboxes sometimes in the near future:
Congrats! One of your contacts has endorsed you as:

Master Endorser!!

Don’t get me wrong… I like being thought of as ‘skillful’ as much as any other guy; and people recognizing my skills gratifies me as it would probably do anyone else. But the LI approach to skills baffles me!
I chanced upon the LI page of our new Indian Prime Minister. LI flatteringly informed me that I had a common skill with the honorable Minister and a quick mouse-over indicated that we both possessed ‘Leadership’ skills! It’s definitely very encouraging that we both possess this niche capability putting us in an exclusive group of Leaders, but disappointingly from his remaining skills – Administration, Organizational Leadership, Governance, Policy and Politics (ostensible of the non-corporate variety), there were no other common grounds that could encourage me to dream big! It’s also surprising that the honorable Minister has only these skills and is tasked with the daunting job of running a country of 1.3 billion individuals. Had he had a stint in any corporate house and, better still, an IT or Services organization, his skill set would have ballooned to be proportionate with the portfolio he is currently handling.
The LI model around ‘skillification’ is basically skimming profiles for jargons and offering these as skills. And then sanctifying these by opening them up for ‘endorsements’. I like LI ‘Recommendations’. There is effort required in writing one and there is value in the content and illustrations offered by recommenders. I’ve never received a recommendation I’ve not cherished and I’ve never written one that was rejected by recommendees. Skill Endorsements seem to have been designed as poor proxy for ‘Recommendations’ devised purely because ‘Recommendations’ could not become a volume game. It’s the hotdog-on-a-stick option as compared tofine dining, with the expectation that it serves the same purpose and has the same credibility.
The thing about Skill Endorsements is that the intrusive manner in which they pop up on the top of your screen necessitates dismissing them, and the easiest way to do that is to click the buttons and be done with it! With complete disregard to the sense of incredulity you may be seeding, in an impulsive moment of weakness (or impatience), upon the person you’re endorsing.
Some more of my ramblings on the concepts of Skills and Endorsements:
  • My team members reporting into me have more skills and endorsements for those skills than I do. If we were to be completely transparent, this can cause a few issues during assessment cycles. I dread those tricky cross examinations where my ability to assess is challenged based on quantum of endorsements… it’s only a matter of time in my opinion.
  • The only thing that is more irksome than a total online stranger – that’s someone you brushed pass in a plane aisle and ended up exchanging email IDs – endorses you, is when your high school classmate – who is a connection only because you share the same educational institute – endorses you. It’s embarrassing to be publically certified by someone who has absolutely no clue but is probably going to be offended if you ignore the endorsement.
  • My office mail boy is on LI and somehow a connection (for many it’s still Facebook with a slightly different URL), and recently Endorsed me for ‘Strategy Skills’. Which would be gratifying if it were not so confounding. Such an endorsement is as confusing and perplexing as it would be if the neighbor’s pretty wife were to endorse me for Pleasing Body Odor. If the mail boy, who doesn’t even know my departmental function, blesses my Strategizing (or – hypothetically – the neighbor’s wife publically approves of my personal hygiene), I evidently have bigger problems than I know of!!
This is a classic case of garbage-in garbage-out. The mailer seeking your permission to accept an endorsement states “Endorsements help show what you're great at” but I beg to disagree. Much though I would like to believe there are some complex algorithms at play that offer an endorsement opportunity to a carefully identified individual based on extensively validated professional interlocks, one quick look at my own data set – i.e. who has endorsed me for what all – puts to rest any such fanciful expectation of AI.
Forgive my cynicism, but I just think this is a poorly implemented concept. Within a set of peers in a loosely defined industry domain, this is going to be like an arithmetic function that would eventually tend to infinity. Don’t despair if you don’t have enough endorsements yet… given enough time and traction, eventually you will have the very same endorsements in probably the same numbers as all your peer connections and these are likely to amount to pretty much the same…nothing!