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Building Web Reputation Systems 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0596159795
ISBN-10: 059615979X
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

F. Randall "Randy" Farmer has been creating online community systems for over 30 years, and has co-invented many of the basic structures for both virtual worlds and social software. His accomplishments include numerous industry firsts (such as the first virtual world, the first avatars, and the first online marketplace). Randy worked as the community strategic analyst for Yahoo!, advising Yahoo properties on construction of their online communities. Randy was the principal designer of Yahoo's global reputation platform and the reputation models that were deployed on it.

Bryce Glass is a principal interaction designer for Manta Media, Inc. Over the past 13 years, he's worked on social and community products for some of the web's best-known brands (Netscape, America Online and Yahoo!).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Yahoo Press; 1 edition (March 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 059615979X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596159795
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #449,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Eric Goldman on July 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
By Eric Goldman

For the past couple of years, I have been researching how we regulate reputation systems. As part of researching other disciplines' approaches to reputation systems, I was pleasantly surprised to find this book, which discusses web reputation systems from a technical/product development standpoint. I'm not aware of other books directly on point, so that alone makes the book noteworthy.

The word "reputation" is a complex and nuanced word. This book defines reputation as "information used to make a value judgment about an object or a person." Notice how this definition treats reputation as actionable information (i.e., making a "judgment"). I favor that approach; my work also uses an actionable definition of reputation.

Their definition equally treats both objects and people as having "reputation," and this does not work. In general, people are dynamic, i.e., they can change behavior; while content is static, i.e., an item of content does not change its character unless subsequently edited. This single definition of "reputation" created significant tension throughout the book. Recognizing this, the authors often bifurcated the discussion to separately address the process of establishing a person's "reputation" (which they confusingly called "karma"). However, the book primarily focuses on grading and sorting content items, especially user-generated content, and I personally would not describe content items as having a "reputation." As a result, I think the book is mistitled. It principally addresses content filtering, not "reputation" as I use the term.

Although this analytical tension pervades the book, the book nevertheless contained a lot of useful insights about both content filtering and establishing user trustworthiness.
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I'm researching different models to use for our corporate collaboration platform and I'm looking to implement a social recognition/reputation framework. Our framework needs to make sense for users and content in many different businesses and support functions. It's one thing to rate things on Amazon and Netflix and another to deploy a system inside an enterprise. (I'd also researched peter Reiser's "Community Equity" - [...])

This excellent book proved *extremely* useful. It dissects the different popular models - Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Digg - as well as many others I was not familiar with. It analyzed each and clearly highlighted the pros and cons of each; how different models can be used (and abused) to meet different business objectives. Priceless.

More than a dry analysis, the book is filled with interesting (to me!) insights on the potential pitfalls of each model. I was often surprised at how things I took for granted had some hidden biases or other traps. The sections on the issues with leaderboards, for example, were clear and practical.

My only advice when reading is to skim the initial chapter on the "graphical language" for reputation models. It seemed unnecessary and too abstract. It almost put me off from reading the rest of the book but I needed help. And I'm really glad I continued. The remaining chapters got more and more engaging. The final case study on preventing abuse in Yahoo Answers reads like a page-turner. (Really!)

If you are building any kind of application with ratings or some kind of recognition/social capital/reputation for users, then read this book. It will help you avoid the mistakes made by others before you (you'll never forget the story of The Dollhouse Mafia). And it will help you meet your business objectives for including ratings and reputation in the first place.

(Note: The authors are also on twitter: @frandallfarmer, @soldierant, and @buildingrep.)
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The book on web reputation systems is getting a bit long in the tooth, having been written about 4 years ago. Much of the information that is contained in here, including and especially the psychology elements of the users - as well as the pitfalls and design considerations - are still relevant since they apply to basic human psychology and behaviors.

From a technology perspective, as noted by a few of the more recent reviewers, the information is now getting dated and the Web 2.0+ technology architecture that is out there today is not contained in this book at all. So, while the principles hold, the practices will need to be updated. Additionally, because the book was published by Yahoo Press, the case studies and many of the elements of the examples are very focused on Yahoo. In and of itself, that's not a problem, but the book may have been more interesting and relevant by really pulling in a much broader example base, and different case studies that weren't so Yahoo centric.

All in all, if you have an interest in the topic, it is probably an interesting read for background, overview and psychologic/behavioral purposes.
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Format: Paperback
This book lays out the options you have for integrating reputation systems into a site, and helps make design choices (e.g. should I use thumb or star ratings).

The theoretical discussion of terms and concepts is well balanced with anecdotes and examples from real sites (typically Yahoo properties).

Not covered are algorithms (apart from one simplistic formula for factoring the number of ratings into an overall ranking), and much more could be said about how to deal with people gaming the system (incl trolls and spammers).
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