After working in web technology for around 10 years now it's been incredibly exciting to see the evolution of so many technologies and startups that have changed the way we work and interact. The one thing that feels like it's missing though is a modern professional network for all of the people who work in this space.
Long story short, I'm building one called Able which is based on skills in technology. Read on if you're interested in the details.
The status quo
LinkedIn is the market leading professional network and has been a spectacular success since its inception in 2002. As one of the Internet's first professional networks, it has now grown to 530 million users and was acquired by Microsoft in 2016 for $26.2 billion. If anything, its success is a clear indication of the potential market size for professional networks alongside social networks. However, if you ask anyone who's on LinkedIn what they think about it, nobody gets particularly excited. Most people just seem to be on there because well... Everyone has a LinkedIn profile and if you don’t have one are you really even a professional?
Aside from being a ubiquitous business profile that someone can reference if they want to learn more about a particular person, it doesn’t really offer much else. These profiles mostly show subjective text that requires sceptical interpretation to assess someone’s competencies. There is virtually no verification or metrics for someone's skill set.
Daniel Tunkelang, former Director of Engineering / Data Science at LinkedIn has even said in this Quora answer that...
"LinkedIn knows who you are, whom you know, and what you know . . . But LinkedIn doesn’t know whether you are good at what you do."
These days a LinkedIn profile isn't sufficient for assessing a candidate in the tech industry. It's now common practice for people to review profiles on GitHub, StackOverflow, CodePen and other services as proxies to help assess a candidates skill level with different technologies. However, most of these still require the reviewer to be adequately skilled and diligent enough to interpret these profiles reliably, when usually it's a better use of that reviewer's time to be focusing on technical work.
Wouldn't it be better if you could just look at someone’s profile and immediately see how competent they were with various technologies? Wouldn't it be good to see how competent you are with particular technologies and be served content that would help you improve your skills?
LinkedIn isn’t the website I go to when I'm looking to learn about new technologies and ways to work smarter. That's probably because its news feed seems to serve up content based on people I've connected with (typically out of courtesy) rather than people I want to follow, and as a result, the content that it serves up isn't remotely as appealing to me. Instead, I prefer some of the great technical writing that's emerging on Medium from people at places like freeCodeCamp, Google Chrome, Netflix, Instagram, Pinterest and Slack.
This is why I’ve decided to build Able.
Knowledge is power
At its core, Able is a platform for people who love to learn new technologies and improve the way they work and create. It’s a place that celebrates knowledge and learning no matter what level you’re at. Able provides every user with a modern professional profile to showcase their projects and write articles about their opinions on technology that they can share with the community to earn reputation. All of your projects and articles that you produce on Able will help to strengthen your ranking for the technologies that you specialise in.
Most people who work in tech already have their own website with a portfolio and blog and that's great. It's a good way to prove your capabilities. The only challenge is that each website is its own island that has to build up its audience separately.
Laying the foundation
Most of the work to date has been focused on getting Able to a point where it provides the base features of any professional network.
- A modern, responsive profile with a simple URL, like https://able.bio/rhett.
- A portfolio to showcase your projects.
- A place to write and share blog articles.
- A news feed to read and upvote articles written by others.
There are also a few other features that have been added:
Import your LinkedIn data
When you sign up with your LinkedIn account their API allows Able to get your name, surname, profile picture, professional headline, summary and current work roles. So moving across your old profile data takes a few seconds. OAuth via GitHub will be next up.
Generate a CV
Clicking the PDF icon under your name on your profile generates a well-formatted CV as a PDF. No more wrangling with Microsoft Word.
These are shown on your profile to indicate how much experience you have with a particular technology. Your skill score is currently determined by how many projects you have that are tagged with that skill. It's crude for now, but this will be one of the core features of Able eventually. The vision is to build this out into a comprehensive multi-faceted analysis of your skills that will show you where your strengths and weaknesses are so you can improve.
Able is currently in beta and there are still a few bugs to iron out but for this year the focus is going to be on enabling the community to create and share some of the most interesting discussions about technology on the Internet.
It's still early days but if this interests you then sign up and start exploring. Your feedback whether reporting bugs or requesting features will always be highly appreciated. Lastly, if you live in London, have experience building Django applications that scale and want to get involved with Able then reach out and let's chat.