Not long ago, when I was covering the Humana Festival for Stage Directions magazine, I happened to spot actor Noah Wyle in the crowd. He was there to celebrate his late uncle Sandy Speer, the former executive director of the Actors Theatre of Louisville. I promptly tweeted a few times about how excited I was to see him. (I like his work as an actor, and I happen to think he’s really handsome, and I ended up getting to sit near him.) I felt like a silly fan boy, but you know what? Whatever. I did it, and that was that.
Or so I thought. Fast forward to a few months ago, when I get a tweet from Klout telling me I’d been awarded a Klout perk inspired by the dashing Mr. Wyle’s new show, Falling Skies. I was heading out the door to vacation, so I clicked whatever I needed to click to accept the perk — without, I should add, looking too closely at it — and left. My reward almost HAD to be because of my tweets, and perhaps because I’m influential about theater on Klout. That’s the only explanation that makes sense to me. But it will still a little bewildering.
When I got back from vacation, there was a package waiting for me. Inside it were my, um, perks — a map, a bizarre drawing, and four pieces of what can only be described as merch: a hat, a canvas bag, a canteen, and a compass, all branded with logos and symbols from the show. My wife wore the hat for five minutes, then tossed it who-knows-where; she also absconded with the bag, which she loves, though she’s hidden the logo. The canteen and compass I stowed in a box in the basement: future toys, I thought, for my son. The map and the drawing went straight into the recycling bin; I’m sure they made sense in the context of the show, but — wait for it — I don’t watch. Never seen a single episode. And as much as I appreciate Mr. Wyle (have I made that clear?), it’s probably not going to happen.
Is Klout really working for people? I feel as if they’ve given me a prize that might have appealed to an 11 year-old, but not to an adult. Something just seems off. A few weeks later, another package ended up at my doorstep, also to promote the show. The large and unexpected FedEx envelope contained only a bizarre necklace made of what look like green dinosaur teeth. Not long after that, a third package arrived: an iron-on patch with what I can only assume is the show’s logo on it. An iron-on patch? Is this *really* the way to market a new story? I don’t know: maybe it is. But we’re probably going to need a lot more practice before we get it right.
Several other packages later, I got an email from Klout telling me the perk for Falling Skies was done. Honestly, I was relieved. I’d started to feel as if I were abusing the system in some way, and my guilt about the fact that I wasn’t watching the show was getting to me. At the same time, I was also starting to feel as if Klout simply didn’t GET me… or, really, any of us. My Twitter friend Howard Sherman had received a Klout perk — season one of the show Men of a Certain Age on DVD — and he just didn’t care for it; he kindly sent it to me, and as it happens, I did enjoy the show, and I’ve told several other people about it, and I intend to keep up with it, and I now have more positive associations with the TNT network (on which the show airs) as a result.
If Klout was smart, in other words, it would have sent me the DVDs. (I wouldn’t wish the bizarre Falling Skies package on Howard in return.) But Klout doesn’t quite seem smart yet. It seems… feckless. Like a robot delivering random presents from the sky, some of which you wish you’d never gotten and certainly never asked for. When it starts getting closer to passing the Turing Test — when it starts making me feel like it knows who I am and I ought to pay attention — then, maybe, we’ll be getting somewhere.