The rise of social reputation systems

Social media is driving a ‘gift shift’ through the cultural fabric of our societies. Social reputation systems are one expression of the shift. They have immense disruptive potential.

If you are new to reputation systems, check out this piece in Wired by Rachel Botsman, who is writing a book on the topic. You might also read this post for the In the Room blog.

Examples of reputation systems:


What do reputation systems measure?

1. Identity — is this person a real person? Are they are who they say they are?
2. Character — consistency of behaviour (for ex. reliability and helpfulness) over time
3. Trustworthiness — essential for the P2P economy

The neurological basis of ‘reputation capital’:

Botsman writes: ‘Norihiro Sadato, a researcher at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Aichi, Japan, along with a team of colleagues, wanted to determine whether we think about reputation and money in the same way, by mapping the neural response to different rewards.

Sadato devised an experiment: participants were told they were playing a simple gambling game, in which one of three cards would result in a cash payout. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers monitored brain activity triggered when the subjects received a monetary reward. When the subjects returned on the second day, they were each shown a picture of their face, with a one-word descriptor underneath that a panel of strangers had supposedly written about them. Some of the descriptions were positive, such as “trustworthy”, others neutral, such as “patient”, and others negative. When participants heard they had a positive reputation, a part of the brain, the striatum, lit up.

The same part would also light up if they had won money. As Sadato puts it: “The implication of our study is that different types of reward are coded by the same currency system.” In other words, our brains neurologically compute personal reputation to be as valuable as money’.

Botsman’s ten-step reputation plan

1. Be a maven

Demonstrate your knowledge on something — music, maths, movies — on MavenSay, Mahalo or StackExchange.

2. Get tagging

Use a platform such as to tag your strengths and make it easy for others to know at a glance what you can do.

3. Become super at something

Be a great host, runner, seller, renter, lender, in an online marketplace such as Airbnb, WhipCar or Zopa.

4. Build a portfolio

Make a note of references, ratings and reviews on various platforms that give a snapshot of your online value.

5. Collect trusted opinions

Ask people who know and trust you to write about your skills and trustworthiness on platforms such as LinkedIn.

6. Follow, like, befriend

Concentrate on building a deep social network on at least one platform. Interact, follow and “like” on a daily basis.

7. Review and recommend

Get your name out there: be active in writing reviews and vouching for friends and colleagues on a range of websites.

8. Monetise your profile

Build some kind of virtual currency account, whether it’s Linden Dollars, Gold Coins, IMVU or Facebook Credits.

9. Spring clean your reputation

Use a service such as or Veribo to clean up any misleading or false information about you.

10. Gain some social capital

Become an active part of your community and demonstrate you are trustworthy in personal life.

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