LinkedIn Endorsements and Anglo-Saxon Compurgators

Confessions of a history buff…

The usual complaints I hear about LinkedIn endorsements are that people endorse you for things they haven’t observed themselves, or they endorse you for skills suggested by LinkedIn, when you’ve made no claim to those skills.

For my part, I’m grateful for the endorsements on my LinkedIn profile.

The endorsements feature reminds me of the Anglo-Saxon idea of compurgators. Certain civil and criminal matters were resolved by setting the number of “compurgators” you’d need to produce. These were people who’d vouch for your side of the story. They might just vouch for whether they believed you, even if they didn’t witness the events in question. If you could line up enough people to stand by your side, your story became more persuasive. If you couldn’t get enough people to step forward on your behalf, suspicions were aroused about your honesty and innocence.

Was the compurgation system open to abuse? Certainly. A guilty person who was popular or persuasive might still fetch enough compurgators. An innocent but unpopular person might have trouble finding anyone to help out. Yup, it was imperfect (unlike our modern justice system, which is 100% perfect, right?). But all in all, the compurgation system was a crowdsourced system of justice, in which you achieved validity by getting the crowd’s support.

And that’s pretty much what the LinkedIn endorsements are. Maybe your contacts are vouching for your skills, or maybe they’re vouching for you. People speaking up for each other and trying to help each other are good things, despite an imperfect system.

But now I’ve gone and revealed myself as someone who reads history for fun.

Jim

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