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The Internet

Online Reputation Is Hard To Do 224

Symblized writes "A new article from InformationWeek argues that not only does the Web need ways to verify identity, it also needs better ways to measure reputation . The article uses Digg, Wikipedia, and eBay as examples and muses whether their models could be applied more widely. There's also a profile of Opinity, a company that tried to introduce a reputation system and didn't make it. Choice quote from a source in the article: 'The idea of a transferable, semantic reputation is identity nirvana.'"
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Online Reputation Is Hard To Do

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  • Hmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Seiruu ( 808321 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @05:32PM (#19374477)
    The only reason online reputation is hard is because online identification is hard. Once you're past the identification and privacy issues you could go Google: your single/central/one point rated identity, linked with all your accounts from all over the place which should give you some sort of a global and more specified ranking (karma on ./, trustworthiness on ebay, whatever rating/googlerank on google/amazon) for people to search for.
  • by crAckZ ( 1098479 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @05:42PM (#19374555)
    that is a good idea. but one weak link will destroy the chain. what if one of those people gets hacked? malicous software is placed and then the whole chain gets it and it spreads. as of right now i see no viable way of doing this. there are to many factors and was to hide any identity or truth. if it was accomplished what if your information leaked? soemone signed you up for alot of questionable sites and your ID was trashed. then you have to take the time to rebuild and correct all that information.
  • by rueger ( 210566 ) * on Sunday June 03, 2007 @05:49PM (#19374615) Homepage
    The problem is that everyone wants to know right now who is trustworthy and who is not.

    Building a reputation takes time, often a lot of time. Amazon's reputation is built on several years of good service, good web design, and overwhelmingly positive customer experiences.

    Facebook and Digg don't have that track record, and until they do will not enjoy the same level of trust.

    Any system designed to give a stamp of approval needs only one mistake to become untrustworthy. Unless it can be nearly 100% foolproof it won't be effective. And given the number of supposedly trustworthy businesses who are anything but, I'd say that rating reputation is not likely to happen soon.
  • by CPE1704TKS ( 995414 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @06:09PM (#19374759)
    I haven't used my name for posting on the Internet since 1997 when I realized that would keep my newsgroup postings forever (even that was with a somewhat random e-mail address). I literally don't have any internet presence with my real name unless it's inadvertent (ie. a news release from my employer) but the good thing is that my name is so common I would be hard to find anyway.

    So in it's place, I created a whole shitload of false identities that I post under, one of them about 10 years old now. Mainly on forums and newsgroups for work purposes, etc. If you searched for this particular identity, you would probably fine hundreds of posts (including many on slashdot) some of them truthful, some of them fake, with various opinions of topics.

    Every few years I will discard an identity or create a new one, for various reasons. I even have a fake lj blog that I've created just for the purpose of having that sense of "credibility", just in case I need it. I usually update that every few weeks, with something that I read on someone else's blog, but changing the words around just enough so that I can't be googled and exposed as a fake. I make sure each identity has a different way of typing, different levels of typos or capitalization, etc. I don't think you would be able to properly gauge the "credibility" of this person at all.

    I doubt I'm unique and there are probably scores of people doing the same thing. As internet users get more and more sophisticated, how will internet credibility really be gauged unless you actually meet someone face-to-face? I was even contemplating getting a pay-as-you-go cellphone with no traceability (paid with cash at a store in a different city than where I live) just in case I needed to talk with someone offline. I'm doubtful you can really establish credibility to the point where it's better to just assume that everyone is lying and be on the guard all the time.
  • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @06:17PM (#19374821)
    it matters because if you have good rep on slashdot, chances are you're not a complete mumpty. On the other hand, if you have a dreadful karma on slashdot, you'll be saying the same old pants on other sites too.

    It really ensures that if you post good stuff somewhere you can be trusted to post good stuff on other sites too. What that means to a particular site depends on that site, for something like ebay that can matter quite a lot, at least it would allow good posters to be recognised as such, and then I think sites would start to implement policies on posting that restrict non-recognised 'nyms until they gain a good reputation.
  • by Tatisimo ( 1061320 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @06:31PM (#19374923)
    Same here. I keep quite a few different characters, and shed the old ones in order to keep my privacy. Everybody I know does it to keep their past from haunting them. Funny how I look back on my old personalities and realize what a moron I was. It'd be horrible if people took the posts I made when I was 14 and use them as evidence against my character. People change in the real world, and the past is normally forgotten, but on teh interwebs, they stay the same, unless WE can help it. Also, it's great to see a new email account that spammers haven't gotten a hold of yet.
  • Hear, hear! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mangu ( 126918 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @06:36PM (#19374969)
    I think Wikipedia is a site that really needs to somehow integrate the reputation of it's contributors into the articles.

    Indeed! Here's my own anecdote on that: I recently tried editing an article on a certain Posada Carriles, a man whom the Cuban government and Wikipedia call a "terrorist".

    I was browsing the Cuban government site Granma [] where they had a list of what they called evidence against Posada. One item was an AK-47 rifle, another item was a box of 5.56mm ammo for that rifle. It doesn't take much of gun expertise to know that NATO ammo doesn't go into an AK-47, and I tried to put that in a paragraph criticizing the accusations against Posada. I don't know the guy, for all I know he could really be a terrorist, but you aren't going to convict anyone in a civilized court of law with that kind of "evidence".

    I was thoroughly flamed by someone about that. It seems that Cuban government sympathizers are carefully patrolling any critical statements about the dictatorship. If Wikipedia had a reputation system, the commies would mod me down for presenting a balanced view in their rant against Posada, but I would recover my karma through my other contributions. OTOH, fanatics would find it too troublesome to fake an interest in subjects other than their favorite and their karma would suffer from that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2007 @06:47PM (#19375047)
    Huh? What does that have to do with anything? I thought we were talking about reputations. I'll get the ball rolling. For example, Tampax is a brand of tampon from Procter & Gamble. It was originally both the name of an independent company for over 50 years, based in Palmer, Massachusetts (with headquarters in New York) and the product itself. Renamed Tambrands, Inc. during the 1980s, P&G purchased it in the late 1990s. It was noted for decades as having the dominate share of the tampon market, challenged mostly by Playtex, J&J, Kimberly-Clark and briefly by P&G's failed product from the 1970s called "Rely". The "Rely" tampon was pulled from the market after being associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). During WWII Tampax produced large quantities of wound dressings for the military. It was noted for having a mostly, almost exclusively, female workforce for much of its history. Financially, while still independent, it was also noted for carrying no debt for most of its corporate lifetime and ranked ~#4 on the Fortune 500 list for return on equity. The original product was designed from the start as flushable and biodegradeable.
  • Re:eh? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GuldKalle ( 1065310 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @06:50PM (#19375065)
    Hehe, I just thought my eyes were the problem. It's pretty late here, so it wouldn't surprise me.
  • by Simon80 ( 874052 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @07:43PM (#19375433)
    Regardless of what kind of eBay seller you'd be, this system would let people shun you for being an asshat somewhere if you used an important identity to be an asshat with. This would relegate most asshattery to anonymous identities, which would mean that sites that want to eliminate asshattery would simply require that all participation come from an identity with a decent reputation. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not.
  • what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wabbit Wabbit ( 828630 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @08:14PM (#19375673)
    I've got mod points, but I think I'd rather participate.

    it matters because if you have good rep on slashdot, chances are you're not a complete mumpty. On the other hand, if you have a dreadful karma on slashdot, you'll be saying the same old pants on other sites too.

    And so what? Is all of this really so important? I find it fascinating that so many people on so many sites care more about their "reputations" than what they post.

    It really ensures that if you post good stuff somewhere you can be trusted to post good stuff on other sites too.

    Does it? Sometimes I don't WANT my "good" reputation to follow me. I like acting like a goon on something awful and like a lolcat-loving ding-dong on fark and like a...well...never-you-mind-like-what on consumptionjunction and 4chan.

    When (and where) I want to be serious, I am. Others see it quickly enough too. It doesn't take long at each site I join for people to realize that I'm a "good poster". Honestly, it isn't complicated. Stay on topic, write well, be helpful, and the rest follows. Such has been my pattern over the years at sitepoint, namepros, webhostingtalk, and even here.

    \Perhaps it's because I'm old
    \\And still use slashies
    \\\(reversed because slashdot doesn't like 'em forward for some reason)
  • They're just blogs. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @08:29PM (#19375789) Homepage

    When I first saw the title, I thought this was about reputations for web sites or online businesses, but no, it's about reputations for, well, bloggers. Where it doesn't really matter all that much. It matters for eBay, but most of the sellers on eBay are businesses. It's been a long time since eBay was individual to individual.

    Dating sites have struggled with this. True [] wants to see an image of your driver's license. With the controversy over Myspace, we may see them going that way, at least for parents.

    Wikipedia doesn't care much about identity, except as regards vandal blocking. Even admins and ArbComm members are anonymous. All Wikipedia needs is some way to slow down unlimited generation of new identities. I once suggested that one way to do that would be to require some easily available, no-cost, unique, verifiable physical token to register. Like an AOL disk.

    One approach to identity verification, which I'd like to see used for domain registration, is simply mailing out a card by postal mail. When you register a domain, a letter should be sent to the address listed for the domain. When you get the letter, you type in the password printed in the letter postcard, and the domain registration completes. That would really improve WHOIS data quality and cut down on scams. The cost of sending out customized mailing pieces is under about US$0.50 each when you have a bulk mailing house do it, so it's quite feasible at current domain prices.

  • by Ghworg ( 177484 ) on Sunday June 03, 2007 @09:39PM (#19376253)
    The advantage of OpenID is not replacing typing in a username and password with a URL. It is not having to sign up with Joe Random's blog site in order to post a one line comment. I don't want to give out my email address to every site I want to contribute to. Sure I could make up fake info for the site, but most of the time even that's too much work to bother with.

    OpenID has problems yes, but there are technical solutions for all the ones I know of, including the redirect/proxy one you highlight. I've yet to see another solution to the identity problem that doesn't involve a centralised trust authority.
  • You'll buy one. No, seriously. You'll see a whole host of forums, sites, etc, spring up where you either "have a good reputation with iDentify", or "Paypal/MC/Visa $15" for membership.

    The merit of such a system is not particularly high. Neither is the probability of those sites making a profit.

    And then you'll have reputation farms, like we now have link farms, that spammers will use to build reputation.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2007 @10:12PM (#19376503)
    "And yes, I think if someone is a carebear in WoW then they are a more trustworthy eBay seller, and someone with intelligent /. posts is more likely to contribute intelligently to Wikipedia."

    That's like saying someone who likes RPGs is more trustworthy than someone who likes FPS's. 'Carebears' in WoW choose to play that way, just like PVPers play their way. I don't think that affects their eBay persona much at all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2007 @11:08PM (#19376917)
    It's pretty funny how naive people are when it comes to anonymity online. What makes you think someone's behavior in an online video game would in any way reflect how that person might conduct business at an auction site? That's a dangerous and susceptible way of thinking, and I can think of more than a few scammers who banked on exactly the kind of presumptions you are unfortunately making.

    Hell, anonymity is what leads to mixed behavior from the same person in the first place. It all depends on context. On some sites, I post intelligently, and others I flame and act silly. On two different characters in the same online game, I act and do things completely differently -- playing the triumphant hero with one, and an annoying lowbie ganker on the other. All under the banner of anonymity, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

    Don't be so gullible as to think someone's behavior is necessarily consistent no matter where they go on the internet. I'm sure the vast majority of people who chat with webcam porn stars wouldn't like it if their identity was somehow linked to their corporate message board. Like I said, how someone acts depends almost entirely on the context within which their anonymity lies.
  • by siriuskase ( 679431 ) on Monday June 04, 2007 @12:31AM (#19377415) Homepage Journal
    A lot of the weightings would be personal, my favorite rating services would get higher ratings from me. My weighting may not even affect anyone else, or there might be a system where all who use a particular service have their scores aggregated somehow. Seems a lot like social networking to me, friends and friends of friends, netflix friends, myspace friends, etc.
  • Exactly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday June 04, 2007 @03:17AM (#19378431) Journal
    I was going to post much the same thing, so it's refreshing to see someone else thinking that way.

    The thing about Slashdot's karma is that it creates groupthink. As you've said, too many people care about it instead of just posting what they think. So they post what they perceive to be the popular opinion, even if that's not what they really think, or even if it's contrary to what they really think.

    Frankly, I think groupthink is a bigger problem than even the goatse links. Groupthink is where rational information exchange dies. If you look at the worst bible-thumping communities, or at rabid theocracies, or at the worst excesses of history, and some of its biggest mistakes too, almost all were based on groupthink. Take a million people who individually think "jeez, X is stupid and evil" and put them in a big group where they think that everyone else is fundamentally and rabidly pro-X... and watch them all start chest-thumping for the very thing they secretly despise. Just to get brownie points with the rest of the gang.

    When a whole village went and cheered about one of them being burned at the stake as a witch (for bonus points when everyone knew it's a bogus charge and the real reason is something like: widow without sons inherits some land, some rich guy wants her land), that was groupthink. "OMG, I can't let the other ones even think I'm not a rabid fundie. Why, my popularity would go down."

    At the risk of tempting Goodwin's law (although it's not a comparison): when a few million Germans cheered about invading the USSR, that was groupthink too. "OMG, I can't let the others think I'm not patriotic."

    And in our own times, when you look at such things as bible-thumping communities, or at the broken high-school culture where being smart is uncool and being an airhead is the apex of fashion... guess what? That's groupthink too. Once the ball got rolling, even kids who do understand that their future job does depend on it... still go and insult the nerd, because that's what brings them karma points with the rest of the group.

    So, to cut a long story short, I actually _don't_ want that kind of global karma. I actually _want_ people to come forth and say what they think, and not what they think would be popular in that community. I want people to actually come forth and say stuff like "this war is bogus" or "the PATRIOT act is unconstitutional" and not devolve into sheep thinking "OMG, I can't have it follow me for the rest of my life that I'm not patriotic or that maybe I have something to hide". Even if it's something as unimportant as a games forum, I actually want people to come forth and tell me the bad parts about it, so I can make an informed decision. I don't want more of them to think "OMG, if I say anything bad, I'll come out as a troll." Etc.
  • by kahei ( 466208 ) on Monday June 04, 2007 @05:56AM (#19379381) Homepage

    It's also worth noting that the identities of /. posters are very weak. People reply to the post, not to the poster, and relationships pretty much never last longer than the thread they are in. I can't actually name a single /. user name except my own.

    I used to have a .sig saying: "If you recognize me at all, you probably recognize me by this .sig" and I think it was true.

    Compare this to sites like Fark where rivalries and stereotypes rule. Hey, time for Bevets to post how we're all going to hell! Time for Wild_Bluebonnet to post about how Texas is the best and Liberals should all be shot with silver bullets! Time for Dancin_in_Anson to foam at the mouth!

    This is WHY /. has a better signal/noise ratio after so long. People are (often) reacting to what they actually just read, rather than logging on with the intention of showing off / pursuing vendettas / posting pictures of their guns.

    The question is, why? What is it about /. that has made the post, not the poster, the fundamental item? I think partly it's layout and the lack of avatars, graphics, etc., but there must be other factors that are hard to isolate. It's a very *good* thing, though -- I wish I knew how to duplicate the recipe for other forums.

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