I Don’t Know You (OUCH!)

December 27th, 2007 | by Jason Alba |

One of the unfortunate design flaws in LinkedIn is found on the page where you accept or reject an invitation. There are three options:

IDK problem on LinkedIn

  • Accept the person as a new connection,
  • Declare that you don’t know the inviter, or
  • Archive the invitation.

Now I’m not going to claim that I’m a better designer (I’m sure you can find a list of design flaws in JibberJobber), but I also don’t have tens of millions behind me in funding and revenue. So, there’s my small print… this is not a slam on LinkedIn, but it’s something that you need to know about.

As someone who invites others, you should know that if they click on the I Don’t Know (IDK) button you start the path to be penalized. All it takes is five people who click on the IDK button and you will have part of your account “locked.”

This is why I strongly encourage you to invite someone OUTSIDE of LinkedIn, confirm that they will connect with you, and then invite them through LinkedIn. It is a little more work but after they confirm they will connect, it’s less likely they will click IDK.

As someone who is invited by others, you should know that clicking on the IDK doesn’t really mean you don’t know them… it means “slap their hands!”

Usually you’ll get invitation requests from people that you do know. But sometimes you’ll get invitation requests from people you don’t know, but they know you! Scott Allen once said (in an e-mail to MLPF, I think) that he gets invitations from people he doesn’t know, but they heard him speak or read his book. They feel some kind of connection, and want to have a relationship with Scott… is that bad?

Just because Scott doesn’t know them, should he IDK them? Should he slap their hands, just because he is in a more public spotlight, and they liked his message? I’ve found the same thing, over the last year, with speaking, blogging, writing, etc., I’ll get invitations from people who I don’t know… I’ve only IDK’d two people in my entire history on LinkedIn and that is because I knew they were network spammers.

There’s one more confusing element that adds to this poor design, and that is the archive button. Archiving is a common thing to do in LinkedIn…. instead of deleting, it allows you to access the information later. The problem is, I don’t want to archive an invitation. I want to accept it or decline it, not put it into a bucket that “I might go through later.” This just adds to any mental clutter that I’m already managing.

Unfortunately, it makes IDK look more like delete, because it makes the invitation go away, which is the goal (if I don’t want to accept the invitation).

So, the three options really look like this:

  • Accept the person as a new connection, –> ACCEPT
  • Declare that you don’t know the inviter, or –> DECLINE/DELETE
  • Archive the invitation. –> I’LL GET TO IT LATER

Declining/deleting doesn’t seem harmful (even if we are prompted that it might penalize the other person)… heck, we delete e-mails all the time!

Anyway, hopefully LinkedIn will fix this in 2008 (I’ve been hearing “hopefully they’ll fix it soon” during most of 2007), and hopefully you understand the issue more, and keep your account from getting penalized!

  1. 25 Responses to “I Don’t Know You (OUCH!)”

  2. By Scott Allen on Dec 27, 2007 | Reply

    Jason – I’m with you on this one. Back in May, I asked, “Why can’t I just say no any more?” The user interface doesn’t adequately reflect the social nuances of the situation. And I know a lot of people hit the IDK button when they actually do know the person, but either don’t immediately recognize their name, or perhaps don’t feel they know them well enough to connect.

    On the other hand, I do understand why they implemented this, and it HAS been very effective at reducing the problem of unwanted connection requests from strangers. Unfortunately, the collateral damage has been far too high. And there are solutions.

  3. By Luc Verdegem on Dec 27, 2007 | Reply

    Hi jason

    thank you for this clear way of explaining the bad design of the IDK button. I hope many people will read this and understand the “slap their hands!” function of the button

    best regards

  4. By Kathie Thomas, A Claytons Secretary on Dec 27, 2007 | Reply

    I wish they’d allow a delete function too. I get heaps of canned invitations, i.e. people who just send invitations but never read profiles. Heck I don’t care if they know about me or not – the least they can do is introduce themselves and indicate where they know me from.

    I always send a reply to those canned invites asking them for information about themselves (not from their profile) and why the interest in connecting. Do you know only 1-2% of those inviters even answer? Perhaps getting connected wasn’t as important as they thought but then they wasted an invitation. In which case I don’t feel bad about archiving them but it sure must use up some of that valuable webspace LinkedIn owns.

  5. By Tom on Dec 28, 2007 | Reply

    In my opinion “Archive the invitation.” has another meaning. I use it when I want to ignore the request. Meaning I don’t want to accept but don’t want to slap their hand either. However, if I do not know them I do try to communicate with the person to determine if we should establish a relationship.

    I was wondering if LinkedIn sends a notification when a person clicks IDK? Or do you only find out when you hit the magic number of 5 IDKs?

  6. By Jason Alba on Dec 28, 2007 | Reply

    Tom, you are using Archive the right way, but I think too many people don’t get that. So they IDK, since it seems to be the intuitive way to say “no.”

    I’m going to do a follow-up post on how to know when you get IDK’d :)

  7. By TH on Jan 1, 2008 | Reply

    Problem with the IDK functionality is that sometimes I try to reconnect with old acquaintances and I do not have their latest email address; and some persons do not publish their full history, so there will be occasions when I will be targeting the wrong person, based on the name… 5 IDK’s and they partially lock your account, that’s much too strict !!

  8. By Why not just subtract IDKs on Jan 3, 2008 | Reply

    How about if LinkedIn.com ran a ‘batch’ job weekly which subtracted 1 from all positive IDKs? That way if I get the occasional slap in the face, intentional or otherwise, I will get over it as long as I do not get slaped more than 5 times in one week. If I do, then I am a spamer and I deserve said slap.


  9. By Barry Goldberg on Jan 9, 2008 | Reply


    I fully agree with you and find it unbelievable that the folks at Linkedin are not doing their due diligence. While I applaud their efforts to reduce the trolling that some of the open networkers do go increase their numbers, there has to be more thoughtful ways to do so without alienating their power users.

    Do we know exactly what part of an account is locked and is there a way to unlock it? I like the idea of issuing credits like someone mentioned but that may get too complicated.

    - Barry
    Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/BarryGoldberg

  10. By Jason Alba on Jan 9, 2008 | Reply

    Barry, I think I know… I need to get a screenshot and put up a new post. Credits are a nice idea but it doesn’t address the root problem.

  11. By Barry Goldberg on Jan 14, 2008 | Reply

    After thinking about this further, I really like how Plaxo handles confirming new connections. Plaxo give two primary options and two secondary options. The two primary options are available through large buttons:

    – IGNORE

    The two secondary options are on-screen but are available through small text links:

    – Report This User
    – Send a Message

    Sorry – I know that a screen show would help here but I’m not sure how to include them.

    Now only if we can get the folks at Linkedin to listen to us. ;-)

    - Barry
    Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/BarryGoldberg

  12. By Steven Burda on Feb 5, 2008 | Reply

    Great article!

    - Steven Burda

  13. By Joe Goss on Mar 17, 2008 | Reply

    The worst ones are the IDKs of people you actually know. The 3 I have are people I have worked with (but obviously I didn’t imprint on them very well).

  14. By Jason Alba on Mar 17, 2008 | Reply

    @Joe Goss – yep, that seems to be the one that leaves most of us scratching our heads.

    I’ve even heard of people who say they would connect on LinkedIn, only to turn around and IDK. There really is no bullet-proof solution.

  15. By Diane Crompton on Apr 18, 2008 | Reply


    Thanks for addressing this issue. We do a lot of coaching with job seekers on using LinkedIn to grow their network and visibility. I agree with the significance of the problem of selecting IDK. We recommend people use customized language when making new connections which includes some phrasing to encourage the end recipient not to select IDK and instead to archive the request.

    “Five times and you’re out” seems a little heavy handed, especially with some of the stories we have heard. One colleague sent out a batch of invites to other colleagues who did not “know” her personally and innocently selected the IDK button. The end result was a frozen account.

    Thanks for creating awareness of this issue.

    Diane Crompton

  16. By Peter Dunkley on May 6, 2008 | Reply

    This is very interesting. I just got a request from someone that I really don’t wish to connect with, but having read this don’t want to IDK… It was really only a passing thought that had me googling to check the impact of IDKing.

    This needs sorting – they have to give us an ‘ignore’ button. There is a real issue with social networking sites where they are forcing connections – it’s not in their long term interests.

  17. By JA Martinez on Feb 18, 2009 | Reply

    I think that this is a networking site that is placing a limitation on networking. If I go to a networking event I expect to introduce myself to strangers, and I expect strangers to come up to me and introduce themselves. So if I am at a conference for CPA’s I expect software people, insurance people, and various others to want to network with me. If I review a profile in a group I belong to, and it seems like a person that I might want to contact within the context of my profession and theirs, then let the person decline or accept. There are people in my network that are LIONS. They have THOUSANDS of contacts that are all over the world. Not possible that they know all of those people. Linkedin is supposed to be better because instead of having someone come over to me and interrupt my conversation at a conference only to find out there is no real upside to accepting his business card. I can politely decline or set my self only to accept invites from people who really know me by requiring a PHONE NUMBER or ADDRESS!!!

  18. By Bill B on Mar 1, 2009 | Reply

    I can’t believe I was IDK’s by someone I knew reasonably well. Its really made me look on the person with disdain. What I don’t know is how does one seek revenge?

  19. By Jerome on Apr 9, 2009 | Reply

    Do they ever reset the IDK count (Say every year)or is it over the lifetime of the account?



  20. By Jason Alba on Apr 9, 2009 | Reply

    @Jerome – You can email customer support and they will reset it if you agree to their terms and conditions (TOC) and apologize :)

  21. By Salem Honey on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply

    It would be interesting to have a grouping of different connections, such as “acquaintance” or (semantically) “network potential” as people who you 1) barely know, or 2) don’t really know, but could see in the future where a connection would be amenable.

    I am not sure if this is a bug, but with a number of different invitations I only get the option to Archive, while never being able to add someone to a network. I have also had the same thing occur when others have attempted to add me.
    :) Cheers.

  22. By Jason Alba on Nov 17, 2009 | Reply

    @Salem, I agree, that would be cool – and another feature that takes LI closer to looking like Facebook (with their network grouping (lists)).

    This is why I recommend you export your LinkedIn contacts to a CRM and do that stuff there (I use JibberJobber.com – a tool I developed while in a job search).

  23. By Muzaffar Rasheed on Apr 14, 2014 | Reply


    How someone can get rid of this situation?

  24. By Jason Alba on Apr 14, 2014 | Reply

    @Muzaffar, this post is 7ish years old, and the problem has kind of gone away a few years ago.

    However, I would contact customer service at LinkedIn and see if they could reset you. If you have too many IDKs, that means you are asking too many people to connect who think you are a spammer, or suspicious. I just looked up your name and the three profiles I see with your name don’t show up with a picture, one doesn’t have a title, and the one with the most stuff doesn’t have anything under the job description. Fill out your entire profile, or people think you are a spammer. Unfortunately, being in Pakistan doesn’t help that perception because a lot of spam requests I get are from places foreign to me, including Pakistan. Since that counts against you, fix up the other stuff to look more legit.


    Good luck :)

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