LinkedIn Isn’t the Marketplace of Ideas

I’m a relative latecomer to LinkedIn; I started posting regularly only a couple of years ago. I’ve struggled with LinkedIn, but I think I now understand, finally, what’s expected of me.

Much of the conversation on LinkedIn is of a personal nature, involving people’s own experiences, plans, and hopes. But because LinkedIn is designed to address career and business needs and to allow users to promote themselves, users also parade their expertise. Heck, that’s what I do.

I’ve long been aware that when it comes to advice on contract drafting, LinkedIn is cacophony. (See this 2010 post and this 2013 post.) That’s why I no longer pay attention to groups catering to contract drafting (other than those I’m responsible for). But once I started posting more on LinkedIn, I encountered advice on contract drafting posted on the main platform.

Anyone posting that sort of advice would seem to be stepping into the marketplace of ideas. That’s where I hang out. I want my ideas to battle it out with other ideas—may the best ideas win! So I’m not shy about dismantling weak ideas. And I welcome it when others identify weaknesses in my own ideas—that allows me to make my ideas better or exchange them for other ideas. The marketplace of ideas is essential for what I do.

So when I encounter advice on contract drafting posted on the main LinkedIn platform, it triggers my marketplace-of-ideas instincts. But that doesn’t work out well.

For example, recently I spotted a LinkedIn post that enthusiastically offered bad advice on contract language. I compiled a post that explored in detail the seven—count ’em—shortcomings in the offending post. But after consulting someone wiser than I in the ways of LinkedIn, I didn’t publish it. There’s nothing to be gained in taking an overly enthusiastic young person to task in a public forum.

But the problem of LinkedIn misinformation isn’t limited to people speaking from inexperience. A few months ago I encountered for the first time something posted by someone who positions themself as an expert. I posted a polite comment suggesting that they misunderstood the issue in question. That person promptly blocked me. They subsequently explained that having me on the scene might be intimidating, and that they didn’t want to run the risk of having me correct anyone, as that was contrary to the sense of community they were fostering.

Given my recent experiences, I’ve decided that the self-promotion-for-all dynamic that’s at the heart of LinkedIn isn’t conducive to having it function as a marketplace of ideas. So I won’t challenge on LinkedIn anything anyone says on LinkedIn. Doing so would just waste time and energy and perhaps cause upset, although if someone is enough of a target, I’ll challenge them on my turf. So I’ll show up on LinkedIn, promote my wares, engage in cocktail-party chatter, and leave it at that.

Misinformation on LinkedIn likely impedes progress in contract drafting, just as the firehose of misinformation on the broader social media has degraded civic society. But there’s nothing to be done with the misinformation on LinkedIn, other than to ignore it.

So I recommend that you not look for serious advice on contract drafting from people who inhabit only LinkedIn. Look for it elsewhere—in writings and training offered by people who have been willing to subject their work to the real marketplace of ideas. And if you’re looking to make a difference, subject yourself to the real marketplace of ideas, not just the pretend LinkedIn version.

A side effect of the allure of social media is that it has siphoned away much of the energy that powered the slow, steady thinking required for the real marketplace of ideas. I’d like to see more of us get back to that sort of serious work. Currently, it’s kind of lonely in the contract-drafting sector of the marketplace of ideas.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.