The Reputation Guy


Posted in Online Reputation by thereputationguy on February 13, 2006

At first glance, when compared to ecommerce and dating, community comes up as both the most vague in regards to reputation needs as well as how to help people establish a reputation.

Fortunately Opinity is partnering with a very large partner that will give us a tremendous boast in this area. So I’ve been spending a lot of time on this segment of the market. We’ve conducted market research, and had others write papers about reputation in community. One of the papers we received was very well written. I forget off the top of my head what terminology he used, but it was something that sounded scientific and doctorial thesis-like, but upon examination he was referring to something that acts as a proxy in most communities for reputation – “number of posts” and “member since”.

This is what most communities rely on for a reputation – how active they are and how long they’ve been active. Granted this is not really a reputation system, because at best it simply states that the user, for a specified duration, hasn’t been a pain in the butt enough for the moderator, based on their own values, to decide to ban them. I would guess that’s true for 95% of the communities out there.

So, despite the fact it’s not that much, is there a need for something more? In some cases it’s more than sufficient. I’m not one of those Product Managers who feels compelled to believe their product should be immediately loved and used by everyone just because it can be. I am a leader of a 100+ online community – a Yahoo group that communicates via email and uses no explicit reputation system. So this means that a person’s reputation is independently evaluated by each individual, and not disclosed to others, with no way to disclose this to others. So is this a bad thing? Perhaps not.

In some cases I could see a reputation system, depending on what it was, how implemented and how used, as possibly having a detrimental effect on the group. In our market research on ecommerce, one of the issues that often came up was retribution. The ecommerce boards (e.g. OTWA) are full of these concerns and experiences. Given my own experience within various communities, I could see this easily happening. In vibrant communities, it’s common for the community to take on quite a personal feeling. This is where they hang out, be with close, long-time, personal (though mostly virtual) friends. What if you have a party in your home where all your friends show up, and someone decides to announce to the whole crowd that while you try to help, you are essentially clueless?

We currently have a rating system (evaluate someone from 1-5 based on certain characteristics) for all our reputation areas. So it’s possible given our current system for the above example to happen. So this raises two questions – what, if any, reputation system would work in a community, and two, what parameters decide what reputation system to use?


One Response to 'Community'

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  1. Robert said,

    It is interesting to see how communities function without a rating system. On one hand they seem to function fine, but I can see the benefit of having a rating system. Many message boards focus on helping other people with problems, and it would be extremely helpful to know which members of a community are the most trusted.

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