According to Klout, “Your Klout Score measures your online influence on a scale of 1 to 100.” I just read a blog post (from June 2011) that carefully analyzes all the ways in which the Klout score is flawed, and therefore meaningless (hat tip to Peter Skomoroch). However, there is a more important reason than the flaws in the calculation: what does “online influence” even mean? There are countless topics and fields over which people can exert influence both online and off. I believe the main problem with Klout is the one-dimensional score. Like the excellent “Building Web Reputation Systems” book says, karma is user reputation within a context.
To put it in less abstract terms: some things are easy to measure with a single number, some are not. The faster car is the one with the highest speed. On the other hand, what’s the “usefulness score” of a car? You can rate a vehicle along a number of dimensions, but a single “vehicle score” would be a marketing gimmick because it lacks context.
Going back to online influence for people, it would be interesting to trying to measure it for a specific topic. However, I suspect that there won’t be much data for anybody but the most well known people within that topic. E.g. how influential is Robert Scoble in Distributed Systems? Is he more or less influential than Paul Graham for this topic? Obviously the answer changes if we’re talking about startup advice, although it’s still nuanced. Clearly Barack Obama is more influential in Politics than Brian Schweitzer (governor of Montana). But how does Lionel Messi’s political influence match up with Rafael Nadal’s?
The gist of a service like Klout is that it needs to be popular, and most people are not particularly influential at large. If only a few thousand people had Klout scores, and only for specific topics, then it would just be a “Who’s Who in X” list. As it stands, it’s simply a game that measures how good you are at it. In other words, your Klout Score measures how good you are at getting a high Klout Score.
As usual, this is all unscientific speculation on my part. Follow me on Twitter for more of that, plus the occasional Foursquare check-in
Discuss on Hacker News if you please.