Make the most of LinkedIn, one drop at a time!

Here is my advice (to myself as much as anyone else!) on ways to use LinkedIn:

Keep it up to date with your employment history, at the very least. Also, add other info gradually, so that you don’t lose a whole day at once! Drip-feed your profile…

The Guardian’s latest edition of their Careers Uncovered guide suggests that you should aim to have between 5 and 8 recommendations on your LinkedIn Profile (This advice is also available in an article on the topic). Perhaps I’d better get cracking if I follow my own point number 2, from my list below!


  1. Use an up to date photo: make your profile personal & authentic to viewers.
  2. Ask for recommendations from colleagues (& be sure to be willing to reciprocate).
  3. Populate the “Your skills & Expertise area” by endorsing other people’s skills: it could prompt some return endorsements. Or you could just ask for them.
  4. Keep the publications list up to date, if you are publishing.
  5. Add media items into your profile: eg a link to your blog, your twitter profile, slideshare presentations, youtube videos, etc
  6. Summarise your career for the summary section: this could also be useful as a draft “speaker biography” when you attend events, too.

– At the same time, gradually connect to everyone you can think of! Although do remember to only approach people who you genuinely know in some way. As you gradually update your profile, your activity will be reported on your contacts’ home pages. So if they are looking on LinkedIn then they will be reminded of you: perhaps “little and often” is key for this reason, as well as to avoid losing a whole day!

– Link your blog and/or twitter feed to your WordPress account, so that new blog posts/tweets appear in your activity feed. NB I chose not to link Twitter because I don’t want to flood my contacts’ home pages. But I only blog roughly once a week, so that’s OK!

– Under LinkedIn’s “Interests” tab, look for companies that you can follow. Some companies use their page to provide you with useful info about their work, eg Google. Or good advice, eg Other companies broadcast job opportunities in their activity streams. If you really want to follow what they broadcast, then you need to invest time in looking at updates on your home page. But you could just keep it as a list of companies who you might one day be interested in working for!

– Also under “Interests” there are “Groups”. LinkedIn suggests both groups and companies for you to follow. These are probably based on what people in your network are following, and is not a bad selection to get started with. With Groups, your request to join seems to require approval and it’s not so instant as following a company.

You can also get e-mail updates about discussions in those groups. When you want to start a discussion, that also seems to go to a moderator, so the level of activity and appropriateness of discussions varies from group to group. LinkedIn groups is not altogether the most social or active of discussion/group sites that I’ve ever found, but that is my own experience and I guess different groups have different levels of activity.

– You can also spend time looking at who’s viewed your profile: I find it largely a distraction! It does show a graph of activity across the last 90 days, so if you’ve launched a big “notice me” social media campaign and want to track its effectiveness, then it could be useful. Klout also does this sort of measuring, across several social media channels. And Hootsuite, and probably lots of others…

– Lastly, the Jobs section of LinkedIn. I created and saved a search there, but I couldn’t be so specific as I wanted to be. I can go back and see what new jobs have been added since I last looked, but I confess that this area of LinkedIn will have to wait for further exploration from me. Lots more drip, drip, drip to be getting on with!

Water drop captured with flash, by Vanessa Pike-Russell.

(Image: Vanessa Pike-Russell)

Considering crowdsourcing? Consider using altmetrics to identify your crowd

I’ve been reading a lot about both altmetrics and crowdsourcing, and it seems to me that there could be a link between the two.

I read about “How to run a community collection online“, by the University of Oxford’s Computing services, and I read a report on their RunCoCo work.
Their guide starts with “Once you know who your community is…” but it doesn’t help people to identify the community. This is where I think that altmetrics could have a role to play. Their documents do recommend the use of social media for engaging with the community. The guide says: “…‘be’ where your users are” and:

you need to be discoverable, available, active, open to feedback and willing to share.

It seems to me that by using altmetrics tools, you could find out where your potential users are, and how best to make yourself discoverable, available and open.

Oxford University also podcast a crowdsourcing “cautionary tale”, through which I learnt that people want to contribute to research. There is a social contract, and here are some tips on how to engage with your community:

  1. They are collaborators and not users. Cite community members on papers! (Give them credit for their work.)
  2. People should be contributing to real research. It’s not (all) about outreach.
  3. Don’t waste people’s time, eg don’t ask people to do things that machines can do just as well.

Sounds like good advice, to me!

An LSE blog post on crowdsourcing gives examples of projects and explains that:

securing user contributions is about much more than impact. They provide a venue for communities outside academia to play a meaningful role within university research, providing insight and knowledge, saving time, and facilitating the route towards high-quality outputs.

The post further explains that recent projects have been particularly adept at using social media, which of course reminds me of various altmetrics tools. The blog post also points out that the needs and motivations of the crowd who take part in such projects need to be understood and sensitively handled.

I looked at lots of examples of such crowdsourcing and citizen science projects. One project that I really like is UCL’s “Transcribe Bentham”. It has a blog, twitter feed and facebook page. Their “about us” page makes it clear who they think will be interested in their participatory initiative, and why.  They also measure publicity about the project.

I also rather like the story of a Kenyan blog that became a citizen science project. When you know that people are engaged with your work, and that they might like to become a part of it then that seems to be an ideal time to launch a crowdsourced project. And if you use altmetrics tools, then you can see when and where people are engaged.


Be social on Twitter: say thank you!

I just read 3 interesting tips:

1) “Following” is for being social. So if someone follows you, follow them back! Then create saved searches and Twitter lists to watch stuff of interest to you. Sounds like a good idea: why didn’t I think of that? Only thing is, searching isn’t very easy on Twitter, unless people are using hashtags (I’m not the best at this, myself). But it’s more interesting to follow a wide bunch of people and have lists to look at for specific topics: I need to set some of these up!

2) Thank people who retweet your stuff by: favourite their re-tweet, tweet at them or direct message (DM) them. (Although, also see below because thanks in public can seem self-congratulatory.)

3) Don’t use auto-DM for those who follow you to invite them to look at your blog or other social media feeds as well ‘cos it’s like just meeting someone and immediately inviting them to your lab/office! (You can read about automating tweets on Twitter’s own help centre)

(These three tips are from the blog post “Twitter Etiquette to Use Right Away” on Social Media Today –

I also looked at: “7 ways to thank someone for a retweet”

It gives seven quick, short and useful tips on how to thank someone. I think that it’s nice to follow someone who retweets your tweets, by way of saying thanks. (This works well if you use “following” as recommended in the first tip, above.) Or to retweet something they have said, and reciprocating.

Tulips in a vase

University rankings: how do you compare universities?!

Looking at who has cited the paper “International ranking systems for universities and institutions: a critical appraisal” on GoogleScholar throws up a lot more interesting papers on this topic, and on the theme of measuring research.

I wrote a blogpost about University rankings in 2010, when I worked at the University of Warwick and there is continued interest in the topic, especially in the UK, just after the THE publish their results!

Here is my list of University Ranking examples:

Simon Marginson of the Institute of Education, London blog recently provided a useful round-up of the rankings

It does seem that the international, generic rankings favour Universities that are strong in the sciences. No wonder, when you look at the methodologies which often include a large emphasis on citation measurement.

To me, it seems sensible to consider the performance of the department, rather than the whole University: disciplinary differences in ways to achieve publication/outputs/impact can be huge!

If you’re going to measure with bibliometrics, then I like Dorothy Bishop’s blogpost on the LSE blog, which considers measuring a department’s H-index.

Of course, any ranking will be flawed from one perspective or another. Any measurement will have its strengths and limitations. It’s good for busy practitioners to keep an eye on scholarly work in this area, from time to time.