#Klout me out

A neat post from @samfiorella sets out a damning case against Klout and the gamification of influence.

Can You Be Influential While Under the Influence? – Sensei Blogs.

I’ve two things to add.

First, my take on influence assessment mechanisms like Klout has been to see them as a form of eugenics; digital eugenics. For the same reason that biological eugenics was highly credible at the time, Klout is prima facie credible. No-one doubts the fact that real data determine scores – and claims to data-drivenness and science-basedness are powerful. Problem is twofold: First, who selects the data? Second, what is the effect of letting loose data thus selected and packaged on the community as a whole? If you haven’t see the movie Gattaca, you should.

Second, if the social-techno-cultural matrix in which we are all of us engaged were settled and the digital revolution largely behind us, such efforts would have a better claim on our credulity. To that extent Klout suffers from what I have called the Fallacy of the Kink. We look back and see exponential change. We look ahead and smooth the curve. The present is always in the kink. We are at the moment in the foothills to the foothills of this revolution in communications and community. The idea that this is the time for merit badges to be handed out by the Boy Scout leader who can tell who is best at tying knots is risible.

There’s a Latin tag I love, solvitur ambulando: ” it is solved by walking.” It is relevant here. What influence you have is best understood by seeing what influence you have. Klout with its time-and-motion slide-rules and Fordist notions of process definitely has too much.

11 thoughts on “#Klout me out

  1. As always, I appreciate your insights Nigel. Mark Schaefer’s book on the subject (Return on Influence) suggests that the current preoccupation to measure and score social influence is not a fad but a marketing strategy here to stay.

    I fear he is correct. Influence-measure has been around in some form or another since marketers began word-of-mouth campaigns and influencer outreach programs – well before the dawn of the Internet age. Social Media has opened Pandora’s Box for these marketers and they were quick to jump in. Entrepreneurship at its best: don’t think, just do.

    The reality is that it’s entirely too early for such measurements to be considered accurate or, on the other hand, summarily dismissed. Progress is not always a smooth road. However, some responsiblity must be taken by marketers like Klout to decree themselves “The Standard In Influence Measurement”…especially those that can’t back it up. And even more responsibility must be placed on business and individuals who blindly subscribe to the score and make personal and/or business decisions based up on them.

    I’ll add another Latin term I’ve become fond of since I was first introduced to Klout: falsis prophetis, which means: false prophet. While I believe that such measurement will not go away, I stand behind my boycott of the application as warning to the millions of sheep who are so easily swayed by false prophecy.

    Sam.
    My K= 0.

    • Thanks, Sam. Agreed. I think Klout and its cohorts are ironically the result of naivety as to how far we have come in the digital revolution. This thing is barely begun, and it’s a wonder of chaos, a constant swarming of the imagination and the human community. Much too soon to be handing out medals – and unclear if we shall ever be able to, though it’s plain if and when we do it will be along much more sophisticated lines than these . . . .

  2. The phrase ‘opinion leaders’ has been around a long time. The human tendency to ‘rate’ one another with respect to the validity or merit each others opinions and points of view has probably been around as long as human society has been in existence. Think BACK to the era of the ‘cave people:’ “Grog, should we go North now and get to the plateau early before the bison herds or should we wait a couple of days until after the dark-heavy cloth-wet sky has passed?” Social cohesion and group action depend upon our capacity to formulate ‘collective will.’ Someone’s opinion way back when ‘won’ the day (again and again and again) … otherwise, we just wouldn’t be here. And just like any societal measure, rating opinion leaders in category X, Y, or Zed, has merit to a “point.” As for me, that “point” the cliff’s edge we all go flying over right behind Lead Lemming!
    Cheers,
    @Picobee

    • That’s an interesting way into the discussion. Plainly, David Frum, Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd and E.J. Dionne all have a lot of influence, and Tom probably the most; but assigning numbers . . .?

  3. Does Klout measure “something?” Sure. It measures something and if we had more visibility into their algorithm we might have an idea as to what exactly IS that “something.” But let’s be clear. It’s a marketing tool. Like Nielsen ratings. That Klout is (or ever could be) a canonical measure of influence is absurd. That we give any credence at all to their assertion as “The Standard of Influence” is laughable.

    Klout is a nascent attempt to quantify a very complex system. It seems we as humans look for shortcuts. We’re trained to accept summaries as rote. Perhaps the discussion should be surrounding what has created an environment which allows such simple summaries to have such power. How do we educate people to more properly vet the content they consumer? A topic for #influencechat, I think.

  4. Couldn’t agree more with the Klout deniers. One of my friends, @mjdwarner, is obsessed with his Klout score, and, accordingly, has found a number of ways to game the system and artificially pump up his score without doing anything particularly “influential”. Tagging dozens of other high-score “friends” on photos of beefcake on facebook, generating RT’s from, essentialy, “mutual RT circles” on twitter, etc… He’s practically a case study in why Klout is useless. He’s a popular and influential guy in his own way, to be sure, but isn’t “influence” ostensibly about getting people to *do* things, whether it be buy a product, or vote for a candidate?

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