Klout And Microsoft’s Bing Team Up To Bring You Terrible Search Results

Klout letter showing off a Klout perk

It’s no secret that I hate Klout. So much so that I went and had whatever data they had on me deleted from their system. My hate for Klout is so well known that Klout’s founder, Joe Fernandez, once told me to kill myself. I guess that’s one way to get your score to plummet. Another is to visit this page and opt-out of Klout. This is something you should totally do. Seriously. Go and opt-out of Klout right now if you haven’t. The score is meaningless, and Klout is easily gamed, like, really easily gamed.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped Microsoft’s Bing search engine from teaming up with Klout. We’re not sure why. Especially because Microsoft Research employs one Dr. Duncan Watts. You might know Duncan from his numerous awesome books, including Everything Is Obvious: Once You Know The Answer. You might ALSO know Duncan from an awesome quote he gave me for Social Media Is Bullshit, where he said it’s very difficult for anyone to identify online influence because it changes based on domain and context. (This is something also mentioned by Dr. Jonah Berger in his book, Contagious, and mentioned also to be my another individual at Microsoft Research, Dr. Munmun De Choudhury.)

(P.S. This is why if you are ever approached by a social media marketer, or any other digital hack, who claims to be an expert on “Influencer Marketing”, you should have security escort them out of the office immediately.)

I’ve heard from former Microsoft employees that one part of the company doesn’t talk to the other (also, funny enough, true of Google), so I guess I can understand how the Bing team would do something so foolish. But at the same time, if you’ve got two employees who are EXPERTS on the subject, wouldn’t you want to go and consult with them before wasting your company’s time and resources on partnerships with companies who produce meaningless vanity metrics that most people aren’t familiar with?

Maybe this is why Microsoft is looking for a new CEO …

Klout and Bing have worked together previously, with Klout claiming to use search data to help determine an individual’s score (which is hilarious because so few people use Bing), but now on Bing, you’ll be able to see someone’s Klout score, and use Klout to personalize their People Snapshots feature. You would think there’s some good news here, but I’m having trouble seeing it.

The People Snapshots feature is well intended, I guess. Google offers you no control over how you appear in search results (which is why Digital Reputation Management is a multimillion dollar business). Google also doesn’t offer you any sort of control when they start to run other stuff involving you on their sidebar. For example, if you google “Brandon Mendelson”, you’ll see my Wikipedia page come up. Awesome, right? Well no. I have no control over how that’s displayed or have any ability to add photos or other relevant links to that box. I know. First World Problems. Poor me.

So the further customization of People Snapshots is well intended. It’s honestly something I wish Google would do beyond their forcing people to use Google+. However, it’s likely not many folks will see the People Snapshots given how few people actually use Bing. So you want to make that worse somehow? Now you’re going to expose people to this meaningless metric, one Microsoft’s own employees will tell you is crap, and that doesn’t improve search results for your customer. It makes them worse. I’d love to see Bing turn it around, but stuff like this isn’t going to make it happen.

 

(Photo Credit: Louie Baur on Flickr. P.S. The caption to this particular photo read: “This was the one and only email that I received from @klout back in November of last year. I have held a steady score of around 68 for the past few months. Based on my klout score I would think I would have received a few more emails from them.”)

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