Reputation Graph vs. PeopleRank
Last week TechCrunch ran a great post on Quora’s development of an algorithm to determine and rank user quality. In it, they used the term PeopleRank and credited my good friend Shervin Pishevar with the coining of the term (Go Shervin!). A number of people have asked me whether I think PeopleRank is the same thing as the reputation graph and so I wanted to write a short post explaining what I feel the differences are between PeopleRank and the reputation graph.
PeopleRank is, according to Shervin’s definition, a measure of influence. The classic PeopleRank company is Klout, which is attempting to measure the degree of social influence a user has. It’s still early for Klout (and measurement of social influence in general) but I think there is a huge amount of potential here. Marketers for years have been trying to figure out who has influence and to effectively reach them and services like Klout help dramatically with this. I see this on a daily basis with my wife as she runs marketing for one of the top video game franchises in the world. Tools like Klout are starting to have a very big impact in the world of brand marketers.
Quora’s PeopleRank has the ability to provide an even deeper set of data about a person’s influence. Quora will have the ability to start sorting expertise in the different verticals. Want to know who has the most knowledge about venture capital? Oh look, it’s Keith Rabois, Michael Wolfe and Mark Suster. Now those guys aren’t necessarily the three absolute smartest people on the planet when it comes to VC but most people knowledgeable with the industry would rank them pretty high up the list. And as more people join Quora and answer more questions a fairly accurate influence hierarchy in many verticals will be built.
So how does PeopleRank interact with the reputation graph? In my version, the reputation graph consists of all of the things we know about the people who we know. Who’s smart? Who works hard? Who is a slacker or dishonest? PeopleRank appears to be both a superset and a subset of the reputation graph. It’s a superset because PeopleRank attempts to build a global hierarchy of various forms of influence (e.g., who is the smartest in the world when it comes to advice for training for a marathon) whereas reputation graph is a more local measure that refers to what you know about the people around you. It’s a subset because a lot of the items in the reputation graph are not forms of influence. For example, Quora or Klout probably aren’t the best vehicles for determining who the most creative people or most effective salespeople in your hometown are. That will likely come from other people who are building the reputation graph as those aren’t really measures of influence or topic-specific knowledge.
This isn’t to say that hierarchies won’t emerge from the reputation graph though. Where it gets interesting is when social circles (and hence, reputation circles) overlap. I think it will be possible to build hierarchies across a wide range of dimensions (indeed, some people are already starting to do this). The hierarchies that could be built from the reputation graph will more likely be bottom-up rather than the more top-down nature of the hierarchies emerging from PeopleRank-based systems like Quora or Klout.
So in the end, I think PeopleRank and the reputation graph are two highly correlated concepts but not one and the same thing. PeopleRank is an extremely useful and powerful way to measure influence on a general or topic-specific level while the reputation graph is a mapping of some or all of the things that people think about the people who are in their social graph. Companies like Klout and Quora are the best examples of PeopleRank while companies like Honestly, Mixtent and CubeDuel are the best examples (at least at the moment) of the reputation graph in action.