I was having dinner with some venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley recently, and social commerce was on everybody’s mind. We discussed different business models and the prospects of some startups. Eventually, the conversation turned to blogging and, specifically, to why people blog.
At the top of the list is reputation. Pundits blog to build their visibility and ownership of a topic. CEO’s blog to build their reputations with team members, investors and customers. People at all levels of organizations blog to establish their expertise. Marketers use blogs to enhance the reputation of brands.
Within enterprises, blogging is becoming a knowledge and content management solution. Ideas can be captured, retained and repurposed. At its best, blogging is a collaborative rather than a solo pursuit. Collaborators can blog about each other’s posts or leave comments on the original posts. And team reputation can be a motivator for collaborative blogging.
Just as reputation is important for bloggers, reputation also plays a role more broadly in collaborative culture. Trust is one of the 10 Cultural Elements of Collaboration that I identify in The Culture of Collaboration book, and reputation plays a big role in trust. Reputation is based on work style, knowledge, team contributions, and integrity, among other factors. It’s becoming easier to connect and collaborate with people based on their reputations. As we establish our expertise and interests through blogging, vlogs, team sites, mashups, wikis, social networking sites and other modes, we can more easily collaborate and create value.
Reputation also plays a role in real-time, spontaneous collaboration. Using presence (see my March 7, 2007 post), we can connect in real-time via IM, audio or video with people reputed to have relevant skills, knowledge and expertise. Every organization has internal experts on everything from purchasing to intellectual property. Increasingly, their reputations are based on contributions through wikis, team sites, blogs and meetings (which can be captured, retained, indexed and searched based on keyword). Presence lets us see their availability status and connect with these experts on the fly to solve mission-critical issues and make faster, better decisions.
Yale Law School's Information Society Project is tackling reputation issues in its upcoming “Symposium on Reputation Economies in Cyberspace.” The conference, scheduled for December 8, 2007 in New Haven, will explore the shift towards the “wisdom of the crowd” and away from such traditional forms of reputation as educational background, institutional affiliations, and traditional business networks. Undoubtedly, this shift has wide-ranging implications for society. But the change in how we view reputation also impacts gatekeepers of every kind: publishers, studios, traditional media and elite universities and institutions. If reputation is based more on what we write, say and do online and less on affiliations, gatekeepers will play less of a role.