Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Klout and Lircles - Bieber's super-secret private messages

While I may have quibbles with some of the mechanics of how Klout works, I mostly cannot argue with the basic premise of Klout.


Klout measures influence on a scale with a maximum value of 100, and one thing that strikes some as funny is the fact that Justin Bieber has a perfect Klout score, which is much higher than Tim Berners-Lee's Klout score. This causes a lot of upturned noses, but not from me. For example, if I were to tweet some support for my country's Olympic team, hardly anyone would take notice. When Bieber tweets support for Team Canada, the results are slightly different.

Yes, that's right. Over 5,000 people favorited this tweet, and over 12,000 people retweeted it.

That's clout, regardless of how you spell it.

However, I noted that I have one quibble with the basic premise of Klout the service. In an official blog post that discusses how Klout works, this important caveat is offered:

We are only able to give you credit for the influence we can see, so if you have a private network that isn’t connected to Klout it will not be counted in your Score.

This is an understandable limitation. For Klout to be able to measure private lircles (lists and circles), Klout would have to have extensive access to your data, and the data of the other people in the lircle. And that just isn't going to happen.

But how much influence is exerted publicly?

A lot of influence is exerted privately, and while public influence is certainly powerful, in some cases privately-exerted influence is even more powerful.

Take Tim Berners-Lee, for example. There is a very good possibility that Berners-Lee, during his next visit to New York City, may spend a little bit of time in the offices of the National Broadcasting Company. And perhaps while he's there, he may take time to introduce himself to an NBC employee named Meredith Vieira.

The conversation will probably be a pleasant conversation, perhaps even with a chuckle or two.

And I'll bet that conversation will influence Vieira, who will better understand the power of the World Wide Web.

And I'll also bet that conversation will influence Berners-Lee, who will better understand the power of the media. (Remember that some of us live in a bubble, and that 90% of the people listening to Vieira's comment probably agreed with her.)

And you know what? That conversation will be a private conversation, well beyond the measurement capabilities of Klout or any external service.

A number of people - your boss, the boss of your boss, and Justin Bieber - wield great private influence which is similarly beyond the measure of external services. Your boss tells you what to do. The boss of your boss tells her what to do. And Justin Bieber tells record company executives, magazines, and other artists exactly what to do.

And the critics of Klout do have one thing right. Just because Bieber has great influence on the general population doesn't necessarily mean that Bieber influences you.
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