Written by Guest Blogger, Marc Morel – Director of Product Management, buySAFE
Web 2.0 has been ruling our world for several years now. We have all been posting, rating, blogging, podcasting, and commenting on everything from politics to the latest ball game we went to watch. This is power to the masses. And the world got better. But, did it really? I am not so sure…
This is the issue: A huge discrepancy between the ability to express an opinion and the ability to trust the online identity of an individual. I can be a trusted, respected scholar or just pretending to be one, and my comments will have the same publicity, the same audience, and the same perceived trust factor if readers don’t conduct adequate research. This is how "bad people" get their way online: access to the same tools and the same audience as reputable and trusted individuals.
This also goes the other way– when Internet users cannot refrain from being too honest about themselves. We have all read the personal accounts of individuals who share everything about themselves naively expecting those private posts to be beyond the reach of wandering readers. An intimate world of personal facts, true or not, hidden behind usernames. A private space in a world accessible by everybody.
In the virtual world, nothing is as private as it seems. Every post, every email address, every username leaves a fine track, tied to other usernames, etc… You get the idea: We all slowly create our own personal web. What I am writing right now will forever be tied to this username, and Steve’s blog will from now on include a relationship to me, Marc Morel. This is a great way to build up a reputation if what I am doing is good; on the other hand, this can also come back to haunt me five years from now during a job interview if what I am doing isn’t so smart.
I believe that it is interesting to look at how lawyers look at managing their legal challenges because I believe it can provide insights into how we might need to address business issues in the future. More often than you might imagine, the lawyers are right. They are a solid bellwether for the rest of us.
In the January 2007 ABA journal edition (American Bar Association – http://www.abanet.org/), "online discovery" was identified as one of the hot topics for lawyers in 2007. You may or may not be familiar with the discovery process every legal case includes. In addition to traditional discovery tactics, lawyers are increasingly checking online social networks for information on the individuals involved in their cases. From there, the lawyers can make efforts to assess the trust factor of the person(s) in question, and they can try to make appropriate decisions about the character of witnesses.
Although it is difficult to get an online post admitted in court as legal proof, you can easily imagine how a "private" post on MySpace regarding somebody’s competitive drinking accomplishments, or worse, could tell a lawyer who this person really is. Well, this is how some lawyers are increasingly using online social networks to assess the character of witnesses, for instance.
With most of the current systems that attempt to establish reputation scores, almost anybody can cheat by artificially praising a friend or partner. In addition, it is easy to undermine a competitor by making up a fake negative review to divert potential customers.
I am glad to see that several companies are taking on this challenge for personal reputation. From an e-commerce standpoint, I happen to think that buySAFE has the most appealing and interesting approach to solving this e-commerce challenge, and not only because I work for buySAFE.
As one of the lawyers in the ABA review article said: "I’d rather know where the land mines are so that I don’t walk into one". This is how most online shoppers feel these days, and this is why buySAFE is such a great solution for online e-commerce trust: A robust qualification criteria and a thorough monitoring and quality process to identify the good guys from the bad guys. Then, buySAFE puts its money where its mouth by guaranteeing the transactions up to $25,000.
Beyond e-commerce, several online activities need robust personal reputation systems, and hopefully, these will develop soon. It is a necessity if those activities want to provide a safe and trustworthy environment for their users.
In the meantime, you need to understand that MySpace isn’t really your space. It is everybody’s space… EverybodySpace.com!
Written by Guest Blogger, Marc Morel