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Reputation management

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Thursday, Apr 6, 2006

Social networks and the Orwellian surveillance they enable over our every move generates not only an attention economy, via which we could conceivably market our attention to the highest bidder, or use our attention as a kind of currency in the overarching game of accruing public recognition and social capital, but also it generates a reputation economy as well, which puts a value on that attention of yours, as well as whatever else you have on offer online, depending on how trustworthy you’ve proven yourself to be in your Internet behavior. Systems of reputation management are most evidently in place on eBay and similiar shopping sites, where a retailer’s credibility becomes a factor in what one is willing to pay for something (and how much they will have to pray that it will actually arrive). But they are also in play with user reviews on Amazon and Slashdot and on blog comments and will likely be significant anywhere user-generated critique is intended to surface. This paper has a pretty good rundown of the issues involved. Reputation management schemes look to give your reputation a measurable numeric value (how many stars you rate, how useful your comments are found to be), giving a new tangible meaning to social capital. The credibility of your references and your experience can all be factored in and filtered down to a number. With everything one does online now traceable and recordable, one’s reputation is likely to require careful management, and it’s likely we’ll need people to scrub our pasts clean are repair our reputations, just as one must carefully cultivate a credit rating. Companies like href=“http://www.opinity.com/”>Opinity hope to aggregate the reputation you build on various sites and create a master Internet wide measure: A reputation score, a global one that aggregates your reputation from everyplace, will be like a credit rating, but one that transcends financial matters to embrace your fundamental ethics, ideally your entire way of life and how it relates to prevailing values. (If you are some countercultural enemy of free markets you could perhpas be hurting your score.) Of course nothing would stop anyone at this point from maintaining multiple online personalities, though linking IP addresses to reputation scores can’t be too far off. One can imagine workers establishing identities with quality reputations and then selling them, the way MMORPG characters are manufactured in sweatshops in Asia. Come to think of it, there are probably whole identites for sale right now—the papers, the life history, the passport, the social security number, etc. Creepy thought.

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