The debate about whether FeedBurner’s inclusion of FriendFeed subscribers is a good or bad thing has me thinking how to determine a person’s reputation and influence.
As I keep saying, trust is the key component to New Web. Without trust, it’s difficult to build a community around anything.
Reputation and influence are the next big things in New Web. We’ve been noodling how to establish reputation for a while now and have some ideas for internal use on Connect.
What’s the big deal?
Beyond people you actually know, i.e. met in meat space, worked with on a project, how can you tell if you want to pay attention to someone? Sure, there’s a profile that might help you make the call, but how do you decide to read a person’s blog, follow her/him on Twitter/FriendFeed, friend her/him on Facebook, etc?
There are rudimentary methods that I’m sure everyone uses, since consumer apps don’t provide any reputation scoring (and centralized reputation is a pipe dream for now).
I’m sure you know them already.
- FeedBurner subscribers count
- Google Reader Subscribers Greasemonkey script
- Technorati authority
- Post frequency
- Comments per post
These are highly subjective and don’t really help you vet the content, but I guarantee that a blog with more subscribers is frequently viewed as more influential, which is why the recent FeedBurner change to add FriendFeed subscribers borks up the system a bit. Of course, the system was already borked.
I usually add new blogs based on the recommendations of friends (ahem, trust), or I’ll test drive them for a week or so to see how the content and commentary is.
A lot of bloggers now show you how many Twitter followers and FriendFeed subscribers they have, which only makes things more messy. Does having a lot of followers on Twitter make you more influential?
Cue the segue.
- Number of followers
- Ratio of followers to following
- Overall activity
- @ reply or commenting frequency
- Cursory review of the person’s blog, applying the blog methods to determine reputation and influence
I lump these two services together because they both employ the asynchronous model for networking.
As with blogs, I also employ the recommendation of friends model both direct and implied, i.e. by looking for overlap with my network.
As Twitter has grown by leaps and bounds, it’s become more difficult to know who’s worth following and who’s not.
- Number of friends
- Number of shared friends
- Overall activity and commenting
- Profile information
- Cursory review of the person’s blog
I’d argue that because of the trust built into the synchronous model employed by traditional social networks, they produce the best and most consistent reputation. The addition of friends in common was a smart move to help people vet potential friends that can easily become part of a reputation system.
It’s only a matter of time before Facebook adds some kind of reputation scoring to their network and adds it to their Facebook Connect payload. This will be the first shot in the war for reputation/influence, which will be part of the war for identity.
Reputation and influence will be very hard to establish, due to their inherently personal nature. If tomorrow Twitter or Facebook announced a reputation score, people would go nuts comparing themselves, bragging, complaining and dissecting and questioning the algorithm.
Speaking of algorithms, Google is an interesting player in reputation because they have so much data about you and what you do online.
For a long time, forums have calculated scores for members based on contributions, activity, etc. This model works, but it hasn’t been applied outside forums or across networks. This is a good starting point, but it needs major tweaking.
There are solid patterns that can be followed to create reputation and influence scores, and the score should be a combination of algorithm plus user’s scoring of each other, similar to the forum model. The algorithm needs to be smart enough to know when people are gaming though, which is complicated.
Overall, determining a score on the consumer web is a very tough row to hoe.
Not so much inside an enterprise where core values create a basis, e.g. use the company handbook as a starting place for corporate values on which to base reputation. With a baseline, it becomes easier to model reputation and influence based on social activity.
What do you think? Is this a pipe dream for the consumer web? Can reputation be scored inside a company? Did I miss something big?
I don’t know everything, natch, so find the comments and enlighten me.