LinkedIn adding new train­ing fea­tures, news feeds

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Bran­don Bai­ley AP Tech­nol­ogy Writer

LinkedIn wants to be­come more use­ful to work­ers by adding per­son­al­ized news feeds, help­ful mes­sag­ing “bots” and rec­om­men­da­tions for on­line train­ing cour­ses, as the pro­fes­sional net­work­ing ser­vice strives to be more than just a tool for job-hunt­ing.

The new ser­vices will ar­rive just as LinkedIn it­self gains a new boss — Mi­crosoft — which is pay­ing $26 bil­lion to ac­quire the Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pany later this year.

LinkedIn said the new fea­tures, which it showed off to re­porters Thurs­day, were in the works be­fore the Mi­crosoft takeover was an­nounced in June. But LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said his com­pany hopes to in­cor­po­rate some of Mi­crosoft’s tech­nol­ogy as it builds more things like con­ver­sa­tional “chat bots,” or soft­ware that can carry on lim­ited conversations, an­swer ques­tions and per­form tasks like mak­ing reser­va­tions.

Chat bots are a hot new fea­ture in the con­sumer tech world, where com­pa­nies like Face­book, Ap­ple and Google are al­ready rac­ing to of­fer use­ful ser­vices based on ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence. As a first step, LinkedIn says it will soon in­tro­duce a bot that could help some­one sched­ule a meet­ing with an­other LinkedIn user, by com­par­ing cal­en­dars and sug­gest­ing a con­ve­nient time and meet­ing place.

The new bot will be part of an on­line mes­sag­ing ser­vice that LinkedIn is grad­u­ally ex­pand­ing to make it eas­ier for users to com­mu­ni­cate with­out open­ing a new screen or switch­ing to email.

LinkedIn is also adding more per­son­al­ized fea­tures to its news feed, where mem­bers can see ar­ti­cles and an­nounce­ments posted by their pro­fes­sional con­tacts. A new “In­ter­est Feed” will of­fer a col­lec­tion of ar­ti­cles, posts and opin­ion pieces on ma­jor news events or cur­rent is­sues.

While many peo­ple al­ready turn to Face­book, Twit­ter or in­di­vid­ual news sites for sim­i­lar up­dates, LinkedIn man­agers sug­gest their feeds will be more tai­lored to each user’s pro­fes­sional in­ter­ests, by a com­bi­na­tion of hu­man ed­i­tors and com­puter al­go­rithms. Sim­i­larly, LinkedIn says it’s be­gun us­ing the on­line train­ing re­sources of its Lynda.com ed­u­ca­tional sub­sidiary to make per­son­al­ized rec­om­men­da­tions for on­line cour­ses that aug­ment each user’s cur­rent skills or ca­reer in­ter­ests.

The new fea­tures are the lat­est ad­di­tions LinkedIn has made to its core ser­vice in re­cent years — for ex­am­ple, by invit­ing prom­i­nent peo­ple and or­di­nary mem­bers to write their own ar­ti­cles or es­says for the site.

LinkedIn Corp. makes most of its money from fees that job re­cruiters pay to use its database of more than 450 mil­lion mem­bers world­wide. But it wants to keep mem­bers en­gaged so they check in reg­u­larly and keep their pro­files up­dated. Weiner and other ex­ec­u­tives say they want to make the site use­ful for more than just job-hunt­ing.

The idea is to “help mem­bers be more pro­duc­tive and suc­cess­ful in what they’re try­ing to do,” said LinkedIn vice pres­i­dent Ryan Roslan­sky in an in­ter­view.

LinkedIn has mea­sured an in­crease in rou­tine vis­its to its web­site and mo­bile apps over the last year, Roslan­sky said, even af­ter the com­pany cut back on the vol­ume of email no­ti­fi­ca­tions that it sends to mem­bers. It did so, he ac­knowl­edged, af­ter mem­bers com­plained they were get­ting too many emails.

Mi­crosoft Corp., mean­while, wants to aug­ment its own work­place soft­ware with LinkedIn’s stock­pile of in­for­ma­tion about its mem­bers’ job his­to­ries and pro­fes­sional con­tacts. It may com­bine LinkedIn’s data, for ex­am­ple, with on­line pro­grams that Mi­crosoft sells to busi­nesses for man­ag­ing sales, hir­ing and other back-of­fice func­tions.

Weiner, who is ex­pected to con­tinue run­ning LinkedIn as a semi-in­de­pen­dent sub­sidiary of Mi­crosoft, said the two com­pa­nies are work­ing on ways to in­te­grate some ser­vices. But he said he wasn’t ready to dis­close more de­tails.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner speaks Thurs­day dur­ing a prod­uct an­nounce­ment at his com­pany’s head­quar­ters in San Fran­cisco.

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