Trusting people on the Web

An interesting post appeared in my feed reader this morning. This post, published on Slashdot, is saying:

"[…] a Newsweek piece suggests that the era of user-generated content is going to change in favor of fact-checking and more rigorous standards. […] “User-generated sites like Wikipedia, for all the stuff they get right, still find themselves in frequent dust-ups over inaccuracies, while community-posting boards like Craigslist have never been able to keep out scammers and frauds. Beyond performance, a series of miniscandals has called the whole “bring your own content” ethic into question. Last summer researchers in Palo Alto, Calif., uncovered secret elitism at Wikipedia when they found that 1 percent of the reference site’s users make more than 50 percent of its edits. Perhaps more notoriously, four years ago a computer glitch revealed that Amazon.com’s customer-written book reviews are often written by the book’s author or a shill for the publisher. ‘The wisdom of the crowds has peaked,’ says Calacanis. ‘Web 3.0 is taking what we’ve built in Web 2.0–the wisdom of the crowds–and putting an editorial layer on it of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined.'"

What is probably the best way to sell something to someone? When someone of trust recommends buying something for X, Y and Z reasons, to someone else. It is possibly why blogs are so powerful to sell things. You have people that write about their lives and their passions. From time to time they write about things they bought and they really liked. They are not paid for it; they just share their experience with other people. What if someone you learned to trust over time, by reading its blog, tell you that one of the thing you wanted to buy, but that you were was not sure to buy for some reasons, tell you that it is an awesome thing to have? Probably that you will more than likely be willing to buy the thing right away, online or in a local store. This is only possible because of the trust you have in this blogger, a trust that you learned over time, while reading its blog.

At least, it is what happens with me, and I hope I am not alone.

The problem they outline in this article is that the trust link has been broken between web readers and content creator. In systems such as Amazon.com and Ebay.com your user identity lives by its own, only within these systems. So you, as a reader and consumer on these web sites, only have access to things these content creator said, on these specific web sites only. You don’t have access the other things they written about, elsewhere on the Web. This means that you only have this partial and incomplete information to trust a person that said something about something you are reading, or that you are about to buy. This is more a question of faith than a question of “trusting the crowd”.

Calacanis said ‘Web 3.0 is taking what we’ve built in Web 2.0–the wisdom of the crowds–and putting an editorial layer on it of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined’. First of all, please stop using the Web 3.0 term for anything; just stop using it at all… Otherwise, I don’t think the benefits would be enough to justify the costs of such a system powered by a crowd of "expert". In that case, is the whole thing doomed?

The main force in action here is trust. The idea is to strengthen the trust level between people across all web sites. What if, from a comment published by a user on Amazon.com, I could end up knowing the URL of its blog, if I could see the ratings he got from Ebay.com users, if I could read other comments he wrote on other web sites and blogs? What if I could know more about a person from any location on the Web, by referring to a comment he wrote?

Then I could start building a better trust relationship with that person, and put more weight in what he said.

Welcome on the Semantic Web.

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