Friday, May 18, 2012 Klout?

Today I told a recruiter that I didn't want to relocate to a certain metro area for the job he was peddling, and he demanded to know why. Uh...?

But that's not what I want to talk about. Yesterday and today I was involved in a spirited discussion about a fairly new (3 years old) social media platform called Klout. Klout, which purports to measure your "influence" in social media, has been getting a lot of attention recently, mostly due to an article in the current paper edition of Wired.

Like any fairly new meme, Klout is on the receiving end of a lot of bashing, mostly from "old guard" IT wags who term it invasive, meaningless, part of the social media "popularity contest", and so on. Even xkcd's Randall Munroe had something negative to say about it. And I say they're missing the point.

In the last decade, Social Media, as a concept, has become entrenched in First World culture. People who, ten years ago, used the Internet rarely or not at all, use it frequently now because of Social Media and its influence. But a lot of people who, like me, predate their interaction with computer technology to before Social Media (or even the Internet) existed, have a very "get off my lawn" reaction to a lot of Social Media platforms. Having existed before it, and having not thought it up themselves, they think they're above it. (A good counterexample to this type of thinking is Marc Andreessen, who is also featured in this month's Wired.)

I don't love all of it, myself. For instance, although I have an account on Facebook, I have never liked the site and rarely read posts there (I seem to post a lot, but most of it is auto-posted from other sites). I wasn't an early adopter of Klout; I knew it existed but I wanted to see where it would go before jumping on the bandwagon. Wired's article told me what I wanted to know and I jumped in, thereby raising my "score" - which already existed since I tweet publicly - from 22 to 49 (out of 100) in two days.

Does it mean anything? Is it just all a big popularity contest? Of course it is. Go look up who has a score of 100 and you'll see that that's the case. But that is the point. The "Net" - which started out as a government defense research project - has become a world-wide party and the popular kids - who in many cases are also technological and artistic innovators - have taken over. You don't have to play if you don't want to. Your priorities may lie elsewhere, and there's nothing wrong with that. But because a technological innovation doesn't fit your worldview is no reason to disparage it. It didn't work for Jacquard's detractors either, a fact for which modern IT curmudgeons should be grateful.

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