Are reputation scores corrosive?

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Klout and PeerIndex (and probably others) are reputation scoring merchants. If you let them access your Twitter, Facebook and other social media profiles they will give a clutch of scores about how influential you are.

On one level this just formalises one of the favourite games of social media early adopters. LinkedIn was a game for some, blogging wa a game for some, so was Facebook.  So were a bunch of also-ran platforms that didn’t last.

Collecting connections and watching for stats is useful sometimes – this kind of little game can get you cheerfully addicted to a new  platform, holidng your interest until you have learned what it is really about.

Problem is, that if some people are playing a game with their social platforms – gain followers, get re-tweeted, +1′d or Like’d – it makes them less useful.

For that kind of behaviour, PeerIndex and Klout are a scoreboard aggregator and encourage play across all platfroms.

It’s shallow usefulness, to borrow a prefix from Umair Haque.

It’s not the fault of Klout and Peerindex. They are seeing a behaviour and building a service around it.

Now they are looking for a business model, which leads us to promotions nominally based on your reputation score. Peerindex came up with a kind of black card for its highest scoring members, Klout has offers based on your score and was recently part of how Spotify rolled out in North America.

For instance, if I lived in America my Klout score would entitle me to a take-away sandwich from Subway:

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Or would have before all the other middle-ranking reputation players had rushed in and swiped all those pulled pork rolls…

Harmless? Well, there may be a problem here. Gamefication begets gaming, or at least more overt gaming…

Some see gaming the system as laudible, the kind of game everyone needs to play to get ahead. This is sometimes part of the “personal branding” mentality. I think that sometimes successful players are distorting their reputation and personal networks and that maybe that’s not that useful in the long run.

Online reputation is an extension, a real part of your actual reputation, not a game world to wander into… Metrics and incentives can be very useful, as any manager worth their salt will tell you. They can also warp behvaiours and destroy value inadvertantly.

Personally, I think Klout etc. are things to look at sparingly, with detached interest where possible. Behaving differently to boost a score is a slippery slope that may be corrosive to your real reputation even as the numbers climb higher…

: : Thanks to Andrew Girdwood, whose Google+ comments prodded me to air some of these thoughts.

  • http://www.stuartbruce.biz Stuart Bruce

    Interesting thoughts and agree with your final thought. It’s definitely worth a look, but don’t rely on it. It’s also interesting to see the difference between Klout and PeerIndex scores which I’ve been watching since I blogged about it last week http://sbpr.co/nka32h My personal Klout score is rocketing, while PeerIndex is falling slightly – all without me changing my behaviour or trying to do anything to ‘game it’.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Stuart – to borrow from Google’s search method, maybe the best way to think of these scores are “signals of connectedness”, which may be one of a set of “signals of influence”, but never the sole ones. 

  • http://twitter.com/theredrocket Phil Szomszor

    I’ve written a few times about Klout and Peer Index, although not used the word “corrosive” before. That’s a very good way of describing it. That said, I’m finding now that colleagues and clients new to social media quite like it and latch on to it as a way of comparing people and working out who’s who. I can see it used more and more as an industry method of evaluation.