All About Trust and Reputation in the Digital World

Category: Trust & Reputation in the Digital World

Unsourcing, Trust and Reputation

Unsourcing trust and reputation

One of the emerging trends in the digital world is unsourcing, where companies transfer key business functions from paid employees to unpaid volunteers, such as customers on social networks.  An example of unsourcing is social support where unpaid volunteers are in charge of product support.

The benefits for businesses are threefold: reducing costs, improving customer satisfaction and mobilizing customers that are keen on their products, services, or brands to spread the word.

The benefit for volunteers is the ability to create a positive social image, and gain recognition and prestige by answering questions, assisting customers in solving problems and boosting their digital influence.

However, unsourcing poses an important challenge.  It requires a comprehensive trust and reputation management framework in order to attract reliable, knowledgeable and productive volunteers by creating and maintaining hierarchies of volunteers that are trust-based, competence-related and social image-driven.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Digital Genome Sequencing – An Efficient Way to Manage Trust and Reputation

Digital Genome Sequencing

As we go about our everyday lives, working, trading, playing, training, etc., we leave behind digital traces that collectively form our digital genome.  Digital genome sequencing aims to analyze and interpret digital footprints left by our daily activities.  It uses big data tools and methods to extract crucial insights and decipher relevant patterns. 

Of particular interest is digital genome sequencing as a means to manage trust and reputation in an unprecedented way. Indeed, properly monitoring and analyzing the digital genome of an individual is an efficient approach to assess the trust and reputation that can be placed in him with regard to various themes, in the same way that physical genome sequencing determines the physical quirks, characteristics and traits of an individual.

Digital genome sequencing to manage trust and reputation is at the intersection of computer science, social sciences, and statistics.  It analyzes activities and relations in digital arenas such as social networks, digital marketplaces, and forums.  It takes into account academic degrees, career paths, professional records, and publications.  It uses geographic locations and interprets social and credit scores.  It tracks online individual and collaborative phony activities.

In this context, the biggest challenge will be dealing with individual privacy, but as the digital world is taking a bigger and bigger chunk of our lives, we will be more and more willing to trade some of our privacy for a substantial improvement in trust and reputation management among the participants in the increasingly critical digital life.    

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Crowdfunding, Keeping Digital Criminals at Bay

Crowdfunding Keeping Digital Criminals at Bay

As crowdfunding is gaining popularity as a means of raising money in the digital world, thanks to the rules under consideration by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission under the 2012 JOBS Act, trust and reputation management in relation to online collaborative funding is becoming a serious issue.  Indeed, both donation-based crowdfunding and investment-based crowdfunding attract digital criminals.

More precisely, donation-based crowdfunding services, provided by sites such as Kickstarter and Fundly, and investment-based crowdfunding services, provided by sites like AngelList and MicroVentures, are prone to:

  • digital scamming where scammers create fake projects to steal money from the backers.  In one case last year, one large crowdfunding site almost handed over $120,000 to a fake start-up.  There were more than 3,000 backers involved;
  • digital money-laundering where  “dirty” money coming from criminal activities is invested through equity, debt, or tax deductible donations.

In this context, proper trust and reputation management strategies should be implemented by crowdfunding sites.  In our view, an efficient trust and reputation strategy, that aims to detect fraudsters preemptively, has to combine:

  • human intelligence-based approaches that implement formal due diligence and vetting processes;
  • algorithmic-based approaches that automatically analyze the credentials provided by each participant,  monitor the participants’ activities and reputation in digital arenas such as social networks and digital marketplaces, and whenever possible check their track records within other crowdfunding sites. 

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Trust, Reputation and Digital Dualism

Trust, Reputation and Digital Dualism

Digital dualism is defined by social media theorist Nathan Jurgenson as the belief that the digital and physical worlds are separated, with the physical world being fully real and the digital world being virtual.  The digital dualists posit that the two worlds are engaged in a competition (for time, attention, participation, etc.). In their view, the physical and digital worlds are not complementary.  Nathan Jurgenson rejects digital dualism as a fallacy.  He argues that what happens in one world has direct effects in the other world.

We completely agree with Nathan Jurgenson.  From a reputation standpoint, what happens in the digital world has a direct impact on the reputation of individuals, businesses, and institutions in the physical world.  Indeed, over the past few years, we have witnessed countless situations where a bad reputation in the digital world wrecked careers, drove companies out of business and even led to appalling consequences such as the suicide of cyberbullied teenagers.

Conversely, what happens in the physical world has a great impact on trust and reputation in the digital world.  For example, customers’ experience (good or bad) with businesses and institutions in the physical world (e.g., restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, healthcare institutions, education institutions) translates into reputation in the digital world, thanks to online services such as those provided by review sites.    

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Fake Reviews, the Plague of Rating Services

Fake Reviews The Plague of Rating Services

Once again, Yelp is  in the news for fake reviews.  This time around, it is a mattresses and furniture  store in La Mesa, California.  “This business created a dozen or so accounts on Yelp from the same IP address (their IP address) which they used to create fake reviews of their own business,” said Vince Sollitto, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Yelp.  “The business then used those accounts to message people on Yelp offering to pay $25 by PayPal or mail for a five star vote,” Sollitto said.

Yelp Consumer Alert

As outlined in a previous post in this blog, fake ratings, along with the lack of models to manage trust placed in raters, haunt existing rating services and are  major issues undermining their credibility.  These issues should be addressed urgently, as more and more people rely on rating services to make increasingly important decisions.  We are of the opinion that these issues have to be addressed by combining a computational approach with a human controlling effort in order to substantially improve the overall trustworthiness of rating services, and this is what Trustiser is all about.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Online Advertising and Trust

Online Advertising and Trust

A recent study, based on responses from 58,000 respondents in the US and 16,000 respondents in Europe, conducted by Forrester Research reveals interesting findings about the trust placed by consumers in various online advertising and promotion approaches (see figure below).  The study shows that 70% of consumers in the US (61% in Europe) trust brand or product recommendations from friends and family. While 55% of US consumers (33% in Europe) trust professionally written online reviews and 46%  of US consumers (38% in Europe) trust consumer written online reviews.


As outlined in a previous post in this blog, this level of trust in friends and online opinions doesn’t come as a surprise.  It is the logical result of the good reputation that any person tends to have among his friends and the natural trust that online consumers place in authoritative reviewers and aggregated ratings (the so-called wisdom of crowds).  Both friends and online authoritative and aggregated opinions can be viewed as reliable sources.  The recommendations from reliable sources are of primary importance, they help human brain in making decisions very quickly because they have a big impact on trust inference.

That is the reason why we do think that the digital world should move towards the establishment of topic-related, experience and/or expertise-oriented, trust-based hierarchies of reviewers.  Those hierarchies will significantly reinforce, for the better, consumers’ reliance on online reviews and recommendations.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

The 10 Commandments of Digital Exodus

The 10 Commandments of Digital Exodus

A socio-cultural revolution, unprecedented in human history, is well underway, thanks to the acceleration of the exodus of human activities (trade, finance, education, entertainment, etc.) to the digital world.  It’s the Digital Exodus.

In this post, we would like to share with you what we think are the 10 commandments that govern the Digital Exodus.

  1. You should not steal others’ identities or use pseudonyms; you should instead reveal your real identity  in order to foster trust because trust is the foundation upon which human activities are based.
  2. You should not worship your digital ego, otherwise you will run the risk of being drowned in a narcissistic whirlpool.
  3. You should not say or write something that you are unable to justify, or at least put in context, the rest of your life because the digital world has a memory that lasts forever and remembers everything.
  4. You should not forget that you are outfitted with a virtual megaphone and that the opinions you express can be potentially heard by every person on the planet and, for better or for worse, ignite reactions.
  5. You should not overlook your digital reputation; you should strive to have the best reputation in every digital arena you go to.
  6. You should not ignore the wisdom of crowds and you should, at the same time, avoid the herd mentality.
  7. You should not be solitary; you should collaborate because collaboration is the essence of the digital world with countless participants involved in creating new knowledge and enhancing the intelligence of both individuals and groups.
  8. You should not hide your intellectual property, unless it represents a major breakthrough leading to revolutionary transformations; you should instead share your ideas, designs, and developments and let the digital world embrace and promote your creativity.  It is the best way to achieve whatever you are aiming for.
  9. You should not seek flash (immediate) monetization; you should instead contribute in an outstanding way to create a strong, competence-based reputation, gain recognition, and then capitalize on your reputation.
  10. You should not miss the revolving wave of the evanescent present so that your contributions to the digital world remain relevant to the dynamics of the “global brain”.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Can We Trust the Crowd Miners?

Can We Trust the Crowd Miners

The digital world is caught in a data deluge, caused to a large extent by the huge collection of actions, ratings, recommendations, opinions, and mere information (in the form of text, audio, or video) generated every day by the citizens of the digital world.  This phenomenon has not gone unnoticed by the research and commercial communities.  As a result, many companies and universities have invested heavily in developing various data mining techniques to harness the exaflood of data generated by the data deluge and discover valuable knowledge and relevant patterns.  

Of particular interest is crowd mining, where gigantic databases of social information are mined to extract useful knowledge.  One example is dishtip, a service offered by TipSense.  TipSense devised a data mining algorithm which is able to reveal best dishes at restaurants by crunching millions of reviews, mentions, and photos of food.

Crowd mining looks very promising but the data extracted from social databases convey malicious content, such as fake ratings and recommendations, that can corrupt the results of crowd mining tools.  In this context, several approaches have been developed to fight malicious content by cleaning the data.  In the realm of rating services, several universities (e.g. Cornell University) and companies (e.g. Google) are working hard to detect fake ratings. 
However, we do believe that fake rating detection algorithms are necessary but not sufficient to deliver high quality data to crowd mining tools.  Indeed, all ratings are not equal, that is the reason why each rating has to be weighted by the trust placed in the user who performed the rating.  In this context, Trustiser will push the envelope by providing crowd mining engines with reliable ratings generated by a community of members arranged hierarchically; the basis of the hierarchy is the trust placed in raters in relation to each topic.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Service Marketplaces and Trust

Service marketplaces and trust

As outlined by Charles Petrie, the world is inevitably heading towards a “sea of  services” because there are powerful market forces for distributing work through technology-mediated service marketplaces: cutting costs while improving productivity, flexibility, and even capabilities.  Self-employment will predominate and people will assemble their collective skills and current tasks to form “flash companies”.  Auctions will be the basic pricing model.  Contracts will be simple.

Trust and Reputation management will be at the core of this revolution.  Indeed, topic-related, competence-based trust and reputation management will allow service seekers (be they individuals, groups, or businesses)  to strike deals directly with reliable, skilled service providers.  It will also make it easier for service providers (be they individuals, groups, or businesses)  to offer service seekers proven, experience or expertise-based services.

Already, existing service marketplaces rest on some basic, yet essential trust and reputation management features.  For example,  paid Q & A service relies on professionals who have been selected with competence-based trust in mind and verified by leading third-party vendors.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Humans, Trust and Reputation

Humans trust and reputation

In order to manage efficiently trust and reputation among humans in the digital world, two important dimensions should be taken into account.

The first dimension is related to the organization of human societies. Human societies are organized hierarchically, and the basis of the hierarchy is trust. Indeed, the trust placed in an individual with regard to a given topic determines his position in the hierarchy related to the topic. The level of trust, and the reputation it creates, depends on the sincerity and experience or expertise exhibited by the individual in relation to the topic. Therefore, trust and reputation management in the digital world should also be hierarchically organized, topic-related and experience or expertise-linked.

The second dimension revolves around the importance of ratings for humans. Indeed, for the human brain, ratings, recommendations, and opinions are much more useful than mere information because ratings and opinions, especially ratings and opinions from reliable sources such as renowned experts, knowledgeable people, and close friends, have a big impact on trust inference. Trust inference is of primary importance because it helps the human brain in making decisions very quickly. In this respect, we would like to quote the columnist Charles McCabe: “Any clod can have the facts, but having opinions is an art”. Therefore, trust and reputation management in the digital world has to adopt, whenever possible, rating-centric and opinion-driven approaches.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

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