Reputation Graph: One of the Web’s largest opportunities
I recently replied to a Quora thread with the question of “What will come after social networking?”. My answer was the reputation graph. It ended up creating a fair amount of discussion including the question “What is the reputation graph?”. I listed my definition that the reputation graph is, in its simplest form, what people think of the people they know. Then for fun I Googled “reputation graph” because I was pretty sure that I had heard the term reputation graph from someone else but couldn’t find anyone talking about this in the same way that I’ve been understanding it. So I thought I’d take a few minutes to further flesh out what I mean.
In our everyday lives we make an extraordinary number of decisions about people. These range from who to hire for a specific job to who to let into a certain college. Billions of dollars are spent daily on making decisions about people and the costs of poor decisions are tremendous. And yet, the “science” through which we make these decisions is far from perfect. College admissions committees use GPA, SAT scores, applications and a whole host of other data to try to do the best job possible and yet everyone who attended a university can names scores of people who shouldn’t have been there. And anyone who has spent anytime inside a large company can think of numerous example of colleagues who have no business being in the organization. These situations arise from vastly imperfect data about the people who we are making decisions about.
Now let’s turn to another example: Senior “Superlatives” in High School. These were those questionnaires you probably filled out at some point during your Senior year that asked you to name the Class Clown, Best Dressed, etc. There is one in particular that fascinates: Most Likely to Succeed. I’ve never seen a study done but my guess is that if you took the average lifetime earnings of someone voted Most Likely to Succeed and compared this average to the lifetime earnings of their classmates you’d find the earning of the person voted Most Likely to Succeed to be dramatically higher (perhaps an order of magnitude higher) than the average of their classmates. What does this tell us? That even way back in high school we knew a lot about the people around us.
And that’s what’s at the heart of this opportunity, the fact that we have an insane amount of data in our heads about the people around us. When Quora launched, one of the things that Charlie and Adam said was this:
The way we think about this is there’s actually a lot of information that’s still in people’s heads that’s not on the internet. And when you think about it you would say that probably 90% of the information that people have is still in their heads, not on the internet.
I’d offer that’s it’s actually much higher than this. In fact it’s something I blogged about here and here a couple of years ago. And when it comes to Reputation Graph data (again, what we know about the people around us), it’s actually a much lower % of information that’s online. Certainly well less than 1% of what we know.
So here’s why I think this is important. Just as Google and others were able to make our ability to access information dramatically easier and open all sorts of opportunities for people, I feel like the companies that build the reputation graph will have an amazing opportunity to make the process of making decisions about people (again, something each of us do every single day) incredibly more efficient. Better fits for jobs, schools…heck, even who you date or pal around with on the weekends could make peoples’ lives dramatically better.
This is probably a long ways off. Or maybe not. If you’re working on the reputation graph I’d love to hear from you.