It all started with an update to my profile
I updated my LinkedIn profile on February 29.
I was excited to kick off my new gig (really a rebirth of sorts) as a real estate broker. After spending three years in a corporate role, I was ready for some independence. I wanted people in my network to know that I was selling houses again and doing some consulting work in Bend.
LinkedIn job alerts for Eugene?
It seemed that updating my profile from San Francisco to Bend kicked off a series of job alert emails from LinkedIn. But something wasn’t quite right.
I started getting LinkedIn job alert emails on March 7.
G5 and Suterra are two of the biggest companies in Bend. Why were these emails saying the jobs were in the Eugene area?
Although I wasn’t looking for a new position, I did like to regularly scroll through the job alert emails just to get an idea of what was out there. But every time I got one, it was full of postings that were supposedly in Eugene.
What’s the big deal?
Before we get too far down this rabbit hole, you might be asking yourself “who cares?” I totally understand. But take a look at these images.
A company-wide email
This email came from one of the brokers in my office on March 14.
Just wanted to reach out about how LinkedIn profiles are showing up for a lot of our agents.
The website will automatically default to showing you are in the Eugene area. You have to go into your profile and force the information to say Bend. Unless, of course, you want people to think you’re in Eugene, and then you’re all good!
She had seen what a lot of people in Bend had seen over the years. It was a nuanced issue because individual profiles were showing the location as it was entered manually, but LinkedIn’s geoservice connected everyone in Bend to the Eugene area via its backend — regardless of what the profile said.
LinkedIn’s own plugin Rapportive clued me in
After receiving the email above, I noticed in Rapportive that everyone from Bend had a profile snapshot that said “Eugene, Oregon Area” even though their individual profile page listed them in Bend. This was confusing.
A little more digging confirmed my suspicions
Having confirmed that Job Alerts and Rapportive were broken, I decided to test out Search. Entering “Bend, Oregon” in the search bar didn’t work as expected. LinkedIn displayed Eugene as the location after I hit search — even though I had entered “Bend” in the search bar and I already knew everyone on this list lived in Bend.
This was the moment when I could finally stop obsessing over this annoying bug. LinkedIn was definitely broken and a lot of people knew it, but just couldn’t put their finger on it.
Finally I had enough information to start engaging others.
The Slack conversations
So I started a thread in the BendTech Slack. This is a co-working space in Bend that I belong to. If anyone else had seen this issue before, it would be one of these smart folks.
(Tierney O’Dea, the community manager in the space, was an incredible advocate for this project and was quoted in the The Bulletin article announcing the eventual fix)
One member referenced a popular article that had been floating around during that time: How an internet mapping glitch turned a random Kansas farm into a digital hell. Pretty relevant.
yeah, @gregofisch i think not seeing Bend in these links/ads is important. for both job seekers and employers
Unfortunately LinkedIn doesn’t recognize Bend, so it lumps us in with the “Eugene Area” demographic. I know when I was looking for a job I had to do a bit of research to see where the posting was actually for.
I should probably note that this has been the most popular topic in Slack for the last three weeks. It resulted in a ton of collaboration, support, and even some handy hashtags for the campaign.
#BendNotEugene #biggeststoryoftheyear #makebendnoteugeneagain #buildawallmakeeugenepayforit #makeeugeneeugeneagain
One member even suggested enlisting the support of huge Bend fan Daymond John to bring more attention to the matter.
Ultimately, I decided that we didn’t need to call in the big guns just yet, but I was going to hold this in my back pocket if we ended up needing it later.
With a ton of evidence and plenty of anecdotes in hand, it was time to finally reach out to LinkedIn.
A sequence of support tickets
I opened a support ticket on April 11.
I originally debated how exactly to share this exchange but I think making the entire thread available is important because it contains a few lessons. I’ve linked to it below. But here are the highlights:
me: I tell them what I’ve told you
them: they blame a job that I saved to my profile
me: I get a little angry and explain how the job was in Bend
them: uhhhh, I’m sending this inquiry to someone else
them: we can’t do anything to fix it even though we know about it
them: heres a few solutions to hack around our technical debt
me: I’m not interested. I’m an advocate for Bend. I will lead a citywide blackout
them: we’re working to resolve this issue
me: I start writing this Medium post in anticipation of an official statement
Here’s a link to the entire exchange. Start reading from the bottom.
I have to thank LinkedIn’s customer support team. Without deep analysis of the problem, it was kind of hard to suss out in the beginning. Though part of me is still frustrated with the first line of defense — since they ultimately blamed me, the user. I might have went a little overboard in parts of this exchange, but it was worth it.
Plus, I have absolutely no idea how I would have lead a city-wide blackout of LinkedIn.
Feeling bad for LinkedIn yet?
Don’t. LinkedIn has known about this problem for a very long time. It’s been a known issue at the company for almost eight years.
— Marshall Simmonds (@mdsimmonds) December 17, 2008
— Michael Taus (@MikeTaus) March 15, 2010
You can read the entire history of tweets about the issue here.
A sequence of articles
Not getting a satisfactory response from the customer support interactions, I decided it was time to do what I do best. Having rallied some support via our Slack channel, I figured the story just needed some distribution to other locals who might champion the cause.
I wrote this post on my blog on April 14.
The Bulletin interviewed me and then published this piece on April 25.
A writer at The Bulletin added an editorial on April 26.
The Bulletin articles were ultimately the fuel that the fire needed to spread.
What really surprised me was the editorial that got published the next day. It was written with passion and asked some hard questions about why this bug persisted. Please read it if you haven’t already.
A note on the local community response
I want to thank everyone in the community who amplified the message, sharing it with their networks, reaching out to their connections in the tech space, and just organizing around getting it fixed — because it should be.
A sequence of tweets to the CEO of LinkedIn
I knew that people at LinkedIn would definitely see the articles from The Bulletin, but I took to Twitter to make sure our narrative would be heard.
I started out with a rational plea to the CEO with links to the stories.
— Greg Fischer (@gregofisch) April 26, 2016
I actually didn’t think this one was strong enough to catch his attention. LinkedIn? LinkedIN?
After no response, I figured the image of a physical paper might be stronger.
— Greg Fischer (@gregofisch) April 26, 2016
The two most important things in Bend that Monday were skateparks and a software bug. I love it here.
To make sure I really got some attention, I promoted the following for $20. No, really. I did. Here’s the analytics.
— Greg Fischer (@gregofisch) April 26, 2016
(I guess I was kind of chastising the company, but they knew about this issue for a long time and it was time to fix it.)
And then we waited
The next week didn’t see a ton of action, but I did get a new email from customer support and a tweet from LinkedIn Help declaring they were going to fix the issue. The responses seemed authentic, so I decided to stay quiet for a while in order to see if they would really hold their end of the bargain.
@gregofisch Thank you for bringing this to our attn, we are working on a fix to allow members to search for people & jobs in Bend, Oregon.
— LinkedIn Help (@LinkedInHelp) April 27, 2016
And now Bend is whole again
I actually started writing this piece late Sunday night in anticipation of a statement from LinkedIn this morning. I checked and checked over the weekend to see if the bug was resolved — and to my delight, it was finally working as it should be.
The Bulletin released this article on May 2.
On Friday, engineers put in a fix that now distinguishes the Bend area from the Eugene area, Julie Inouye, a LinkedIn spokeswoman, told The Bulletin. Inouye said she tested the fix and it worked, showing people in Bend in search results as being Bend.
Here is a screenshot showing the fix in Search.
This problem still persists in other parts of the country, as it appears that LinkedIn made a hot fix just for Bend. The geo-location woes persist.
Why did this matter to me so much?
I’ve moved quite a lot over the last few years, and every time I got to a new place, I really tried to ingrain myself as much as possible into the local culture. It took a long time to put things in place to actually move to Bend, and my intentions are to stay here for the long term.
Local communities have their own stories and personalities, which can’t ever be fully told without spending time in them, without getting to know the people who live in them and without spending some money to support them. My recent experience in the tech world had given me the tools needed to be an advocate for the city to get this problem solved.
I guess it was kind of like when a teenager goes to a new high school and gets in a fight the first day to prove how tough they are. After moving so much recently, I just wanted to be a part of a community. And people who want to be a part of something have to do something about it. And this was my something.
This is Bend. Don’t ever confuse it with Eugene again.
Greg Fischer is a principal real estate broker at Fred Real Estate Group in Bend, Oregon. Find out more about what he’s working on at bendstation.com, or check out his new-and-improved profile on LinkedIn.