Oh good, another reason to be glad I’m too old for social media. From Nicholas Thompson at the New Yorker:
… Social media also has a fraught relationship with competition. If you’re designing a social network, you want people to feel as though effort boosts status. That will lead to more effort. But competition can also be inimical to friendship. It’s hard to make everyone feel like a winner. And no one wants to use something that makes him or her feel like a loser…
The newest social media tool to grapple with this is Klout, a service for measuring your influence on all of these social networks. The company was launched two and a half years ago, and it has recently passed several important milestones. Wired just published a long feature on it; yesterday it released an iPhone app; and recently, for the first time, I read a letter from a job candidate that mentioned his Klout score.
Klout grades users on a scale of one to a hundred based on some proprietary algorithm that counts how often your comments are retweeted, liked, or shared. If you want your score to go up, tweet more and get influential people to retweet you. Don’t ever go on vacation. If you’re on a social network, Klout gets your score, whether you’ve ever logged into the service or not. Think of a mercenary socialite, holding a calculator and trying to figure out who to invite to a party based on import. Then put whatever number she arrives at on every guest’s lapel. That’s Klout. Rick Ross has a score of eighty-five; Rick Santorum has a score of eighty-two; Rick Perry has a score of sixty-six. Rick Astley has a score of forty-seven….
But clever ideas are not necessarily good ones, and Klout is designed in a way that makes it likely to fuel both unhealthy obsession and unhappy competition. When you log into Klout, it makes it easy to see, in order of score, exactly how all your friends rank. The number is more personal than those used by other social networks, and Klout displays it prominently. The iPhone app shows your Klout score in a blaring red circle —just like the number of unread e-mails and unheard voicemails. “Look at me!” it’s yelling. And sometimes, when you do look, it tells you that you’ve become less important, less interesting, less retweeted, or less whatever. Do you really want something in your pocket that will tell you what you’re worth?
The structure of social networks subtly changes the way we act. And Klout seems to encourage nothing good. To make your score go up, you have to tweet out of obligation, and you have to try to influence the other influencers. This fall, when Klout changed its algorithm, causing some people’s scores to drop suddenly, the C.E.O. of the company was subjected to harassment. “I got everything short of death threats,” he told Fox News. When you set your profile in Klout, you can pick “I am an individual influencer” or “I am a brand influencer.” I don’t really know what either means, but they both sound creepy. After I check Klout, I want to shower.
Do people actually want to get graded by algorithm, or is this one of those perverse ideas that geeks should have known better than to share with irony-impaired MBAs?
And apart from clueless questions, what’s on the agenda for the start of the weekend?