Big data can enable world-changing apps, says LinkedIn co-founder

LinkedIn's co-founder discusses the LinkedIn Skills platform and what that means for big data and Web 3.0.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- Whether it is generated on mobile devices or via computer browsers, big data has the potential to transform our lives, according to Reid Hoffman, a partner at venture capital firm Greylock as well as co-founder and executive chairman at LinkedIn.

Offering more questions than answers as to what it would take to tackle issues surrounding big data and reaching the Web 3.0 era, Hoffman argued that there are three types of data and their respective challenges that need to be met:

  • Explicit data (i.e. information that goes into profiles, status updates, etc.)
  • Implicit data (what's derived from the explicit data)
  • Data "exhaust," or analytic data that enables users to build applications to change how people "navigate the world"

Hoffman posited that yes, everyone is going to be online, have a smartphone, etc, but he asked what does that really mean and how does life change because of that.

"Most of it comes down to taking it seriously when you project ubiquity," Hoffman said.

The challenge, Hoffman said simply, is that data is complicated. It's always about maintaining consent and trust with each individual user, not making someone feel ambushed while still giving the user the feeling of control.

It's the job of sites like LinkedIn to navigate those challenges, Hoffman asserted. Using LinkedIn Skills as an example, Hoffman said that such a platfrom tries to connect the data dervived from LinkedIn member profiles (i.e. a particular user's skills) with companies that are looking to hire people with those backgrounds and skills.

Shifting gears a bit, Hoffman briefly touched upon Facebook, which he asserted is not a competitor but rather another company trying to tackle these issues with a different purpose.

"Facebook is obviously an amazing product that has gotten very big," Hoffman conceded, but he pondered that "not everything is social," explaining that he distinguishes between different aspects in life, whether it be friends, colleagues, etc.

Hoffman also discussed his experience with LinkedIn's decision to go public earlier this year, which includes some implicit advice of its own.

"It ends up being a much more painful process," Hoffman admitted. "One of the big challenges are the sstructural rules around it, meaning you basically can't say anything in the press."

The longer you're going to thorugh the IPO time period, Hoffman advised, the more tiring that is for a company.

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