by Jason Brandt (@jasondmg3)
Recently, as most everyone who is anyone now knows, Klout re-jiggered their algorithm and in one fell swoop pissed off a lot of folks who do their damnedest to maintain their Social Media IQ much like they would a well-tended garden. Constant watering, weeding here and there, a little sun, some manure, and, voila…”check out the size of my CUCUMBER”! But, get a little lazy, let the weeds start to edge in, miss a few soaks, and, boo hoo…“regarde mon petit cornichon “.
Klout maintains that the change was an equal opportunity re-cast. Some scores went up, some went down. It was done largely to create a more accurate measurement. It gave room for people to move up by, essentially, creating a higher ceiling. Those near the top, now have higher to climb. Those who were not near the top now find themselves closer to everyone else, including borderline celebs.
I personally think it’s fine. Klout has calculated over 100,000,000 scores in three years and they have the right to tinker as new social media inputs (ie Google + and WordPress.com) become factors.
What I don’t think is fine is our constant preoccupation with the wrong issues. In this case, we are getting upset about another soulless number created to neatly define us. Like FICO or SAT or LDL, Klout is another indicator of status that doesn’t take into consideration the human condition.
Here are some examples to prove my point: Why is it so important for journalists to publish the ages of newsworthy figures in articles? So we, as humans, can plot ourselves in relation to others. Our Facebook and Linked in status is defined by how many friends we have collected. We love top ten lists because good and bad is neatly collated. We all have a “f*ck you” number which is the retirement money we need to check out without looking back. Numbers define us – almost to a fault.
“I am actually glad that Klout’s algorithm change has caused such uproar,” Ted Rubin writes, “it gives me (and others) a chance to say once again that it is not the numbers that count – it’s the Relationships!” And therein lies the irony – if social media is all about creating connections and bonds between other people, why should we care about what our # is?
So, to Ted’s point, I actually think the issue is deeper. I think what Klout did by recasting their algorithm was to mess with our perceived control. That’s what is getting people steamed.
At its core, (number labeling aside) Klout is a really cool, liberating idea. Tweet and post and blog and see your score go up. It’s immediate. It’s Pavlovian. It’s elegant and simple. But then the “tinkering” happens, and just like that, what we thought was safe and unique and relatively off the radar, it turns out, is like everything else. Open, managed, not in our control at all.
When Klout recast their algorithm, it was like that sobering moment when your parents bust you smoking pot, or your company starts to require time reporting, or the US government imparts itself into private industry, forcing rules and regulations into private enterprise. The party is essentially over. What was ours… is now theirs – subject to the same old black-box, big-brother crap we have grown up trying to avoid; or at least put off. In essence, a mind-numbing, full-blown, uric-acid induced gout attack. A cold shower. A kick in the balls.
That’s why people were upset, because no matter how often you tweet or post or whatever, there is now that doubt, that lingering doubt, that it doesn’t really matter.