Context, the Bridge between Trust and Reputation

Context, the Bridge between Trust and Reputation


I began to wonder if it would even be possible to share a few thoughts on Trust and Reputation without diving too deeply into Sociology, Psychology or Economics. I felt it important to try, because Trust and Reputation are not only very interesting concepts, but now are increasingly important to a broader audience. Specifically, as we meet, connect, friend, follow and engage with more and more people we are required to make faster and faster decisions. Because Dunbar makes it clear that we can only have just so many close relationships, who we trust and what leads us to that conclusion is important to consider.

Staying on the periphery of pure academic disciplines will either get me into trouble faster, or keep me out of trouble – you decide. Like many, I have a certain number of people who I am friends with on Facebook, have a rapport with on Twitter and who I am connected to on Linkedin – all 3 are greater than Dunbar suggests; this before we even consider Google+. I sometimes wonder if I am taking the right approach, the jury is still our honestly. This topic is certainly not as clear-cut as part 1 of the series on Information and Knowledge. Trust is much more personal.

A starting point:

Trust is a construct, a belief, held by a person that another person or entity will do what they say, or what that they are supposed to do. Yes, trust is related to confidence and expectations. they are similar, but different. In Customer Service lingo, ‘I trust that the product will do what it says on the tin’. Therefore, I am willing to make the purchase; or is that enough? How are decisions of Trust made? Someone sends me a Linkedin request to connect. By connecting, does this show some standard level of trust?

Reputation is an opinion, formed by an individual or a group as it relates to a particular entity, person or organization. Reputation is bigger than Trust usually it is inclusive, influenced by others; maybe an aggregate of opinions, held by others. For the purpose of this discussion, a person or organization might be worthy of your trust, or they may not. Because reputation is often based upon inputs from others, it has a broader scope. Using this as a starting point, might allow for a more focused discussion. In Customer Service words, the company has a reputation whereby the product does what it says on the tin, but when it doesn’t, they do not respond.

Who cares?

Clearly, I do. Why, because, there are some axioms, which have been stated, where I am not in full agreement. Trust is not a currency; therefore, it cannot be traded, bartered for or proxied. However, if I want to vouch for someone else, then it is my reputation that is looked at first. Reputation, therefore, is trust in context. In other words, reputation is the ability to take trust, combine that with other pieces of information and to extend it beyond the limits of previous experiences to the current ‘situation’. Again, I cannot trade reputation, but an opinion regarding trust can transfer towards someone’s reputation.

In the world we live, many of us are part of many different communities (networks); digital and real world. The ability to evaluate and build honest to goodness relationships with everyone is nearly impossible. Among Facebook, Linkedin, the kids sports teams, PTA and classrooms, added to our own – heaven forbid - friends in the real world, the numbers are staggering. Can you trust every single person you are connected to, across all networks? Or, did you connect to people because either one or more of your connections, is connected, thus by proxy, you are willing to connect. Did this just break my own rule?

As the world becomes more and more complex and we consider concepts such as bartering, dining with strangers, peer-to-peer travel, sharing a car, a house or having someone do errands, we need trust. But, who do we trust to tell us whom to trust? Yes, it is a bit circular. The ideas here are not new and are now referred to, as collaborative consumption if it is going to work, more needs to be understood.

“Collaborative Consumption describes the rapid explosion in traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping reinvented through network technologies on a scale and in ways never possible before.”

“eBay has proved how the trust we typically form face to face can be built and assigned online, by creating the grandfather of reputation systems, the Feedback Forum.” Rachel Botsman