Online Identity, Trustbacks, and Taste Mapping

There has been a fair bit of crosstalk in the online identity management field lately. Online Dating Insider has the scoop on a pair of new standards (ClaimID and MicroID). Userplane is also rolling out a single ID system across all of its partner sites (whose ranks include Friendster, among other youth profile farms).

While OpenID and other systems for managing online identity have been around for some time, of late there seems to be more interest and R&D in this space. One idea which might prove very useful in the dating and social networking space is trustbacks. I’m intrigued by this idea, and also by how it could be deployed using existing tagging systems like del.icio.us, or even slashdot’s karma system.

Of course, in all of this talk of identity and credentials, my thoughts turn to music. If someone could plug trustbacks into last.fm, we can imagine the consequences. Music genres and personal music tastes could be mapped, intertwined with users’ opinions of other users’ music tastes. The current model of genre and taste mapping on last.fm depends on the quantity of users who associate particular artists with other artists. This is a taxonomy that could be gamed easily (for example, by a major label artist’s promotions team) using a large number of fake user accounts. Under a trustback system, some users would be rated more credible than others based on how highly the community values their contributions. Consequently, those users (and the things that they value) would bubble up to the top. Theoretically, irrelevant crap would sink to the bottom.

Properly implemented, this could get us past all those myspace whoretrains and “comment my new pics biatches!!!” bulletins that have become so tiresome.

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