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Reputations



Something closely related to anonymity issues is _reputation_.

As I keep saying, there have been dozens of articles on this and similar
topics. Mostly in the early days, when we were exploring such things (well,
some of us has started exploring them some years earlier...). Regrettably,
the archive system is not very functional, especially not for older
articles (there are rumors that L. Todd Masco took down the archive site
due to pressure from the "Wall Street Journal" over their copyrighted
articles in the archives...those Web spiders find all such copyright
violations!).

Here's another fragment of my Cyphernomicon, making some points about
positive reputations.

Briefly, think of "restaurants" when thinking about reputations. If one
arrives in a new city, most restaurants may have the same baseline
reputation, e.g. "none." A few may be known by name, for their
"reputation," either good ("You have to eat at Louie's--the laser chicken
is incredible") or bad ("Blecch!). Positive reputations and negative
reputations are self-explanatory. And the reputations of others may affect
the reputations of restaurants ("John Gilmore says he likes the Burma
Burger on Castro Street."). Bad recommendations may affect the "reputation
capital" of John, for example. (We speak of "reputation capital" because it
can in some sense be "spent.")

And so on. Many of the debates about anonymity seem to ignore reputations,
filters, kill files. It is almost as if the critics of anonymous speech are
saying "If there is not accountability for restaurant recommendations,
we'll all be buried in garbage food." This ignores the _emergent order_ or
_evolutionary_ nature of actors in the restaurant and restaurant evaluator
market.

Free speech is often messy. 98% of everything I read or hear is crap, to do
Sturgeon one better. But I use judgement to decide what to read, who to
listen to, and what to mostly ignore. I use _reputation_ to choose
restaurants, books, movies, speakers to listen to, etc.

Sometimes I listen to anonymous speech, but mostly I don't. Pseudonyms take
a while to gather a "positive reputation," and some never do. This is the
way speech works. "Accountability" is a red herring.

Anyway, here's the promised excerpt:


   15.5.5. reputations are what keep CA systems from degenerating into
            flamefests
           - digital pseudonyms mean a trail is left, kill files can be
              used, and people will take care about what they say
           - and the systems will not be truly anonymous: some people
              will see the same other people, allowing the development of
              histories and continued interactions (recall that in cases
              where no future interaction is exected, rudeness and
              flaming creeps in)
           + "Rumormonger" at Apple (and elsewhere) always degenerates
              into flames and crudities, says Johann Strandberg
             - but this is what reputations will partly offset
   15.5.6. "brilliant pennies" scam
   15.5.7. "reputation float" is how money can be pulled out of the
            future value of  a reputation
   15.5.8. Reputation-based systems and repeat business
           + reputations matter...this is the main basis of our economic
              system
             - repeat business....people stop doing business with those
                they don't trust, or who mistreat them, or those who just
                don't seem to be reputable
             - and even in centrally-controlled systems, reputations
                matter (can't force people to undertake some relations)
           - credit ratings (even for pseudonyms) matter
           - escrow agents, bonding, etc.
           - criminal systems still rely on reputations and even on
              honor
           - ironically, it is often in cases where there are
              restrictions on choice that the advantages of reputations
              are lost, as when the government bans discrimination,
              limits choice, or insists on determining who can do
              business with who
           + Repeat business is the most important aspect
             - granularity of transactions, cash flow, game-theoretic
                analysis of advantages of "defecting"
             - anytime a transaction has a value that is very large
                (compared to expected future profits from transactions,
                or on absolute basis), watch out
             - ideally, a series of smaller transactions are more
                conducive to fair trading...for example, if one gets a
                bad meal at a restaurant, one avoids that restaurant in
                the future, rather than suing (even though one can claim
                to have been "damaged")
             - issues of contract as well


We got computers, we're tapping phone lines, I know that that ain't allowed.
---------:---------:---------:---------:---------:---------:---------:----
Timothy C. May              | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected]  408-728-0152 | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
W.A.S.T.E.: Corralitos, CA  | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
Licensed Ontologist         | black markets, collapse of governments.
"National borders aren't even speed bumps on the information superhighway."