Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Have you got Klout?

There is a rumour that in the future employers will use a measure of your 'influence' on people in social networking and media to assess your suitability for a job. Is this a good thing?

Websites such as Klout and PeerIndex offer computational ways to assess your 'influence' over people in the digital world. Depending on how often you are retweeted or how much you blog and various other inputs, the sites will determine an 'Index of Influence' for you. How cool is that?
In fact, your digital friends can actually help you by giving you things like +K's on Klout or +1s on Google or 'Likes' on Facebook to help boost your Index, so you had better start being nice to people. Or not writing guff, perhaps.

I read an interesting retort to this by Simon Ellinas who offers his indignation that a web-based algorithm can shed any real light on 'influence'. I tend to agree but I also believe that there needs to be a way to sort out who is really influencing the digital world and who isn't.

Where Simon is absolutely right is that numbers of clicks, retweets, likes, volumes of posts or tweets are only a bland measure of what is one of the most profound of forces in life. Things have influence over things - we don't have to be specific about life itself even. Gravity has influence over celestial bodies, independent of life. More practically, Klout has no rating for a dead author whose online works still may influence people today.

To say that Klout is a measure of a person's digital influence is like so much of what goes on the web today. It is a very web-centric point of view and ignores the fact that a whole world exists outside of it - and has done for eons. It's as if the digital world is the only world that exists.
What the web has done is open up the world of possibilities. Suddenly, what I say has the potential of reaching millions pretty easily. I now have the possibility of networking with and influencing people who I hope to do business with more quickly, cheaply and effectively then ever before. The rest is pretty mundane. And that's the point.

So I don't think the fact I have posted a video of my young son on Facebook for family and friends to see and 'Like' has any relevance on my CV or to an employer, unless I did it in work time! I don't think it's of great relevance that I write up the bedtime stories I tell my young son on a blog has a bearing on my worth to a future employer.

So there is a context and relevance that is completely missed here. A future employer would be pretty astute to be cynical of a Klout score if it was influenced by who liked my son's video. But they might want to know who reads my blog on business and likes it. There is a big difference. In other words, these indices are just a bland measure of activity and response with no real relevance to what constitutes influence in people.

Here's a for instance - if my employer measured influence by the number of emails I sent out and received replies to, then they miss the fact that the ones I might get most replies on are the 'Joke du Jour'. They might miss the fact I send few work related mails! Hypothetical, of course.
If clicks and algorithms cannot even differentiate between business and messing around in the digital world then it is highly unlikely to know whether anything I have said in my blog has made any difference to a business.

I would far rather a future employer take the word of those I have actually worked for who would either write a reference or take a call rather than use my Klout score.

Maybe that's just me being old fashioned.

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