Reputation by Technical Committee

For a word that's so concerned with appearances, reputation sure gets around. In an online context, it plays with PR, search and e-commerce, showing different personalities in each setting. So when someone says "reputation," it's not always clear what they mean. But now, there's an effort to define standards around reputation metrics and their use in online interactions. Depending on how the project's scope shapes up, social media analysis companies might want to pay attention.

Defining reputation
You know what your reputation is. It's what people think of you. Which is actually very close to the dictionary definition and close enough to how corporate reputation specialists in PR describe it. You can aggregate reputation into a metric, but it doesn't fundamentally change the definition. Your reputation is what people think of you.

Throw it on the Web, though, and reputation shows different personalities. Search guys will talk about search engine or online reputation, meaning what shows up in the search results for your name. Auction sites and, apparently, peer-to-peer networks have their own systems based on your track record of good behavior in their specific contexts.

Like social media measurement, reputation is an interesting and useful concept that has different meanings depending on context. So the first thing I wonder is which version(s) people are talking about when they suggest creating standards.

Last week, OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) announced a new Technical Committee (TC) on Open Reputation Management Systems (ORMS).

OASIS, the international open standards consortium, has formed a new technical committee to make it easier to validate the trustworthiness of businesses, projects, and people working and socializing in electronic communities. The new OASIS Open Reputation Management Systems (ORMS) Technical Committee will define common data formats for consistently and reliably representing reputation scores. ORMS will be relevant for a variety of applications including validating the trustworthiness of sellers and buyers in online auctions, detecting free riders in peer-to-peer networks, and helping to ensure the authenticity of signature keys in a web of trust. ORMS will also help enable smarter searching of web sites, blogs, events, products, companies, and individuals."
At first glance, the specific examples are transactional, suggesting that this effort won't affect social media analysis companies. The emphasis on trustworthiness isn't the major point of listening to social media, either.
That last line, though, comes a lot closer to social media analysis. Notice the specific inclusion of blogs. That's getting out of the transactional context and closer to more general definitions of reputation.

Depending on how the TC defines its scope, this project could turn out to be relevant to social media analysis companies. The first meeting is on 1 May in Santa Clara, with a dial-in option for those too far away to attend.

A Better Influence?
I don't usually see reputation as a metric in social media analysis, but influence analysis is common. It's helpful for weighting and prioritization, so it's not going away (though it could do with some agreement on definition, itself). A readily available reputation metric could figure into an improved influence metric, and it could be an important part of site/participant profiles.

Gartner says that ORMS is worth watching, but don't expect it to lead to anything for a while (via Dion Hinchcliffe).

Thanks to Joseph Fiore at Repumetrix for the tip.

About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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