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Summary:

When it comes to users, transparency is important for taking reputation with them across sites. Being chattygirl32 in the New York Times comments section isn’t so helpful when you try to leverage online reputation elsewhere. A real name, however, might stick.

Yahoo's Luke Beatty, Trada's Niel Robertson, Klout's Matt Thomson, and GigaOM's Colleen Taylor at Net:Work 2011

Yahoo's Luke Beatty, Trada's Niel Robertson, Klout's Matt Thomson, and GigaOM's Colleen Taylor at Net:Work 2011A lot will change when it comes to the future of online reputation, but one thing looks to remain static: transparency will always be important so users know on what grounds their reputations are being established.

Interestingly, that goes for both service providers and their users. On the provider side, Yahoo’s Luke Beatty, it’s VP and GM of community, thinks that users understand that the way sites operate and rank them will change. However, he said, “I don’t think anyone has a problem with the change as much as they have a problem with the transparency.”

Matt Thompson, VP of platform at Klout, echoed. “The desire to be transparent and the execution to be transparent are two different things,” he said, “and we stink at the execution right now.”

Transparency is so critcal, Beatty said, because how sites rate users will change over time. Behavior or skills that used to be important might change, and users looking to establish reputations need to know.

There might be a limit, though. Trada CEO Niel Robertson said he believes in half-transparency, kind of like the way Google only gives a guideline as to how its AdWords algorithm works. Users — in Trada’s case freelance, crowdsourced workers — need to know the criteria, he said, but if you’re completely open they might look to start gaming the system.

When it comes to users, transparency (aka the opposite of anonymity) is important for taking reputation with them across sites. Being chattygirl32 in the New York Times comments section, for example, isn’t so helpful when you try to leverage online reputation elsewhere. A real name, however, might stick.

Of course, using real names is also helpful in letting platform providers know who they’re dealing with. Robertson said Trada requires workers to use their real names, and Beatty said Yahoo does the same for people it pays for content. On Klout, Thompson said, tying together multiple anonymous accounts wouldn’t be too helpful — a real name, at least, is what what ties your influence to your reputation.

Robertson made another good point that often goes overlooked, which is that making user transparency might start spreading beyond users’ control, and beyond the web. There are all sorts of sites ranking doctors, for example, but he thinks we’re ripe for a time when doctors start rating patients, landlords rating tenants and the like.

You can hide behind all the screen names in the world, but don’t think those with whom you do business in the real world will be so accomodating.

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