Whether it’s the number of stars on your eBay profile, connections you have on LinkedIn, your Klout score, or your response rate on AirBnB: there are a number of different ways to quantify reputation value and create trust online.
Why is quantifying reputation important? It helps signal trust in reputation, and serves as data that can:
- Be compared against other users
- Provide peace of mind by establishing a user’s history of positive experiences / feedback
- Establish a new reputation by leveraging existing relationships and networks
- Prevent fraud and harm to other users through transparency, aids in identifying bad-reputation individuals
- Be easily interpreted
Here’s a quick look at some of the general ways that online marketplaces and social networks quantify reputation data:
- Social Network: # of friends / followers / connections
- Feedback: # of positive reviews
- Activity: # of contributions / participations / transactions
- Credentials: quality/skill, novice or expert
(badges representing learning modules completed in Codecademy)
Increasingly, networks are relying on multiple measures of trust:
(AirBnB profiles display information on number of places traveled, number of guests hosted, number of friends, a badge ‘credential’, and number of reviews)
Networks where trust is highly valued are also combining their platform-specific data with information on reputation from other networks as well:
(AirBnB prompts users to connect Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles for added trust verification)
A particularly exciting trend in online reputation, represented above, is the rise in importing information from outside networks to bolster reputation on another network (ex. attaching your Twitter account to your AirBnB profile). This adds new potential layers for trust, as the combination provides a more valuable authentification of identity and reputation. It also helps accelerate adoption of new marketplaces, where in the early days there are not enough users / transactions to provide a history, and thus the ability to important related social data brings in a level of trust.
There are caveats to quantifying online reputation, of course. Boiling an important and often complex and contextually-driven piece of information such as reputation into a single number has its drawbacks. The Klout Score, for example, has drawn criticism for creating a single score from 1-100 to represent ‘social clout’, what some consider a gross oversimplification of an individual’s social media influence.
Despite the challenges in how to best measure and present reputation data, simple numbers and icons such as badges will continue to play a necessary role in signaling trust online.
*Note: this post is published as part of a series, ‘Online Reputation’, inspired by Harvard’s CS105: Privacy & Technology & taught by Prof. Jim Waldo (you can find his writings here).