“Online reputation will become the single most important determining factor in the trajectory of your life”, Leah Busque, founder of TaskRabbit, stated during her SXSW 2013 presentation, Reputation as a Currency. Her talk was dedicated to online reputation, and was one of many panels themed with the Share Economy, social reputation, and trust. Other panels such as the Share Economy panel, “David over Goliath: Power of the Sharing Economy” led by Tim O’Reilly, featuring Shelby Clark from RelayRides, Juliet Gorman from Etsy and Co-founder Nate Blecharczyk from Airbnb, also emphasized the importance of trust in peer-to-peer marketplaces.
“It (online reputation) will decide where you get your next job, or whether you get that loan for your next house or car”, Busque continued. She explained how our reputation is originally ranked by three factors – our credit score, ‘gatekeepers’, and our resume. Your credit score and resume are straightforward criteria, but what are “gatekeepers”. An example of a “gatekeeper” would be the friendly neighbors in America’s 1950’s who dropped by the homes of their freshly moved in peers to welcome them to their new neighborhood. While they smiled at you and asked where you had moved from, they were looking to find out how clean your home was, whether they could detect the smell of alcohol, and if they liked you. They wanted to know what kind of people had joined their community, and this ‘inspection’ shaped your reputation within the community. In other words, a highly subjective ranking system for your reputation.
Busque made the case that as we live more of our lives online and increasingly integrate Collaborative Consumption into our everyday lives, our online behaviour has an increasingly powerful effect on our reputation. Especially when considering that every 2 days we create as much information as we did up to 2003. What was once a highly subjective source of judgement by “choosen” authorities, or “gatekeepers”, is now being democratized over the web. People will find a “trail of online reputation” left by anyone, and individuals want to actively shape what this “trail” consists of.
“We cannot let the old system get in our way of trusting one another”, Busque said. In other words, our old authorities are not serving us best anymore. A decade ago, we were “scared of putting our social data online”, and now we are obsessed with online interactions via social media or peer-to-peer marketplaces. What we still need to fully recognize is that this data is immensely valuable to us and influences our reputation. Busque pointed out that companies like Legit and TrustCloud are looking to solve exactly this problem.
It’s exciting to see more online peer-to-peer marketplaces appearing around the world, each connecting us offline. Real communities are being created from initial online interactions, and the reputation we collect through our behaviour on these platforms influences both our personal and professional lives (and this is a good thing). As rapidly growing share platforms like TaskRabbit and Airbnb define their markets, trust continues to be a major factor in their growth.
At the end of the panel, TrustCloud Founder Xin Chung asked Busque “Is it the responsibility of peer-to-peer marketplaces to make it easy for their users to share their trust reputation across platforms, or is it the responsibility of the users to claim their online data?.” Busque responded that it is important to allow the users to own their reputation and to manage it themselves, and that it will take companies like TrustCloud to find a way to aggregate all this data.
Busque raised the point that online reputation and trust are critical to the growth of the Share Economy. As we start to optimize and leverage our social reputation, it’s important to consider platforms that simplify the maintenance of our social reputation, foster community, and improve speed of trust in our online transactions. Down the line, your online reputation is very likely to measure up against your credit score in determining whether your loan is approved or not. Social reputation starts with the Share Economy today, but could very well end with that loan approval tomorrow.
Listen to Leah Busque talk here.