Reputation, Identity, Trust, Thomas Power and Cloning ..

Identity and Reputation are of interest to me since they are related to my PhD – and hence I have a viewpoint on this story ..

I have learnt a lot from a UK based online networking site called ecademy – both the Dos and the Don’ts ..

This is a case of ‘Don’ts

For me, the story starts with an article about Ecademy founder Thomas Power in the BBC.

Since I got to know this from another source – I thought that it was unusual – since any PR mention of Ecademy is widely propagated on the site ..

Unless .. It is not exactly flattering ..

Which it transpires – it was not!

The issue has to do with Thomas using ‘ghost bloggers’ i.e. paying people to write on his behalf under his name ..

Indeed, famous politicians use ghost writers .. And so do others use ghost writers ..

What’s wrong in doing the same online?

A LOT in my view ..

Let’s take a step back ..

Identity is based on primary attributes (such as biometric information). In the absence of primary attributes, Conferred Identity is used which is based on attributes from accepted sources (such as a passport).

Reputation is what others say about me. The more ‘reputed’ these other people are and the more they ‘know’ you and vouch for you – the better your reputation

All this takes an interesting turn in the online world

Online Identity does not necessarily mirror your ‘real’ identity. Thus, Online Identity is malleable. Hence it needs to be complemented by reputation.

In other words, Reputation becomes a very important part of my online identity because my online identity is malleable and non unique.

Also, Reputation is additive i.e. accumulates over time. Thus, online Identity and reputation are interlinked – and may even be synonymous

It is in this context that – a ghost blog writers become a betrayal of Identity, Reputation and ultimately .. that most valued of commodities online – Trust!

If the person behind the blog is ‘not’ Thomas – how can I trust Thomas? How can the people ‘vouching’ for a blogger – know who they are vouching for(since Identity has got muddied now)?

Thus, there is a breakdown of Reputation(since the Identity of the blogger is unknown) and also trust.

The BBC article quotes Thomas as: “People expect me to have a profile on all the social networks – Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn,

My view is .. Not really .. No .. people simply expect us to be ourselves and human ..

Behind the scenes cloning is not human! :)

Inferred identity using a skype directory ..


A couple of weeks ago, I met Joel Selvadurai founder of messagr at the launch party of Techcrunch UK.

Joel is working on an interesting application.

I have blogged about inferred identity using a hypothetical mechanism called PeopleRank.

Thus, I have always been interested in Identity and Reputation Systems

Messagr is an interesting aspect of inferred identity (derieved identity).

Essentially, its a Skype ‘directory’.

What’s special about that I asked Joel?

The basic skype directory does not give much (and also only what you have enteretd)

However, if you have embedded Skype in your blog, then knowing your skype id, it can then infer more information about you based on the tags associated with your blog

This is indeed a fascinating idea! Very much in line with my own visions of Identity.

Speaking of which .. I am attending the Digital Identity Forum in London tomorrow

If you are there, lets meet