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Monday, February 28, 2011

Assignment #4: Trust Mechanisms/Social Capital

After reading the selections on trust mechanisms/social capital I wanted to find communities that would show examples of both in action.

To make my life little easier, I went to the BLAWGS section of my bookmarks. This is where I put blogs that are law related, and were recommended (like an “[i]ndirect assessment of reputation occurs when one party relies on observations” as described in the Forming Social Networks of Trust to Incentivize Cooperation article) to me or that I came across, intending to read, but just not haven’t found the time to do so, in other words, the stuff on “the back burner”.

Alright, now it is time to stir the pots on the back burner . . .

First, I went to the LawLawLand Blog. This is a blog published by a very young looking entertainment lawyer in LA.  It looks like he gets different attorneys from his firm to write about current issues in the practice area of entertainment law.

A cursory look at the site shows that it does not get a lot of commenting, so I figure, this may not be what I am looking for in relation to this assignment.

On the author side, it seems like the individual writers garner trust by posting a picture of themselves that is clickable and links to a bio with education information and career experience. The author’s phone number and email are also displayed.

On the surface this can be seen as an action that invites the reader to think “trust me, I am an expert.” But the above examples can also be seen as the authors exhibiting social capital by telling the readers “look at all the social currency I have.” Trust or social capital - I guess it depends on how you look at it.

Before dismissing the site outright, I saw one posting that got a few comments, I read it and BINGO – it was totally about a trust mechanism as described in Establishing Trust Management in an Open Source Collaborative Information Repository: An Emergency Response Information System Case Study.

Under the definitions of different communities put forth in the Massa article, the LawLawLand blog would be categorized as a opinion site. Massa lumps opinions with activities, but for this site, it is mostly opinions, maybe a little activity stuff. For example, one author tells about her personal Justin Bieber experiences while addressing copyright issues.

The discourse between the author and the commenting contributor illustrates “that trust is subjective because every individual makes his or her own decision to trust.”

Below are a couple of screenshots of the conversation.

First the commenting contributor takes the leap, and decides to trust:

"Long story short, yes the Beliebers committed a felony, but did their actions cause any harm and if they didn't should they be illegal."

Then the author builds on that trust:

“First, thank you for reading our blog, and an even bigger thank you for taking the time to comment. We always appreciate and encourage further discussion.”

This statement is building on the trust.

Then the commenting contributor reciprocates:

Thanks for responding to my comment. I really appreciate the open discourse as I feel that is the best way to truly understand an issue.”  
This reciprocates and further builds on trust.
I think that was a pretty good example of a trust mechanism in action.  
Now on to stir the next pot on the back burner….looking for examples of social capital…
I went to the Copyrights and Campaigns blog.  This is a blog by Ben Sheffner.  It does not look as  fancy as LawLawLand but there is more a little more commenting happening with the posts.  In addition, the right side panel is full of all kinds of social capital displays:
Top 100 law blogs of 2010 -- ABA Journal
Top 100 law blogs of 2009 -- ABA Journal
"Good legal reporting ... the best; it's not even close" -- Copycense
"always-insightful" -- THR, Esq.
"Interesting and new" -- How Appealing
"Must-read" -- Wired
"Always insightful" -- Exclusive Rights
"Very strong blog...just, you know, the facts...pretty intellectually honest" -- Hitsville
"Big time copyright supporter," "support[er] of copyright insanity" -- Techdirt
"From the dark side...prolific...interesting reads...insightful commentary you can’t find other places in the blogosphere...a just plain good read...the copyright equivalent of Grand Moff Tarkin." -- Arbitrary and Fanciful
"Running dog...point man for the content cartel...pretend[er of] disinterest...ruin[er of] real peoples' lives." -- Recording Industry vs. The People
Also to further show his awesomeness and huge amounts of social capital, his credentials are listed prominently.  I guess this also establishes that he is worthy of our his social trust.
The one post I found that had several comments did not seem to have the “trust statements” described in A Survey of Trust Use and Modeling in Real Online Systems, but, there was a sense that the author was an expert rich with social capital. 
In fact here is an example of the author making use of that trust/capitol and dispensing knowledge in a decidedly professorial style:
Randy said...
Hello Ben, Could you please do me a favor and explain this in layman's terms. I thought I understood, but then I read Matthew's comment which to me says the opposite. Can Harper still claim to be an innocent infringer? Randy
Ben Sheffner said...
@Randy: The Fifth Circuit ruled that Harper cannot claim the "innocent infringer" defense because the record label plaintiffs had affixed proper notices on physical CDs embodying the works at issue. See 17 U.S.C. § 402(d) ("If a notice of copyright in the form and position specified by this section appears on the published phonorecord or phonorecords to which a defendant in a copyright infringement suit had access, then no weight shall be given to such a defendant’s interposition of a defense based on innocent infringement in mitigation of actual or statutory damages, except as provided in the last sentence of section 504."). The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case leaves the Fifth Circuit's decision in place.


  1. It's always interesting to see how sites establish trust with their users/readers. Ben Sheffner seems like the kind of guy that knows how to use blurbs to market his blog.

    I like your first idea for the final project. I know a few people that had to sell their homes to avoid foreclosure by Bank of America (because BoA was screwing them while they waited for their mortgages to be refinanced), and think that such a community might be able to gain some traction beyond the life of this ICS course.

    Great post, as always!

  2. Hi GabrielW!

    Thanks for the comment, I realized now, after reading a few of the blogs, that I should have done more (i.e. posted something...sorry Dr. Gazan...).

    About the non-judicial foreclosures, even if I do the other option, I think I will do something on my own (maybe start a blog or web portal w/ links to helpful sites or something) because I feel that it is such an important issue today, that unfortunately touches way too many of us.

    K-- I'm heading over to check out your post now....

  3. To follow Gabriel's comment. It is amazing how our psyche latches onto things that are familiar to us. If I were to review Ben Sheffner's site it probably would not make it onto his brag space. But someone writing from a recognizable place would even though my comments would, or could, be more authentic.

    Movies use to do this all the time. If you were to look at the DVD case of a movie made between '95 - '05 you are probably going to find a comment from either the Rolling Stone or from the Chicago Sun-Times. (My guess is 90% of the movies you look at would have a review from one of these sources.) The familiar brings a sense of normal with it. It is interesting how that works.

    Social Capitol works right along with this and you presented this concept well.

    As for your project proposal I wonder how you could incorporate social capitol into either project. Could you post a link for the community listed in project #1 through a LibGuide on HPL's website or even on the city/states website? I think this would be a helpful community for many people. About a year ago I found myself in a dispute with a land lord and felt like I did not know who to talk to about my rights. I finally found a website that listed phone numbers for a helpline that was only open for 4 hours once a week. Their website was very static. The incorporation of some Web 2.0 would help a lot of "lurkers" who might find themselves in similar situations but might not know where to begin.

  4. Mernie - Interesting angle on the readings. I like how you chose to look at individual blogs (instead of larger sns) -- as you demonstrate these blogs garner social capital and trust too. Simple things like just listing reviews on the side of a blog is a way to generate trust (even if these reviews are not that reliable - the same thing is done with novels, actually. Authors may post publisher reviews on the back on their books - often times these "reviews" are "empty" offering little in terms of the book's content, depth and written by publishing companies wanting to sell books to libraries, etc.) still a way to generate trust though! And looks like the reviews on the blog, which list awards & such, are more credible.

  5. You've provided a good spread of examples of the sorts of credibility indicators that blog authors claim: some by posting their picture and maintaining a bio page, others by appending and/or linking to their real-world credentials, and others by posting quotes from others about how they rock like ten Led Zeppelins.

    Creating a community is a laudable yet prodigious effort, and you may run into the problem of not having enough time for the community to coalesce during the run of this course. If you're imagining including the opinions of "experts" you could ask certain types of questions, but Philip's idea about a Web 2.0 element of users sharing questions and experiences, with some trust or credibility measure (that may be as simple as the number of times a user's posts are viewed). Integrating twitter, Facebook etc. can be done fairly easily and allows people to share and "like" content in a familiar way, though doing that comes with its own set of caveats. Very nice idea--keep the focus on the social computing aspects for the final project and you'll be fine.

    *Update* You emailed me about a project connected to cyberbullying resources, which sounds even more useful and appropriate! However, participant confidentiality would be critical here, so I'd recommend against integrating Facebook or anything that potentially creates a link between what they post in your community and their real identity.