As discussed in my first post about Reputation, the online reputation you earn in several marketplaces is usually closed within their boundaries.
Several tools have emerged to help you show this to the outside world. But before we discuss some tools, I have to mention that there are different objectives regarding your presence online that are targeted by these tools:
- Reputation or Trust. This is to assess how much reliable you are in your interactions in the marketplaces. If we talk about a service it also points your ability to deliver good service and the level of satisfaction of users. Typically this is based on stars rating and badges within a closed platform.
- Identity verification. The aim is to confirm your identity, so that your email or userid belongs to a physical person. This has always been the landscape for personal digital certificates, but as the use is not handy enough other tools have emerged.
- Influence. Influence is about your presence in social networks and how much impact you generate into others. In the end it resumes in counting the number of shares and likes that you trigger.
- Sharing your knowledge and accomplishments. Open Badge from Mozilla is a good example. You can show to the world your earned badges.
- Mixing all. Other tools want to give a mix of all of them, to build a better reliable profile for you.
End of theory now, and let’s move to the real stuff!
Reputation or Trust
This is the field where progress needs to be done. I am not aware of any platform that solves online reputation. As Rachel Botsman explains in her TEDTalk, we need a sort of scorecard to be able to gather all our interactions online, as a big portion of our actions in one platform can be relevant as a measure of trust for other platforms.
Currently, I am not aware of any platform that is able to provide a compound collection of reputation indexes from several platforms where real interactions happen such as eBay, AirBnB, TaskRabbit, and on and on.
There are only partial attempts to solve this by showing your activity in all social networks (that usually have an API to connect). But these ones belong to the Mixing All group. I will explain later.
There is here an opportunity for a company or open community to bring a solution.
If you know anything that is already being developed, please share in comments!
There are several solutions that have been in the market for ages, but proved not to be handy for usage. I am talking about digital certificates, usually linked to an email address and used to encrypt and/or sign email communications.
You can buy a digital certificate from Verisign or others, generate it free with GPG based open tools, or as in the case of Spain get it for free from Government in the “Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre“. Some countries are also issuing digital National Identity documents that have a chip with a certificate stored in it.
In addition to sending encrypted emails and sign them (by signing you authenticate that you are the issuer), you can also use certificates as identification in websites. For example GitHub uses a GPG certificate to ensure that the code you push to their servers comes from you. The Spanish Tax Office lets you provide your Tax declaration online with your certificate or your digital National ID.
There is a concern here. The fact that the trust on the certificate sits completely in the provider issuing it. Verisign is a trusted provider, and the Governments -even in the current turmoil times- are also trusted for this product (don’t ask me to speak about Spain corruption and misgovernment…). In these cases there is usually a validation of documentation off-line.
For GPG there is no such a validation so the identity is established on a peer to peer basis. If I trust a friend I can trust his certificate when he sends it to me. If my trusted friend trusts one of his friends I can trust him, etc.
But I don’t think this is valid for some critical transactions.
To summarize, obtaining a validated ID is a burden.
I’ve spotted one company that went in to place to solve this issue: miiCard.
The logic is simple. Instead of forcing you to provide documentation to validate your data, they can already collect these from your Banks that performed a trusted screening when you start working with them.
You can share your card info whenever you need to build trust (even on dating online sites…).
The service seems to get traction -present in 9 countries- as it is easy to implement and gives a lot of control to users.
The concern is of course that a private company is doing this identification (we could argue about Verisign and Truste, here, right?) and the level of trust that the users who do not know this system will put into it. That’s as always the network effect.
This is out of the scope of my blog, so I will not spend much time here. Klout is the most known. There are more tools with the same approach that you can find in this TechCrunch article that explains what they really measure. People like to have metrics and of course there has been cases of wrong usage of the Klout scores by recruiters, as pointed in this Wired article.
Sharing your knowledge and accomplishments
With gamification trends there has been an increase in the number of platforms providing badges. And again, these badges stay closed in their respective platforms. Mozilla has worked a concept to create a badge backpack (of course, open). You can find some of the insights of one of the developers Josh Gay in his blog when they started back in 2010.
What will happen with this? you can store your badges backpack anywhere you want, so you will be the owner of this information. And this will collect your earned badges from any issuer that follows the specifications, so even marketplaces, schools and universities could raise them. It is covering partially the need for a reputation dashboard that I was referring to in my last post.
The signing of badges is still in development, so my assumption is that currently there is not enough security in the system as some badges could be forged. Still in Beta…
Here an example of my Open badges. Currently only MOOC studies.
And here comes the funniest stuff. What some companies have been trying to do given the status of the Internet and the ability to interact with other platforms, networks, communities and marketplaces.
TrustCloud is my preferred service. They do a mix of identification and reputation.
[Update March 2017: Trustcloud does no longer provide service]
For example, on identification aspect they validate emails, cellphones and a postal address. This is done through sending a code or a link to feed back in their platform. So this does not guarantee that you are the person claiming you are, but at least it gives comfort that there is an offline presence behind.
It is based on 4 aspects with different weights:
- Verification (as mentioned above) 40%
- Behavior in social networks 20%
- Endorsement within TrustCloud network 2%
- Transaction in P2P marketplaces 38%.
The transactional aspect needs some further development as I only have seen eBay network connected.
XeeMe is more user centric, sort of About.me evolution to curate your profile and track all your networks. You can put all your Internet presence in one place. Some badges and scores are created based on your activity.
Connect.me is focused on trust provided by your peers. so plans to create a network of trust based on other users endorsements. The network grows organically, pushed by users who vouch new ones. From my point of view this tool covers the level of connection you have to others and the level of knowledge for endorsed topics, but nothing about your behavior in a transactional environment.
[Update March 2017: Connect.me does no longer provide service]
WhyTrusted is another tool with the same objective: to bring trust based on transactions. The AirBnB big incident and the publicity it had inspired two students to work on something that can bring trust to transactions.
They have the same issue as others. Currently the only transactional network considered is eBay. Just signed up to have a look.
[Update March 2017: WhyTrusted does no longer exist]
I guess there are more platforms available, and I am willing to hear of any in the comments if someone knows. In addition, you can also get more background of the topic and the ramifications in this interesting article in Wired. I did not comment on the beta tools listed in the article that are still not available to the public.
There are other new tools not intended to final users such as:
- Legit. Intends to bring trust between marketplaces, by collecting and sharing reputation through an API. Their clients are marketplaces and communities.
- Tru.ly. This is not clear to me. My understanding is this provides an API for Social Networks to add an identity verification layer, by checking the information with government data. Seems to be pretty US centric, and frankly speaking they need to improve the About and FAQ pages. Some content seems targeted to final users while others to social networks or other platforms that can use their API.
I hope this gives a good picture of the current market and trends coming in. With all the new beta tools going on, I expect a very active period here.