Your new neighborhood: The Internet

There’s a classic scene that can sometimes pan out on tv, the movies, or even in your own kitchen. You’re baking, but realize you’ve made a grave mistake in not having bought any sugar at the store. Worry not! Your neighbor surely has some sugar. So you grab your measuring cup, walk down the hall, and you knock on your neighbors door. Problem solved.

Now, in 2013, a cup of sugar has become a car (or a babysitter, or a boat, or even a castle), and your neighbor, conveniently, is the internet. In this analogy, the hallway is the sharing economy which has been making noise for a few years now, and shows no signs of slowing down. But how–and more importantly why–did this grassroots, Burning Man-esque movement (if you can call billions of dollars a movement) come to be?

Hiring people to take care of your kids, dogs, and home has been around for a while. But finding things or services that are now common in the sharing marketplace used to be about flipping through the Yellow Pages for a plumber, asking a friend if you could borrow his van, or scouring a rideshare board. That type of searching can be tedious and  often times can lead to compromise–like I need that car back in half an hour–or even substandard work–like “you were supposed to knock out that wall, not this one.” And at the end of the day, the number of acquaintances and recommended handymen are drops in the ocean.

The end of the 20th century gave a solution–albeit a debatable one–for the tediousness of the 10 pound phone book. Craigslist emerged and compiled anything the denizens of the 1995 internet could want: buying/selling of bikes, houses, pets; the exchange of services for cash or goods, and vice versa; and of course jobs and haikus. But the site can often times be cluttered, criminal, and at the end of the day, more tedious than a phone book.

Enter the sharing economy. With the advent of airbnb.com in 2008–and it’s subsequent meteoric rise–a slew of other goods, task, and ride sharing websites emerged as a more specific and regulated way to find the neighbor with the things you need. And over time, as some companies learned the hard way, trusting the micro-entrepreneurs being employed became more and more important.

What the sharing economy has done is expanded the neighborhood and redefined what it means to be a neighbor. There’s a limitation to your personal grasp that the sharing economy eliminates, but also puts under a microscope, ensuring that the people are trustworthy, that they are in fact real people, or that they’re actually delivering what they say they will.

Whether collaborative consumption is here because of a demand for the services, or people not wanting to deal with perfect strangers anymore, who knows. The thing we do know, however, is that it’s here to stay.

A TrustCloud Developers Network – Quarterly Update

It’s been an eventful few months for the TrustCloud Dev team.  We wanted to take a moment to share some of the latest improvements to the TrustCloud Api, Widget, and Profile webpage pages with our developer network.

New Features and Improvements:

  • Added XeeMe to our trust networks
​                  Example:

                  http://bit.ly/11XCKVX

  • New Micro-TrustCards: see these on the TrustCard tab of your Profile
         bitmap
  • Account Merging: when your user’s email address does not match the email they used on TrustCloud, we automatically detect and add both to their TrustCloud account
  • Longer session timeouts (by popular demand)
  • Infrastructure upgrades: less downtime, faster lookups, beefier servers
  • Celebrations: score improvements, badge awards and more

 

Ridepost: a developer’s guide to integrating the TrustCloud API

Thanks to Robert, the CTO of RidePost, for sharing this awesome guide to integrating the TrustCloud API:

Cheers,

TrustCloud Dev Team

Does Generation Y really share the most?

Digital Natives, Generation Y, Millennials, and now “the Asset-Light Generation” – Kleiner Perkins’ Mary Meeker has introduced yet another term for the generation of people currently between 16 and 34 years old who seems to have a new notion of consumption due to their use of technology.

What is Asset-Light?

According to Mary Meeker, an asset-light mindset and lifestyle are substituting an “asset-heavy ” way of life because it consumes much time, space and money. Gaining access to products and services is becoming more desirable than owning them, because technology has made it cheaper and more convenient. Some of the examples of asset-light vs. asset-heavy she mentions are:

Books and DVD’s vs. ebooks and Netflix
Cds’ vs. digital music such as Spotify
Hotels vs. p2p vacation rentals (Airbnb)
Car ownership vs. carsharing

As we have written about previously, a value shift towards an asset-light lifestyle has implications for the role of trust on the Web. If future generations really do value using p2p platforms to share resources over owning them, companies will need to focus their efforts on making it easier for individuals to trust each other. But is this change really happening, or is it just something being talked about?

Without doubt this asset-light mindset has reached the entertainment industry. According to recent industry figures from January 2013, one quarter of the entertainment market is now digital; reaching 1 billion downloads for the first time. Interestingly however, ERA director general Kim Bayley said in the telegraph that “it’s clearly too soon to write off the CD”, since this still accounts for the majority of market share.

Being part of the millennial generation myself, its very interesting to see what is being said about “us” and comparing it to the reality we are confronted with every day. Speaking from my personal experience, I cannot not deny that – even though the numbers may still be insignificant – change has already taken place.

When I think about my peers, the majority of them stopped buying CD’s, DVD’s or printed newspapers several years ago. I cannot even remember the last time I was in a record store. Especially when I think about my own consumption habits, I have realized that while in my teenage years my shopping motto often was “the more the better”, today I consume about 50 % less because I already own so much STUFF. I don’t know if this is just a coincidence or whether my peers have similar stories – but I can confirm that I am continuously trying reduce the amount of things I own because I feel like they are a burden.

Change takes place slowly

Of course it will take a lot more than one generation to fundamentally change our society’s consumer habits. Entire billion dollar markets won’t become obsolete overnight. While the entertainment industry may be a good example of a sector in which an asset-light lifestyle has already started being adapted, Triple Pundit recently published an insightful article making the case that Millennials are in fact not adapting these new lifestyles any more than their forerunners Generation X. Many of the current discussions, the author argues, are taking place far from the facts, since statistics actually show that Generation X finds sharing just as appealing as the younger generation.

So who is really sharing?

It’s too early to say whether it is mostly the Millennial generation who is embracing access to goods instead of ownership or whether we are looking at a development that affects all ages and society as a whole. To get a deeper understanding of our consumption habits in the 21st century, it is definitely worth keeping an eye out for further research in this area. Still the bottom line is that no matter which generation is adapting asset-light lifestyles most, important is that these lifestyles are being adopted at all, and that they are transforming the way we live, interact and trust each other on the Web.

What do you think? Is it really only Generation Y’s consumer habits that are changing, or does this change concern society as a whole? Would you rent out your car to a stranger?

Give your opinion in the comments.


Check out Mary Meeker’s presentation on the KPCB Internet Trends 2012 and the Asset-Light Generation starting with slide 59 above.

Should I share my car?

Pundits have declared that the sharing economy is poised to shift into high gear in 2013– but not without a few speedbumps, one of them being the question of insurance.

carsharing

Source: Touring Club Suisse/Schweiz/Svizzero TCS

An article in the New York Times brought up the complicated liability issues surrounding RelayRides and a fatal accident that occurred with one of their renters last year.  Shortly after this article surfaced Shareable published an article saying that the New York Times greatly exaggerated the risk of p2p carsharing. According to their research, there is no risk of being dropped by your insurance company for renting out your car in the states of California, Oregon, or Washington, as other articles have suggested. In all other states, the insurers legally still have the right to cancel your insurance policy – however, there has not been a single reported case of this happening yet.

There is yet another important question: even though p2p carsharing companies offer additional liability insurance coverage of $1,000,000, as for instance Getaround does, who pays if the costs associated with an accident exceed this sum? It’s logical to assume that the car rental pool is responsible for insuring the vehicles.  However, as it was in the RelayRides case, that insurance is largely supplemental.

One argument goes that, if an accident occurs, the driver of the vehicle should be responsible for damages. But some people think the car’s owner should be responsible because they chose to hand the keys over to someone else.

But there’s yet another wrinkle: the fact that most of these rentals are for short periods of time.  What’s the rule for renting it out for only a couple hours?

Naturally, the insurance companies (just like the tax collector) aren’t sure what to make of the sharing economy and their role within it.  It’s a game-changer.  Fortunately, a few insurers are recognizing the potential of this new way of doing business and working on ways to become part of it.  In the meantime, owners and renters – of anything from cars to apartments – would do well to read the fine print.  Just in case.

TrustCloud says Happy Holidays!

Source: Mukumbura von Flickr via Photopin, CC

Trustcloud wishes you happy holidays and a wonderful New Year!

Thank you to all of our members for making our 2012 launch awesome!

2013 is going to be a big year for the sharing economy  – we look forward to seeing you there.

 

Keep trusting and sharing!

Team TrustCloud

Xin, Miles, Rob, Michael, Nadia & Francesca

Why do you trust? For many different reasons.

Trust in different situationsPeer-to-peer platforms are popping up everywhere on the Web. If you wanted to, you could almost organize every part of your life with the help of such marktetplaces: travel, mobility, eating, learning, ..the list is endless. When you talk about trust between users of these platforms, one discussion that often comes up is that different types of sharing platforms require different dimensions of trust.

Think about all the occasions you might “trust” someone. When you lend a friend a book or DVD, you’re trusting them to give it back to you in mostly the same condition as when you lent it to them. Now think about all of the people you’ve lent little things to. Would you let everyone of those people borrow your car? Would you trust your child with each and every one of them? The answer’s no.Though we may not consciously realize it, we categorize people we know by levels of trust. These levels aren’t neatly divided, either. There are plenty of cases where we’d trust a friend or family member with our life, but we wouldn’t trust them with our money.

 
The trouble with our trust levels is that we can’t always describe exactly how we arrive at these categorizations. There’s an element of time; we’re more likely to trust people we’ve had long relationships with. We trust our powers of observation; when someone’s irresponsible in one situation, it’s easy to believe they’re irresponsible in other situations as well. Finally, we trust our gut, the hidden feelings that simply cannot be qualified.When we don’t have the luxury of actually observing someone’s behavior, we have to trust middlemen. We ask a friend to recommend a babysitter or housekeeper, we make requests to closed communities for information about sensitive issues like medicine. Even online, people demonstrate certain patterns of behavior that can be analyzed to determine their trustworthiness in different scenarios (borrowing a DVD versus babysitting a child).
 
Clearly, a single “size” of trust is not sufficient across all platforms.  Fortunately, there’s a growing body of online data exhaust that can be analyzed into layers to provide a more exact picture of a person’s behavior. Read more about how TrustCloud wants to leverage this data in our previous blog post.

Why we Need Friction to Build Trustworthy Identities

Friction

Photo Credit: polandeze via Photopin, CC license

Sometimes we need a little friction. We read “In Defense of Friction”, a blog by Andrés Monroy-Hernández who writes for the Microsoft Research group The Social Media Collective. The short blog references a paper by Berkeley Professor Coye Cheshire called “Online Trust, Trustworthiness, or Assurance?” The main point, argued by Monroy-Hernández, is that we shouldn’t hand over the reigns to social networks totally in order to automate social interactions.

What does this mean, friction? Monroy-Hernández and Cheshire suggest that certain actions have levels of friction and, in some cases, a lack of friction is good. Take Groupon for example; their site is extremely frictionless. By opting-in to their service, a platform which I trust, I store my credit card information with them, and all it takes for me to order a 70%-off deal on yoga classes is one click. Groupon has created a system of trust, that reduces friction between consumer and vendor. But in systems where the online relationship is more complex than consumer and vendor, friction is essential.

These relationships range from online friendships to peer-to-peer exchanges. Monroy-Hernández uses the example of Facebook birthdays. Facebook reminds you of your friend’s birthday, and gives you a pop-up option reminding you to post on their wall. Facebook makes this interaction easy, it reduces the friction, and in turn, takes away from its intended meaning. Purchasing something from an online business should be frictionless. It is the exchange of money for a product. That interaction does not require any further context.But a new type of e-commerce is growing around the idea of giving online interactions more meaning.

New peer-to-peer sharing, renting, and borrowing sites are working to create more meaningful and sustainable e-commerce through collaborative consumption. This type of interaction requires a higher level of trust and social reputation which must be earned by each individual, not generated by a computer. In the sharing economy, higher friction leads to higher reward. It’s not that being part of this new consumer network should be hard, it’s that it should be genuine.

Traditional e-commerce creates systems of trust to reduce friction and increase transactions. The sharing economy needs its own system that lets individuals build trust through friction. It should be frictionless to become part of the sharing economy’s trust system, but being a part of the system does not implicitly suggest you are trustworthy. Think of it like joining a gym. It should be easy to join the gym and the gym provides you with an opportunity to get in shape. But simply joining the gym does not get you in shape. You have to go, work hard, and keep at it. Like joining the gym, it should be easy to become part of the sharing economy’s trust system. But once you are part of the system you need continual friction to build and maintain a trustworthy online identity.


 

Its not influence, but trust that counts

Influence vs. trust

Source: Pulpolux on Flickr via Photopin, used under Creative Commons license

I read somewhere that, long before he became respectable as a judge on “American Idol,”  Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler used to travel with his own chainsaw, the better to trash hotel rooms when he got bored.  That kind of information might have been useful to the reservations desk at a few Holiday Inns.  Sure, Tyler may have had millions of fans – doesn’t mean you could trust him with your freshly-redecorated penthouse suite.

If the current celebrity culture has shown us anything, its that a person can have plenty of “influence” but lack other redeeming qualities. When it comes to the Sharing Economy, people need to know they can actually TRUST someone with their stuff.   Certainly trust does have components of “reputation” and “influence” mixed in – but in our opinion, its largely determined by what one does.  In fact, we’re so committed to this idea of trust-over-influence, we wrote about it earlier here.

Between Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and more, there’s plenty of data exhaust that provides a picture of someone’s trustworthy behavior.  Looking at how they act over time offers a more reliable metric for trust than simply where they rank in the influence scale.

Behavior in the right context is also critical.  Someone who returns your car is trustworthy in one sense, but would you trust them with watching your kid?  That requires more – and different –  data.  TrustCloud believes in aggregating the various “layers” of public information to scientifically generate a simple score that ranks an individual’s trustworthiness across different platforms (things, property, people).

Ultimately, showing how someone actually interacts within the online world (not to mention the real one) is a better indicator of whether they’ll do the right thing when engaging with strangers.  Actions over time are much harder to fake than, say, tons of glowing “reviews” (which can be easily gamed).

Behavior is where the rubber meets the road.  By making someone’s virtuous behavior both accessible and portable as a “score,” TrustCloud hopes to take some of the speedbumps (not to mention, chainsaws) out of the Sharing Economy.

Collaborative Cities – an Interactive Documentary about the Sharing Economy

Collaborative Cities

Maxime Leory, filmmaker of “Collaborative Cities”

For the past several months, the French filmmaker, interaction and service designer Maxime Leroy has been traveling to cities around the world to make a film documentary about the sharing economy called collaborative cities.

Making a documentary was my childhood dream. I just waited 23 years to find the perfect subject.

After stopping in New York City, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Toronto and San Francisco, he travelled from North America to Europe, where he is visiting another seven cities. What has he been doing in all these different places? On his journey, Maxime has been exploring fascinating initiatives and interviewing people who are “reinventing the world we live in” by sharing resources, skills, knowledge, space and experiences.

I am passionnate about this new economy, as a designer, and as a human being. After having written about it, I decided I wanted to give a voice to all the amazing services and communities by making this film.

He visited hackerspaces, timebanks, food coops, coworking spaces and, during his stop in New York, he also interviewed TrustCloud CEO Xin Chung about his vision on trust and the sharing economy.

collaborative citiesBut this film is no normal documentary. Maxime is not making a movie that you can go see at the theatre or watch at home after it is finished. This documentary is interactive, because it incorporates the spectator into the filmmaking process: every step of the way, you can follow Maxime’s journey online and join local events he calls “collaborative meetups” (the  New York meetup was proudly hosted by TrustCloud at 30 Rock). His film is not only about the end result, but about its evolutive and creative process.

Another interesting fact about this film is that it was not only about collaborative services, it also used them itself to get funded. The entire project was crowdfunded within a few weeks on the platform KissKissBankBank and is being supported by Ouishare, faberNovel and Adesias.

If you are interested in following the last steps of collaborative cities and would like to see interviews, pictures and video footage from the film making process, you should check out the film website and sign up for Maxime’s newsletter.

What will Maxime do after finishing the film next spring? Probably return to being a designer full time – but in the back of his mind, Maxime is already thinking about making a Collaborative Cities II in South America or Asia. We are very curious about seeing the film and look forward to following Maxime’s future work!