Transcript of "Klout: The problem of pseudo-descriptive metrics"
Klout.com: The problem of pseudo-‐descriptive metrics By Martin Svetlík [socialnimedia.blogspot.com] Its been a month since I first checked my klout score, a sort of standard for value in social networks. After shooting to 54 in the first week, it has been falling down steadily since. Well, it does not bother me that much – until someone uses my klout score to, for example, see if I have enough network value for a social media specialist job. This is what Bonnie Stewart1, my today`s inspiration, is writing about in her post. I would like to go a little further in my thoughts. The reason why klout is the evil of social networks is far more pragmatic than Bonnie thinks. The reason is, of course, money. In the old times, when the main goal of social networks was to connect its users, give them means of communication they had not had before and bring some benefit to the online community, everything was fine. But most social networks did not last long in this stage and the “user-‐owned” platforms started to become stock market traded corporations, whose main objective is to maximize their profit. Monetization of the social capital However, their only way of generating profit comes from the sheer number of users and the depth of their interactions. In seek of profit growth the networks have to push for greater user activity. A user with 40 friends, who visits his account once in a week and avoids brands, is basically “user trash” for Facebook. His/her social capital is very small and the potential for monetization approaches zero. Therefore, efforts of these social networks (i.e. corporations behind them) are to maximize each users social capital and thus maximize own profit. Once a neutral platform now forces us to use the network according to its rules. Klout score will never be a relevant indicator of our impact in any social network, but rather an indicator of our exploitability, as it forces us to conform to the ideal user who is present in all social networks, influences everybody else, and most of all – serves as a perfect source of money when sold over to the marketing departments of companies. Why is high klout score good for you? The maliciousness of the system is that it looks neutral and descriptive, when in fact it is profoundly normative – it motivates us to maximize our exploitability with a clear evaluation criterion: the higher the score, the better we are. The point is that user involvement in social networks is usually not a race with others. But for corporations operating social networks, this precise race among users over who will be more social, is the very optimum, since it increases the profit from each user (more social capital of the user = more profit for the platform). Is there a solution? Well, as long as Wikipedia resists to have sponsored stories, product placement and for-‐sale positions in its search engine, there is hope that social networks can operate on non-‐profit basis, without the malignant desire to maximize (whatever they want to maximize). But as long as Justin Bieber has the highest klout score, we have to beware, because it means that there is something rotten within the current pseudo-‐descriptive metrics. 1 http://www.salon.com/2011/11/13/klout_is_bad_for_your_soul/singleton/ written for [socialnimedia.blogspot.com]