Trust Building Online: Rating and Reputation Systems
As new Internet technology facilitates democratic participation online through open publishing and cyber activism, new challenges arise. How can we create and maintain trust in online communities? Rating and reputation systems are being implemented on many sites to cope with this concern.
Open publishing websites—where users can post content directly to the site—can become cluttered and noisy if content is completely unmoderated. In an effort to strike a balance between the democratic principles of open publishing and maintaining standards of quality, some sites have incorporated rating systems, allowing readers to collaboratively impose editorial influence on the sites’ content. In some cases, registered users have access to as-yet unpublished content, and have a say in whether it will be posted to the site. In other cases, visitors to the site rank articles on a numerical scale, influencing how prominently an article will be featured or contributing to an average score which will serve as a guide to other users.
Such schemes, while not flawless, can contribute to users’ sense of trust. When rating software helps the community to eliminate bogus posts or send low-quality content down in a queue of articles, users become more confident that they will find useful content when they visit these sites. At the same time, allowing users to rate articles and/or develop rank over time, trust-building software help foster community-driven, bottom-up social organizations that are more democratic and less rigid than traditional bureaucracies.
Examples of Websites Using Rating Schemes
The Tennessee Independent
Just as rating schemes provide information about the perceived quality and utility of online content, reputation systems give people information about contributors’ past performances. Software such as mojo and karma can enhance an on-line interaction environment by helping people decide who to trust and encouraging trustworthy behavior. It can also serve as an incentive for people to become more active within the online community. However, reputation systems are not without drawbacks. Web sites and other online communities run the risk of evolving over time into hierarchical structures that may lead to abuses of power – a recurring topic of debate for many online groups.
Examples of Websites Using Reputation Systems
Links to Reputation System Resources
Articles on Reputation Systems and Trust-Building Online
Building Communities with Software by Joel Spolsky
Open Rating Systems by R. Guha
Social Software and the Politics of Groups by Clay Shirky
Cyber Activism and Social Strategies for Trust-Building Online
As activists turn to Internet technology to facilitate grassroots campaigns, they must find ways to foster and maintain trust within and between networks. Two approaches to trust-building online can be applied independently or in concert: trust-enhancing software including rating and reputation schemes, and the traditional social interactions which build trust by developing relationships over time.
Although many collaborative and open publishing sites depend on software
to enhance levels of trust, activist networks, like all social groups,
have been addressing the issue of trust since long before the Internet
and social software existed. Social mechanisms for developing and maintaining
trust within groups are still viable in the realm of cyber activism. Basic
principles are at work in the network environment: networks are held together
by shared values, common goals and unifying ideas. As connections between
network members increase communication becomes denser as people and groups
interact more, developing relationships and building trust.
The Augmented Social Network: Building Identity and Trust into the Next-Generation Internet: A Link Tank Report by Ken Jordan, Jan Hauser, and Steven Foster.
Could the next generation of online communications strengthen civil society by better connecting people to others with whom they share affinities, so they can more effectively exchange information and self-organize? Could such a system help to revitalize democracy in the 21st century?
Connecting with the Wired Left by William Schneider
“MoveOn has something of a fetish for participation and involvement. They ask people to do things.”
“People join our organization by taking some form of action, which sometimes means signing an online petition on our Web site. Sometimes it means calling their congressperson to speak out on an issue they care about.”
"The primary way to build trust is to consistently fight for things that people care about.” –Wes Boyd, MoveOn.org.
“The distinguishing feature of networks is their links, far more profuse and omni-directional than in other types of organization. As communication pathways increase, people and groups interact more. As more relationships develop, trust strengthens which reduces the cost of doing business and generates greater opportunities.”