Do You Trust Me?

As We Spend Less Time Face To Face, Trust Is Key

In the day before the internet, trust was developed by knowing someone, personally. It came out of individuals being in the proximity of each other, and if you think about it, at it’s core, it is built by doing what you say you are doing to do, over and over again. It’s not something that you expect to get from someone in an instant – trust took time. It took interaction after interaction, you, continually, over time, said that you were going to do something, and then you did it. Eventually, you were seen as an individual who could deliver on their promises, a straight shooter.

But who has the time for that now? Being trustworthy takes time, most specifically face time, and we are increasingly moving to a world where we will have neither. The world of work is transitioning to one of lone solopreneurs working a multiplicity of jobs to make ends meet, or just to make big money, as independent consultants, micro businesses, or sharing economy denizens. There are plenty of folks who are keeping the officially stated unemployment rate low, having dropped out of the old-school typical “workforce” completely, they don’t show up on government statistics radar.

Take Uber, for example. Both the driver and the passenger are rated and reviewed. No longer does the business only have a stake in the game – while Uber does hammer those drivers who don’t provide a good experience, those problem customers don’t get away with it either.

Think of how many small businesses live and die on their Yelp reviews? Does anyone ever make a decision anymore without researching online first? But in this case, the focus is on you.

When the internet first began, many people where concerned that many people were going to want to remain anonymous in their communications, thus giving them the protection to say and do all sorts of horrible things. Sure, that is an issue – anonymity gives us a wonderful freedom to be able to express ourselves without fear of retribution. There are outlets for that, and some of them are doing quite well.

I think however, that the opposite will now slowly become true, and it started with eBay. The difference between an eBay seller and a typical internet user, is that they can’t do any business unless they are trusted. EBay pioneered the “everyone should be rated” model, buy rating both the buyer and the seller. They were the vanguard, and it took 20 years for that model to finally start to spread. Instead of wanting to be anonymous and invisible on the internet, we want to be visible and known. We want to be a beacon of trust

How can you trust someone in these days? Someone you have never met? We desperately need a system which can circumvent that long set of face time that we typically need in order to gain an individuals trust. We need systems which can mine for actions, movement, ratings and reviews, to come up with a “Trust Profile” (or what I like to call, a trust quotient, which, like a credit score) can assist you in determining if you wish to deal with a specific person, or not. This Trust Quotient should be a blend of ratings, reviews, social network activity, communications and activity monitoring, both human and machine inputs into an engine which can say “Yeah, when it comes to that, this is a good guy.”

As I’ve said before, all work is becoming personal. Each of us, individuals, are becoming atomic units of work, who complete projects alone, or banded together with others over the course of a project. As cycle times shorten, and new ways of creating take less and less time, we need to either a) build a team we work with over and over, because we can trust them to deliver or b) be able to rapidly build a team of trustworthy people to knock a project together and truly shine.

For this to happen, we need to be able to rapidly calculate how trustworthy a person is. Let’s say it’s you. We would first ask your friends all about you: what you are like on a hundred different vectors. We can do this by having them directly rate and review you, or monitor their social media posts about you, and even everything that they say about you privately. We then track your communications and actions over time – but we have all of that information already – since you’ve been leaving a trail all over the internet – both public and private. It’s simply a data mining exercise – we develop a super accurate persona of you, and how you would act in every situation you have ever been in (all already tracked somewhere, remember).

Once we have that, all we have to do is ask: can I trust Chris with X? Of course, there could be one blanket trust quotient that you use if you are looking to choose a mate or life partner, since you will be spending many aspects of you life with this person. But for other, more narrow slices, you can ask for specifics: is he neat or sloppy? Is his code bug free? How many times does he check in a typical build? Is he organized or not? Does he get a good nights sleep? How’s his diet going? All of these questions can tell us: how much can we trust this guy, even though we have never met him face to face.

I hold the belief that one of the things that is holding back our ability to innovate rapidly is the ability to develop trust quickly.

I’ve seen too many startup entrepreneurs screwed over by software development companies or developers who promised but could not deliver, and software developers screwed over by entrepreneurs who may have had vision, but no skill to execute. I’ve seen too many bad hires, where they have a great resume and give great interviews, only to fail miserably on the job. I’ve seen too many uber qualified people left without work because the hiring manager only hires his friends or his Alma Mater.

It’s time we made trust a measurable, open quantity.