I was reading the NY Times the other day and it noted that some nightclubs are using a person’s “Klout” score to determine whether to let them past the velvet rope. “Klout” score? Hmmmm…what’s that all about? Let the Googling begin...
As I read about Klout, I was simultaneously amused and troubled. Based on the description from its own website, it apparently determines how “important” you are in the world by how frequently you are talking in the twitter-sphere (probably about yourself), as well as how much others subsequently re-tweet, link, or otherwise reference what you are saying.
And get this - Part of the Klout formula is an “echo chamber” in which Klout gives higher ratings when those with more Klout reference a Klout user, which increases that user’s Klout, thus allowing that user to increase others Klout. Yep…it’s pretty much the social media equivalent of a circle j_rk, which I’m sure is not an accident. In fact, by mentioning “Klout” here I probably increased Klout’s Klout score. Hey, you’re welcome Klout…it was nothing!
No, really. I mean quite literally it was NOTHING. And that’s the problem. Klout is the empty gamification of our lives that is exactly what I feared would happen when I first blogged about the topic last year. It’s this meaningless “score” that is put up on the screen – a way for us to become famous for being famous and finally rise to the lofty heights of societal contribution previously only reached by heroic figures such as the Kardashians and Snooki. Except we’re probably not as good-looking, or as loud.
On Klout, anyone who talks a lot and gets others to repeat what they said somehow has value on that basis alone. This has some bizarre implications if we look back at history. Apparently Hitler would have had a great Klout score (particularly in the European market). Oh wait…so would Aristotle. Hmmmm…does it strike anyone else that because Klout’s scoring system is bereft of anything substantive, these two folks would probably score quite similarly?
My wife pointed out that perhaps Klout is supposed to be agnostic to substance – and only rate influence: That since both Hitler and Aristotle had a big impact, they should have a similar score. Good point - although still troubling for me I must admit, particularly because in my research I am starting to see it being used as a rating of substance.
But I see an even bigger problem: Other incredibly influential people – let’s say Jonas Salk – would probably have a crappy Klout score because he was keeping his head down working on silly stuff – like curing polio and saving countless lives - instead of trying to blather in ways that got others to re-blather (that idiot actually gave the vaccine away for free…pfft….What a loser). Are you going to tell me the guy who cured polio didn’t have influence? That Da Vinci guy was also so busy on his little “experiments,” and “art” he probably wouldn’t have tweeted too much. Another potential low-Klouter. They should really get their priorities straight.
The fact is that the people I respect the most – and who have tremendous actual clout – don’t do a lot of twittering or blogging. I don’t think that’s an accident. I think they are working hard in a variety of really cool areas of research, medicine, business, media, and elsewhere – and doing amazing work that ultimately has tremendous influence in meaningful ways. That’s what I call real clout. Maybe we should be scoring for that. Sure, at the highest levels the Nobel family already beat us to it, but there is some more room in this space perhaps, if we start caring more about truly meaningful contributions.
In the end, as I finish this NY Times article I guess it’s okay for “Klout” with a Kardashian “K” (which really is a happy coincidence) to determine if you are cool enough to drink $20 cocktails at a trendy NY bar. I doubt cancer is being cured over Appletinis anyway. And perhaps the founders of Klout will walk away someday with a boatload of money, which is of course the most important measure of worth and value (right Jonas Salk?)
But truly, my hope is that we’ll focus on how our lives, our businesses, and our relationships with those around us – including our employees and customers – are being meaningfully pursued. As I’ve said before – gamification can be so much more than what Klout represents, because gamification is about the potential for meaningful connection and motivation through true need satisfaction that deepens value and sustains engagement. And I do think that businesses will see greater success at the bottom line as well, because this level of meaningful engagement is intrinsically valued.
But Klout’s got nothing to do with “Real Clout” in this respect, or anything else of value that I can see. Glad my velvet rope seeking days are behind me…