In his article All Transactions are based on Trust, Reinier Zwitserloot states that it’s impossible to trust a computer. Douglas Hofstadter, on the other hand, argues in I Am a Strange Loop that people are complex computers with intricate feedback loops — so if we can trust people, we should be able to trust computers. (For the record, I disagree with Hofstadter on this one. I’m not a materialist.)
We thought we’d have a bit of fun playing around with these concepts on the microPledge sign-in page, so we put:
“I trust this computer.” Yeah right. More like “I trust the people who use this computer — this web browser, to be precise — and I also trust the people who run this website.”
Speaking of trusting people who run a website … while I liked much of Reinier’s article, I don’t agree with him that you only trust your friends and your friends’ friends. Maybe it’s just me, but I use Wikipedia a fair bit, and generally trust it, regardless of whether or not my friends have edited the article I’m reading. And I’ve downloaded countless programs from SourceForge.net written by people I’ve never heard of. Sometimes my friends have recommended these programs, sometimes not. Also, despite what he says about reddit votes being worthless these days, I still find some of the top articles on programming.reddit.com pretty interesting. Even helpful.
Trusting people sometimes means networks of friends, but it may simply mean a track record and accountability. One of the ways we hope to do this with microPledge is give each developer a credit rating based on whether people are happy with their previous development. We’ll also post links to their previous development on their profile page, so users can see if they’re trustworthy or not (just like you can look at someone’s reddit user page for lots of downvoted comments).
In short, I believe it’s not just websites with “trusted friends networks” that have a future.
10 July 2007 by Ben 3 comments