iRate – How do you rate online? What is your PersonRank?
Boiling your human complexity down to a single number seems draconian, unfair and mechanical. Nevertheless, it happens all the time. What is your Social Security Number, your Passport Number, your GPA (Grade Point Average), your IQ, your age, your ruling number (numerology) or your attractiveness (out of 10)? Are you an ENFP (Myers-Briggs Personality Type), a Capricorn (star sign), Gen-Y, Emo, or fall under some other categorization, stereotype or even-more abstract over-simplification? Of course in the minds of others we all do. These numbers and groups are part of our personal brand, for better or worse, controlled by us or by others, a path to simplified understanding, grouping and other short-cuts that help others ‘get a handle’ on you.
As far as I know, there is no such thing, as yet! However giving you a score, akin to Google PageRank for a webpage, is not such a far fetched idea. When the internet was awash with content, and discovery of relevant material was even more problematic than it is now, search engines developed models to ‘signpost’ cyberspace for our edification and ease of access. The winner, Google, introduced PageRank which made the ‘voted importance’ of a page of content a major factor in the order of results. In effect, giving content a status and order based on a mechanically calculated metric of its importance. Today, the internet is awash with ‘social content’. The Social Media era we are in is connecting content to people, people to each other, and other dynamics such as place and time to both people and content. Content has a cyber-address (URL) and a rating (thanks to Google), people do not. Your scruples aside, don’t you think that Internet ‘way-finding’ and usability would be served if you had a single cyber-address (ID) and a rating (I’m going to call this #iRate – for the inbuilt pun that I hope is apparent). Maybe #iRate or PersonRank already exists, however since people are far more sensitive than pages about being scored, maybe the scorers are inclined to keep it less obvious and public than PageRank.
iRate in Practice
If you are on eBay you have a ‘Feedback Score’, on some blogs you have a ranking, on Twitter you have ‘number of Followers’, Facebook is ‘Friends’, LinkedIN is ‘Connections’ and if you are an online gamer, there are hosts of ratings not to mention the obvious (mostly) confidential ones like credit ratings. If your identity could be isolated to one record (a cyber-ID), it wouldn’t be very difficult to write an algorithm to score you on specific metrics (popularity, reach, activity and so on), add a bit of analysis and we could score apparent intelligence, political leaning, religious views, wealth and maybe even gullibility, sensitivity, trust and capacity for influence within your contact set or the broader public. Do you think this is far-fetched? How valuable would this be to large corporations, political parties, governments, ad agencies and research organizations? Still think you will, or have, remained score-free?
Some people will embrace a public rating. I attend Social Media ‘meet-ups’ where it is commonplace to hear people’s Twitter handle used as their defacto ID and their quantity of posts or followers as part of their social introduction. You may well laugh, but how do you introduce yourself in different settings? Do you have a different ‘script’ for different groups? At some point, you will mention your job, your income, your GPA, your number of offspring, your sexual orientation or some other ‘short-cut’ aimed to give some summary meaning or insight into ‘who you are’. Some people will want to hide their PeopleRank, others will shout it from the rooftops. Hi, my name is David and #iRate 6.7 online. Does this make you Irate or are you trying to find out where to find your score right now? We have a very interesting couple of decades ahead of us in relation to privacy and our online persona. I suggest that some organizations already have a PeopleRank for you, they are just not going to make it public, yet!
If you are interested in this topic and would like a longer look at how I came to this view. Can I suggest a short trip to a couple of past posts. People Not Pages takes a look at the Internet trend towards people. Maslow’s Modern Marketing Mashup looks at how Social Media is changing marketing and advertising. Understanding Google PageRank looks at how the Google PageRank model works. Lastly, ‘Branding a Corporate Figurehead’, my piece in Marketing Magazine last August, looks at the risks and rewards of personality branding online (PDF downloadable from here). Together these pieces inform this capstone article on why ‘individual ranking’ online is inevitable, whether secretly, as part of embed systems, or as a public metric.
How do iRate? Oops, I mean, how does this article rate?