Paul Resnick on Reputation. Online reputation mechanisms are large-scale online word-of-mouth communities in which individuals share opinions on a wide range of topics, including companies, products, services, and even world events (Dellarocas, 2003). Best known so far as a technology for building trust and fostering cooperation in online trading communities, such as eBay, these mechanisms are poised to have a much wider influence on consumer behavior and public opinion formation that will impact both online and offline organizations.
The rising practical importance of online reputation systems invites rigorous research in this largely virgin territory. Do these systems truly promote socially desirable outcomes? To what extent can they be manipulated by strategic buyers and sellers? What is the best way to design them? How should buyers (and sellers) use the information provided by such mechanisms in their decision-making process? This is just a small subset of unanswered questions that invite exciting and valuable research.
In order to answer these questions, collaboration is needed between several traditionally distinct disciplines, such as economics, computer science, marketing, law, sociology and psychology. In each of those communities, researchers are actively working on aspects of reputation systems and their work has been well received within their own disciplines.
An informal community had been forming around the topic. A few researchers had met each other at disciplinary conferences and workshops. There is at least one web site (http://databases.si.umich.edu/reputations) devoted to building the community of research on reputation mechanisms. At the same time, a number of established and startup companies, such as Epinions, BizRate and OpenRatings, have been basing their business models on the accumulation and dissemination of reputation information. [Smart Mobs]