10.30.2008

linkedin.com needs to sync up company names when the company name changes

My invites to present and former colleagues via linkedin.com have started to tumble in as opposed to the normal trickle.  I think that's a fairly accurate sign of our flagging economy as anything I can personally put a number on.  Of course it could also be that I'm a loser who has never really used linkedin a lot and so have practically no contacts there.  ;-)

What's annoying however is the way linkedin keeps track of company names and what happens when a company name changes.  For instance, let's say I work at a company called "Davisons."  I put that in my linkedin profile.  "Davisons" gets bought by "Johnson, Inc" and they change the name of the company to "Johnson Davisons."  So any new people coming into the company know it as "Johnson Davisons," not just "Davisons."  When they look for current employees on linkedin, they won't find all of them because some have the old company named listed while some will have the new company name listed.  Not to mention how bad this problem gets when one of your previous employers changes names after you have left.

This problem is what I would call an issue with name history.  This kind of name history problem is starting to creep into other areas of the web as well.  I've already had the misfortune of trying to email someone I haven't emailed in a few years and reached a completely different person (ie, one person's email acct was shut down and another started with the same address).  Pretty embarassing -- makes me think twice about starting emails with "Hey dirtbag!  Long time no see!"

The solution for linkedin's name history problem is pretty simple.  They should ask you if the company has gone by any other names and let you choose from possible alternates (or even free type them).  It won't take long for their system to build up the necessary relationships between past and current company names.  It could even be pretty slick and auto-update old companies in your profile to their present name if the name is now different from what you specified.

A search for employees of "Davisons" in this case would give you both Davisons and Johnson Davisons and whatever other company names are "linked in" to this company.

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