Trust on the Web

by Hugh

1. World Cup Tickets
I am going to France for a couple of weeks in September…”coincidently” during the Rugby World Cup. We confirmed our trip after all the legit tickets for matches I would like to see had sold out. But I’d like to go to a game… so I searched on Craigslist, found someone selling a ticket. Sent emails. She’s in San Fran … We’ve emailed. The thought crossed my mind, for about 2 seconds: hmm, it’s safe, right, to send money and wait for the tickets in the post? Surely this nice-sounding person isn’t a scammer. It was a back of the mind thought, nothing serious.

I did some Googling, found the seller’s blog. I read a little bit, checked out some pics of her family, her university friends… I don’t *know* her, but I trust her completely. Her presence on the web allows me to *know* with 100% certainty, that she is honest etc. And if she checks this blog, I expect she’ll see the same. So not the least little scrap of worry about doing a transaction on the web with someone I will likely never meet.

2. Amazon
I was recently contacted by Amazon.com about LibriVox. I did a web search on the name of the contact there, found the same name in a MySpace page for a band…didn’t think that could be her. But in our conversation she mentioned she was in a band, I said: “Is it so-and-so? Cause I’m looking at your Myspace page right now!” The conversation was different then … I knew, if nothing else, she was a hard working musician, and that helped me to trust her in a way I couldn’t have otherwise. The discussion may or may not continue, but we *know* each other in a way that makes it so much easier to discuss honestly now than if she was just a random name, representing a company I am wary of.

3. Fred
I posted about Vancouver 2010 copyright issues. “Fred Smith” left a comment, but no URL link. I read his comment, it sounded reasonable. But I cannot trust him, because there is no link to a web page where I can learn about who Fred Smith is. Does he exist? Does he work for the government? For a PR company? For the Vancouver 2010 committee? Is he an anarchist? A creative commons lawyer? No idea. He has no URL, and while I can take his words at face value, they have zero context, so I am hesitant to trust him. (No offense, Fred).

4. Problem at LibriVox
We are having a problem at LibriVox. The person in question has no digital identity that I know of. How am I give context to my evaluation of this person without more information online? I have nothing to go on.

SUMMARY:
If you don’t have a presence online, how can I know whether or not I should trust you?