2011.06.21

Contemplating the Vortex

I keep hearing about how Facebook and Twitter are changing the way things are done. From drafting a constitution to fixing Summerfest, these “new” sites are making new things possible… sort of.

But really, this is nothing new as far as the web is concerned. A typical web site from 2002 could easily have solicited feedback on how to improve things within a country, or a festival, or your own home town. In fact, some did, but there were some crucial elements missing, including critical mass, and reputation.

Critical mass in that there’s more people online now, being more engaged, thanks to sites like Twitter and Facebook. For the typical non-nerdy type, Facebook is the simple way to be online and connect with friends, and family, and brands. Twitter is pretty similar nowadays, though maybe slight nerdier, and even that is debatable now.

When I talk about reputation, I’m talking about the fact that with Twitter, and Facebook, you very often have a well formulated idea of who someone is. It’s typically built by looking at what the person has to say, and to who, and who has things to say to them. Their reputation. Their identity.

In the olden days (1997-200?) reputation was often tied to your blog, where you did your talking and where people talked back to you. (I’m sure similar things could be said of forums, etc. but I’m not convinced it’s the same thing.) I know there have been anonymous bloggers, but if I look back at the people who were blogging at the same time I started, I knew those people, and I trusted those people. I read their blogs daily, and they read mine, and we commented on each others posts, and we had conversations. It may have been a fixed point in time which created this situation, and perhaps it is an illusion… I don’t know for sure.

But the point is, I think what Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora, and other sites have going for them nowadays is this element of trust and reputation they give to the users. These elements (should) allow a conversation to happen without the doubt that can often exist online, where you don’t know if a dog is a dog or a guy pretending to be a dog.

I’m still thinking through this whole idea… but would love some feedback on it.

4 Responses to “Change and Reputation”

  1. Rich, LeedsNo Gravatar says:

    I think that trust is increased nowadays mostly due to the fact that people can share their profile from one site to another, ie post on a blog from their facebook account.

    When posts can be traced back to a single source, it makes it a lot more work for someone to create a fake profile since they would also need to create a posting history and fake ‘friends’ for that account in order to gain trust.

  2. Phil WilsonNo Gravatar says:

    I disagree. The fact that someone could be a dog meant that their reputation lay entirely on what they were putting online, and how they engaged in conversation. This is also mostly true on Quora, but the others you mention? Not so much.

    I think there is a separation between reputation and authenticity. I think you can have one without the other, I think you imply the opposite, or at least that the latter can help the former. I’m not sure I care about the authenticity. I care about your words.

  3. Hmm, I’ll need to think more about reputation and authenticity, and how they differ.

    Phil, are you saying you don’t care who someone is, but only care what they are saying?

  4. Phil WilsonNo Gravatar says:

    Well, bear in mind I haven’t thought about the topic above and beyond commenting here, but:

    yes. for the vast, vast majority of people, I don’t care. Worrying about authenticity tends to lead to logical fallacies like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority

    I suppose I consider authenticity to matter in a few cases:

    * I care if the person claims to have authority on a topic or to be a specified individual who is known to have authority on a topic. This is where reputation and authenticity are linked, but I suggest it’s likely an edge case compared to “my mate Bob thinks The Hangover is a great film”

    * If the person has perpetrated some heinous crime like genocide. I’d want to filter out the people who I would never want to interact with

    Er, I can’t actually think of any others.

    Once you’ve built a reputation on, say, a blog, what does knowing how authentic the author is really mean?

    I know there have been some big stories lately such as http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13760208 and I don’t know what I really think about them, but I’m certainly not outraged (other than the petition stuff).

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