The Value of a Trust Anchor Vouch

Just under a month ago, the Connect.Me private beta introduced the highest of the four trust levels defined by the Respect Trust Framework: Trust Anchor. The special role of a Trust Anchor in building a socially-curated reputation network is explained here on the Connect.Me site, here on the Connect.Me blog, and here in a guest blog post last December. In a nutshell:

  1. Trust Anchor status is the highest level of social verification of your identity.
  2. Trust Anchor status is the most social proof that you are vouching honestly.
  3. As a Trust Anchor you agree to accept the highest level of responsibility for protecting the integrity of the trust network.

The value of this level of proof of your identity and reputation explains why Connect.Me users have been eager to achieve the Trust Anchor ribbon on their Connect.Me card:

So it should come as no surprise that there have already been gaming attempts to “trade” for Trust Anchor vouches. Founding Trust Anchor Amanda Fox wrote a blog post about it yesterday called What is a Trust Anchor Vouch Really Worth. She gave these very concrete — if anonymous — examples:

  1. Gentleman A, offered to max me out at 600 shares on EAv in exchange for me giving him a trust anchor vouch. This was a person I never met before – had to go look at his profile to see who it was. It was, and still is, the only interaction we have ever had.
  2. Gentleman B, offered to run missions directing people to buy shares in me or whatever I wanted in exchange for my Trust Anchor vouch.
  3. Lady A used her trust anchor vouch, more than once, in exchange for people doing promotional favors for her at her site – and I know she did not know who these people were because she bragged to me how she got these desperate noobs to jump through hoops for her to get that vouch.
  4. Gentleman C, whom I gave a regular vouch for Twitter, came back requesting I provide a Trust Anchor vouch for him as an expert in ____. Not only was it not evident to me anywhere that he was an expert in what he requested, I couldn’t even Google any connection to the field or see it on his Facebook – because we were not FB friends.

This set off a small firestorm of discussion both on Amanda’s blog and on a private Facebook group (self-organized by Trust Anchors several weeks ago) about what was and was not appropriate when giving a Trust Anchor vouch, particularly during this initial period in which each Trust Anchor has a special one-time allotment of 50 Trust Anchor vouches to help seed the Trust Anchor network. Founding Trust Anchor Adam Justice summarized his chief concern this way:

It’s not just about gaming, it’s about integrity, and I don’t think there is any way for Connect.me to get it back. There are just too many TA vouches available now.

We responded by explaining that:

  1. It’s early, and the first crop of Trust Anchors are still learning about what it means to be a Trust Anchor and the value of a Trust Anchor vouch.
  2. The Respect Trust Framework is based on the same self-healing and self-reinforcing trust model as Wikipedia, so Trust Anchors will constantly be defending and improving the quality of the Trust Anchor network.

These points are so important that what follows is a mini-FAQ about Trust Anchor vouching and how Connect.Me will proceed with the Trust Anchor program.

Why did you provide 50 special Trust Anchor vouches to the first round of Trust Anchors? Isn’t that a large number to start with?

In this first round of Trust Anchor vouching, we wanted to provide enough TA vouches so the Founding Trust Anchors (the seed group for all Trust Anchors) would feel comfortable vouching for as many other individuals as they felt deserved to be Trust Anchors. The goal was to grow a larger pool of Trust Anchors before regular trust anchor vouching begins.

Why will Trust Anchors have a lifetime limit of 150 Trust Anchor vouches?

As stated in the Respect Trust Framework, a Trust Anchor vouch means:

  1. You know the person you are vouching for well, either personally on through longtime familiarity with their public body of work.
  2. You personally believe that he/she will uphold the principles and rules of the Respect Trust Framework by vouching honestly and protecting the integrity of the trust network.

In a 1992 study, anthropolist Robin Dunbar showed that 150 was simply “the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained”, i.e., that’s the number of people it is reasonable for you to know well enough to make the judgement above.

So what is the real value of a Trust Anchor vouch?

When you give someone a Trust Anchor vouch, it means you believe in his/her integrity enough to be willing to stand behind him/her with your own reputation. If you cannot say that about a person, please do not give them a Trust Anchor vouch.

A Trust Anchor vouch is the strongest positive social signal you can send – stronger than a “friend”, “connect”, “follow” and even a tag “vouch”. For this reason, a Trust Anchor vouch will carry extra weight in the Connect.Me reputation graph, including giving extra weight to the tag vouches you give to that person.

What are you doing now to explain this to current Trust Anchors?

First, we are extending the first round of Trust Anchor vouching — the period until regular Trust Anchor vouch begins — until March 1.

Second, in addition to this blog post, we are sending an email to all current and pending Trust Anchors explaining these guidelines.

Third we are asking them to review the Trust Anchor vouches they have given to make sure they fit within these guidelines and remove any that do not.

Lastly, we are suggesting they should consider the people they have the strongest trust relationships with — not just online, but also offline — and give them Trust Anchor vouches.

What should a Trust Anchor do if they believe another Trust Anchor is “trading vouches” or otherwise not vouching honestly?

They should send an email to complaints@connect.me with a short description of the problem. Per the rules of the Respect Trust Framework, Connect.Me will investigate as quickly as possible. If it is clear the Respect Trust Framework is not being upheld, Trust Anchor status will be revoked for an appropriate period of time.

What will happen on March 1?

We will switch to standard Trust Anchor vouching. This means:

  1. Any of the initial 50 special Trust Anchor vouches that have not been given during this special period will expire.
  2. Every Trust Anchor will receive their lifetime allotment of 150 Trust Anchor vouches. Note that a Trust Anchor vouch, like a tag vouch, may be deleted at any time if you not longer feel the recipient deserves it. Once deleted, will be credited back to your limit of 150 Trust Anchor vouches so it may be given to someone else.

Founding Trust Anchor Georgina Lester, who has done her own blog post on the subject, summed up the goal of the Trust Anchor program beautifully: “Authenticity always shines through”. Together let’s make it so.

  • Facebook User

    Excellent – I guess it will be important for a trust anchor to really read this, before any more vouches will be given. I’ve seen several of the existing trust anchor give vouches to people they actually don’t know but admire their performance in the social web.
    Obviously there is that compromise to be made that the whole thing should not be too complicated and also allow some spread. Yet – maybe it’s just me – since nobody has figured out a good way to manifest trust in the 1 billion strong social web, it is absolutely worth pumping some serious brain juice into it :) Axel
    http://XeeMe.com/AxelS(my social presence)

  • http://twitter.com/MartinGysler Martin Gysler

    Each rating system is “neither more nor less” than what people make with it. In this idea, I think you have chosen the right path by making users aware, by this article, that everyone is responsible for the soundness of your platform.

  • Pingback: The Respect Trust Framework: A Digital Constitution | P2P Connects Us

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