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Connect.me – What is a Trust Anchor vouch really worth?

Posted by mandyf on February 12, 2012

This is going to be one of those posts you love or hate – I doubt there will be any in-between reactions to this. If you are on the “outside” of connect.me, you will likely enjoy it. If you are one of the “in” people, I’m willing to bet you’ll hate it and possibly me for what I will say. You may even want to rip me for this and use harsh language – and that is fine, because I want you to react. I want you to read this, digest it, and then ask yourself if you are a part of the problem.

I got in on connect.me a good while back. I don’t even recall how I did now. I did what I was supposed to do in order to become a trust anchor – and I thought that actually meant something. Vouching for people wasn’t a big deal. If I knew you played EAv, no biggie. I’ll vouch you play that. If I saw you active on Twitter or whatever – no biggie – I’ll vouch for that. If you wanted me to vouch for things I couldn’t know for sure though – outta luck! It was that simple.

My Trust Anchor vouches… I have to really know you – and by that I mean I need to actually converse with you over time or personally know you. So far, I have used just three of the 50 I have – two to people I know in the physical world – not just online. I use them sparingly because they are supposed to mean something. If they are tossed around like party favors, what are they worth? Nothing! They become more meaningless than a Klout score you can manipulate to say anything you like.

Now, connect.me has potential. I see good possibilities for it. It’s a part of why I became a trust anchor. What I take exception to is how those vouches are being solicited and given away. I won’t use real names here to be halfway decent, but some of you will read this and you know who you are that are trying to manipulate the system. Here are some instances of what I would call abuses of the system.

1. Gentleman A, offered to max me out at 600 shares on EAv in exchange for me giving him a trust anchor vouch. This was a person I never met before – had to go look at his profile to see who it was. It was, and still is, the only interaction we have ever had.

2. Gentleman B, offered to run missions directing people to buy shares in me or whatever I wanted in exchange for my Trust Anchor vouch.

3. Lady A used her trust anchor vouch, more than once, in exchange for people doing promotional favors for her at her site – and I know she did not know who these people were because she bragged to me how she got these desperate noobs to jump through hoops for her to get that vouch.

4. Gentleman C, whom I gave a regular vouch for Twitter, came back requesting I provide a Trust Anchor vouch for him as an expert in ____. Not only was it not evident to me anywhere that he was an expert in what he requested, I couldn’t even Google any connection to the field or see it on his Facebook – because we were not FB friends.

I wonder this about people that have requested I give them a trust anchor vouch:

A. If you do not know me well enough to connect with me on more than one platform I may sparingly use, and we have never met, exchanged emails aside from your request, or spoke to each other  – Why do you think I will vouch for you?

B. Do you think I am so lacking in integrity that you can buy my TA vouch for nothing more than an offer to tweet some blog posts for me or buy shares in me if you also play EAv?

C. How can you expect me to vouch for you when the only evidence I have of you being what you claim to be is your own word – and again – I have only known you a matter of weeks and then only in a limited virtual sense?

Connect.me was, and is in many ways, a great concept. It is why I stick with it still. I think it can work. It will not however work when people are using their TA vouches like currency to get personal favors. If someone is deserving of a TA vouch they are deserving without doing you personal favors. If you are trading your TA vouch for favors, you shouldn’t be a trust anchor because your vouches are tainted. I have seen this whole process of becoming a Trust Anchor turned into nothing more than another accolade to “game” attaining. Most Trust Anchors I know are on the up and up – they take it seriously, but it only takes a few unsavory ones looking to exploit it to make it a tarnished commodity. Until that is fixed and connect.me starts asking people what criteria they used to issue a TA vouch for people, they are about as useful as a brain tumor.

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25 Responses to “Connect.me – What is a Trust Anchor vouch really worth?”

  1. Kiara Lane said

    Reblogged this on Kiara Lane.

  2. I agree, if people game that kind of system it stops meaning anything

  3. Hey Amanda, I don’t think most people will be upset about this post.That’s because I think that most people use Connect.me, Empire Avenue, Klout etc as they are meant to be used. In the main, most people avoid gaming the system. Those that do, are correctly identified and usually avoided by most… as you have done here.

    I think you have raised some valid points… hopefully the people you refer to above will read and think about what they are doing. I doubt it though.

    Best wishes,
    Mike

  4. I’m not at all surprised that people will try and game any and all networks and systems setup even with the best attentions. It’s easy and there “appears” to be no bad karma so to speak for vouching for someone you don’t know, I wish I had a workable answer to share but alas I don’t… and I’m guilty of chipping around the edges of credibility when I give a klout to someone whose expertise I can”t vouch for, I tell myself Klout is just a gamed system and has no credibility so what I’m doing doesn’t matter….maybe it doesn’t… but I know it does somewhere out there…

  5. It’s inevitable that there will be people who try to game a system and it’s up to the website/system to put procedures in place to reduce this or the system loses all credibility. +K in Klout was intended to be a way that you could show your support by vouching for someone’s expertise in a field. Now, there are Facebook Groups that just exist to exchange +Ks and the users know nothing about each other. Same thing happens in some EAv Missions. It’s just like how some people try to gain as many Facebook Friends or LinkedIn Connections as possible or even (this boggles my mind) ask for LI recommendations from strangers who don’t know anything about the person!

    It must be truly a challenge to set up a recommendation system that can’t be bought, manipulated or gamed.

  6. cadsmith said

    These are valid points. The actual status of someone is as much a part of what they have done as well as who they know. If someone took all of the contacts away, they would still have their knowledge and history. Similarly if they were suddenly very famous. Socnets are new and people are looking for a way to use them productively. For some, making more contacts may be a lot like sales promotion where their quota is a function of statistics. Unfortunately, this can also be spoofed as shown by botnets. Email had to tolerate spam. Ideally, better filters and attention to user preferences will evolve as time goes on. Appreciate the awareness alert.

  7. ronromero said

    What sort of person would become upset with someone that maintains their integrity?

  8. Grace Alexander said

    It’s the link exchange system applied to social media. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. It ends up being circles within circles of the same people frantically stroking eachother’s ego and is meaningless in the end. Reminds me a little of the huge emu and chinchilla breeding circles a decade or so ago – the entire thing imploded when it became clear that there was a group of about 100 or so folks buying and selling among eachother with no real foundation or market for the end product.

    Social media can be a useful tool – but in the end, how you present yourself and the real recommendations you get from clients will always trump the thumbs up of groups of people who don’t even know you, IMO.

  9. mandyf said

    I would ask the same thing – except people have. It’s a sad state of affairs whe trying to do the right thing is looked down upon because it makes life inconvenient for someone else.

  10. Agree complete Mandy. I have yet to give out any trust anchor vouches and will take the same approach.

  11. spainfootball said

    Sensible points, Amanda! Endorsing and vouching for people you don’t know from Adam is also dangerous. There are a lot of dishonest types around and the average punter doesn’t know the ‘dark side’ of social media.

    I certainly don’t want my name associated with anyone who might use it to con people. If I don’t know you, how do I know that isn’t your intention?

  12. sallykwitt said

    The more of your writing that I read, the more I like you! You are intelligent and funny in your own way.

    I feel kind of left out that nobody asked me for a trust anchor recommendation! I did go through and use up all 50 in one day of the people that I regularly interact with. So maybe they knew that?? LOL

    Very good post, honey.

  13. mandyf said

    Thank you Sally – now you are an example of a person I would vouch for as a TA – except you don’t need any more! lol I have found that many of the people I would TA vouch for already are TAs.

  14. Amanda, this is Drummond Reed from Connect.Me and I love your post so much I just went and vouched for you as a social media blogger. I may not know you well enough to vouch for you in any other context yet, but your post goes right to the heart of: a) what trust anchor vouches really mean, b) why they should be given very carefully, and c) why gaming in trust anchor vouches is antithetical to the Respect Trust Framework on which Connect.Me is based (http://openidentityexchange.org/trust-frameworks/respect-trust-framework).

    As you know, we only introduced Trust Anchors and trust anchor vouching a few weeks ago in the Connect.Me private beta and gave the Trust Anchors a one-time allotment of 50 TA vouches to help seed the TA network. Overall it has worked very well, but the fact that it’s produced the type of gaming that you describe here reinforces that we need to do a better job of educating TAs about the value of a TA vouch. We’re preparing a Connect.Me blog post on this that we’re going to try to have up later today – and we’ll reference your post here as Exhibit #1.

    Thanks again for calling out and reinforcing the values at the heart of the Respect Trust Framework.

  15. chattynance said

    Bravo and I’m in the same corner as you.

  16. camountain said

    I still have a good portion of my vouches left as I don’t plan to give them at a drop of a hat. When I became a TA I found out because I was added to the community on Facebook and never solicited a single vote. I am still not sure how this is all going to turn out once connect.me comes out of Beta but I will not be selling votes then either.

  17. mandyf said

    Drummond, thank you for taking time to respond to this. It is extremely reassuring to see that we as members are paid attention to and that the vast majority of us in the TA community at this time are doing it tight. I think it is an exceptional idea to have a little more information available regarding the value of a TA vouch. I believe in this concept as I said previously, and with a little bit of TLC and education I think it can be an exceptional destination for professionals in many disciplines who want to establish or strengthen their reputation. I know that n system is perfect, but I also know we shouldn’t stop striving to reach loftier levels.

  18. Mandy, you’ve echoed the same sentiment that I felt about…. 1 day after the TA status went live.

    I actually went out of my way to reach out to Connect.me months ago, around October to commend them on the work they were trying to do with online Identity and submit myself to become a Trust Anchor. I was accepted, but told they wouldn’t go live for a few months.

    In the Interim between October and the end of 2011, they reach out to me and asked that I nominate 5 people to automatically become Trust Anchors. I nominated 2… and found it hard to do that much. Like you, I read the RTF, and the requirements to get nominated or get a TA vouch from me is far more strenuous than others. Why they would put out 50 to every player even before the 150 you get for life is beyond me.

    After the TA status went live, there was only a handful of us from EA who had it, and I agreed with their admittance based on the guidelines in the RTF. Having consistent profiles that were generally verifiable, and basically having no doubt that they represented exactly who they said they were: identity as well as role.

    About an hour later an EA player sent me a message asking for a TA vouch. The vouches weren’t live yet, and instead of upsetting them or confronting them I just told them I couldn’t because they weren’t live, but I also felt that using a picture of someone else was a major violation of the RTF, and according to my understanding of the RTF then and my personal Integrity, there was no way I was going to vouch for someone using a fake name or profile picture, or someone who represented their abilities beyond what they were capable of; in fact I wasn’t going to vouch for anyone excpet those I coud verify that everything represented on their profiles was true, and that they represented everything that constituted an online presence (basically an Identity form and Resume). I definately wouldn’t have TA vouched for someone I knew for a fact had a dishonest representtation of themselves.

    By the next day, they had become a TA by going to connect.me ( the same way I did months earlier), and pretty much everyone who had a Facebook account and an interest in Connect.me did the same thing. Like you said, most of the people we know meet the requirements to be Trust anchors…. except 1. I don’t think they have the standards to withold TA vouches from people they cannot truthfully verify. It became a networking tool, go and do a TA vouch for everyone so you can say you did something for them (and why not, you have 50 disposable ones right now), even though being a Trust Anchor is about as exclusive as owning an iPhone now.

    I e-mailed Drummond about my concerns, and even though he agrees with my view of the Respect Trust Framework in his answers and personal sentiment, the actions of the network, their procedures do not. It’s not just about gaming, it’s about integrity, and I don’t think there is any way for Connect.me to get it back. There are just too many TA vouches available now. After I found out that they were being given out like candy and I wouldn’t be able to TA vouch for anybody if I didn’t get to it, I lowered my standards and decided I would use the TA vouches like everyone else (and how Connect.me intends, since they gave us so many). Turns out, I couldn’t find a single person that was both interested in Connect me enough to register, and not already a Trust Anchor. Admit it, Connect.me can’t have it’s integrity back, and the reason you’re still there is for the fear of missing out as opposed to the ideal that Connect.me still has potential and has any possibility of being a viable answer to online identity verification in it’s current form. I have been an active student of social media for some time now, and hardly anyone realizes how much identity plays into that (There is an article on my website that expands upon this, it’s one of the best articles I’ve written IMO, but most people never look at online Identity from this perspective). There is a place for a website like Connect.me, but it will take professional auditing to boil down trust past a handful of vouches and a popularity contest.

    Scooby Doo would get plenty of votes in popularity contest, but can a dog really solve mysteries? You know, when I think about it, I’ve never even saw a real talking dog. And even more disturbing than that, I think Scooby Doo may be some trick of the mind, I believe that a group of people drew a bunch of pictures of him and pieced them together to make the illusion of motion, and recorder this illusion, added voices and edited it together (I know, what a conspiracy right?) If people can make Scooby Doo into a talking, mystery solving, scooby snack eating celebrity, isn’t it possible to create a false identity to exploit online over a number of years as you gain authority? How can you differentiate that, except by trusting the vouches to people who have seen them in flesh and blood, and have been involved in the mystery solving?

    Adam

  19. mandyf said

    I don’t really worry about missing out on anything with a platform like connect.me or any other really because it doesn’t impact my income one way or the other because it’s a hobby for me. If it messed with my money – yeah, I’d get real concerned. I’m mostly still there because my account is active. Today was the first time I logged in this month, maybe in 2-3 weeks. It just came out of Beat, and already i feel like I’ve gone as far with it as I can for a good while, maybe even ever because it is possible I am too damn picky about who I am willing to TA vouch for.

    To be brutally honest, being an early adopter, in this instance, was by sheer accident. Somehow it happened though and there I found myself in the middle of it. People i didn’t know suddenly wanted to do me favors for a vouch. Someone I did know was trading vouches for favors. I saw someone I think is the exact opposite of what a TA is supposed to be (by the book) that I know had to game their way into it. Did that piss me off a little when I saw them posting elsewhere online as a TA and doing their whole schtick about how elite it is yada yada – yeah it did. That prompted this post.

    I did then, and do now, like the concept. I do think that the platform is young enough to live up to much of what it advertised – but it has to act fast. Stop making new TAs right now. As is though, the mess it’s become is more aggravation mixed with disenchantment because after going through what was a fairly involved vetting process compared to anywhere else, suddenly TAs were falling out of the sky and piling up like cord wood overnight. Take a good look at the new TAs that have come into the system. Hell, look at all of us again if that is what it takes. We all know a few people have come in that – to be generous – are very highly questionable. Maybe it is a matter of saying, “you gave a TA vouch to these people – do you want to reconsider those choices?”

    A Do-over is not the perfect solution and I realize that. Can you really start “un-making” TAs? It would be a pain in the butt, but maybe it would help settle things out better. And yeah, I get why people started handing them out like Pez – it seemed like there was an immediate need to suddenly make TAs left and right. But like you said, most of the people I knew of that wanted to be a TA were a TA before the books opened. Of the people I did feel comfortable giving a TA vouch for, 2 registered to see what it was all about, but don’t care. The other likely won’t ever get three vouches because she doesn’t network her butt off doing the social scene.

    I wish I had the answers to fix it. I wish I felt a stronger tie to the site than I currently do, because right now I feel like I’m hanging around just in case someone I know some day for some reason needs a TA vouch and I can help them out.

  20. Adam — and Amanda — your concerns are very valid. However, when Adam says, “It’s not just about gaming, it’s about integrity, and I don’t think there is any way for Connect.me to get it back”, I think there may be aspects of the Respect Trust Framework that you don’t appreciate yet. I’m working on a blog post now for the Connect.Me blog that will explain this in more detail, but the Trust Anchor network is self-reinforcing. In other words, as soon as a Trust Anchor acting in good faith sees another Trust Anchor acting in bad faith — and thus harming the integrity of the trust network — they just need to tell us. That’s what the Complaint section (page 11) of the Respect Trust Framework is about.

    Initially, Connect.Me itself will act on complaints. And we will be VERY strict, i.e., as soon as we hear from one Trust Anchor about questionable behavior from another – exactly the kind of actions that Amanda describes in her post — we’ll act on it. A Trust Anchor losing Trust Anchor status is a very strong signal. As the network grows, it will scale by complaints be acted on not by Connect.Me, but by other Trust Anchors – a jury of one’s peers.

    This is the way Wikipedia administration works, and while it’s not perfect, it has produced the world’s largest free open encyclopedia of knowledge. We are trying to do the same thing for trusted reputation. And it is precisely the integrity of Trust Anchors like the two of you that can not only repair but continuously defend and improve the integrity trust network.

    If you ever have any question about that, please come directly to me. I’m Chief Trust Officer of Connect.Me, and it’s my job to defend the integrity of this trust network.

    Thanks.

  21. Tom Cooley said

    great post, Mandy!

  22. […] Trust Anchor vouches. Founding Trust Anchor Amanda Fox wrote a blog post about it yesterday called What is a Trust Anchor Vouch Really Worth. She gave these very concrete — if anonymous — […]

  23. Hah! I couldn’t have said it better myself, actually I probably couldn’t, only because I joined connect.me about a week ago, and don’t know enough about it to really comment. BUT, if it’s anything like what you said, then I will be leary of it, but still keep an open mind. Thank you for the informative post 🙂 Have a great day!

  24. […] media fatigue. However, I would suggest that this one is worth a second glance. The debates and discussions have been rippling through various corners of the internet as Connect.Me begins its amorphous […]

  25. Mandy, I deeply agree with you, and Connect.Me will strive to keep finding the best ways to educate TAs and establish high standards for TA vouching.

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