Are reputation scores corrosive?


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:


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.

My top ten pieces of advice for looking after your web shadow

A while ago I did a video for the Insititute of Chartered Accountants called “12 Golden Rules for Online Personal Reputation Management“.

I really enjoyed it, and played with the idea for a bit, then decided to write a book about the subject. It’s called Web Shadows and will be finished any day now * ahem *. The paper (yes, paper) version will be out in March 2010

It’s a book for my friends who aren’t totally obsessed with the web and social media, but do have a creeping awareness that what is said about them online matters and that they maybe need to look after their personal reputation a little.

Headlines like Office worker sacked for branding work boring on Facebook in the Telegraph and surveys that say 45% of employers vet job candidates on social networks make them think that even more.

If you take my iCrossing e-book Brands in Networks, I guess Web Shadows will be People in Networks. But that would spell PIN, and anyway I get told off for talking about networks too much, so Web Shadows it almost certainly is.

Anyway, here’s my top ten pieces of advice as they stand today. If you let me know what you think I’d be very grateful:

1 Don’t think of online as another world: The web’s more like a layer over the world we live in, not a “cyberspace” that only geeks live in. It’s part of our lives. The more we think of it as part of the world we live in, the better we will be at using it and looking after ourselves in relation to our online presence.

2 Check your Google shadow (and keep checking it): make sure you can see what others see when they look for you online, wether that’s Google, Facebook, LinkedIn or whatever. (Jeff Jarvis’s Google shadow phrase is what got me to “web shadows” as a title for the book.)

3 Be the world’s leading source of information about yourself: Ideally you want people to find your website, or cluster of social network profiles before they find anything else.

4 Understand networks (and which networks are important to you): Explore the online world around you. Which spaces matter to people that matter to you: employers, colleagues, friends, etc. It doesn’t hurt to start to understand network theory 101. Principles like “every node that joins the network doubles its value” help you to feel less like a supplicant and more like a network citizen. A part of it, not a passive. An owner among owners of a shared space, with rights – and responsibilities to the network.

5 Learn “crap detection” skills: One of Howard Rheingold’s four digital literacies, “crap detection” (the phrase comes from Hemingway) is about being a critical user of the web. Spotting the scams, attention tricks, the bahaviours that means that someone you have met online isn’t a person, or is one you need to stay away from. It’s part experience and part knowing how to use the network technically to understand – sometimes literally – where someone is coming from.

6 Be useful to your networks: You don’t need to turn into a pain-in-the-whatever professional networking douche to be successful in looking after your web shadow. Be yourself. Make the most of the things that you do – put your presentations and articles from the newsletter on SlideShare, bookmark interesting things you find on Delicious, maybe try out blogging even. once

7 Think about private and public: The web is a public place. You’re going to need to think about the dividing lines between your professional self online and your private self – where are they going to be? Get to know the privacy settings on Facebook for starters… And don’t forget to tell your family about them too.

8 Remember: you’re always on the (permanent) record online: “You’re never off the record,” we used to tell clients when I worked in PR. It’s true all the time when we’re online now. Don’t say anything you might regret later. If you are angry: calm down. Been drinking? Sober up or shut the web connection down. And the record may be permanent, like a digital tattoo.

9 Get a thicker skin: So you’re always on the record – so what? Everyone else is too. You’re going to make mistakes, get into arguments, look a bit foolish sometimes. The alternative is being a digital hermit, which… well… if you want to, I suppose.

10 Make it work for you: So we have had email addiction, SMS addiction and now, if you want to, you can become a social web addict. Or you can learn how the social web works and use it to enhance your life. Articles and posts like this one are good while you’re learning the tools’ basics – then you need to make your own mind up about how it should work for you.

Normal service will return in the Autumn

OK, I’ve been a bad blogger.

It’s been an odd month or so, and may stay odd for some time. It’s been hard enough blogging more or less holding down a full-time-plus-any-other-waking-time-you-might-have-lying-around job. Not to mention my family and a new addiction to mountain biking.


But most of all, I’m the final phase of finishing my first book, my first book that will decimate several physical trees as part of the publication process that is.


So if you’re still l visiting / checking your feed, I’m sorry. I will be blogging again properly once I’ve finished the manuscript. Meantime, I am going to publish a feed of my Delicious bookmarks here. I know some people don’t like that, but I am very active there and I sometimes think of the notes as mini blog-posts.

See you soon, I hope…

Reminder: you’re always (potentially) on the record online

Image: The NUJ's website - inadvertently blowing the whistle on itself?
Image: The NUJ's website - inadvertently blowing the whistle on itself?

It pays to be a little paranoid about emails, IMs and the likes sometimes – about not saying things in them you wouldn’t like repeated elsewhere. Especially when it comes to matters professional and commercial…

When Adam Tinworth voiced his anger at the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and its attitude to social media in a post on his blog, I’m sure he expected officials there to read it. I’m sure he even expected the lively discussion that followed in the comments section of his blog.

Analysis of the links that were sending traffic to this post gave an insight into the NUJ‘s reaction to the piece in a rather unexpected way. One link in particular he decoded as being from an email at the NUJ that must have been headlined “Effing Blogs”.

No problems with attitudes to social media there. Sounds very open minded.

Despite years of leaks, gaffes and slip-ups involving emails, voice mails, Tweets and IMs, people don’t seem to get it. So, once more, for the record:

You’re always (maybe) on the record online.

Best to act that way.

Love in the time of textual harassment

Image: The Kiss Wall on Brighton seafront (credit: Fast Eddie 42)
Image: The Kiss Wall on Brighton seafront (credit: Fast Eddie 42)

I met my wife when my internet access was restricted to a 36 kps modem at one computer in my office, next to the fax machine in the secretaries’ room.

I bought my first mobile phone after we’d been together for about six months. It would be a year or two before text messaging started in the UK.

Image: What my first phone looked like - what the image doesn't show is the credit card sized SIM card or the massive brick-sized battery.
Image: What my first phone looked like - what the image doesn

If we phone one another in the day during that honeymoon period it would be on a land-line. That would happen maybe once a day.

I had email. She didn’t.

So… I have no idea what online dating, or the early stages of a relationship conducted in the modern world is like. I’ve never had a Facebook status other than married and I’ve never had to de-friend an ex and divide up our friends online like so many paperback books.

Have some sympathy, then, for today’s yoot. While it may be easier to meet potential partners, once you have the etiquette is shifting as fast as the technologies and if you happen across someone whose boundaries are different to your own, there might be trouble. Your web shadow, social network presences and always-on personal comms device (mobile) mean that when things you don’t like kick off they kick off fast.

Encouraging, then, to see sites like offering teens a helping hand with dealing with a terrifyingly long list of behaviours that might upset them, including:

  • Cyber-bullying
  • Pestering via email and texts
  • Malicious slander
  • Hacking email and social network accounts
  • Asking for inappropriate photos
  • Posting said photos online

The has advice, spaces to discuss these issues and an amusing/disturbing set of “call-out cards” you can send / post to a harasser’s web page by way of a hint to them to back off (a selection of which are below)…

Image: Call out cards
Image: Call out cards

Via Dirk at Herd

Let he who is without a web shadow cast the first stone

Don't inhale, don't explete: Obama jobs demand spotless web shadows from applicants

Image: Photoshopping Obama into Rasta colours might not be a plus point if you’re applying for a job at the White House…

According to The Economist, applicants for jobs in the new Obama adminstration are undergoing rigorous background checks, including submitting “a history of their activities on the Internet, including copies of any emails which might embarrass Mr Obama, links to social networking pages, blogs, and the usernames or “handles” under which any of them were written”.

So knowing what your web shadow looks like is going to be a must there then…

This may have been an election campaign that played to the social meida grandstand, but old rules of politics and the media are still very much in play.

If we’re to be optimistic, the Economist has a bit of wishful thinking:

Perhaps, when dirt on almost everybody becomes readily available, politics will lose its hypocritical, moralistic tone.

You’d hope so…