Friday, August 30, 2013

Thank God, These Guys Are Not Surgeons

I don't spend much time on social networking sites, including LinkedIn, but, whenever I visit them, within the first couple of minutes, I always stumble on some bugs. Here is one I found today on LinkedIn (in order to actually see what's going on, watch the video in HD and full screen; it's a raw screen recording):

If you are familiar with how LinkedIn works, the video should be self-explanatory. If it isn't, continue reading.

So, what is wrong with what you've just seen?

Let's take a look at Screenshot 1 below.

Screenshot 1

This is a search result page showing LinkedIn members currently working for a certain company. There are two categories of records here:
  1. those who are in my network, but not directly connected to me (only the first name and the first letter of the last name are displayed);
  2. those who are not linked to me at all ("LinkedIn Member" is displayed instead of their real names).

To make this test easier for you to follow, let's use the two records that have profile pictures. Each of them represents one of the two categories of records described above.

Let's click them one at a time:

Screenshot 2

Screenshot 3

Everything seems to be working correctly, right? - Well, not really. Look at the right sidebar (I put red arrows where you need to look):

Screenshot 2a

Screenshot 3a

As you can see, in the sidebar, full names are displayed.

Let's click on those:

Screenshot 4

Screenshot 5

BAM! Broken as designed. And, most likely, never tested.

Many years ago, my Applied Linguistics professor, whenever we, dumb kids, would get on her nerves, would say to us: "Thank God, you are not going to be surgeons. At least, your incompetence won't physically hurt anyone."

This is also more or less true for those who make software for NON-life-critical systems as long as there is a way to keep those guys away from nuclear power plants, hospitals, railroads, air carriers, etc. I hope there is a way...

In conclusion, let me quote the founder of LinkedIn, Mr. Reid Hoffman: "If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late." It's been 10 years since the first version of LinkedIn was released...

Although it is a little off topic, I have to make a quick remark on the LinkedIn's peculiar interpretation of privacy.

In the Profile Settings, under "Edit your name, location & industry", it says: "For added Privacy, you can display only your first name and last initial. (Your connections will still see your first and last name.)"

However, for anyone with a premium (paid) account, LinkedIn will gladly override your privacy settings. As shown above, they were not able to make it work right, but their technical incompetence doesn't make their business practices any less crooked.

On the other hand, since you are not paying for it, don't be surprised that you are the product...

Privacy statement:
Because both individuals whose LinkedIn profiles are shown above have public LinkedIn profiles accessible to anybody on the Internet, publishing screenshots of their LinkedIn profiles does not violate their privacy.

No comments: