As an outsider, my view of Klout has mainly been a bit of fascination about why it pisses some people off so much. I’ve been in conversations where it gets brought up and someone will visibly cringe. As best I can tell, at a fundamental level, it boils down to this:
People don’t like to be ranked — unless they have a high ranking. But if the ranking is too high, it’s better to pretend like you don’t like that ranking so as not to piss off the people below you who have helped give you such a high ranking. In other words, people are pissed off at the bottom *and* at the top of the scale. A rock and a hard place.
This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that this is the internet. The great unifier. Here, everyone can truly be equal. Except that’s not really true.
On the internet, just as in real life, some people have more reach than others. But in the real world, it’s hard to quantify that. On the internet, there’s your Klout score. One number. In your face.
When you add perks directly tied to this number, you make people even more angry. But again, that’s not really any different than the real world. Brands have been identifying influencers for decades and offering up perks. For some reason, it’s just better to do these things out of sight, it seems.
The truth about Klout is actually much simpler. It’s about data. Lots and lots of social data. The current currency of the web. In that regard, it’s not all that different from Google, which figured out a way to rank webpages, based on the currency at the time: hyperlinks.
One difference is that Google never had an overt score. The other is that the value of these ranked web pages was immediately apparent to everyone. The value of Klout’s system is only starting to become apparent.
With the changes pushed this week, Klout is starting to become more than just a score. The score is still there, of course, but you now have some insight into how it’s being calculated and what it means. More importantly, you have some insight into the interactions around your own social data. It’s about taking the information that Klout has always seen and moving that forward into the spotlight.
Even more interesting are the next steps. Everyone is an expert at something. It may be programming, it may be euchre, it may be auto repair. Imagine if there was a way to highlight this knowledge. A Klout score for each of these things.
Each of the social networks is essentially trying to do what Klout is doing, but because they all hate each other and as a result, often act like children, only Klout can really see the big picture. Only they can tie this social currency together and make it truly valuable.
That’s why CrunchFund is happily getting involved with Klout. It’s an information goldmine that’s been shrouded by a perception problem. And that shroud is being lifted.
For more, see the thoughts of a reformed Klout doubter: Michael Arrington.