Disruptive New Ideas and the Anatomy of Google Algorithmon Dec 22 in Uncategorized by Ivan Stamatovski
I was tuning in to my email and twitter for the latest news the other morning when all of a sudden all hell broke lose. Everyone seemed to be talking about this Internet startup that claims to measure ones influence in social media. You would plug in your social networks and it would calculate your score between 1 and 100 based on your activity and reach. Only Klout users weren’t happy that morning: How dare they mess with people’s rankings and how is the scoring system working anyways? No one seemed to care much before, but now everyone was up in arms. What happened?
Well, it looks like Klout changed it’s algorithm and many of it’s active users saw a drop in their score (more than 100 Million people have Klout score). Not like Klout score had much value at the time other than for bragging rights and an occasional promotion from a sponsor, so this made me think.
You kind of get into that state of mind and get comfortable thinking of yourself as an “influencer” and it hurts a little when you are demoted to “explorer”, but is a universe wide ripple of outrage that ensued called for? Obviously they have struck a cord.
It has happened before
What this reminded me of is a similar incident that occurred in the ancient history by Internet terms, circa 1998. That year two young researchers from Stamford started fielding a flurry of angry complaints from webmasters and site owners that weren’t happy with how their websites were indexed and ranked by an early crawler called BackRub and ranking service called PageRank in what was the very infancy of today’s most popular search engine. How dare they unleash this bloodless algorithm onto the unassuming websites that were worth much more in their owner’s opinions! Not only did they not rank as high, but also some seemingly inferior websites ranked much higher. Many were outraged.
Now, I am not trying to compare Klout to Google in any way, but there is a similar underlying theme here and people took notice in both cases.
As we know today this early ranking system based on academic publishing principle of bibliometrics created a whole new ecosystem where everyone had to adhere to it if they wanted to have their website rank better. “…The process of citing others confers their rank and authority upon you – the key concept that informs the way Google works… (Academic) Papers are judged not only on their original thinking and the rigor of their citations, but also by the number of papers they cite, the number of papers that subsequently cite them back and the perceived importance of each citation.” (John Battelle, The Search, Penguin Books Ltd. 2005). In other words, articles are ranked based on inbound and outbound links and their quality.
This basic principle used to determine ranking in academic publishing is at the core of today’s search. There is much more to it of course, but the point is that this was the idea that was novel, disruptive and angered a few, however it brought order and a common formula to website ranking on the Internet.
Why is this important?
So in my humble opinion Klouts of today (Peer Rank, Kred, etc.) are on to something. As we approach a point when marketing becomes tailor made for each individual and social media becomes omnipresent in our lives there is an unmet need to have a service in place that will identify individual interests and influences across networks and platforms. Today in it’s very infancy this service is limited to finding the “hand raisers”, but the future that I foresee for it is to be an aggregator of ones interests, wishes, hopes and fears accumulated by sifting through all online conversations.
Because accurate targeting is the key in marketing your profile created this way is every marketers dream. Is it a little scary? Maybe, but boring, interruptive marketing is not going away soon and I would personally rather have relevant, timely advertising that I am in control of than disruptive Sham-wow style commercials on my Internet or television.