Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Okay then, how about Web 2.5.1?

Forgive my nerdy joke and my continual need to push the topic of "versioning" the web. I come from the good ol' days of 1.0.1a not just alpha, beta, gamma, omega. While Web 2.0 has certainly become a marketing jargon, let's respect that if we don't keep versioning past Web 2.0 (whether as marketing or real practice), we're saying we're not evolving. Web 3.0's real definition will likely be in a re-infastructured web, not in any particular application or technology. But back to the topic of reputation....

The first breed of aggregators (MySpace, Friendster, all of those b-2-b niche communities etc) tightly controlled the terms of use and looked at their membership as their asset. They built closed systems and governed their communities hierarchically. They decided what to show, what to promote, how to allow, and acceptable codes of conduct.

Two of the most successful community sites - Digg and Facebook - are both communities who have lost control of their community. Digg saw a mass revolt around what the community perceived as censoring but what Digg saw as prudent risk management. Most amazingly, Digg vowed its fate to the community, a noble if not dangerous move. Facebook experienced its own revolt (though not around an issue of legal liability) where mass protest around privacy issues led to watering-down and in some parts removing new functionality. Now with f8, they have truly opened up their site to 3rd party applications. Some of which (like those that allow monitoring of who has browsed your page) are contrary to the spirit and philosophy of the Facebook value-set.

The problems with being open or too open are:

The Wisdom of the Crowds isn't often wise: Have a look at the front-pages of Digg and YouTube. Count how many of the pieces of content most voted for by the crowd are of interest to YOU!
Community power is exploited: I have it, you want it. eBay sellers refusing to assign feedback until they get seller feedback first. Digg members selling their ability to rank a story. etc.
"Co-upping" is common. You and I both know that in order to thrive in a community, I need reputation. So we agree to mutually confer respect. It's not earned, it's negotiated. I don't know if I've just invented the term co-upping to refer to this common community practice but it's sufficiently descriptive.

My intent in yesterday's post was to say that we as community-builders and as aggregators and promoters of UGC must realize that we're now at a point where we must evolve or die.

Though I was about to go on to talk about what "real reputation management" should look like, it occurs to me that there is an interesting fix to the problem of Digg and YouTube. And it's already starting. Community aggregation services + Widgets * Facebook mediated-relationships = True Egocasting.

Michael O'Connor Clarke wrote a great post outlining some thoughts on a centralized infrastructure approach to reputation management. In his post, he said "When you "friend" me on one service, you're giving me a vote of reputation – saying, in effect, "this is one of the people I count among the good guys." This is only true when people are truly restrictive of who they count as friends. I can't actually vouch for many of the people listed as "friends" on Facebook. Just because I've seen pictures vacationing with their family, doesn't mean I know how they treat their kids.

But what I do know is what they like, what their tastes are, and to some extent their values (and no, this is not gleamed from what they entered in the "Religious views" field.

So with f8, each Facebook member can ego-cast what they find on the web to their semi-trusted network. They can do this because instead of trying to figure out and keep track of the fact that I'm weirdname07 at YouTube, literaryreference01 at Digg, etc, I know who you are at Facebook and it's there that you're broadcasting what you've found at YouTube, what YOU like there, to me and all of your friends at Facebook.

And this is the missing piece. I don't know if you're really my friend, but I know you're my go-to guy on brit-pop bands I'd never heard of. Most of your movie reviews don't disappoint and we actually have a relationship, established BEFORE you started sharing this stuff with me so I can razz you as opposed to trash you when I follow your advice to see "The Holiday". In fact, the whole pretext of the Facebook connection was that we somehow knew each other before we met again on Facebook. You're truly losing face to me and potentially our shared friends whereas if you're anonymous and unknown to me, you really have nothing invested in the relationship.

It's a bit of a departure from yesterday's post and I believe that there are some technological "holy grails" to pursue but in the meanwhile, a lot of this comes down to actually putting the commune into community. When reputation is an isolated number not an issue of real "face", the relationship will always be compromised.

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I think you've got something here, Tom. This is good, forward thinking.
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