Klout has managed to collectively piss off most of the Internet more than once. When the site first launched, the mere idea of quantifying a person with a number was enough to anger critics – only to later incite yet more rage when it changed its scoring metrics.
When it comes to Klout, the fact that we’re easy to anger makes sense: First accepting that we are being measured by our social influence was a tough pill to swallow – an accurate one (it’s happening whether we like it or not), but a tough one. And then the idea that a Web app could be the deciding factor in all this proved even more difficult to accept, and it’s been incredibly challenging for that Web app to gain much faith.
Faith Klout might be short on, but users it is not. As of fall 2011, Klout said “100 million people have Klout,” which means it’s assigned that many people Klout scores. In reality, the user numbers are estimated by around a few million – still fairly impressive.
Now Klout has rewritten its formula again, in an attempt to quell criticisms about real life versus online influence as well as increase accuracy. “Our team of engineers, scientists and hardcore social media users are obsessed with providing every person with the most accurate and transparent view of their influence and the power of their ideas,” co-founder and CEO Joe Fernandez said in a blog post this morning. “To accomplish this, we are constantly adapting and evolving our measurement to stay ahead of the social media growth curve.”
I’ve always felt the Fernandez has been unfairly condemned for Klout. From an objective view, what the under-the-hood team is doing is really difficult and really interesting. There’s a ton of data out there to be dissected and quantified, and Klout is spending resources to do that.
The service is now taking 400 signals into account instead of 100, and giving a much, much more defined look at the recipe for your score. You can check out everything involved here, but it includes Facebook mentions, likes, comments, subscribers, Twitter retweets, mentions, followers, replies, Google+ +1s, reshares, LinkedIn connections, comment, recommendations, Foursquare tips, +K received, and Wikipedia listings. The addition of Wikipedia is part of Klout’s effort to take the real world into account: “We determine Wikipedia ‘page importance’ by running a PageRank algorithm on the Wikipedia graph, as well as factoring the number of inbound links and outbound links to each page,” Klout says.
Because of the adjustment, President Obama now finally has a higher Klout score than Justin Bieber, who used to have a perfect 100 (he’s been docked to 92).
It’s interesting to see Bieber’s score drop because for most of us, the changes mean you’ll receive a small bump. More services, more Klout. But the addition of real world importance offsets this a bit – although it’s likely only something that the more well known Klout users will be impacted by.
Klout also showed off a site redesign on its way, highlighting moments that gave you Klout – the pictures or posts or tweets that resonated around the social-sphere. It supposed to give a little tangibility to the score. In general, the whole of Klout’s interface is getting the infographic-overload treatment: It’s all big and bright and shiny, and much more interesting to look at it. Because let’s face it, the reason that Klout can turn into the Web’s punching bag yet retain users and become important enough that its perks mean something is because we love looking at information about ourselves. We want to see bite-sized, visually stimulating data about ourselves created from the mountain of content we’re sending into social networks.
So should we be waiting for the cumulative user rage post algorithm change? Given that most of our scores are going to go up, I doubt it – which says more about us than it does about Klout.