Trust By Design

Peter Morville tackles the credibility issue with his usual flair.

Since Studio Archtype and Cheskin released the first large online trust study in early 1999, I've been interested in trust, and particularly the propagation of credibility through social networks and word of mouth. While BJ Fogg has released research that includes whether or not a friend recommends a site, I have yet to see anything that addresses resonance effects within social networks. If two separate friends recommend a site, I'm more likely to visit. Whether it's word of mouth or RSS feeds, personal recommendations from people I trust are my biggest credibility factor, and I don't see credibility research addressing that as much as it could.

The collected resources in the 'see also' sidebar with Peter's article are a goldmine of recent thinking - I'll have to dig and see if there's much about resonance there.

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I don't know of any SNA resonance research, but I share your hunch that it's a very powerful element of trust-building.

It's amazing (and scary) how repetition of the same message (even from the same source) can change minds.

With wikis and blogs, we see the intersection of hi-tech and the trust/decision-making instincts of hunter-gatherers.

Difficulty of detecting resonance offline

BJ Fogg agreed too, but his research method isn't tuned to social networks. I think one reason that this type of research is difficult is the problem of tracking social networks offline. However, RSS feeds would provide a great data source that would probably exhibit a "small world" power law for link propagation. Whether or not that can be generalized to propagation of trust, I'm not sure.