Estaban Kolsky

  • February 18, 2011
  • Have you heard about Klout.com?  I bet you have because the Twittersphere did what it does best when friend Esteban Kolsky brought our attention to an article in the Boston Globe about social scoring upstarts Klout.com and PeerIndex.net in Friday morning’s edition (“Ascent of the social-media climbers”).

    Kudos to Kolsky who lives in the Rockies and was up early and reading the feeds from eastern papers, I guess.

    According to the article these and other social scoring sites do for your personality what Faire-Isaac did for your mortgage.  The secret sauce is a set of algorithms that develop a score based on a 100 scale to determine what a big swinging er, twitterer, you are.  Number of followers, people you follow, your networks, lists re-tweets etc. go into a grinder an out pops your score.

    The upshot?  Hard to say, Kolsky calls it a caste system, I say it’s anti-democratic.  It has to be a cast system because it imposes a hierarchy on a random population.  Any population will provide you with a Bell Curve of any attribute.

    People will try to game a system when they don’t like being in the fat middle of the curve.  Everyone would rather be out on the long tail but that is, by definition, not possible.  Some people will be out there but most will still be in the middle because the harder we all try the more the curve simply shifts to the right.  The only significant casualty might be the left long tail, which we will see to scrunch up like it is being pushed into an imaginary wall.

    The article suggests that vendors might offer preferential services or promotions to people with, and I hate writing this, Klout as in high Klout scores, almost as a defensive measure.  You might be happy to risk upsetting someone with a Klout score of, say 45, but you would go way out of your way to avoid ruffling the feathers of a person who scores an 80 or 90.  I can see a discussion between a boss and an employee: “I know he has a 90 but the 45 was here first!”  L – O – L!  Sheesh!

    Imagine providing your Twitter handle as a regular part of filling out an online form or registering at a hotel and you have all the makings of a caste system.  A whole industry may be dawning or perhaps publicists will need to develop one more skill — finding ways to up a client’s Klout score.  Heck, I bet they already do it.  Reminds me of high school.

    In business, much the same would hold.  A company’s Klout score could be a powerful marketing edge but this isn’t new.  If you’re a regular reader of this space you know that on a “busman’s holiday” I once tried to gauge the negative rankings of a variety of companies and non-profits.  The idea was to perform a Google search on “company name-sucks”.  The simple searches turned up a lot of interesting data and while not really scientific enough to rely on, let me just say I wouldn’t ever want to be an oil company or even be compared to one.  But at least that methodology gets some data into play — people have to provide reasons for their negative analysis which they do through blogs or other postings that are usually specific.  And, no surprise, every company has its detractors.  What to do?

    At the end of the day, a Klout score measures a certain kind of behavior.  Like a credit score, which measures promptness at bill paying and personal debt — valuable things to know in evaluating credit worthiness — a Klout score measures a very different kind of behavior and it might not be relevant.

    To me, a Klout score simply measurs a person’s extrovertedness.  About a quarter of the population can be classified as introverts.  Introverts are not necessarily shy, they simply keep their own counsel and need camaraderie less.  I bet they rely on social networking less, too.  That’s about the same portion of the population that is left-handed.  But we don’t score left-handedness unless we have a radar gun and go to spring training, but I digress.

    This reminds me of an excellent article by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, “What the Dog Saw”.  The article, “Late Bloomers”, compares the careers of Picasso, a boy genius, and Cezanne, an artist who didn’t hit his stride until much later in life.  Each produced great art.  The subtitle tells the whole story — “Why do we equate genius with precocity?”

    Why indeed?

    Published: 7 years ago


    This is an interesting week with three shows on my docket — SAS Users Group in Seattle, SugarCon and NetSuite in San Francisco.  Much flying, too many hotels and lots of blog posts.

    I like this part of the job, it’s where I get out to see many people of diverse backgrounds and I always come home with new and improved perspectives on our industry.  Of course, there are company representatives who hope to impress with announcements of new and improved products and services.  But, for my money, the real interesting part is speaking with end users, the people who can answer the difficult and simple question, how does this work for you?  Customers are uniformly nice and happy to answer any question I can think up.

    There’s another group that’s just as interesting, the independent analysts.  Watching them you get a distinct impression that our industry is changing rapidly.  Increasingly, I am finding that the established major firms don’t travel in the same circuit with us.  Many of them have their own shows and stick to them.  Nothing wrong with that but it leaves open the question of how they rub elbows with customers, especially small customers who might not have five or six figures to invest in an analyst relationship.

    I’m an independent.  I left Aberdeen Group more than six years ago to do what I want and I have never been disappointed and other independents have taken similar paths.  There are many others like me too and while the recession has swelled the ranks of the independents, with ex-analysts and out of work marketing people, it’s pretty easy to spot the quality.  I’ve been happy to get to know people like Estaban Kolsky, Marshall Larger, Brent Leary, and others by just traveling the circuit.  They are uniformly smart and incisive but each brings something different to the party.  We’re all disciples, in a way, of the man himself, Paul Greenberg, who seems to have a sixth sense for picking out the analyst gems.

    How do you become an independent analyst?  Well, a prior career in CRM, technology or business research and journalism or previous work for one of the big firms is the usual route.  It takes a long time though.  This is one of the most relationship intensive businesses I know and the relationships we have go back many years on the corporate and PR sides.  If you were lucky enough to grow up in CRM you’ve got a big following on Twitter or Facebook and an even larger database.  People tell us things because they trust us and building that trust takes time.

    The analysts I know have solid grounding in business, technology and front office business processes and they’ve been at it a long time.  Longevity and experience are tremendously valuable when you need to advise a client on what will likely work and what won’t.

    The guys I’m hanging with have all of this and more.  We read each other’s work and rarely compete for business, instead we support each other, trading ideas and even when we’re kidding around there’s an element of analysis at work.  We were having lunch the other day in Seattle where the city requires restaurants to provide calorie counts for every item on the menu.  We were at a Cheesecake Factory, which has a voluminous menu and a separate booklet with all the calorie estimates each of us took turns analyzing what we would have and joking about it.  Ultimately we all changed our orders too.  You had to be there.

    Long story short, if you are into social ideas, and you need to be these days, there’s diversity and decentralization in this crowd of independents and it imparts a certain wisdom to what they do.  It’s a pleasure to be part of the group.

    Published: 8 years ago