Reputation is everything

It’s funny how when you start thinking about something, links to the subject seem to pop up all over the place! On the way back from dropping my son of at nursery this morning I was thinking about what I might want to write about today…and the various tests that people have been doing lately to see what type of ‘twitter personality’ they are sprung to mind. One example of the many different versions available is here. Of course, this isn’t really just about your twitter-effect…it is about your personality in general and the profile of yourself that you build up online.

This sort of identity management has come up again and again recently. However, it is one thing to take a test for yourself to see how a machine assesses your personality type – it is another when these assumptions become associated with you and those assumptions get promoted without you being aware of it. Nishant Kaushik has an interesting piece over on his Talking Identity blog about this very issue and how it relates to reputation services. If our tweets are being used to make reputation judgments about us and this judgments are being distributed without our input…what effect can this have on the individual?

Your position and presence online is also very much associated to your relationships. I was interested to read about the Penn State Outreach Intranet…not only because of the impressive timescale in which they rolled it out, but because they marketed the approach on the back of the relationship service that is at the heart of the Intranet design. You can read more about this feature here. Brian Kelly has also spoken about the importance of these relationships in his blog pieces on critical friends. This in itself has its benefits and drawbacks – your connections to certain people can say a lot about your standing within a community, but we all know the problems associated with friends being able to tag embarrassing photos to your facebook profile!

People are a commodity on the web…or to put it a different way, they are no longer just the subject of activities (people that can tag and comment on resources) but are the object of other subjects (a resource in themselves that can be tagged and yes, commented on). I think this is where we are seeing a change in web2 approaches…from the amazon-style ‘rate and comment on this book’ to a position where anything and everything can be rated and assessed by anyone. Including you.

This is important not just in places where we are active, but in places where we are inactive. It is not just what I am saying today on this blog or on twitter, but what the presence of an old and inactive blog can say about me if it is still available.

I wonder what this says about affiliation? I’ve been very interested in the importance of affiliation recently, not just because concept of the user being affiliated to an institution is at the heart of the federation process as it has been embedded within education and research. I spoke a while ago about the importance of my affiliation to JISC in terms of my online presence, and have been thinking about the importance of affiliation to various groups of users that are currently served by universities.

Do undergraduate users place any importance in the affiliation they hold with their university? Obviously this is important when reputation matters (being at Cambridge, Oxford, Ivy-league school)…but it does not seem to be important in terms of identity provisioning – as we have seen in the debate about whether institutions should continue to issue undergraduates with affiliated e-mail addresses. We’ve also seen that undergraduate students do not really appreciate the fact that the e-resources held by the library are actually paid for by that institution and their affiliation should matter to them in terms of what it gets them access to. A recent quick poll on twitter showed that students are most likely to appreciate their affiliation when it gets them free stuff elsewhere – cheaper books, cheaper clothes and indeed cheaper beer.

I also wonder how important affiliation is to staff and researchers? One of the issues that we continue to look at in the repositories space is the relationship between author and institution. This is of course complex because of IPR issues, but the use of pre-print repositories has brought this to the forefront from an identity management perspective. We still do not have effective author identifiers (see the Names project for interesting work in this area) and I wonder in looking at solving this how important affiliation should be? Should institutions be managing the author identifier question or is it a bigger issue to be managed elsewhere?

1 thought on “Reputation is everything

  1. Ingrid Melve

    You ask about how important affiliation is to staff and researcher, but another interesting question is how important affiliation for staff/researchers is for the rest of us. Affiliations are used for retrieving information, to sort priorities, to find the right person among several, grant rights and invitations to conferences or friend circles.

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