Klout released a new app entitled, “Cinch” – which in theory sounds like a good idea, but makes a crucial misstep. Cinch aims to be an app where Klout invites people they have determined are, “experts” in something to enter into this microcosm and answer other people’s questions. Cinch is, above all else, a question-and-answer app. It is LITERALLY that – as in, you’ll never get an answer if you don’t ask a question. You can’t see other people’s questions, and you can’t see answers someone gave another person. And there’s no reward of community for bothering to give an answer because your answer only really helps one person: the asker.
The concept of Klout trying to connect its super-flawed database of who they think are experts to people who need answers isn’t an inherently bad idea. The problem lies with their approach: it’s the approach of a developer, not a user. The most widespread and studied behavior we observe here at Feedback is how communities handle inquiry out loud – and how influential an answered question – answered publicly or semi-publicly – assists others with the same question and can foster an online community culture. This app seems to assume everyone who needs an answer is willing to ask a question (something any classroom setting will show you is not the case); and worse, that everyone who answers a question will do so willingly, over and over again, for no interpersonal reward. You have to have already received your accolades as an expert before coming, because you won’t be identified publicly as an influencer here by your kind or thorough responses – just as a source of information. They’re trying to create demand (the questions) for the supply they perceive to have control of (the answers – or at least the answer-filled people).
Opening the app as someone who could help provide an answer means fitting into one of their buckets of desired expertise, from entrepreneurship to gardening (and while that may sound like a broad range, there are only 14 subjects that you can presumably be an expert on). I predict lots of would-be “experts” being invited in, wanting to be appreciated for being a self-proclaimed expert, and sitting around waiting for the app to send you someone’s question before you either delete the app or forget it was ever there.
Opening the app as someone who has a question is an instant, stark process wherein you realize you can’t just browse questions that have already been answered. You have to ask. Which means, you have to admit immediately and publicly you don’t know the answer. When you begin to attempt to ask a question, there is a button for, “See what others have asked” – it brings up nothing right now, no matter what kind of question you ask (possibly a critical mass issue) but every other part of Cinch plays up the “1-to-1″ angle so how other answers are displayed or validated (or how privacy is handled in that situation) is a big mystery. Otherwise you post your question, there’s a slot for additional details (no idea how that is categorized or if you’re supposed to use hashtags), and then you… sit tight as Klout tries to find someone they think is an expert. It’s like Siri mixed with Google’s “feeling lucky” button, with bonus waiting.
Yes, you can likely get an answer, but not a crowd-sourced answer, quickly. It may even be right. But what you’re really entering into is more of a conversation about an answer with only one person. And if the web is supposed to be about collective data and intelligence, this is a strangely walled way – both organizationally, intuitively, and psychologically – to go about it. But hey, it will be fueled by Klout’s perception of influence and expertise! (That was sarcasm.)
So this article (Become An Expert: Why Your B2B Company Should Be Excited About Cinch – Business 2 Community) belies the problem with Cinch – it says it’s for B2B. But if you look at Cinch’s own Twitter account (Cinch (thecinchapp) on Twitter), it will tell you it’s about Home Lifestyle. It’s actually trying to be both, with no need for that pesky “community” or “validated expertise” problem you find in real online niche cultures. Why take the advice of someone who everyone in a category publicly agrees is an expert, when you could be matched with someone who knows how to game a Klout score?
The best way to sum up what Cinch is and what it thinks it is can be found on Klout itself. Ironically if you go on Klout they mention Cinch in settings as a new “Network” type you can connect too. This is ironic because the one thing that Cinch is NOT is a network. It’s a 1-to-1 maybe-matchmaking service, not a network or community. And even at its strongest point, its value will be in a vacuum. It’s exactly what is wrong with not taking behaviors into account before leveraging a database.