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Re: Reputations

[email protected] (Timothy C. May) writes:
> To stick with my restaurant example, consider _advertising_. MacDonald's
> and Burger King spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year claiming
> their "restaurants" are great. Many millions of people obviously are
> swayed. So?
> Others choose not to trust the advice of the MacDonald's hucksters. Maybe
> only a tiny fraction choose Chez Panisse over MacDonald's. This is the way
> of the world.
> It's still the give and take of reputations. It ain't perfect (in that it
> doesn't produce results I believe are empirically valid and optimum :-}).
> But it's all we have. It's the market. The agora.
I'm reading "It's shaky. Accept that." Fine, consider it accepted.
I don't think it is comparable to the market, simply because even the
more nebulous market exchanges (say, consultant-on-call) are much more
clearly defined.
> >"Reputation capital" is hard to spend down to absolute 0 because it is
> >significant work to distinguish valid "reputation capital" from
> >worthless counterfeit, and it is easy to counterfeit... just talk.
> I strongly disagree. It's quite possible for Person A to quickly convert
> his reputation to Person B to a _negative_ value. Real quick, in fact.
I don't see how there can be such a thing as negative reputation
capital. Wouldn't that mean B believes the opposite of what A says? If
you anti-believed someone in a consistent manner, couldn't they exploit
Also, you are speaking only of 1-to-1 reputation-relationships. But that
is inefficient. The mere fact of having to evaluate each person's
reputation yourself is significant work.
On the other hand, you could talk about the transmission of reputations.
This seems more in line with what I understood "reputation" to mean, to
include some element of indirect knowledge. But that's mighty easy to
abuse and therefore mighty hard to trust.
For instance, when a certain infamously-low-reputation (deservedly so)
individual recently joined the cypherpunk lists, others who had endured
him in the past tried to relay their impressions of him. It proved very
difficult to convey, and they were somewhat attacked for their efforts
and not entirely believed.
In other words, he *could not* spend down to 0, despite years of
unflagging effort.
> Perhaps my short article did not fully explain a few things. Reputations
> are a _tensor_ or _matrix_ quantity. Person A has a reputation R(A,B) to
> Person B, a reputation R(A,C) to Person C, and so on. (And the matrix may
> be further broken down into reputations for advice on various subjects, in
> various fields, etc.)
I can't dispute or agree with your mathematical model until we can agree
on more basic issues.
> We may lump a lot of folks together and say, for example, that MacDonald's
> has a reputation of R (MacDonald's, lots of people) = 0.7531. And perhaps R
> (Chez Panisse, lots of people) = 0.0013 (i.e., they don't know what it is,
> and so value the rep of Chez Panisse at near zero).
> And so on. Lots of examples could be given.
I'll accept your example, but I don't see how the numbers are
> Now suppose that J. Anonymous Gourmand announces that MacDonald's is shit.
> How much will anonymous claim hurt MacDonald's? Obviously, not much.
Well, how many people did J. Anonymous Gourmand reach, anyways?
Now, suppose J. Anonymous Gourmand spams all of Usenet, and millions of
people who have never heard of J. Anonymous Gourmand before read a
plausible but false account of the disgustingness of McDonald's food.
Perhaps the same detailed study, just fake. (Not to intertangle this
with other issues, let's further suppose that Ms. Gourmand sneaks in
underneath spam-watcher's radar, and cleverly appears to be on topic in
every group.)
Nothing about her reputation has changed, but surely when her claim is
read by millions it will hurt McDonalds a non-trivial amount.
Again, that doesn't mean the reputation was not a factor.
> But
> what if the American Heart Association publishes a detailed study on the
> fat levels of MacDonald's products and declares it to "Dangerous." The
> effect will probably be greater, as R (AHA, many people) = high, and by the
> kind of Dempster-Shafer belief calculus I discussed a few months ago, the
> rep of the AHA propagates semi-transitively to the rep of MacDonald's.
> (This all happened recently, with the famous studies of fat levels of movie
> theater food...sales dropped almost overnight, and now the fat levels of
> popcorn, etc., have been changed for the better.)
I don't think you are illustrating what you think you are.
Consider the American Sociological Association. Wouldn't you say its
reputation is equivalent to the American Heart Association's? Most
people would, I think. And various claims by ASA members have certainly
gotten as much press as anything the AHA has got. But the ASA winks at
severe violations of its Code Of Ethics and lets its members pursue
their Politically Correct agendas at the expense of science. They have
effectively counterfeited a reputation.
I've already made the points I wanted to make, so I may not have further
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