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Srini

Jeff, you are right. I agree that the only place where a website like LinkedIn can add value is to let you see who are the friends of your friends. The question is, how much would you value the information that is already there in your network and re-presented to you?
I believe one can hide her contact list on LinkedIn, which means, unless your friend chooses to, you cannot know who she knows. If your friend does choose to show the connection list, LinkedIn becomes a big rolodex; otherwise,we are back to asking our connections if they know someone who can help us.
I also agree that it is not only futile but might actually be stupid to connect with total strangers. Unless, the game I am playing is one of making connections, not keeping connections.
I want a tool that makes it easier to identify, reach out, connect people who are 3 to 4 degrees away, without putting personal privacy and network growth in conflict. I believe this is the sweet spot of social networking tools.
On a related note, I agree a lot with the power of weak ties when it comes to building a strong network. The key words are both weak and ties. Just connecting with strangers will not help; nor will weak transactions that leave no impressions with either parties. This is where blogs can really come into their own. Through the process of posts and comments, I can build a fairly representative image of myself. This is an image that was built over sometime and was consistent for some time and hence perhaps a reliable indicator of who I am. Yes, this takes time but when I am working on something so important as my network, why should I rush in and try to achieve what I built for the past 10 years in 2 weeks?
What do you think?

Jeff Clavier

I have a different perspective, having used LinkedIn for a couple of years or so now. At the beginning, I was trying to connect with "strangers" (i.e other VCs or entrepreneurs I did not know) in order to extend my network. Because LinkedIn was in its infancy then, it did work in most cases. But then I realized (partially thanks to Ross Mayfield) that I should only connect with people I know and can represent to a certain extent with other LinkedIn users. Having been involved in many contact requests, there is nothing worse than getting a "FYI" or "Sounds alright" from someone you don't know (but made the mistake to connect with) who forwards a requests from someone he probably does not know either. The covenant (as you refer to it) is then partially broken.

Why is it still very useful ? Because I don't know all the connections of the people I am connected to, and that LinkedIn allows me to see that. I can then choose how I am going to contact someone: via LinkedIn and one of my trusted connections, or via email or phone - but the key to me is this knowledge of who connects to whom.

My policy is therefore to only connect with people I have met before (with only very rare exceptions). However I do accept direct requests for expertise or advice, and always try to respond in a timely fashion. Only requests to connect from "strangers" are left unanswered because I just get too many.

Hope this makes sense.

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