7/9/11

No Friends, No Klout, No Service!


Imagine a world in which powerful companies not only know who your friends are, and how many (or few) of them you have, but they actually care how "cool" you are...a lot!

Imagine further that each time you reach out to connect with a company – to order more supplies, bitch about a painfully inadequate product release, or simply to get help using what you bought – that company has already made up its mind, based on how cool you are, how much "Klout" you have, if they'll allow you to speak with one of their coveted agents by phone in real-time, or if you'll be relegated to their online "knowledgebase", or worse, "voicemail-jail"! 

Well, the fact is that companies are already beginning to roll out the red carpet for the digital in-crowd, but those with crusty haggard "friend" profiles, or who've let their once robust level of social interaction shrivel to the occasional "Happy Birthday", will soon find themselves charged full-fare, but seated in the back of the plane, nibbling stale nuts between helping bathroom-goers open and close the door!

No Refunds for Nerds!

Sound like alarmist social-science-fiction?  If so, well, ehem, I'd like to introduce you to Klout.com:  This San Francisco based still-under-the-radar upstart recently had $10mm in funding stuffed into its corporate pockets by the Midas of all Sand Hill VC's: Kleiner Perkins.  Klout may be the new kid, but they're already running with coolest crowd in The Valley. 

The Klout.com web-service sports a spartan yet compelling UI that is quick to impress, and it appears this uber-social-monitor watches not only the number of relationships you have, but measures how "cool" and influential your relationships are, and also how often you interact with each!  They don't stop there (cue eerie organ music), they also eavesdrop on the relative "quality" of the communication you have with your network of relationships, then track whether your communications actually spur some sort of action...and the list of creepy-but-cool capabilities goes on.  

Impressive?  Very. 

Disturbing?  Very...if you're a nerd. 

You see, if Klout has its way, the socio-sphere will soon be so well mapped that, love it or hate it, your popularity and influence will act much like your credit score in determining whether you'll live your virtual life in the lap of luxury, or wander aimlessly in online squalor, dejected, with access to the internet limited to .biz and .us domain extensions only….eheh, okay, that last part might have been an exaggeration, but in case you're thinking you'll have plenty of time to stop being such an asshole to everyone, or aren't concerned because you plan to join "the twitter" next year; well a visit to the company's "Klout for Developers" webpage might just do the trick in sobering you up quick: It appears that Klout can already cite examples of its clients actively "sorting" (read: "discriminating") incoming support requests based on the Klout "score" of their clients customer base (read: Klout helps you spend money on those that might spread the word to their network...the nerds can wait).

So in the not too distant future, if you have a less than pain-free experience testing some new home solar-nasal-hair-removing-laser, and you desire to take the manufacturer up on their money back guarantee; well, here's to hoping you have a lot of friends, because it appears this popularity contest has already begun!

Christian Hunter

Austin, Texas

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