I have an aversion to spam.
It’s been messing with all of us since the early days of email, and now infiltrates our social media apps just as often. It’s like the creepy-crawly critters of email have made their way into every corner of digital technology, right down to my Instagram inbox.
Sadly, up until just about a year ago, LinkedIn was a safe haven from spam. You could expect a reasonable amount of actual, legitimate correspondence and not a ton of clutter. LinkedIn had one of the best private messaging experiences around.
I’m not sure when the marketing geniuses of the world figured out that LinkedIn was relatively pristine in comparison to other apps and worth plundering, but they have arrived and infiltrated this sacred space. On a daily basis, there are scams and ploys, weird messages about “improving your SEO” or “emerging pharmaceuticals” trying to get me to click, and just a lot of junk that all reach my inbox.
I wrote about the problem not long ago. I’m sure there is no connection between that and a new feature LinkedIn launched called the Focused inbox. I’ve been testing the feature recently and while I’m encouraged by the fact that this Microsoft-owned app is at least attempting to get rid of spam, it’s a bit hit or miss right now and not super effective so far.
LinkedIn introduced the new inbox a couple of months ago. It popped up as an option a few days ago for me. Messages are automatically placed into a “Focused” tab or “Other” tab. It’s a good attempt. I am now seeing more messages from human beings I actually know in real life a little more, and the ploys and scams are in the Other tab.
Recently, a student I knew from a few years ago messaged me and her note arrived in the Focused inbox. However, right after that, another message arrived that was obviously a marketing ploy (something about “improving my podcasts skills”).
Curiously, after celebrating a birthday recently, I noticed some of the greetings were split between the Focused and Other tabs, even though they are from actual contacts.
I’m not sure how the algorithm works to determine what goes where, but it might be a little clunky right now. I do see a lot more of the junk being sent to the Other tab which has helped declutter my messaging. The feature reminds me of how Gmail also filters email but doesn’t always separate the sheep from the goats quite right. I’ve found important emails in my Promotions and Updates tabs in Gmail so I know it is far from perfect, but at least there’s some attempt at reducing the clutter.
One reason this is an important topic is that messaging in general is now spread all over the place. Long ago, I predicted that email would be dead by 2020, and at least I mentioned the caveat at the time that we won’t rely on email as much someday. Since then, I’ve made the case that email is not as vital as it once was, that I rarely if ever send emails to friends and colleagues anymore. I tend to use Microsoft Teams and Slack more than anything. I still receive hundreds of emails per week, but I also receive hundreds of messages through social media as well.
It’s a lot to handle. Anything the apps can do to help stem the tide are welcome, even if they don’t quite work at first. I suspect LinkedIn will improve this feature based on what we all open and read, and which ones sit idle in our inbox forever.
I’ll keep testing the feature and report back on how it improves (or fails to address the problems) in a few weeks. Want to help me test it? Just follow me on LinkedIn and send me a message. If I respond it is probably working.