Thanks to all of you have sent me this:
Yes, it’s a conference about reputation economies that took place back on December 8, at Yale University. Alas, I missed it, but the online description says:
Reputation, which plays a key role in almost any economic or social system, is a fundamental, but not well understood, aspect of online business transactions, peer production of information and knowledge, and exchanges within virtual social communities. Traditional modes of authentication, accreditation, reputation, and prior acquaintance with participants rely on the social norms of close-knit communities and the accountability of meeting face to face. Since these mechanisms usually do not apply to online environments, we have witnessed the development of alternative models for reputation management including third-party certificate authorities, peer-produced evaluations, ratings, stars, points, karma and others.
The term “reputation economy” had been around a while when I started conceptualizing Extras. I have no idea when it first came into use. Cory Doctorow invents a reputation-based currency called whuffie in his 2003 book Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and Howard L. Meyers mentions a similar system way back in 1971 in his story, “All Around the Universe.” And, of course, we’ve all seen websites like eBay, where sellers are ranked with feedback from all the people who’ve bought from them before. That’s a real-life reputation economy that’s been around since 1995.
Obviously, reputation is important to human beings. We want to know who to trust and who not to trust. Alas, whatever kind of reputation system we use—word of mouth, online, bathroom wall—there’s always someone willing and able to abuse it. Pointless celebrities dominate, news channels fabricate, banks collapse, and even best friends lie to us sometimes. (Sad for the world, but lucky for novelists; otherwise a lot of cool plot twists would disappear.)
But you guys know all this. You’re the first generation to grow up with the quasi-reputation economies that are Facebook, Myspace, and Google, all of which show us who has the most friends, links, or comments.
So how does reputation work where you go to school? (Or to work? Or to network?) Who do you trust? Who trusts you? And what’s the worst failure of your local reputation economy that you’ve ever seen?