by Josh Sklar, Founder / Chief Heretic

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
life is but a stream.

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These days, like the old days, it’s all about the numbers. The difference now is we’re talking about opportunistic digits for advertisers and marketers in the tens and hundreds of millions; not just dollars, but numbers of actual human people who like to spend a variety of currencies, even during an economic recession. You want a for instance? Ok, we have all heard that there are well over 500 million active users on Facebook (it’s on all the movie posters), but did you know that half of them log on every day and all of that adds up to over 700 billion minutes per month of captured activity. Moreover, these people take that time not to simply peruse the 900+ million available pages of friends, groups, events, and communities; the average person also creates ninety (90) pieces of content each month and those add up to over thirty billion that are shared in the same time frame. Even with all the brouhaha over privacy issues on that site, most of those billions are in no way available to the general public, but wouldn’t it be incredibly useful if one could listen in on this never ending stream of content? Now imagine if it came from professionals from every industry imaginable all over the world.

LinkedIn is the absolute gold standard for the business world’s version of “social media” in a sea of competitors and imitators. While your grandmother may not be on it, its eighty million active users there are actually generating content that is potentially meaningful to your career, your clients, your bottom line. So far though, like Facebook, unless you are connected with a person, you do not have access to their status updates, Twitter feeds, links, comments, “likes,” and whatever else they may be sharing. But that’s all changing. At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this September in San Francisco, LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner announced that “Stream” is rolling out its user base over the next few months and it will not only give everyone access to what everyone else is sharing, it will provide very useful filtering options similar to what already exists in some areas of their site. Unlike Facebook, you see, there are no illusions that what goes on LinkedIn is private in any way (outside of their member-only “Groups”). The company is simply providing a way for people to dip into this public tributary.

The tools for filtering the content are definitely the most exciting part of the equation. Look at another example that likes to play in the hundreds-of-millions-or-billions-deep end of the pool, everyone’s favorite case study, Google. Their PageRank algorithm made it possible for people to make sense and order of the giant database of Web sites and pages. After that, it was “simply” finding a way to monetize it because “build it and they will come” policy was in effect and, boy, did they ever. What LinkedIn has is akin to Google’s genius because with it anyone can quickly go in and, let’s say, see what people in Cincinnati who work for consumer goods manufacturers think of a New York Times article on a new relevant technology or only show updates that talk about the appointment of a new CEO or look for references to a campaign just launched. The possibilities are as never ending as is the availability of content and instead of waiting for pages to load, it updates the way Google Instant does, live and immediately based on your selections and keyword inputs.

Stream is definitely going to be an opportunity for people to get a leg up, do targeted research, know who to reach out to on particular issues, and get us ever closer to the promise of technology actually making our lives better. Close your eyes and try to go back to what life was like BG (before Google). Remember when you needed to find out some information you had to either rely on opinions, know someone actually in the know, or, heaven forbid, go to a physical library and spend a few hours pouring through tomes? Access to the eighty million pros that frequent LinkedIn and generously share their opinions and knowledge is going to similarly change our world and spoil us like a Fortune 100 client taken out for a three hour lunch.

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