Why consider reputation?

“Character is like a tree and reputation is like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” – Abraham Lincoln

A week ago I wrote that the purpose of this blog is to explore personal data and the interplay of trust, privacy, reputation, and influence.  Allow me to lead you down the path that sets the foundation for my work.

I believe that trust is the oil that will continue to lubricate the e-commerce engine.  As this engine has transformed from an extension of the real world to a sharing or collaborative economy.  In this transforming economy, more buyers want access to assets, not ownership of assets and sellers are willing to share their assets when not in use.  Because assets in this economy can include skills and time, the sharing economy will require trust between strangers.  The basis of this is an individual’s online reputation.

There are major privacy concerns that surround establishing and maintaining an online reputation.  Much of what I have read about privacy falls into one of two themes.  One is how to preserve as much of one’s privacy as possible, and the other is to call for us to ‘own’ our privacy through control of personal data.  The implication being, “if I share my personal data with you, it’s worth something to you and I want a piece of it.”  After working with this notion for awhile I’ve concluded that privacy is not the objective of personal data management.  I believe the objective of personal data management is to build, nurture, and manage your reputation, especially your online reputation.

Influence is related to, but not equal to reputation.  The waters are very muddy around this distinction in the online world, because many confuse the number of ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ with a numerical reputation score.  “Likes’ and ‘shares’ are influencing mechanisms, not a reflection on the character, behavior, skills and results of an individual.

So why write about personal data privacy and reputation?  Because in a sharing economy a person can leverage their reputation into real value in the form of more engagements at higher rates for sellers and better terms and more options for buyers.


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