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What It Takes To Have A Real Name

There's a short editorial in The New York Times today about Amazon's Real Names program, by which reviewers are encouraged to attach their "real-world identity" to the scathing critiques and effusive endorsements they write of books and other random junk you can buy online. (Wow, some of these people put a lot of effort into being rated amongst Amazon's Top Reviewers!) The whole "real name" thing's a reaction to last February's accidental revelation that authors were favorably reviewing their own books and mercilessly slamming their enemies'. Amazon's come up with a pretty cool system for the establishment of reputation in the community of that online marketplace -- ranking products and affiliate vendors in addition to reviewers. (Others have too, of course: Epinions, eBay....) But the NYT editorial (offhandedly) makes an good point about the connection of modern identity to credit cards, purchasing power, and purchase history. (You need to have a credit card registered with Amazon.com or a "reasonable purchase history" to get a real name.) We already use credit cards to establish our reputations in purchase transactions -- our trustworthiness as paying customers. So it's really no surprise that -- in the marketplace -- our reputations as individuals with trustworthy opinions might be tied to that same system of credentials. Maybe the public libraries should institute a parallel system for those folks who might have helpful critiques of books they didn't buy.

August 3, 2004 in The Social Life of Technology | Permalink


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I imagine this was also provoked by the anti-Bush thing that went around the week before. The New Yorker Magazine tracked down the book that Bush was holding onto in the Florida classroom when he didn't respond to the planes hitting the towers for several long minutes (see Michael Moore's F911). As has happened all over the place on Amazon, hilarious reviews enused - there are classics in this genre blogged constantly and they've got tons of examples but perhaps the Bush one put it over the edge. How come no one has raised that corporate-conspiracy theory? http://www.sadlyno.com/uploads/sadlynogoats.htm

Posted by: Steve Portigal | Aug 4, 2004 10:14:44 AM


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