David Pogue asks a good question:
…could somebody tell me the point of LinkedIn? … What I don’t understand is: If somebody knows me well enough to e-mail me with an invitation to join, why doesn’t he just e-mail me directly with whatever his problem or offer is?
Easy. LinkedIn has very little value for someone like you, David, because you’re already super-connected. For virtually any problem you have, you can easily find a resolution because you’re David Pogue. You have access to a huge audience, hundreds (if not thousands) of contacts from all walks of life, and the accumulated knowledge of the entire NYT staff (or, at least, those you get along with well enough to ask for favors).
For those of us not similarly blessed, LinkedIn is valuable because it provides a tool for finding contacts or expertise in areas where we’re not necessarily connected. For example, say I want to know about a particular market segment in depth, or I want to ask an alumnus what he thought of a given MBA program, or I want to find someone who works for Company X. LinkedIn makes it easy. I’ve used it to find contacts at famously opaque companies like Apple, as well as contacts at companies I didn’t even know existed. I occasionally get linkage requests from people I don’t know, and I don’t feel obligated to accept them, but usually I do. Why? For the same reason I accept business cards when I meet people at face-to-face events: a) it’s polite and b) that person may turn out to be a very useful contact.
So, David, feel free to send me a link request now that you have your answer. Heck, you can even write a recommendation if you like.