I often say that one of my blog post is based on a conversation “with a friend”. When I do that, as often as not that friend is Bojan Soldan. I have had the pleasure of working with Bojan on several projects and can think of no one’s opinion who I respect more in the fields of social media, gaming and design. The great news for those of you who don’t get to talk to him as often as I do is that he’s decided to bring those opinions (and some of his artwork) to the worldwide web in the form of his new blog, blog.BojanSoldan.com. His first technology related posts will be a fantastic seven part series about having a true online identity, and what that might mean for us, the end users. I’ll be cross-posting that first series here over the next couple weeks for your enjoyment, but for the rest of his work you’ll have to visit him at www.BojanSoldan.com.
The parts of this series, to date:
Mid 2010, I was on my way to grab some lunch with @BurgherJon, and we were discussing, as we often do, products and services in the social media space. On this occasion, location based services were the topic, namely FourSquare. The question at hand was how long it will be before “terrible” restaurants and food establishments no longer have a chance to remain in business, due to the vast amount of knowledge that can be gathered from the social space? We were equating location aware services as a sort of accelerated word of mouth approach, with user reviews being available instantaneously. Such instant reviews would cause restaurants and bars to either step up their game, or be eclipsed by their competition with far better reviews.
At the time, I made the argument that such information would simply not be reliable unless the internet had a true identity built directly into it, a badge of sorts that would follow you wherever you go and whatever you do online. Only then would I find things like reviews compelling enough to take into consideration, unless of course, the numbers speak for themselves (like in the eBay example in Post 3 of this series).
One of the examples I cited to support my point of view is the current online review process on sites like Yelp! The problem is that a lot of establishments can create a number of accounts, and give their establishment rave reviews. Depending on how aggressive they are about this, the numbers can be skewed, and while they certainly can’t do it forever, this type of strategy can keep them in business for quite a while. In addition to the practice of establishments rating themselves highly, those who pay attention to what’s going on with the web and internet as an industry are well aware of Search Engine Optimization services that will allow your site to be ranked above the others. What would prevent people from offering services to boost your ratings on review sites by using a portfolio of pre-established accounts to write reviews? My argument was that the check and balance to the faulty system is the identity aspect.
The point I’m trying to make here is that there are pockets of identity on the internet that take time to establish, and are incredibly useful to users and consumers. My notion of identity however is to take this concept further by creating a sort of super-identity, one that would link you, the person, with your online interactions. It appears that some of the larger players in the game are doing exactly that, which is exciting and scary at the same time.