The Case for Better Online Reputation – Part 1

Why is it so $#@&%’ing hard to send money around the globe?

In the age of Paypal, Elance, and dozens of online payment systems, it’s still a royal pain to send money to people who live in Eastern Europe, Africa, and about 1/2 of the world. Sure, many of the payment systems say they support a lot of countries, but good luck trying to get your payment to go through.

 The problem is fundamentally one of trust.

If the IMF doesn’t trust your government, then the banks don’t trust you. In reputation network speak, it’s a faulty trust anchor dilemma. You’re anchored to an entity that people don’t trust, and there’s just nothing you can do about it … at least for the moment.

With well over 1B people on the web, knowing who you can trust and being able to prove that you’re trusted can radically change your life.

Let’s say you’re a talented software engineer in the Ukraine (quick shout-out to Andrey, Yaroslav, Alex, and some of the guys I’ve worked with over the years). If you want to make a good wage, your best bet is to get on Elance or Odesk and start building your reputation. With the right skills, networking, and hard work, you can earn double or triple what the average programmer makes in your home country. A huge win for a globally connected society.

The problem is not just limited to developing countries. With more and more people joining the telecommuting and freelance workforces, who you know and who trusts you is becoming increasingly important.

It’s pretty obvious how online reputation makes a big impact on a freelancer’s ability to earn a living, but that’s just the tip of the reputation iceberg. What lies under the surface is the very social fabric of the Internet and the credibility of the most important information system ever invented.

Let’s face it, we’ve got a lot of challenges to overcome as a global community. We need to leverage the heck out of the Internet to get things done. But one of the big hurdles is the trustworthiness of the people on the web.

So how do we fix the online reputation problem? It’s a huge issue that won’t be solved overnight.

To start, we need new technologies and services that make it easier to capture reputation data and use it to solve real user problems. We also need to push past ranking influencers and focus on the long tail.

Most of the existing reputation systems shine the light on influencers or the top 10% of online content generators. While this is great for many use cases, it leaves the other 90% of social web users in the dark. Focusing reputation on content creation rather than people has the side effect of encouraging faster content production rather than more accurate or valuable content.

We also need to put in place reasonable measures to prevent gaming of reputation systems. After all, if you can’t trust the system, you can’t trust the people.

Connect.Me‘s approach to solving reputation is a mix of curation and contextualization. For the contextualization, we make it easy for people to indicate how they trust each other via tags. Behind the scenes, we’re linking the tags together into a powerful ontology that will be the brains of our public release version of Connect.Me.

For curation and anti-gaming protection, we’ve been selectively growing out our group of Wikipedia-like admins of reputation: Trust Anchors. This is our core community of superusers from all sorts of backgrounds who are helping identify some of the most interesting and reputable – not just the most influential – people online.

If you’d like to join the community and participate in the private beta, signup for Connect.Me and apply to become a Trust Anchor.

And last but not least, a big THANK YOU to all the people who have signed up for our private beta. The invite waiting list is currently over 60k and growing. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll increase our rate of invites to catch up a bit.

Stay tuned for part 2 where we’ll give a sneak peak of what’s coming next for Connect.Me and the public beta launch.

Also check out Chris Dixon’s posts on An Internet of People and Trusting Platforms.


  • Steven Healey already connects a group of net savvy individuals ..

    A waiting list of 60000 is incredible.

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