Whose Reputation is it, Anyway?

Mitch Ratcliffe writes, RE Digital ID, via Doc:

So, the process needs to begin with the debate about policy and not what you can do with a Digital ID. People must own every aspect of their identity, guys. Design from that principle outward–the company or non-profit that does this will eventually win.

Mitch takes the debaters to task because they assume that the interested corporations will wrestle each other to the ground and come up with a DigID “standard” that will be forced on everyone. He points out that the ID must be controlled by the individual. Sounds good.

Well, actually, individuals never own every aspect of their own ID, because it’s our collective sense of a person that matters, not theirs. Let’s expand upon our conception of modeling an ideal marketplace:

When Big Bob, the prosperous, straight-talking village blacksmith, strolls into the agora, shoppers and merchants who have grown up with Bob project upon him their collective respect and comfort. When Bob’s brother, the unfortunate town drunk, lurches into the square, another collective persona is painted on ol’ Fred. No one in the village would let Fred sleep outside on a harsh night, but they don’t get out their best wares for him.

This is human nature at work—we make each other into what we have concluded about each other. In that ideal marketplace model, I suggested that we need to emulate our idealistic vision of the village market as we conceive and program our next economic reality:

“The point is that buyers and sellers are most invested in never saying no to the customer or never being without a greengrocer. Since reliability is what matters in meatspace, where people are mostly trustworthy, how might we model those dynamics into cyberspace?”

Call it idealistic, or call it a sensible disregard for digital reputation methods that have proven unsatisfactory. Every application has a vision of how its users will interact with the application. Since Xpertweb has no obligation to ask permission, to establish an industry standard or to sell to an installed base, we can design it any way we choose. The ultimate freedom in the Xpertweb design, of course, is that we don’t have to be concerned about a Business Plan, that icon of managerial capitalism responsible for more corporate losses than any quotidian human failing.

As an Xpertweb user (player? see below), I maintain information on my Xpertweb site that is enough to fill in a typical order blank—name, email, etc. When I go to a seller’s site, I need only enter my Xpertweb URL, and the seller’s script retrieves everything needed to process the order. But not payment info. In the Xpertweb world, the risk is to the vendor, not the buyer, so payment, based on buyer satisfaction, happens after the sale, and the buyer is freed from exposing financial information. And, of course, she exposes only the information she’d rather not type into the seller’s form.

Payment after purchase is an immense difference. By laying off the risk onto the seller, we finesse most of the difficult aspects of digital ID.

With every transaction, though, a dossier is built about this person. When buying, what are her average ratings given to sellers? How do those ratings compare to other buyers’ ratings of that same seller? Reviewing the written comments she is obligated to make with every transaction, does she seem reasonable or not? Is she thoughtful or dismissive of others’ efforts? When selling her artwork to others, does she get good grades and comments, or are they enough lower than her peers to suggest a weakness?

While her scores are recorded at her Xpertweb site, we would be naive to assume that anyone would incriminate themselves, so the scores and comments are also kept at the sites of each buyer and seller she deals with. Data is mirrored to the sites of her mentor and to the mentor of each party she deals with. It’s a simple matter to “walk” the sites of the people she does business with to compare her representations to the village she now inhabits.

So who owns the reputation of an Xpertweb user? Just as It’s Our Internet, They’re Just the Owners, so too, the components of an Xpertweb reputation are distributed so broadly and publicly that the whole picture can be re-constituted from its many mirrored parts, whether or not the nominal “owner” of the reputation fesses up to the past.

It’s still an opt-in economic model. If a seller doesn’t want to risk rejection or low ratings from buyers, then they’ll just do business the old way. If someone doesn’t want to see their reputation built this way, then they’ll just do business the old way. that’s clearly the best option for those who don’t feel the need to reach out to this new peer-based microeconomy.

But Xpertweb, though managed by no one and as blind as any gene or meme, is designed to embrace the marketplace and extend it as energetically as the most ambitious corporate entity. When there’s a large enough population of people willing to let their peers record the details of their reputation, what does it say about those who refuse to?

We can only leave it up to human nature.

9:22:58 PM    

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