From Wired 24th April 2012
The interviewer pulled up the web page for Klout.com—a service that purports to measure users’ online influence on a scale from 1 to 100—and angled the monitor so that Fiorella could see the humbling result for himself: His score was 34. “He cut the interview short pretty soon after that,” Fiorella says. Later he learned that he’d been eliminated as a candidate specifically because his Klout score was too low. “They hired a guy whose score was 67.”
Partly intrigued, partly scared, Fiorella spent the next six months working feverishly to boost his Klout score, eventually hitting 72. As his score rose, so did the number of job offers and speaking invitations he received. “Fifteen years of accomplishments weren’t as important as that score,” he says.
Not everyone is thrilled by the thought of a startup using a mysterious, proprietary algorithm to determine what kind of service, shopping discounts, or even job offers we might receive. The web teems with resentful blog posts about Klout, with titles like “Klout Has Gone Too Far,” “Why Your Klout Score Is Meaningless,” and “Delete Your Klout Profile Now!” Jaron Lanier, the social media skeptic and author ofYou Are Not a Gadget, hates the idea of Klout. “People’s lives are being run by stupid algorithms more and more,” Lanier says. “The only ones who escape it are the ones who avoid playing the game at all.” Peak outrage was achieved on October 26, when the company tweaked its algorithm and many people’s scores suddenly plummeted. To some, the jarring change made the whole concept of Klout seem capricious and meaningless, and they expressed their outrage in tweets, blog posts, and comments on the Klout website. “Not exactly fun having the Internet want to punch me in the face,” tweeted Klout CEO Joe Fernandez amid the uproar.
Over time, I found my eyes drifting to tweets from folks with the lowest Klout scores. They talked about things nobody else was talking about. Sitcoms in Haiti. Quirky museum exhibits. Strange movie-theater lobby cards from the 1970s. The un-Kloutiest’s thoughts, jokes, and bubbles of honest emotion felt rawer, more authentic, and blissfully oblivious to the herd. Like unloved TV shows, these people had low Nielsen ratings—no brand would ever bother to advertise on their channels. And yet, these were the people I paid the most attention to. They were unique and genuine. That may not matter to marketers, and it may not win them much Klout. But it makes them a lot more interesting.