Yahoo! Talk

posted by alex

After an invitation from Chris Plasser and Caterina we headed out to Yahoo! Innovation yesterday to give a talk about trust and our ongoing research. We based the presentation and accompanying slides around four different stories that all relate to trust in various ways. The first one, about eBay ratings and reputation sheds light on the rating bias and also the re-remapping of reputation that takes place. The multi-dimensional phenomena of reputation travels via a biased one-dimensional scale to becoming a social cue rather than an objective numerical value and is thus in a sense “taken back to humanness of a new multi-dimensional phenomena.

The second story, about post-ratings within intimate google groups and the conflict of large scale systems and informal interactions brings up Tönnies concept of Gesellschaft and Gemeinschaft. These two sociological “normal types” serve as an interesting framework for looking at some of the tensions within social formations and the slides lists a few dichotomies between them. The third story concerns trust as a transitive property and uses Granovetter’s ideas about weak ties to ask if transitive trust is at all useful in the scenarios where it might exist. The fourth and final story shows an example of some fine “googlestalking” and also how Internet users find new ways of interpreting the digital body and assessing social cues in order to establish trust.Apart from all the fun we had talking to the Innovation TechDev group and the always insightful Caterina we also got the chance to meet up with Yvonne French, senior product manager for the Yahoo! reputation platform, to discuss Yahoo’s point of view on trust topics. Yvonne had a good point that is worth remembering; we know that reputation is context sensitive but that doesn’t mean that the same reputation can not be used in several contexts. The issue is, of course, about finding the contexts where reputation can cross successfully. Furthermore, we can never remind ourselves too often that a context is not defined by an URL–a website might encompass several contexts in the same way that a context might entail many websites.

To finish off the already great day we met up with Tom, Ted and Bill from Opinity for a relaxed yet insightful talk about online identity, trust, philosophy and even some sci-fi… Among other things, we talked about third-party institutions that have the possibility of acting as a trust-mediator in order to guarantee a certain fact about somebody without the necessity to disclose the fact itself to the asking party. I.e. somebody could ask a trusted third party to verify that my email is indeed connected to a real person with a valid credit card without me having to reveal my credit card number or my actual name to them. In many cases this makes sense since the asking party might not be interested in the actual information per se but rather just in the verification of its existence.

On another note, we are hoping to do a small talk about trust tomorrow at BarCampStanford so if you’re in the neighborhood please come join us!