Building Real, Transparent Reputation Profiles

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Building Real, Transparent Reputation Profiles

If you haven’t heard of Connect.Me yet, it’s a socially-verified reputation network. That means users of popular social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (and soon Google+) can vouch for each other’s skills, expertise, and passions. Each vouch is specific to a tag that describes the person you are vouching for. Here’s an example of my own Connect.Me card:

I can choose my own tags, or others can suggest tags for me — ultimately I decide which ones appear on my card. Anyone who knows me can vouch for one of my tags with one click — the number after each tag shows the total for that tag.

Data Transparency

In fact, once you’ve connected your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter account(s), vouching on Connect.Me is so easy that one of main questions we get is, “How do I know vouches are for real — why don’t people just vouch for everyone in the hope of receiving vouches back?”

The first answer is transparency. All vouches are public — for both the voucher and the vouchee — so it is easy to spot when someone is vouching indiscriminately. They will have a high number of outgoing vouches and a much lower number of incoming vouches. We’ve already seen this with a handful of users of the private beta.

The second answer is credibility. Whenever you want to see who is behind a vouch count, you can just click on a tag. For example, below is what you would see if you click on my “digital identity” tag:

The +numbers below each voucher show the number of vouches they have received on that same tag (in this case, “digital identity”). For example the first person, Rohan Pinto, worked in digital identity at Sun for years. The second, Eve Maler, is the main force behind the UMA (User Managed Access) protocol for user-controlled data sharing. The third and fourth are Phil Windley and Kaliya (Identitywoman), who together put on the Internet Identity Workshop.


The point is that if you vouch indiscriminately, your vouches will carry very little credibility. Still, overvouching — or even worse, actual dishonest vouching to try to game the system — erodes credibility and diminishes the value of a vouch.

The strongest way to protect against this is to use the single best judge of human behavior: other people. This is exactly how Wikipedia manages the world’s largest all-volunteer encyclopedia. To quote from Wikipedia’s own article on The Reliability of Wikipedia:

The Wikipedia model allows anyone to edit, and relies on a large number of well-intentioned editors to overcome issues raised by a smaller number of problematic editors. It is inherent in Wikipedia’s editing model that misleading information can be added, but over time quality is anticipated to improve in a form of group learning as editors reach consensus, so that substandard edits will very rapidly be removed.

Connect.Me is applying the Wikipedia model to building a scalable peer-to-peer reputation network. Just as the quality of Wikipedia articles kept improving as the number of editors grows, the quality of Connect.Me vouches will keep improving as the number of vouchers grows.

So who are the “Wikipedia admins” of this reputation network? They are called trust anchors. The special role they play is defined in a legal document called the Respect Trust Framework, which won the Privacy Award at the European Identity Conference last May. It defines four trust levels that all vouchers progress through:

  1. Unverified – you have registered using a social networking account and agreed to the Respect Trust Framework
  2. Verified – you have verified your social networking acount(s), given at least 10 vouches and received at least 3
  3. Trusted – you have given and received at least 25 vouches.
  4. Anchor – you have received a special trust anchor vouch from at least 3 other trust anchors

This last requirement is crucial for creating the highest level of trust. As explained in our paper, Building Lasting Trust: The Game Dynamics of the Respect Trust Framework, trust anchor vouching forms a special chain of trust that begins with a known set of people, called the Founding Trust Anchors. These are individuals whose identity is publicly verifiable and who explicit agree to help administer the principles and rules of the Respect Trust Framework.

Many of the Founding Trust Anchors are members of the Internet identity, security, and privacy communities who believe in the power of a peer-to-peer, socially-verified reputation network. Others are early users of the Connect.Me private beta (like Saul) who see the power of social vouching and want to help the trust network grow. And others are people exactly like you who are reading about this for the first time and thinking, “Hey, if Wikipedia could build one of the world’s greatest knowledge resources using a volunteer wiki, maybe that could also work for building a worldwide social vouching network.”

If so, we’d love to have you. As readers of Saul’s OsakaBentures blog, here are two insider tips:

  1. If you haven’t been vouched for by a Connect.Me user yet (which automatically qualifies you to join the private beta), here’s how you can still get an invitation: go to Connect.Me, register your username, then email it to us at requests — at — connect — dot — me and mention this blog post.
  2. If you are interested in becoming a Founding Trust Anchor and believe you are qualified (please read the description of the trust levels first), you can submit an application using this short form.

About Drummond Reed

Co-founder of Connect.Me. Internet entrepreneur in digital identity, privacy, personal data, and trust frameworks. Former Executive Director of the Information Card Foundation and the Open Identity Exchange. Founding board member of the OpenID Foundation,,, and Identity Commons.



This article was found on Saul Fleischman website ...  OSAKA BENtures

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