December 31, 2004

Reputation and Identity on the Internet

In describing his thought process for selecting where to send money for tsunami relief, David Weinberger has given a great description of how reputation, trust, and ultimately, identity, work on the net.

In a situation like this - especially since I'm responding to a stranger - I want a source whose intentions I trust 100% and whose research I can trust to be responsible. I trust Amazon because I trust Jeff Bezos. I trust Google because overall they've shown themselves to be interested in making the world a better place. (We can argue about the exceptions later.)

I find institutions to be much more trustworthy than individuals in this regard. If a friend told me I ought to contribute to Bob's Missionary because they're do such great tsunami relief work, the tie between my friend and Bob would have to be tight - almost first-hand - before I'd donate.

Reliance on branded authorities leads to more money going to the Big Brand philanthropies at the expense of smaller, more local efforts that may be more efficient and effective. But in a big world that has tricksters and con artists, trusted institutions can be a necessary intermediary.

Posted by jackhodgson at December 31, 2004 10:07 AM