According to the team at Klout I’m influential about Lobster. Not in an achingly cool way like David Foster Wallace, nor in an artfully surreal way like Salvador Dali. No, the arbiters of online authority calculated that I am the ‘go-to-guy’ for marine invertebrates, the Jacques Cousteau of social media.
This is a diabolical case of misrepresentation. A budding marine biologist looking for an expert on all things Nephropidae would be severely disappointed to find me at the top of a SERP, the sum of my Lobster knowledge is: goes great with garlic butter and granary bread.
So how did it come to this pretty pass?
Well, as so many of these things do, it began with a Tweet. Way back in September 2011 I shared a link to an amusing article at Know Your Mobile, a retrospective of the worst mobile phone designs:
Anyone old enough to recall the age before the big black slab touchscreen dominated mobile form factor will wince at the memory of the Virgin Lobster, the most god-awful ugly phone to ever grace a mobile network, although as Philipp Weiser pointed out in reply, perhaps the Siemens Xelibri range came a close second. Anyway, my massively influential bon mot was retweeted a grand total of once and I thought no more of it.
I’d signed up for Klout in early summer when everyone and his dog was raving about the way in which companies like PeerIndex and Empire Avenue were going to change the way we measured online reputation, signaling brands to key influencers and offering the select few their fifteen perks of fame.
After the initial thrill of comparing myself against the superstars of social media I’d quickly lost interest. It was clear that Klout could be gamed by cranking up activity and interaction, an issue the company later redressed in a controversial algorithm update. Though not competitive in a leaderboard sense I was curious, and let’s face it, vain enough to check back occasionally to see how I was getting on.
When I next logged into Klout on the 18th October this was what I found:
Yes, the Grateful Dead, I know, I know, I’m an old hippy at heart. More importantly though: James Barnes’ Influential Topics – Lobster. How did they work that one out?
Klout calculates areas of expertise by scraping nouns from Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Quora, and sundry other SNS. You mention it, they’ll index it. Mention something often enough (and get shared) and you’ll become an influencer on that topic. That’s great in theory but in practice, without context, we can’t expect whuffie levels of reputation marking. I’ve tweeted the word Lobster, ergo I’m an expert on the subject? Yeah, right.
Klout sucks up activity and interaction, their model assumes that everyone shares everything and that the act of sharing is in itself some form of approval or recommendation. These assumptions are wrong. This is Social Media Astrology, not Science.