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The Reputation Society

The Reputation Society: How Online Opinions Are Reshaping the Offline World

Hassan Masum
Mark Tovey
foreword by Craig Newmark
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    The Reputation Society
    Book Description:

    In making decisions, we often seek advice. Online, we check Amazon recommendations, eBay vendors' histories, TripAdvisor ratings, and even our elected representatives' voting records. These online reputation systems serve as filters for information overload. In this book, experts discuss the benefits and risks of such online tools.The contributors offer expert perspectives that range from philanthropy and open access to science and law, addressing reputation systems in theory and practice. Properly designed reputation systems, they argue, have the potential to create a "reputation society," reshaping society for the better by promoting accountability through the mediated judgments of billions of people. Effective design can also steer systems away from the pitfalls of online opinion sharing by motivating truth-telling, protecting personal privacy, and discouraging digital vigilantism.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-29847-6
    Subjects: Technology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword: Trust, Reputation Systems, and the Immune System of Democracy
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Craig Newmark

    People use social networking tools to figure out whom they can trust and rely on for decision making. By the end of this decade, power and influence will have shifted largely to those people with the best reputations and trust networks and away from people with money and nominal power. That is, peer networks will confer legitimacy on people emerging from the grassroots.

    This shift is already happening, gradually creating a new power and influence equilibrium with new checks and balances. It will seem dramatic when its tipping point occurs, even though we’re living through it now. Everyone will get...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Building the Reputation Society
    (pp. xv-2)
    Hassan Masum, Mark Tovey and Yi-Cheng Zhang

    Since the dawn of history, humans have faced the necessity of deciding whom to trust and what to believe. Yet a dramatic intensification of the scope and speed of interactions in our modern society is driving an increasing need to distinguish what is true, useful, and relevant from what is not. So how can people decide whom to trust, what to choose, and which leaders and ideas to support?

    In day-to-day life, we can usually make decisions and judgments based on firsthand experience. We can also obtain information from others in our immediate circle. However, personally obtained information is not...


    • 1 Designing Reputation Systems for the Social Web
      (pp. 3-12)
      Chrysanthos Dellarocas

      Reputation systems are arguably the unsung heroes of the social web. In some form or another, they are an integral part of most of today’s social web applications. Yet they usually play a supporting role and have thus received less attention than some of their higher-profile cousins such as social networks, recommender systems, consumer review sites, and crowdsourcing communities, whose success would often have been unsustainable without the quiet but effective support of reputation systems (Dellarocas 2003). Two examples include eBay, a trading community of virtual strangers, which would have been impossible without the reputation system that builds trust by...

    • 2 Web Reputation Systems and the Real World
      (pp. 13-24)
      Randy Farmer

      Digital reputation is rapidly expanding in real-world influence. Bryce Glass and I have studied hundreds of online reputation systems, including dozens that we helped develop. As we noted in the preface to Farmer and Glass (2010a, ix), “Today’s Web is the product of over abillionhands and minds. Around the clock and around the globe, a world full of people are pumping out contributions small and large: full-length features on Vimeo; video shorts on YouTube; comments on Blogger; discussions on Yahoo! Groups; and tagged-and-titled bookmarks.”

      Given the myriad contexts in which reputation is being used, it may be...

    • 3 An Inquiry into Effective Reputation and Rating Systems
      (pp. 25-36)
      John Henry Clippinger

      With the success of the web—especially social media—the importance of reputation has been revived to take on a new meaning and relevance. Protecting and promoting “one’s good name” as an individual, product, organization, cause, or brand has blossomed into an enormous business. It has also sparked virtual “arms races” of competing reputational interests and strategies.

      There is no greater reputation maker than Google. Google’s pervasive page ranking algorithm is a trusted global reputation system that uses social or link popularity metrics not only to direct search queries, but also to auction off such queries to promote products and...


    • 4 The Biology of Reputation
      (pp. 39-50)
      John Whitfield

      We all understand intuitively that reputation is a fundamental force of social life. But only in the past decade or so have researchers working at the interface of biology, economics, and psychology truly begun to grasp how powerful that force is and how much of human behavior our concern for our reputations can explain.

      Another recent development is the discovery that reputation is a force in not just human behavior. Animal behavior researchers have found that many other species use two basic forms of reputation to make their decisions: social learning and eavesdropping. In the first of these, social learning,...

    • 5 Regulating Reputation
      (pp. 51-62)
      Eric Goldman

      This chapter considers the role of reputational information in our marketplace and society. It explains how well-functioning marketplaces depend on the vibrant flow of accurate reputational information and how misdirected regulation of reputational information could harm marketplace mechanisms. The chapter then explores some challenges created by the existing regulation of reputational information and identifies some regulatory options for the future.

      Typical definitions of “reputation” focus on third-party cognitive perceptions of a person. As one commentator explained:

      Through one’s actions, one relates to others and makes impressions on them. These impressions, taken as a whole, constitute an individual’s reputation—that is,...

    • 6 Less Regulation, More Reputation
      (pp. 63-74)
      Lior Jacob Strahilevitz

      Can people get all the benefits of small-town life while living in the big city? For much of human history, such a question was irrelevant because big cities did not exist. Following the rise of urbanization, such a question was fantastical because big cities required interactions with many strangers. Villages offered the security of knowing almost everyone around you, as well as everyone else’s business. Those who moved from villages to the city traded the security blanket of familiarity for opportunities to attain wealth, education, culture, and excitement. During the twentieth century and the early part of the twenty-first century...


    • 7 The Role of Reputation Systems in Managing Online Communities
      (pp. 77-88)
      Cliff Lampe

      The first and most familiar use of ratings and implicit feedback is to guide people: to help them choose which items are worth their attention and which people are trustworthy. Systems that guide people about content are often referred to asrecommender systems(Resnick and Varian 1997; Terveen and Hill 2002) and those that guide people about other people are often referred to asreputation systems(Resnick et al. 2000; Dellarocas 2003). For both systems, user ratings and traces of user behavior are made available to help in individual decision making—thus providingdecision-support functions.

      However, in addititon to their...

    • 8 Attention Philanthropy: Giving Reputation a Boost
      (pp. 89-96)
      Alex Steffen

      Attention philanthropy is a gift of notice. In a noisy world, deluged in advertising, overrun with PR flacks, and crowded with the superficial, one of the biggest barriers to success for a good idea or noble enterprise can simply be getting noticed in the first place (Shenk 1997).

      Even when their intentions are good, the gatekeepers of attention in the media, political, and philanthropic spheres are inefficient in recognizing certain kinds of value. Attention philanthropy is all about shining a light on work that’s worth supporting, yet falls outside the notice of the usual sources of funding or acclaim. It...

    • 9 Making Use of Reputation Systems in Philanthropy
      (pp. 97-108)
      Marc Maxson and Mari Kuraishi

      There are millions of registered nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) around the world and very limited resources to support them. There is a need for a functional reputation system in international philanthropy, because donors, organizations, and clients rarely interact with each other in person. Without open communication between the stakeholders in international development, there is little trust. And without a trust network to validate members, a reputation system cannot develop.

      The principal actors in the not-for-profit or social sector are donors (who can be foundations or individuals), staff at NGOs (who carry out the work), and the “clients” (who benefit from the...


    • 10 The Measurement and Mismeasurement of Science
      (pp. 111-118)
      Michael Nielsen

      Albert Einstein’s greatest scientific “blunder” (his word) came as a sequel to his greatest scientific achievement. That achievement was his theory of gravity—the general theory of relativity—which he introduced in 1915. Two years later, in 1917, Einstein ran into a problem while trying to apply general relativity to the universe as a whole. At the time, Einstein believed that on a large scale, the universe is static and unchanging. But he realized that general relativity predicts that such a universe can’t exist: it would spontaneously collapse in on itself. To solve this problem, Einstein modified the equations of...

    • 11 Usage-Based Reputation Metrics in Science
      (pp. 119-128)
      Victor Henning, Jason Hoyt and Jan Reichelt

      Citation-based reputation metrics such as the journal impact factor (JIF, the average number of citations per article and per year for a given journal) and theh-index andg-index (which measure the distribution of citations for a given author) play an ever-increasing role in modern science (reviewed in Egghe 2006; Garfield 2006; Hirsch 2005). As seemingly objective measures of academic impact and performance, they are used to determine career progression, postdoctoral positions, tenure, and grant funding.

      Pressure on scholars to perform well according to these metrics has mounted. So has the criticism leveled against such metrics. It has been argued...

    • 12 Open Access and Academic Reputation
      (pp. 129-138)
      John Willinsky

      While others wrestle with how to best establish authority, reliability, and trustworthiness within online business environments, I will speak to the academic equivalent by observing that the honing of the review-and-recommendation management of reputations has been a focus of academic life for many centuries. Academic life has always been subject to patronage, whether of the court, church, academies, universities, or the state (Moran 1991). Scholarly patrons trade in reputations by investing in the reputation of scholars, as well as artists, musicians, and poets—and seeking, by way of return on investment, an enhancement of their own reputation. The scholarly community...


    • 13 Reputation-Based Governance and Making States ʺLegibleʺ to Their Citizens
      (pp. 141-150)
      Lucio Picci

      Imagine a scenario in which citizens assess policies online, these assessments form the basis for reputational measures of public officials and other actors of governance, and these measures in turn influence governance decisions—for example, by determining bureaucrats’ promotions and the choice of policies. Such a scenario can lead toreputation-based governance, which hinges on the ability of citizens to assess the outcomes of public policies, so that the administrators who are responsible for them may build a reputation (Picci 2011). With effective reputation-based governance, policies would be better attuned to people’s needs and carried out more efficiently and effectively....

    • 14 Trust It Forward: Tyranny of the Majority or Echo Chambers?
      (pp. 151-162)
      Paolo Massa

      Trust is a key element for society. Without trust, society could not exist (Fukuyama 1995). We rely on trust when we walk out in the street, when we talk to somebody, when we buy something—in our every action.

      Even the very act of reading this contribution is based on trust: you, the reader, have some degree of trust in the editors of the book, and in the authors of the contributions and their ability to collectively provide an insightful and interesting book.

      TheOxford English Dictionarydefines trust as “the firm belief in the reliability, truth or ability of...

    • 15 Rating in Large-Scale Argumentation Systems
      (pp. 163-172)
      Luca Iandoli, Josh Introne and Mark Klein

      Dealing with systemic challenges—such as global terrorism, climate change, and ecosystem health—demands the effective synthesis of perspectives and expertise from hundreds or thousands of contributors with diverse bodies of knowledge. Existing approaches to group decision making are not well suited to these kinds of problems. Informal deliberation, such as might go on in a boardroom, has been shown to have many deficiencies (e.g., Nunamaker et al. 1991; Stasser, Taylor, and Hanna 1989). Technologically mediated processes may address some of these problems, but do not scale (e.g., DeSanctis and Gallupe 1987). And large-scale, socially mediated processes (e.g., government decision...


    • 16 Privacy, Context, and Oversharing: Reputational Challenges in a Web 2.0 World
      (pp. 175-184)
      Michael Zimmer and Anthony Hoffman

      People have always divulged personal information: we mention our salary during a conversation at dinner with a friend, or detail recent sexual activities over drinks, or send a letter to the editor of a local newspaper providing opinions on taxes or gun control. We also have always been compelled to provide personal information to authorities, much of which is a matter of public record: traffic violations, property taxes, voter registration data, political campaign donations. Yet as a matter of practice, all of these information disclosures remained separate and obscure: each was scattered across space and time and shared with select...

    • 17 The Future of Reputation Networks
      (pp. 185-194)
      Jamais Cascio

      What will the world look like as reputation networks become more commonplace? Although accurate predictions of the future are impossible, we can still think through some implications of choices we make today. A common tool for doing so is thescenario planning process, a structured method of teasing out likely consequences of significant—and uncertain—drivers. Scenario planning is used by governments, corporations, and NGOs around the world, but can be undertaken by small groups or even individuals.

      One important aspect of scenario planning is the recognition that there is no one possible future; rather, we need to think about...

    • 18 ʺI Hope You Know This Is Going on Your Permanent Recordʺ
      (pp. 195-204)
      Madeline Ashby and Cory Doctorow

      It is August 2009, and Cory Doctorow is watching his daughter play on a secluded beach. Cory’s visits to Toronto always feel like long and involved status updates: a high-pressure stream of information and opinion laced with jokes and stories and hugs. The man is a whirlwind, picking up people and spinning them around in the centrifuge of his seemingly boundless energy. But in this moment, he appears restful. I’m sitting a little behind him, digging my toes in the sand, when one of Cory’s friends from way back comes up and asks me how I know him. “Well, he...

  12. Contributors
    (pp. 205-212)
  13. Index
    (pp. 213-220)