In this post, @charlieshrem talks about a social experiment involving “reputation” in Steemit. He takes the concept a bit higher and transforms it into “social capital”, which is, basically, collective validation (that’s why I used quotation marks around the word “reputation” because, in that post, it’s not exactly the same reputation number we see next to our accounts here).
Put it very shortly, Charlie is proposing a way to reward people based directly on their social capital. What we now know as Steem Power would be just a measure of this reputation and transformed in liquid Steem by powering down.
I left a comment there a few hours ago and then went to sleep. But as I woke up this morning, I surprised myself having more and more thoughts about that post (and that alone is a clear indication the post was useful: anything that makes you think is good). So I decided to write down these thoughts, half as a more detailed answer for Charlie, half for myself, to clear my mind.
What Is Reputation (Or Social Capital)?
To a very large extent I agree with the definition that reputation is the size of our social capital. The more we are endorsed by other people, the bigger the social capital. In social media, endorsement comes usually in the form of retweets, likes, resteems, comments, upvotes and so on. Whatever reaction we get to validate the person, it contributes to that person’s social capital.
Although it looks simple, there are a few caveats to that definition, and they are very important, in my opinion. These caveats are making the task of converting reputation directly into money quite difficult.
Person versus Content
In social media what we are endorsing with likes, retweets and so on, almost always, is the content, not the person. This is obvious in, let’s say, Facebook Pages. Most of the time they are collectively maintained by many people. When we “like” a post from a page, we’re not exactly endorsing the person (we don’t even know who wrote it) but the content.
At an even finer analysis, even when we know the person, what we are actually endorsing, most of the time, is the content. Proof to that is the fact that we’re not “liking” anything from a certain person. Sometimes we agree to disagree with somebody, and we choose not to endorse the content. But the reputation of the person may not be affected by that.
Level And Consistency Of The Interaction
Social capital is highly dependent on what you are actively doing with it. Use it or lose it, they say, but this time I’m referring to the fact that if you’re not engaging actively, you don’t get any social capital. It seems obvious, if you say it out loud, but it’s funny how we’re expecting to receive social validation without interacting with anyone, just because we know about us we’re good folks.
So reputation is dependent on the level of interaction with other people, on the consistency of these activities (the more we interact, the bigger the chances for social validation) and not primarily on the skills we have.
Showing Up To The Tasks
Skills can be maintained for a longer period of time (think of reading, for instance, which is a very common skill). Whereas social capital, if not used, degrades very quickly. If you’re not posting on Twitter for a few months, people tend to forget you. There are bots constantly checking your level of activity, and there are thresholds under which you may be automatically unfollowed.
This is not based on the quality of your content - which may be unchanged, or even better - but based on you “being there”. If you’re not around, you’re not famous anymore. So even if you have now a certain level of reputation, if you’re not showing up to the tasks, that reputation will degrade quickly.
Social Capital Is Rewardable At The Political Level
The more I look into reputation, the more I tend to think that this is a quality to be found at the person level, not at the general skill level (so it’s not primarily about the quality of the content, as you may be inclined to think when you say “social capital is determined by likes, retweets, etc").
A skill can be evaluated in a more deterministic way, because it has a more restrictive set of criteria. Whereas reputation is more about how the persons are interacting, about expectations and projections. And that expands the sets of criteria dramatically.
Content is used to entertain, to teach or to influence. Social capital is used for social contracts. Hence, reputation is a good criteria in everything related to governance. Which is something very different than content production. Governance is the layer that comes before content production, it’s the structure that supports content production.
And if we look at things from that perspective, we see we already have in Steemit a way to reward reputation: witnesses. Are witnesses paid? Of course. Are they paid directly, based on the number next to their account name? Of course not.
They are paid for the persons they are, they are paid as long as they are acting in a certain way (usage by action) and the rewards are maintained for as long as they are around (showing up to the tasks).
For me, that means we already have a way to reward people for social capital in Steemit and it works very well.
But @charlieshrem's article was a good thinking exercise.
I'm a serial entrepreneur, blogger and ultrarunner. You can find me mainly on my blog at Dragos Roua where I write about productivity, business, relationships and running. Here on Steemit you may stay updated by following me @dragosroua.
Here's my witness thread.