Thoughts about Klout and so-called social influence

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Here’s Eric Peterson of Twitalyzer on Twitalyzer and Klout in a refreshing blast of openness after hearing reports of people not being hired because their Klout score was too low :

“I personally think that any company or individual who is making a hiring or contracting decision based on our data, Klout scores, or any number is making a huge mistake! No disrespect to Klout, or any of the other measurement services out there, but there is no calculation that tells you nearly enough about an individual to allow you to make a buying, hiring, or any other kind of personal decision. At the point where we are making personal decisions based on a single number — one that even in a transparent system like ours people still don’t take the time to understand completely — our humanity has been lost and, in my humble opinion, we are better off turning the damn machines off and calling it a day.”

Klout, the start-up that tasks itself with quantifying online users’ social-media influence, announced today that it has raised $8.5 million in a round spearheaded by Kleiner Perkins, which has previously provided funding to giants like Google and Amazon. But it’s not just the West Coast powerhouse that’s participating; New York investment firm Penny Black got in on the round. PB’s Justin Wohlstadter tweeted his excitement.

I have to ask myself, as Klout just got an extra round of funding, what exactly did Kleiner Perkins and the others invest in? And what exactly is the dollar value of my “Klout score” or “social media influence.”?

I’ve been considering a post about Klout for some time as the idea of being ranked on the Social Web by a web company that professes to be “The Standard for Influence,” concerns me. Here’s a non-social web example – as a musician I’m never happy with Pandora; its algorithms, as influenced with input from real people who work for the company, never get it right for me. It “presumes” that if I like A then surely I must like B, but no, I have a very eclectic taste in music, as you’d know if you’ve ever downloaded any of my year end playlists. If I select a playlist based on my own band, Gang of Four, it sends me to a kind of musical hell that Dante couldn’t have conjured up. So, I doubt I could ever be content with my Klout score as Klout probably knows as much about me as Pandora does.

Anyway, when I read that article by Eric Peterson [extract above,] responding to the ridiculous idea that people were not getting hired because their Klout scores were too low, I was spurred to take a look at my own so-called social influence as measured by Klout. You can see my Klout “score” here.

Some problems stood out immediately. 1) Klout doesn’t seem to be measuring in real time. See photo below. Click on image for larger version.

Because my profile as shown above is way out of date I presume Klout doesn’t update its data in a timely fashion. I’ve had a new profile picture for a long time now as well as an updated description about myself. Here’s my correct Twitter profile:

Another problem is the list of people I follow that Klout says influences me. Well, not to be disrespectful to those people that Klout considers my “influencers,” but I can ascertain right now that they don’t “influence” me, I merely follow them on Twitter and sometimes read their tweets. In fact one of them I don’t actually follow at all so how did that one show up as an “influencer”? If anyone wants to see who I spend most of my time being “influenced by” simply check my blogroll or my library of books at home.

And in a simple twist of irony Klout says “You may not be a celebrity, but..” I am actually a celebrity, it’s just that Klout will never know what kind of celebrity I am. Just as Pandora will never know what kind of music I want to listen too.

In other news, don’t get me started on Yahoo! Answers, I mean Quora. Meanwhile, I’m off to “influence” my dog, Rufus – all I need are treats..