The title of this post, and all following content — not including opinions of any third parties reproduced here — are solely my opinion, and any legal stance should be taken in that light. (I have to put this here; while I'd love to see Klout's proprietary scheme exposed in open court to fizzle and expire, I don't personally have venture capital funding to cover the legal costs of defending any potential libel suit.)
There are two kinds of fools: one says, "This is old, therefore it is good"; the other says, "This is new, therefore it is better."
— William Ralph Inge
So, yesterday, Klout was "trending" on Google+. While I did consider this fact to be a demonstration of recursive inanity, I felt it was time for someone to call out Klout publicly for peddling snake oil.
As part of this buzz yesterday, WIRED ran a shameless ass-kiss of an article masquerading as journalism, claiming that employers are using Klout scores to make hiring decisions, and businesses are treating customers better or worse based on their scores. This is tantamount to making Klout a credit bureau — something that is normally regulated by law in the US, mind you — and is a
For those who don't yet know, Klout is a strange startup claiming to track social media users and associate real people with their levels of interaction and "influence" on other people. It captures topics on which someone is "influential", and assigns a score up to 100 based on the amount that a person's content garners comments/responses, reshares, and other metrics that are in a cauldron of black magic.
Klout is also one of the biggest scams on the Internet right now.
And in spite of some people claiming that their algorithm has "improved" over the last year, let me not be the first to tell you that it's still as full of crap as it ever was.
Black magic it is, because Klout is reporting results that don't have anything to do with reality. As of this writing, I've been listed as "influential" on a topic about which I hadn't written one whit of public content: "Palm Pre". [Screenshot] (It also says I'm marginally influential about SAP AG; why? NFC.) Hell, doing a Google search for me with this topic returns less than ten pages, of content obviously not me talking about Palm Pre... except for recently calling out Klout's stupidity over the last week.
Don't just take my word for it; here's a post from one of the most prolific posters on Google+, with over 1.2 million followers, about how Klout is polishing random turds (that often don't even exist in the first place) and calling it all gold:
Robert Scoble: If you read the comments on the post below, you'll see that I got an increase in Klout because I took a picture of Portugese Sausage on Foodspotting. This is why Klout will never be able to tell you who really has real-world influence.... [Original Post]
As a friend (who asked not to be named in this post) said to me:
Klout is a manifestation of the personal power game. Most people who play the power game don't even know it's a game. Many of the people who don't play it aren't even aware that it exists. To the people who do play it, all the people who don't play it look exactly like those who play it very, very poorly.
And that's pretty apt, too. When Klout users reach certain levels of "influence", they are presented with "achievements" and "perks". That sounds a whole lot like the much-reviled, banal social games on Facebook by that company whose name starts with a Z and whose games often end in "-Ville". How much longer will it be before Klout introduces for-pay plans to "Level Up" on one's +K-score?
What does Klout actually measure? No one really knows. As best I can tell, it measures how much someone talks (posts), particularly in interaction with other people who actively watch Klout. It's a mechanical manifestation of a self-fulfilling, clinically insane prophet. And people are already creating guides claiming to game Klout's system: basically SEO, focused on talking about as many current trends/fads as possible, as often as possible.
So Klout measures how decent of a talkative bullshitter someone is. This is something upon which to base hiring or customer service decisions? (Well, maybe hiring decisions for PR firms or C-level executives at some corporations, but beyond that... No.)
As far as I'm concerned, if you think Klout information actually means something useful and you make business decisions on that data — or, God-forbid, you've invested hard money in the company — I'm sorry, but you deserve to fail. "New and shiny" doesn't always translate to "useful", especially when the new and shiny thing is actually fecal matter mixed with confetti and something pulled randomly from the kitchen garbage, wrapped in tinfoil.
Do you still think Klout is worth more than trite entertainment value? Go ahead, look up your own Klout profile and see on what topics you're allegedly "influential". How much of that actually rings true to you?
(After initial publication, a commenter informed me that Klout now has an opt-out function — which was not always the case. Not that this really fixes things, because the fact that it is opt-out makes the mechanism as useful as "unsubscribing" from unsolicited e-mail.)