Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trust, reputation and collaborative online model

The Internet business is built for trust. From Amazon to Ebay, many online businesses enable strangers to meet and trust each other for transactions. It took a long time before people embraced the Internet, making it more open and collaborative. Making transaction online relies on a lot of trust. Trust that the buyer pays and the seller actually sells the right product and ships the products that are paid for. There are many checks and balances build in place to encourage honesty and simply do what is supposed.

Trust and reputation are two interrelated concepts. We can find trust at personal level. Reputation expresses an opinion resulting from collective opinions of community members. This evaluation may lead to risks such as penalty of innovative and minority ideas, problem described as “tyranny of the majority”. ( If they give each user reputation scores that take only other similar users’ opinions into account, they run the risk of becoming “echo chambers” in which like-minded people reinforce each others’ views without being open to outside perspectives. 

On Twitter, Facebook and Wikipedia, perhaps, most of the webpages on the Internet, having an honor code is very important. On Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the other social networking sites, you use your real profile so your friends, contacts, classmates and other acquaintances can find you and connect. Real accounts and profiles are important for online businesses to function as well. Today, more websites allow you to login using your Facebook profile and your real profile is important for many of the other services to function well. 

However, when people use fake profiles on Facebook, the whole fabric on what the Internet is built on is disrupted. Many people waste their time to maintain fake profiles just to spread hate and troll online. This behavior is very unproductive and serves absolutely no purpose -- sort of like the Nigerian Spam emails you get. Most of the people can see through the veil and ignore the trolls online that are just out to get a reaction and pick fights. 

Sadly, when a government is involved in Astroturfing and running fake accounts to "defend" their own opinions, it becomes a waste of taxpayers money. 

A property which characterizes the relationship between trust and reputation is reciprocity. The reciprocity is defined as the reciprocal exchange of assessment (favorable or not). Decrease any of these automatically conduct to the reverse effect. 

Like it or not, it is important that our society do not degrade to hate mongering and abuse, however controlling the medium, and being intolerant to bloggers critical about their policies, will only drive people to continue their conversations on other platforms and use fake IDs. 

In Singapore , although communication is more democratic today than what it was before, laws like defamation or contempt against critics are use used when the government could simply engage these parties in an debate to collaboratively find solutions to solve the problems.

Singaporeans are not stupid, they are very capable of finding solutions that work for them. There seems to be an open call for ideas, however, many good ideas are rejected by the government because it simply comes from the opposition. There are many views and opinions online, and just because they are different from the government’s view, it does not necessarily mean they are destructive, but instead it means they care about their country to comment. There are always the good, the bad and the ugly, online and in real life. Singaporeans today are better educated, and can think critically. 

To say that “satisfied people don’t go to the Internet, unhappy people do” feels like the Prime Minister has given up on engagement. It takes time to build trust and reputation but it is very easy to lose it. Sadly, there will only be more “unhappy people” as the future unveils more technology to keep more people connected – on the Internet.

-- Robin Low