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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Community, Identity, Reputation, Friends

Posted by direwolff on January 31, 2005

For online communities to work, there's a need for a trust network to grow within the membership. The advantage that the social networking sites have claimed they could bring to communities is the idea that by connecting to people as "friends" this would imply some level of endorsement between the linked participants. Even if the "friends" have never met face-to-face, the fact that they have interacted to the point where they feel comfortable being linked to each other, has value. It has value for the purpose of establishing an identity through one's reputation, which is how we begin to address issues of trust online.

But too often, people accept others as friends without really knowing much on or offline about the people they are connecting to. This isn't always the case, and I do know people who are quite strict about wanting to know someone well before agreeing to a connection. However, the point being that other people being able to vouch for you becomes more and more important as we develop our online reputations and identity. This always needs to be a consideration when accepting "friends" requests from people online.

What's important to grasp in all of this, is that once connected, people will contact a person's friends when wanting to get an independent confirmation that the virtual interactions are indeed happening with a person who has a good reputation and can be trusted among those who consider him or her a friend. But the system doesn't always work. Where it can fall is in people not understanding the value of community and abdicating their responsibility to vouch for those they consider friends.

Unfortunately, I hit this wall over the past two days with a member on Tribe and it was truly dissappointing. His attitude was righteously indignant when asked to vouch for a friend, as though there was some sort of inquisition (or "witch hunt" as he put it) going on (like I have the time or the desire for such things…oy-vey!). The matter was so simple and struck at the root of how communities need to interact, and he's supposedly a blogger who should be on top of these matters, but he refused to participate. Instead, he decided to go public with the interaction and position himself as the one that was wronged on the basis of some social commentary I made to him on my dissappointment that it appeared that people in Canada seemed to be suffering from a similar level of apathy as has been plaguing people in our own country, in matters of community interactions and responsibilities.

If you're bored and feel like reading the interaction, check this out. What saddened me most about this whole episode is how this blogger decided to go public with this through his blog (where I was forced to respond in his *comments* which are not readily visible unless one clicks to see them) and other channels by yelling "harassment" rather than trying to understand the request for what it was, and working with those trying to make the environment he spends much of his time in, a nicer and more trustworthy place to be…sad.

In re-reading the interaction with him several times, it began to feel like perhaps he was a blogger who needed something to write or make noise about. A pseudo scandal to break, or something. Is this what the blogosphere is coming to…a place where tolerance will no longer be the norm, but instead without rhyme nor reason, people will just spurt out their one sided perspectives for the masses to unravel and see through their smoke? I sure hope not. But for communities to work online, we have to understand the responsibility and the interrelationship this has with identity, reputation and friends.

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