It’s been several months now since LinkedIn launched their University pages. At first, I was pretty excited. LinkedIn is a huge, successful social network and the ability for colleges and universities to reach out to alums, students and more was an interesting proposition.

Now, several months down the road, our LinkedIn University page is not at all a part of any of our social media plans, and we post there only occasionally, mostly as an afterthought.

Why? No engagement. Our most liked post there has 6 likes. Since anyone can post on the page, it’s been overrun by people posting about jobs, other LinkedIn groups and all sorts of annoying things.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.44.23 AM

What’s also strange is that even LinkedIn doesn’t seem to have things figured out. We have a University page, but on that page is a link to our “company page.” So we have a group, a company page and a University page. Why can’t I link those all together to have one page to rule them all?

The biggest frustration to me, though, and I’m speaking as a content person, not as the official voice of my University, is that the damn thing just doesn’t work. Every time I go to add content from any page in our WordPress-powered CMS, LinkedIn’s page scraper fails to get any content from my site. Without fail. I don’t understand it.

Here’s a news story on my site. It has all sorts of meta data, OpenGraph data, images and much more. Here’s an example of some meta data in there, generated by Yoast WordPress SEO plugin as well as code we wrote.

<title>Metres and Bilgere Receive Prestigious FellowshipsJCU Newsroom</title>
<!-- This site is optimized with the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin v1.4.22 - http://yoast.com/wordpress/seo/ -->
<meta name="robots" content="noodp,noydir"/>
<meta name="description" content="Two faculty members of the JCU Department of English have been named 2014 Creative Workforce Fellows by the Community Partnership for Arts &amp; Culture."/>
<link rel="canonical" href="http://sites.jcu.edu/newsroom/2013/12/17/metres-bilgere-receive-prestigious-creative-workforce-fellowships/" />
<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary"/>
<meta name="twitter:site" content="@johncarrollu"/>
<meta name="twitter:domain" content="JCU Newsroom"/>
<meta name="twitter:creator" content="@johncarrollu"/>
<meta name="twitter:image:src" content="http://webmedia.jcu.edu/newsroom/files/2013/12/e21b9eaad6fe8a1c05af20fa5215f250.png"/>
<meta name="twitter:description" content="Two faculty members of the JCU Department of English have been named 2014 Creative Workforce Fellows by the Community Partnership for Arts &amp; Culture."/>
<meta name="twitter:title" content="Metres and Bilgere Receive Prestigious Fellowships"/>
<meta name="twitter:url" content="http://sites.jcu.edu/newsroom/2013/12/17/metres-bilgere-receive-prestigious-creative-workforce-fellowships/"/>
<!-- / Yoast WordPress SEO plugin. -->
<meta property="og:title" content="Metres and Bilgere Receive Prestigious &#8220;Creative Workforce&#8221; Fellowships" />
<meta property="og:type" content="website" />
<meta property="og:url" content="http://sites.jcu.edu/newsroom/2013/12/17/metres-bilgere-receive-prestigious-creative-workforce-fellowships/" />
<meta property="og:description" content="Two faculty members of the John Carroll University Department of English, George Bilgere, and Phil Metres, have been named as 2014 Creative Workforce Fellows by the Community Partnership for Arts & Culture (CPAC)." />
<meta property="og:image" content="http://webmedia.jcu.edu/newsroom/files/2013/12/e21b9eaad6fe8a1c05af20fa5215f250-150x150.png" />
<meta property="og:image" content="http://sites.jcu.edu/wp-content/themes/JCU2011/JohnCarroll-FB-Icon.jpg" />

Here is an extra snippet from a different WordPress site we run, where we get the same result (i.e. nothing.)

<title>Campaign Leadership &raquo; Forever Carroll</title>
<!-- This site is optimized with the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin v1.4.24 - http://yoast.com/wordpress/seo/ -->
<meta name="description" content="Meet and learn more about the Forever Carroll Campaign Co-Chairs and Honorary Chairs."/>
<link rel="canonical" href="http://forevercarroll.org/campaign-leadership/" />
<meta property="og:locale" content="en_US" />
<meta property="og:type" content="article" />
<meta property="og:title" content="Campaign Leadership - Forever Carroll" />
<meta property="og:description" content="Meet and learn more about the Forever Carroll Campaign Co-Chairs and Honorary Chairs." />
<meta property="og:url" content="http://forevercarroll.org/campaign-leadership/" />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="Forever Carroll" />
<meta property="article:published_time" content="2013-04-30T11:49:25+00:00" />
<meta property="article:modified_time" content="2013-05-15T15:51:12+00:00" />
<meta property="og:image" content="http://d1c70yad66l392.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Kramer-final-300x200.jpg" />
<meta property="og:image" content="http://d1c70yad66l392.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Frate-final-300x200.jpg" />
<meta property="og:image" content="http://d1c70yad66l392.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/short-final-300x200.jpg" />
<!-- / Yoast WordPress SEO plugin. -->

When I add that URL to LinkedIn, I get this:

Click for full sizeScreen Shot 2014-02-17 at 1.57.30 PM

How is that useful at all? Even though the title of the page is in their several times, including the title tag in the HTML, LinkedIn can’t find it. They also can’t find a description, which again is there, twice. And it did not find any images, even though we specify several (og:image). There is no ability to upload an image independently.

Let’s see what happens when I use the same page on Facebook:

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.56.00 AM

Perfect. It got everything it needed, let me choose which of the two og:images I specific and if I don’t like it, I can upload my own. Super helpful, and I rarely have to make any edits.

Let’s see if Google+ can do it.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.59.36 AM

Now, that’s embarrassing. Google+ can do it, and LinkedIn can’t.

I’ve tweeted to LinkedIn, submitted tickets, even made a video showing them what I’m seeing. I’m not sure if something is wrong on my end, on my WordPress pages, or if its something on their end. This is happening on several JCU sites, on separate servers, using separate WordPress themes and plugins.

Regardless of where the problem is, the larger problem is usage. We are seeing little to no engagement coming from that platform, and part of that may be due to the confusion of users when it comes to University pages, company pages, groups and so on.

LinkedIn is great at making people to people connections, but I feel they need to really figure out what they’re doing when it comes to higher ed. They need to streamline pages for colleges and universities and combine the pages they want us to manage and promote with their “company” pages for a cohesive experience for not only our users, but for us as page administrators.

There’s a ton of potential there, and I know that LinkedIn is full of really, really smart people. I have faith they’ll be able to get it figured out and make a dent in this market.

This morning, LinkedIn officially launched their new University Pages feature as part of their LinkedIn for Education program.

We’ve built out my schools page for a few weeks, and having used the backed, they’ve got a long way to go before they meet Facebook’s feature set for brand pages. Here are some quick thoughts on the product and managing these pages.

Challenges

1. It’s nice to have a built-in audience of “followers,” or people who have went to your school. By LinkedIn’s count, we have 18,828 followers. But I wouldn’t count that metric the same as I’d count Facebook’s “likes.” Facebook likes show a demonstrated interest or intent. LinkedIn’s followers have been added by default, and may not really want to “follow” our institutions.

2. These pages need better URL’s. Maybe big schools like NYU get pretty URLs, but we’ve got https://www.linkedin.com/edu/school?id=19106 for the moment. The ability to have a nicer URL would give us more changes to promote it.

3. LinkedIn needs to improve their post entry functionality. Before launch, I struggled with getting any images to show up along with our posts, though I know images are in there (and again, Facebook sees them with no problem.) Images that go along with posts are a big driver of clicks and interest. Pre-launch, my posts ended up looking like this:

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 9.54.35 AM

Post-launch, this feature seems to have broken completely. When I add a link, the typical social media link sharing box does not appear. It may just be post-launch server load, but when I post news stories today, this is the screen I get back in response.

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 9.54.19 AM

I have AdBlocking and all script blocking turned off in my browser, so I’m not sure why I’m not getting the linking functionality and weird errors, unless its overload.

4. Speaking of clicks, I hope LinkedIn builds in some analytics functionality, showing profile views, post views, interactions (beyond “likes”). This type of information will help me decide if this medium is something worth devoting me and my team’s time to.

Opportunities

The fact that we can quickly and easily see all our alumni is good date for IHEs to have. The ability to drill down by area, job, and job type is pretty powerful data.

I think this new network is good for those of us who manage content. I think the type of content we’ll post on LinkedIn will be different from the type of content we post on Facebook. I can imagine us posting less about say, campus events like a speaker, and more about successful alumni, programs of interest and student successes.

Overall, it’s an interesting first step by LinkedIn. I hope they continue to add features and functionality over the coming days, weeks and months, and make this a valuable tool for our alumni, students, prospective students and us marketing folks.

It seems like every week there’s a report of another security intrusion, in higher ed or not, with user details being stolen. In many of these cases, user’s passwords were not stored correctly, and in some cases, they were being stored in plaintext, which means there was no encryption or hashing being used.

Before we go any further, if you are storing passwords for your web app in plaintext, shut it off immediately and fix it. Seriously.

Even LinkedIn, a network built by very smart people, was only using SHA1 for their passwords, and no salt. All it takes is a rainbow table, a powerful computer and passwords are easily cracked.

From Poul-Henning Kamp, writing at the Association for Computing Machinery:

This is the first place LinkedIn failed utterly: Calculating the SHA1 function is very, very fast. A regular computer can crunch from 10 million to 100 million of them per second using the GPU, making it a trivial task to check even very large lists of potential passwords.

I’ve written in the past about some ways to use salts to protect passwords, but even some of those recommendations are now out of date.

Recently, for anything I’ve written that needs a login, I’ve used Bcrypt. There are ports for just about any type of programming language out there. If you’re writing in PHP, I’d recommend PHPass, a portable public domain password hashing framework. Takes out a bunch of work and is computationally slow, which is what you want when hashing a password.

If you’re looking for a refresher on password security, or you’re new to building apps and want a quick primer on how to do it right, you’ll enjoy this video from Les Hazelwood, CTO of Stormpath. In it, he walks you through various levels of password security and how to store them, from just plain wrong to crazy and complicated. If you’ve got a few minutes, it’s really worth checking out.