In my last blog I wrote about the sharing community – how technology is allowing us to share or borrow under-utilized things (cars, bedrooms, lawnmowers, etc) through sites such as Uber and Airbnb. My point was that technology, rather than isolating us as we become more and more involved with our computers and smartphones, is actually creating a village by allowing us to have personal interactions in order to share. You are actually having human contact in order to conduct these transactions.
Thomas Friedman took this idea a little further in an opinion piece he wrote in the New York Times on July 20, 2014, called “And now for a bit of good news…” where he talks about the sharing economy. Basically, Friedman said that what companies like Uber and Airbnb have done is create a platform of trust that allows people to be comfortable in entering transactional relationships.
In essence, it comes down to the belief that your reputation is the most valuable thing that you have. Strangely enough, something as intangible as a reputation has a big impact on the internet. It is something that takes a long time to build but can be destroyed in seconds – especially online. (At this point I could take off on a discussion of the recent European Court’s confirmation of the “right to be forgotten” that requires Google to remove items from its search results if someone requests them to do so but I think I will leave that for another post.)
We are all used to seeing customer ratings when we buy things online. Whether a product, service, or hotel has a one star or five star rating might influence your decision as to whether you are going to buy it or not. With the sharing economy not only are the sellers rated (the people driving or lending the cars or renting out the bedroom or house) but so are the customers. The seller will say whether you were a good person to do business with – that you paid on time or returned the equipment in good condition when you were supposed to.
This double evaluation is what creates the trust platform. It is the same thing as the people in the village talking about you and knowing about your characteristics. The community learns about how you behave and what you can, or cannot, be depended on to do. Do something wrong and the village will know. Just because you make a mistake doesn’t mean that you can’t be part of the village but it does mean that the seller will have more information in making a decision as to whether he wants to do business with you.
To me, this is much more powerful than likes, friends, or followers on the various social media. Usually, those comments are made without anyone having a personal interaction. There is no true village involved. It is more like being in a large sports stadium and rooting for a team – you agree with them in general but there is no person-to-person connection.
What will really be interesting is when the various sharing networks start cross referencing their evaluations on across platforms. The person who is thinking of loaning you their car through RelayRide will look to see how you treated someone’s apartment on AirBnb. The village will know everything that you have done and will decide how you should be treated. Reputation, indeed, will be the most important thing that you have to lose. Without a good reputation you could become and internet pariah in the same way that someone who cheated their neighbor once to often was run out of the village.
Are you ready for the trust platform?