So on the evening of December 31, 2013, I ditched my Klout account. I will now face the future without knowing how influential I am. My gut reaction is “so fucking what”, but my decision has been a little more thought out. I quit Klout simply because it’s useless. Useless not in the sense that it does not measure something (it does) but in the sense that what it does measure has nothing to do with anything I am willing to recognise as influence.

Klout's final opt-out dialog

Klout’s “What are you doing, Dave?” moment.

Klout assigns each user a number between 1 and 100 which is supposed to measure my “influence”. The algorithm behind the production of this number is of course secret, but I have a name for it: bah.

Klout’s number is some function of the reach (that is, the number of people interacting with your statuses/tweets/whatever times the number of their connections) of your online activities, smoothed over time. What does it mean? This:

  1. post you must: if posts are rare, the Klout score will go down
  2. generating gut reactions is a must: what counts are only comments, @replies, and shares; a million people who follow the link to your blog to discuss are worth nothing; one hundred shares or retweets are
  3. I, I, I, and then me: participating will do nothing for your score; generating participation will
  4. “light” content trumps “heavy” content, i.e. kittens, fads and celebrities news do more for your Klout than genuine food-for-thought material or comments on something actually worth commenting.

Bottom line: consciously trying to boost your score will drive you to post ever worthless but attention-grabbing content as often as possible at the expense of, you know, what you may do with your time if you did something with it.

Klout, like mainstream media and most of the so-called “social” scene, really is about (short-term) popularity(1), not value; it’s a showbiz-fitness indicator; as such, it may be good if I actually were in showbiz, but it’s totally misleading since I’m not.

Klout is, in its essence, nothing more than a vanity metric, just like the number of followers or fans, perfectly functional for framing the consumer Internet as yet another arm of the tentacular, propaganda-friendly media system born  after WWII rather than the nail in its coffin, as it should be.

So good bye, Klout, and good riddance.

(1) Popularity is intended here in the sense that a jock may be “popular” in a US college, or in the sense that some piece of research may be popularised by TV into “popularity”, not in the sense that the same piece of research may actually be popular in its field.

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