Thoughts from Conversation with Klout CEO Joe Fernandez

Ace Blogger Seth Godin doesn’t participate on Twitter, but has a Klout score of 70 in large part due to retweets and mentions. This phenomena typifies what Klout calls the Warren Buffet problem.

Yesterday, Read Write Web published the larger findings from the open interview with Klout CEO Joe Fernandez responding to criticisms published here. Publishing the larger post separately seemed important, a way to provide a larger portion of the industry information about the most pressing Klout questions. In addition to the discussion about evolving the algorithm and the ethics of Klout Perks in the Read Write Web piece, Mr. Fernandez covered several other points raised by critics.

One of the more interesting aspects was a discussion about gaming theory, which has been considered in the design of Klout. The interface, badges, classifications and the way it looks is important to encourage people with lower scores to develop more influence. In that vein, Klout sees its system as a way to encourage people to develop their online networking skills and become more influential.

Social games as a community activity have become a huge web activity online, and is drawing more attention in the marketing space. This is a topic worth further consideration.

Generally, the whole Peter Shankman party issue arose as a result of this rather troublesome press release. While Klout has an informal relationship with Shankman, Mr. Fernandez did say the release was not vetted by Klout, and could have been toned differently with less elitism.

The party itself was an experiment to see what the algorithm could put together, and by accounts of attendees, it wasn’t the usual group of folks in the rooms. Attendee David Spinks said it was an enjoyable affair, and Mr. Fernandez said the experiment may or may not be repeated.

Also, by simply participating in the open call, Mr. Fernandez resolved the point about Klout not responding to criticism. Further, he took some tough questions, and should be commended for openly facing criticism with a kind attitude.

General Perceptions of Klout Moving Forward

Klout certainly has its hands full. That became crystal clear. Perhaps Mr. Fernandez said it best when he said the very word influence is a lightening rod, and Klout’s algorithmic approach to determining it will always attract debate.

As to the algorithm itself, it will clearly evolve. Klout is actively weighing the strengths and weaknesses of its system. It’s well marketed at this point, and as a result, has an opportunity to become the top influencer measurement.

Why? Because no matter what, businesses and nonprofits will seek an easy way to determine influence, and as Klout evolves it may have the best answer. Klout still has flaws that admittedly need to be overcome, but that’s the truth.

Klout’s definition of measuring actions differs greatly from industry definitions of actions (donations, sales, etc.). Because data about these types of actions are not readily available to the industry by companies and nonprofits, participation data is what’s left.

It’s hard to sign off on quantitative metrics that focus on participation. The current output of this participation data still produces questionable results. But the commitment to diversify and scale to meet 20 disparate sources of social data (see Read Write Web piece) is more compelling than a simple solution like Twitter Grader or a blog solution like PostRank.

And so, if Klout successfully evolves per Mr. Fernandez’s remarks, it would be foolhardy for a professional not to give Klout the respect it deserves. For better or for worse, it looks like the leader at this point. And the business and nonprofit marketplaces want a solution to at least begin cultivating “influencers.” Whether that’s the right approach is another matter altogether.

Reaffirming the Internet Breeds Incivility


Perhaps you saw the dust-up yesterday. Peter Shankman called out my business partner Kami Huyse for a post about one of his tweets (pictured above). Kami was using it as an example to create a conversation about Internet civility… The original tweet was a demonstration. Time consumption abuse by folks who don’t value Peter’s time was used to flaunt rates and be generally flippant on Twitter.

Just an observation that Kami never pointed at Peter directly by name or link, instead using the content of the Tweet as a discussion point. While her title was sensational — I Don’t Have Time to Google You: Microfame Breeds Arrogance — I think she was making a point about mindful conversation in not calling out Peter. Then this happens:

1) Peter Shankman gets angry when he sees the post, responds by titling a second post with her name in it — An Open Letter to Kami Watson Huyse, APR — then linked to her, thus turning a conversation about one of his tweets (anonymously discussed) into a would-be blog war.

2) He also knew that doing so would put the post in search, particularly with his blog’s weight. He is a PR master (the founder of HARO), thus creating a permanent SEO “record” for Kami.

3) Peter turned the conversation about civility into a victim story about how he should get paid (“Still think it’s about me being a douche?,” asks Peter). Poor Peter. Frankly, I get the same BS where people are asking me for free work/blogs all the time. It doesn’t mean that I am entitled to drop a tweet like that and flaunt “my greatness” to my community.

4) Finally, Peter unleashed his fans on Kami, many of which seem to be unable to distinguish between the original story about civility and Peter’s spin about not getting paid. Instead they pile on hate and angst without thinking about the context of the story. Kami’s an experienced online communicator and can take the heat, but a less experienced person would be devastated.

Sorry, but this entire affair — and in particular Peter Shankman’s arrogant remarks as well as the many nastygrams from his fans — only reaffirmed Kami’s original point that the Internet breeds incivility. It also reaffirmed many, many negative feelings I have about personal branders. All in all, it was not a pretty day on the Internet.

Overall, I question the mindfulness of the affair. From Kami’s provocative stance to spark a conversation to pointed personality attacks from a supposed industry leader and finally, the pile-on commenting from fans, it wasn’t the most loving conversation I’ve seen.

In all activities online, I find it useful to ask myself is this about me, or about being of service to the larger community? When it is the prior it usually leads me awry. It’s ego-driven, and frankly creates personal investment that can lead to situations like the above. When I am trying to help others, it often becomes a much more mindful thing.

A good reminder as we go into the rest of the week that our tongues can be powerful weapons… Or forces for good. It’s a choice.