TrustCloud is an online tool that aggregates peoples’ online social and transactional data, crunches it into a TrustScore and creates dynamic TrustCards that people can embed on their social networks. People use TrustCloud to establish their reputation on their social networks and peer-to-peer buying, selling, sharing and lending platforms.
TrustCloud likens itself to a FICO score that measures creditworthiness:
“TrustCloud gives members in the Sharing Economy the tools for Trust and Accountability that enable better decision-making and improves every transaction. We measure your virtuous online behaviors and transactions to build a portable TrustScore you can easily use within the Sharing Economy.”
The sharing economy has grown immensely in the last few years, with a large number of niche P2P platforms, ranging from car-sharing (BlaBlaCar, Sidecar) and room-sharing (Airbnb) to pet-sharing (DogVacay), emerging across the world. We cover many of these in our Now & Next: Future of Engagement report on Collaborative Consumption.
Most of these platforms have taken steps to measure and display members’ reputations based on their past behavior on the platform. But there is currently no way for members to port their trustworthiness to other P2P platforms. Services like TrustCloud strive to fill this gap, which will only grow as P2P platforms continue to establish themselves in the mainstream.
“Reputation capital is becoming so important that it will act as a secondary currency, one that claims “you can trust me”. It is shaping up as the cornerstone of the 21st-century economy. It’s the ancient power of word-of-mouth meeting the modern forces of the networked world.”
Craigslist’s Craig Newmark too believes that people with large reputations will be the most influential:
“By the end of this decade, power and influence will shift largely to those people with the best reputations and trust networks, from people with money and nominal power”
People sign up for TrustCloud and connect to their social networks, and profiles on review sites and Q&A sites. TrustCloud analyzes their data from these websites and generates a dynamic TrustScore (out of 1,000), which updates as more data becomes available.
Lora Kolodny explains what TrustCloud looks for:
“Part of the score relates to the consistency with which people use social networks, how frequently they transact via peer-to-peer marketplaces, and what their “star-ratings” are on sites like eBay.”
Blogger Paul Smith explains:
“They break it down into three layers: verification, behavior, and transaction.
“The verification layer includes email, physical address and SMS verification. The behavior layer looks at who you are across social networks in an interesting way … The transaction layer looks at your ratings on sites such as eBay, Trustcloud’s algorithms sifting out the gamed ratings.”
In addition to past data, TrustCloud also enables people to ask for endorsements and to endorse others for various ‘virtues’ like generosity, accountability and punctuality. To prevent people from gaming the system, TrustCloud limits the number of times people can endorse or +T each other (similar to LinkedIn endorsements).
Blogger Michael Martine explains:
“You get limited points to spend endorsing the trustworthiness of others in various categories. Because the number of points is extremely limited, you can’t just go around spamming and trading these with other people in order to artificially jack up your TrustScore (and defeating the whole purpose). “
TrustCloud currently lets people connect networks including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Klout, eBay and TripAdvisor, and will soon support GitHub, Quora, Yelp and Yahoo! Answers.
TrustCloud lets people display their TrustScore across the web with TrustCards that update every fifteen minutes to reflect the latest scores.
Lora Kolodny noted:
“TrustCloud users can display their scores with any listings or profiles they create on marketplaces. Or, they can save the scorecards for use in private email correspondence.”
TrustCards feature people’s scores, names, connected networks and Trust Badges – badges that depict their area of specialty. For example, people who are very active on social network earn the badge Interactive.
The list of badges available can guide people in deciding what they want to be known for, and also in understanding how to improve their TrustScore. Several TrustCloud users have shared that the TrustScore algorithm places more weight on transactional data over social data.
Collaborative consumption platforms have explored a diverse range of reputation systems to foster trust within the platform.
Paul Davis wrote:
“The existing reputation systems that collaborative consumption services have developed in-house are piecemeal and offer little portability of user reputation data. House-sharing services such as Airbnb provide user feedback rankings and plug into users’ Facebook connections to provide an added layer of social vetting, while Couchsurfing verifies identity by through a $25 credit card verification fee, which is also their main revenue source. Taskrabbit performs background checks, while UK-based p2p lending site Zopa opts for identity and credit checks.”
The presentation Trust and the Sharing Economy provides a broad overview of the types of steps that have been taken.
Social networks like Facebook (which requires a real name) have contributed greatly to the creation of reputation systems that rely on identity verification or social connections. Jeremy Barton and Rob Boyle, co-founders of the now defunct reputation system Legit, said:
“On Airbnb, Facebook is used to tell you if your host went to the same college, or whether a friend of yours has stayed there before you. When you sign up for Lyft, you have no option but to connect with your Facebook account to provide proof of your identity. Facebook is a core piece of infrastructure for many marketplaces as the source of your offline authenticity and reliability.”
The presentation Just Trust Me: How to Design Trustworthy Products provides an in-depth view into the creation of trust in the virtual world, the challenges faced by individual platforms and the homogenous solutions these have resulted in.
General Assembly also highlights one of the challenges in simply aggregating data and porting it to different platforms:
“”Brand and context around a rating are extremely important and you risk losing that if you merge it into a unified score.”
TrustCloud acknowledges that their method of aggregating social data and analyzing it with an algorithm is not a perfect solution, and is actively collaborating with experts and users to improve their system.
Xin Chung, Founder & CEO commented:
“TrustCloud is not perfect– we strive to improve your experience through research with trust experts (www.trustedadvisor.com), leading university sociologists, and our very active user group (www.facebook.com/groups/trustcloud). This discussion inspires us to continue our work to empower peer-to-peer trust online.”
TrustCloud has also sponsored a series of posts on Trust and Community on Shareable to encourage more discussion around the challenges in creating a portable reputation system and potential solutions.
For instance, some thinkers believe data aggregated from social networks is irrelevant to an individual’s trustworthiness. Blogger Paul Davis commented:
“Many [reputation systems] prioritize the sort of accomplishments and metrics that are primarily relevant in the workplace, which are not necessarily effective representations of an individual’s trustworthiness — say, valuing someone’s networking prowess over real connections made with other individuals. It suggests a further mixing of our professional and personal selves that makes me very uneasy, and perpetuates a false impression of the values that make an individual trustworthy.”
Some, like blogger Promod Sharma, believe that algorithms will play a large part in the future of trust economy:
“You may skeptical about algorithms but they already make predictions for you. Google predicts your search query as you type and gives results tailored for you. Amazon predicts what you may also want to buy. Netflix predicts what you want to watch (your personalized Top 10) and how much you’ll like a movie (actual rating vs your projected rating).”
Some, like marketer Sam Fiorella criticize the endorsement feature of networks like TrustCloud and LinkedIn:
“There’s no context to the action nor verification that the person offering the endorsement is qualified to do so. So what’s the value, other than to gamify the network to encourage greater traffic and thus generate more ad revenue?”
Others, like TrustCloud User Group admin Berrie Pelser, believe that endorsements are simply a part of the whole:
“TrustCloud endorsements are meant to offer additional context to the TrustScore by providing users looking at your profile with extra information about you. The endorsements themselves do not have a significant influence on your TrustScore.”
Some, like Dimitris Tzortzis, are wary of the reliance on past online activity and the impact on people new to P2P platforms and social networks:
“In 5-10 years there will be many more sharing networks than now. Let’s imagine lots of people use them and that we have a trust currency that we can carry around on the web to use on P2P transactions. Immediately, that marginalises those who don’t have that currency. People who have lived their lives offline, who have not participated in an organised sharing network online.”
And some, like Lora Kolodny speculate on the impact of reputation systems on the future of insurance:
“A longer-term monetization strategy for TrustCloud is to become an insurance agent, as well. Michael K. Crowe, a serial entrepreneur who sold two Medicare-compliance ventures to publicly traded insurance companies in the recent past, has joined TrustCloud’s board.”
Several entrepreneurs are working on solutions to measure trustworthiness, from aggregating all sorts of data, to only transactional data, to creating a common API for all P2P networks.
Blogger Francesca Pick summarized the state of the reputation space:
“A considerable number of startups and projects with an array of different promising approaches to building trust pulled the plug after several months (or have been very quiet recently), among them Scaffold, Briiefly, Peertrust, Project Trust, Truly. Of this first wave of startups, TrustCloud is in fact the only company left.
“Last fall a new wave of startups with interesting approaches to the topic emerged: Credport maps your social relationships, Fidbacks summarizes all your ratings in one place (without using social networks at all) and Virtrue offers enterprises and p2p marketplaces verifications for their users.”
Other startups include MiiCard (video), an online identity verification service for online banking, shopping, social and dating, and Connect.me (video), a platform that aggregates social activity and relies heavily on endorsements.
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